Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The body cannot live without the mind

The author of more than 50 books and an accomplished photographer, Mr. Baudrillard ranged across different subjects, from race and gender to literature and art to 9/11. His comments often sparked controversy, as when he said in 1991 that the gulf war “did not take place” — arguing that it was more of a media event than a war.

Mr. Baudrillard was once considered a postmodern guru, but his analyses of modern life were too original and idiosyncratic to fit any partisan or theoretical category. “He was one of a kind,” François Busnel, the editor in chief of the monthly literary magazine Lire, said yesterday. “He did not choose sides, he was very independent.”

With a round face and big, thick glasses, Mr. Baudrillard was known for his witty aphorisms and black humor. He described the sensory flood of the modern media culture as “the ecstasy of communication.”

One of his better known theories postulates that we live in a world where simulated feelings and experiences have replaced the real thing. This seductive “hyperreality,” where shopping malls, amusement parks and mass-produced images from the news, television shows and films dominate, is drained of authenticity and meaning. Since illusion reigns, he counseled people to give up the search for reality.

“All of our values are simulated,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It’s a simulation of freedom.”

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