The End of the Matrix?


You don’t need to know his name or to have read his books. If you’ve seen The Matrix, you know what he was about. Jean Baudrillard, the French cultural theorist died on Wednesday in Paris. He was 77.

Baudrillard was popular among contemporary art and culture theorists. He had a way of dissecting popular culture — from Disneyland to politics to robberies — that seemed essential to the way we, as 21st-century Earth dwellers, see the world. His most important idea was, to be very reductive, that the world has lost its reality.

Remember when Keanu Reeves figured that the world he lived in — our world — was imaginary? And that there wasn’t anything real behind the simulation? Our world is a reflection of a reflection? That’s Baudrillard.

He called it simulacrum — “Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible.”

As an art critic (someone obsessed with finding disconnects, connects, meaning and lack of meaning within a work of art), I find myself thinking of Baudrillard every time I look at a photograph (fine art to newsprint to someone’s wedding album), a painting or even my own face in the mirror.

I bet you do too, whether or not you realize it.

— Laura James

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2 Comments on “The End of the Matrix?”

  1. Anonymous Says:


    Though Mr. Baudrillard’s work was facsinating and his passing a loss to modern philsosphy, the ideas behind The Matrix belong to much older thinkers.

    Plato’s Allegory of the Cave must certainly be the oldest. The modern theory is known in philosophy as the “brain-in-a-vat” thought experiment generally attributable to Descartes. For a modern discussion, see Hilary Putnam’s work Reason, Truth and History.

  2. laura Says:

    thanks, anoymous, it’s true. i remember reading Descartes in undergrad. picturing the brain-in-a-vat always gave me the creeps. the matrix = easy way to explain the very basics of Baudrillard’s theory, though, yes? existence is not extistence but non-existence is truth?


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