Category Archives: Week6

The NFL and the American Spectacle

Abby Bisbee


There cannot be a more prevalent form of the spectacle in the United States of America than the dissemination of the sport of Football through the NFL. According to Debord, the spectacle serves as an “instrument of unification” and the NFL have used the platform of the sport to promote something greater than an athletic event. The sport of American football has come to represent the promise of the American dream. Sundays have become ritualistic days of worship beyond the church that Protestant America was founded upon in the sixteenth century. The NFL promotes and presents what is a “model of socially dominant life” in the USA. The production and consumption of the professional football game has moved beyond the basic dissemination of the sport. There is a strong connection that Americans find with fans of individual teams and the sport in general. Debord recognizes that this type of connection is strongly related to the social relationship among people as “mediated by images” in this case, through the television. Through improvements in technology, the growth of materialization, and the power of simulation the NFL has become one of the largest corporate powers in the western world.


The spectacle of the football game has taken cinematography that is used in major motion pictures today. The similarities between Angela Ndalianis’ examination of the creation of spectacle and simulation in the film The Matrix (1999) is almost identical. The filming and dissemination of the football game has destroyed the separation between the at home audience and the stadium. Through the use of framing and camera movements including the “high velocity pans, tracks, fast paced edits, and 360 degree camera summer-saults” the fan can experience almost the same event that the players experience on the field. In addition to these techniques the NFL has begun the use of slow motion rewinds, on field audio, and digital reconstruction of plays. The event is present in the “filmic space,” “production space,” and the “audience’s space” (Ndalianis). These cinematographic choices present the players as almost super human, playing in front of thousands of fans physically and millions of fans virtually, have become the spectacle itself.


The location of the stadium as a sacred space can be compared to Malraux’s concept of the “musée imaginaire.” The images that reproductions have captured through both televised simulacra embody the ideas that the players, the sport, and the fans represent. In the “musée imaginaire” the museum is no longer recognized a location that preserves and displays artwork, but rather is understood as the guardian of high culture and art history. The pieces of artwork that it preserves are not understood for their material creation, but for the role that they have played in the spectacle of art history. Like the role that the museum, the stadium’s meaning the “cultural encyclopedia” of western society no longer represents a physical location where a football game is played but rather the foundation of the American dream, national hope, personal drive, and an almost deified respect for the god/athlete.


The concept of spectacle created by simulation can be recognized in the following video clips. Note that while watching you no longer feel that you are watching a football game. The manner in which it is presented plays on the audience’s emotions. Many people forget that each game has a director – each show (or game) has an opening that sets a stage for consumption, and intermission, and a finale. Many broadcasting networks have even brought the digital use of simulacra into their daily routines using holograms and “scientific recreations”. All of these elements sets the game of American football to touch its audiences beyond the element of competition – the NFL has created a mode of consumption and production that reflects the socially accepted spectacle.

Sunday Night Football Opening Intro – 2013



Debord, Guy.The Society and Spectacle (1967) trans. Black & Red (1977).

Irvine, Martin. Malraux and the musée imaginaire: Mediation, Image, and Institution in Benjamin and Malraux. Georgetown University.

Ndalianis, Angela. The Frenzy of the Visible: Spectacle and Motion in the Era of the Digital. Feature Articles, Issue 3. February 2000.



Coffee Table Books: rise & implications

Vittoria Somaschini

While thinking about the readings, I was most intrigued by Malraux and the musee imaginaire. I was thinking of modern examples and looking back to Benjamin’s writings and want to discuss the idea of auroa and the raise of coffee table books.


The practice of coffee table books, or glossy books filled with shiny photos have been around since the 1960’s when they were “invented” by David Brower and the Sierra Club, which published a 20 part series of books titled “Exhibit Format Series”. The books feature photographs and accompanying text that reflect the exhibitions at the LeConte Memorial Lodge.


