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Baudrillard’s AMERICA

08/05/09

Almost asleep, I read Baudrillard’s account of the places I recently visited… or simply drove past… or remembered:

“MONUMENT VALLEY

DEAD HORSE POINT

GRAND CANYON

Geological – and hence metaphysical – monumentality, by contrast with the physical altitude of ordinary landscapes.  Upturned relief patterns, sculpted out by wind, water, and ice, dragging you down into the whirlpool of time, into the remorseless eternity of a slow-motion catastrophe.  The very idea of the millions and hundreds of millions of years that were needed peacefully to ravage the surface of the earth here is a perverse one, since it brings with it an awareness of signs originating, long before man appeared, in a sort of pact of wear and erosion struck between the elements.  Among this gigantic heap of signs – purely geological in essence – man will have had no significance.  The Indians alone perhaps interpreted them – a few of them.  And yet they are signs.  For the desert only appears uncultivated.  This entire Navajo country, the long plateau which leads to the Grand Canyon, the cliffs overlooking Monument Valley, the abysses of Green River are all alive with a magical presence, which has nothing to do with nature (the secret of this whole stretch of country is perhaps that it was once an underwater relief and has retained the surrealist qualities of an ocean bed in the open air).  You can understand why it took great magic on the Indians’ part, and a terribly cruel religion, to exorcize such a theoretical grandeur as the desert’s geological and celestial occurrence, to live up to such a backdrop.  What is man if the signs that predate him have such power?  A human race has to invent sacrifices equal to the natural cataclysmic order that surrounds it.”

-Baudriallard, p. 3

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