The Abstraction of the Real

Jean Baudrillard describes our world as a nested, tangled, layered incomprehensible piling of Simulacra, or Simulations. He is describing a reality in which our perceptions of the world are contingent upon and directed towards meta-narratives that we have built around ourselves.

Our unceasing news cycle feeds upon stories of crime and corruption, which feeds into our perceptions about how much crime and corruption are out there, which in turn begins to influence legislation and social norms, which in turn generates more newsworthy content as the edges of new norms become violated or illuminated.

Our consumer habits are driven by the advertisements that we see all around us, targeted with precision to the things we are already curious about online, or have purchased in the past, and in turn new start-ups crop up to develop iterations of what they think that we think that we want, which generates more advertisements telling us about things that we didn’t know we wanted.

These narratives do not develop out of our encounters with anything grounded, but our encounters with narratives we have already been telling ourselves and each other.

Strangely, in such a world, our encounters with nature are also Simulations. Whether romanticized and sensationalized in documentaries or reality television shows, or balanced as exploitation against conservation, our sense of “nature” comes pre-loaded with baggage, context and history.

Against this backdrop, what does it mean to try and build a relationship? What would it look like if we could discard the rhetoric and the labels?

The strange twist of a branch, the nuanced rivulet twisted into bark and the subtle shifts of color within a single leaf. Our stories can’t prepare us for this, have no words for this. So real it stands oddly outside of what we call reality.

Unwrapped and immediate, abstract in its presence, though unedited and immediate in a way which cannot be denied.

Perhaps simply looking, really looking and allowing the object of our attention to actually be an object of our attention, could be the new avant-garde, the new abstract art, the new conceptual frontier.