The raise of coffee table books has since increased exponentially and encompasses all sorts of subjects, from art to sex to “celebrity” pets (Boo the Dog). There is a book that encounters every taste, and there are now tabs at retail store websites such as Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters where one can look for coffee table books. More interesting however is the Phaidon company, which publishes titles such as “The Art Book”, “The Photo Book”, “The Art Book for Children” etc. etc. These books are completely in keeping with Malraux, as they have a photograph of a great piece of art, or in the face of the The Photo Book, a photography, and text that follows explaining the stylistics of the artwork.

The use of coffee table books and the genre of “art history” books brought up the idea of aura that Benjamin describes in “the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. Benjamin states, “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence” (Benjamin, 221). Following Benjamin’s logic, the production, dissemination, and use of art history books or coffee table books completely removes the aura attached to an original production that we would otherwise see in an exhibition. Similarly, Malraux’s “art history” books do the same thing. They strip away the cultural significance and the uniqueness of a piece of art by allowing it to become categorized by style, and period. This categorization further aids in removing the aura of art works.

Works Cited:

Benjamin, Walter, Hannah Arendt, and Harry Zohn. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968. N. pag. Print.

“Coffee Table Book.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 9 Sept. 2013. Web.

Irvine, Martin. “Malraux: Imaginary Museum – Google Drive.” Malraux: Imaginary Museum – Google Drive.Web.

“This Is the American Earth 1955 Exhibit – LeConte Memorial Lodge – Sierra Club.” This Is the American Earth 1955 Exhibit – LeConte Memorial Lodge – Sierra Club. Web.


Nam June Paik, and the Hyper-real

By: Arianna Drumond


In his seminal work “Simulacra and Simulation,” Jean Baudrillard explores the idea that the representation, or simulacra, of reality serves to produce a hyper-reality. From the representation, the concept of “real” is challenged and the simulacrum becomes more real than the original. This concept can be related to the works of artist Nam June Paik, who is best known for his extensive use of media based technology in his work, and for his now famous phrase “electronic super highway.”

The majority of Paik’s pieces are commentaries on our media dependent society. His most recognizable work “Buddha TV” is an expression of the hyper-real. In this piece, a Buddha is placed in front of a portable television. The Buddha is recorded and the footage shown on the television in real time. The result is a feedback loop. The video camera and the Buddha statue are representations of mass culture and traditional cultural ideals. Their new relationship to one another suggests that the ideological boundaries once separating them no longer exist. The objects become simulacrum; they are, according to Jean Baudrillard, a “reflection of a profound reality.”

The loop created by “Buddha TV” is an example of the hyper-real. It is unclear here which symbol is the driving force between their relationship, is it tradition or mass media? The question then becomes, “which is the original? Which is real?” Paik’s piece serves to illustrate that reality is flexible and that the hierarchy between “real” and “representation” can be dissolved.




Baudrillard, Jean. “The Precession of Simulacra” Simulacra and Simulation.Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Michigan: Michigan UP, 1981. 1-27.

Irvine, Martin. “Mediation and Representation: Plato to Baudrillard and Digital Media.”Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 7 October 2013.



The Hyperreal in Akura Kurosawa´s Kagemusha

Estefanía Tocado


The film Kagemusha: The Shadow of the Warrior, directed by Akura Kurosawa in 1980 and produced by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, can be used as a good example of the idea of how mediated images become hyperreal.  The film starts with three men sitting and discussing the future of their clan.  As we find out very soon these three men are Shingen, Nobukado, and a thief who resembles Shingen, the head of the Takeda clan.  Soon after, Shingen dies after he is wounded in a battle in the castle of Tokugawa leyasu, and the rest of the clan decides to have the thief impersonate Shingen.

After this occurs, the clan continues their confrontation with their rival clan and leaders, Tokugawa and Oda Nobunaga, who find out about the death of Shingen after they see that his corpse has been hidden in a jar and carried away by their clan to be deposited in a lake.  Once the clan returns to their palace, the thief, now converted into Shingen, despite the initial doubts of his grandson and concubines, fools everyone into thinking he is the real Shingen.  This way the film continues questioning who is more real, the previous Shingen or the new personification.  Nevertheless, by the end of the movie the secret has been made public and the thief who has played the role of Shingen, now again poor and without power, sees the fall of his clan in a massive battle and the usurpation of his throne by the real Shingen´s son Katsuyori.

