Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reading Assignment: Travels in HYPERreality

In "The Fortresses of Solitude", Umberto Eco discusses his observations of wax museums throughout America and their reliance on visual authenticity over historical authenticity. Eco argues against the authenticity of the wax museums attempt at recreating reality. He describes in great detail the extreme articulation of the sets which engulf the viewers senses in an attempt to replace the original with the idealistic. In these museums there is always a plaque on the wall of the original image to compare to the scene created in the wax museum which shows how well it has been recreated. However, the picture is not the original or even a reproduction of the original. It is a poorly rendered copy which acts to further disconnect the viewer from the need for the original and replaces it with the ideal. A great observation on Eco's part is the ability of this hyperreality to exist even if the original never did. The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft depicts scenes of laboratories and rooms filled with potions, cobwebs, and all sorts of other visually enticing objects that overload the viewer with sensory information and create an impression of reality which never actually existed. All of this is done because the authenticity of the piece is no longer what matters, only the amount of information it conveys to the viewer. Through this sensory overload, America's addiction to more is satisfied through the extreme articulation of the fake.

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