Review: Introducing Baudrillard

Introducing Baudrillard Introducing Baudrillard by Chris Horrocks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Horrocks and Zoran Jevtic set out to explain the range and complexity of Baudrillard's works mixed with specs of biography through a mixture of exposition, quotations, and largely, reproduced or augmented images. The book (or graphic novel or mix-media, depending on one’s definition) is ambitious in its attempt to explain Baudrillard solely within his words and direct sentiments or that of other critics while simultaneously playfully mixing in images of and depictions of his discussion and Baudrillard, himself.

The book begins with several pages raising the question of who is Baudrillard and why is he important before switching into a short one-page biography that glosses over largely the first 37 years of his life, from his birth in Algiers to studying at the Lycee and his intellectual forefathers (Satre and Lefebvre). From there, the book hops about and often sprints through a series of topics that it both tries to explain and articulate Baudrillard’s contribution to in a way that can feel scattershot. A few pages in a row may make coherent sense but then it’s onto a new topic without any substantial continuity or clarity of intention. Rare is the opportunity when an example is made or laymen’s terms used to breakdown Baudrillard’s complex ideas. Occasionally, some section later on might reference an earlier section but that feels almost as an afterthought.

Perhaps this is the authors’ attempt to communicate the frenzied directions that Baudrillard’s works seemed to take or depict the senselessness of ordered meaning. That is, the format itself is a critique of grammar and syntax of the genre of introductory works as a simulation of what introductions signal. This assumption might also extend to the dozens of reproduced images of Baudrillard himself (or who I’m assuming is Baudrillard) throughout the book. Though it’s almost never the full body of the Baudrillard but usually only his head. Even when his full body is present, it’s usually distorted from normal proportions to look something like a bobble-head. These are particularly interesting forms to emulate. Presenting the Baudrillard's full body as a bobble-head seems to take Baudrillard and to put him (and his ideas) onto the body of an object that is typically mass-produced and representational of other bodies in often irreverent and caricatured ways. This Baudrillardian bobblehead is embedded on a 2-dimensional page and offered as a “real” in the sense that the authors’ indicate (through word balloons) words coming from his mouth. When we read, we are imagining this representation (Baudrillard on the page) of a representation (Baudrillard as a bobblehead trinket) is connected to the “real Baudrillard”--a living breathing person, who has been dead for nearly a decade. But the fun doesn’t stop there because the authors constantly crop his head onto other bodies and spaces throughout the text including a baby (p. 6), half a photo (p. 28), a pound note (p. 62), cubist art (p. 66), a stone statue, (p. 82), a baby in a birth canal (p. 93), a soldier (p. 119), and much more. Thus, Baudrillard’s head becomes a visual synecdoche of the man, his mind, and simulation itself.

While I would hope the preceding paragraph would be entirely intentional, I have my reservations given that I have read half-dozen of these Introducing guides and they are largely all the same in their mix-media approaches. This is not to say it couldn’t be the intention, but there is a formulaic (mass produced) element to the how the book is constructed. The one lingering critique of the book is that it moves too fast and assumes the clarity of its own ideas, leaving readers (particularly this one) often not really understanding the points being made.

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