Therefore, as Baudrillard asserts: “to simulate is to feign to have what one doesn´t have so implies an absence” (3).  That absence points out that “simulation stems from the utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as a value, from the sign as the reversion and death sentence of every reference.  Whereas representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum” (6).  If we apply Baudrillard´s theories to the role of Shingen in the film, the audience comes to realize that there is a “real” Shinghen that died in opposition of a “fake” Shingen, the former thief, who is the only one we get to know.  However, the hyperreal comes to us as the form of a so called “reality” that has been created in the film, as a mediated image of a definition of the real, as an accepted social reality (Irvine 14).  The belief that there was an original Shingen to be reproduced within the diegetic reality of the film points out that the image:  “has not relation to any reality whatsoever:  it is its own pure simulacrum” and in consequence there is not an ideal to resemble since there is no path to observe the real from the artificial resurrection since everything has been dead and resurrected in advance (6).  The constant idea of wanting to find out how the real Shingen was through his copy is paradoxical since we are never introduced to the real one, which at the same time would have been as fake as the so called double.  The image by which the real is defined perpetuates the challenge of the resemble, and again and again, so the hyperrealism of simulation is expressed everywhere by the real´s striking resemblance to itself (Irvine 18).


Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. “The Precession of Simulacra” Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Michigan: Michigan UP, 1981. 1-27.

Irvine, Martin. “Mediation and Representation: Plato to Baudrillard and Digital Media.”Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 7 October 2013.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Kagemusha” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 7 October 2013.



Simulacra, Hyperreality, and Photoshop works

Aena Cho

According to Baudrillard’s writings on simulacra and simulation, simulacrum refers to a representation of something that creates a hyper-reality, becoming more real than the actual object itself.  To many of us, it is not an abstract, irrelevant philosophical concept anymore not only because of the popular movie, The Matrix but also because of the increase and ubiquity of simulacra in this modern digital world, particularly in form of visual imageries.  Indeed, lots of visual representation of these days including photographs and films are not mere reflection or duplication of something.  As most of them are digitally – produced, altered, distributed, and consumed with a variety of different technologies, they become distant from their origins.   Eventually, these digitally mediated imageries stop being projections of something and grow into their own realities which bear no resemblance to their original, becoming in themselves.   They are indeed what Baudrillard calls as ‘simulacra’ which exist regardless of reality.

The most typical example of such simulacra today is photoshopped pictures of celebrities including actors, actresses, and models for advertisements, magazine covers, movie posters, etc.  As we all know, many of them are not “raw” but at least somewhat digitally- reprocessed usually by the use of the Photoshop program.  The end results are usually “perfect” appearances of individuals with flawless skin and body – which never exists in reality – simulacra. Then, how do these celebrities’ simulacra become ‘hyperreal’, overwhelm, or even replace the reality even if we all know that those simulacra are just made-up imageries?

celebrities_get_the_photoshop_treatment_640_02    In these pictures, although we all know that the left one, unphotoshopped Madonna, is the true representation of Madonna, it looks unfamiliar, surreal or even wrong to us.  On the other hand, even though we know that the right one is airbrushed and an altered image, simulacrum, it is certainly more identifiable.  The enhanced Madonna is what the public recognizes and accepts as the iconic Madonna: it is the real Madonna; the simulacrum overtakes the physical reality.  As long as Madonna is always presented to the public as such an enhanced simulacrum, in the eyes of that public, the simulacrum is always her true self.

madonna_beforeafter      before-after-harry-styles-before-and-after-photoshop-by-ThalesRC-b_1    mariah-carey-in-a-bikini-before-and-after-photoshop1


<References >

Baudrillard, Jean. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988. Print.