WHO'S IN YOUR GENES »
As early as the 1920s America was increasingly becoming an image nation. Like Moore's Law which describes the exponential expansion of technology, the use of images in every available medium during this period began to increase interminably. By the end of the 1920s it became a subject of harsh criticism by a well respected French writer named Georges Duhamel. During this period rumors of America's progressiveness had gotten around and Duhamel decided it was time to take a trip to the U.S. and get a glimpse of what he figured would be "the life of the future" for other European countries.
He did indeed find the future. It was then, as it is today, a life of images. Duhamel declared that the American brand future was one where, "Everything was false. The world was false. I myself was perhaps no longer anything but a simulacrum of a man, an imitation Duhamel... my thoughts were no longer under my control. Moving pictures usurped the place of my own ideas."
He then summed it all up by calling the American image obsession a
Duhamel's criticism of American Image-Mongering appeared in print in 1931. Eighty years later his observations are more true now than in his own time. What Duhamel described as a "moving picture" is, in the 21st century, a living breathing human being who has been surgically modified to resemble what was first seen in print or on screen. Duhamel saw, or rather foresaw, a future where life no longer imitated art, but images. While art inspires imitation, images seem to dictate it. Technology, in turn, has allowed these images and the illusions they produce to become phenotypic of the human body.
In short, we are images.
ILLUSION HAS BECOME PHENOTYPIC OF THE HUMAN BODY.
Probably the first instinct is to dismiss such a claim as metaphor, and to some extent it still is. It is true that the human body has not yet shape-shifted to be wholly image. Conversely, it is also true that our existence as images is not wholly theoretical either. As early as the 7th century, when Paul of Aegina performed corrective cosmetic surgery on a young man conditioned with gynecomastia, our progress in altering identity has become less subjective and more absolute. As Virginia L. Blum writes in her book Flesh Wounds : The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery, "The beauty of images symbolizes what is now experienced as their essential lure, and plastic surgery is the cultural allegory of transforming the body into an image, an allegory that is deeply linked to the effects of celebrity culture."
The human body may still be a work in progress of becoming wholly image, but the human being
has pretty much completed this process. Blum's observation - "transforming the body into an image"
- is finalized with the person becoming a persona. The Self is displaced further away from its natural
habitat, the body, and relocated closer to something virtual - images. Sigmund Freud called this the
"doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self". He went on to write that "The subject identifies
himself with someone else, so that he is in doubt as to which his self is, or substitutes the extraneous
self for his own." As a living image the Self now occupies a strange space that Islamic mystics
termed Alam al-Mithral, which is "a place where images are actual." This place is a true virtual reality
and a true virtual network where any form of image-obsession is adulated and considered fashionable.
Somewhere in the timeline of human history the body was viewed as recalcitrant and requiring rehabilitation. The body was the very metaphor of stigma and imperfection. Leonardo da Vinci believed that the full spectrum of a person's character could be diagnosed by observing the nose. This physio-illogical presupposition conflicts with the typical scientific image of Leonardo so often prescribed. However, this pseudo-science still holds up as a tool for tribal scrutiny. A nose is considered a dead give-away of a person's ethnicity. So much so that immigrants, landed in the US, would immediately de-ethnicize themselves by having a surgeon hack away at the nose. Still to this day, a great deal of cosmetic surgery is about ameliorating an ethnic image and replacing it with a Caucasian one. With the rise of Transhumanist philosophy it is, not just the nose, but the entire body that is being pitched to the public as a limitation to man's future. Transhumanists rejoice at the prospect of man transcending the standards of his body through surgery - even if it means his uniform vanilla homogenization.
In this context, plastic surgery is a plastic model of what the face of Westernization - via globalization - will look like when all is said and done. If you live in a metropolitan area where a high concentration of consumerism is ubiquitous then you know already the true face of Image-Imperialism. If you spend hours in front of a TV than you really know it. Your eyes have probably long since acclimated to this virtuosity, seldom bidding you to pause and question its claim as reality. Even our ears shut down allowing a gimmick-term like "Reality TV" to enter our vocabulary without recognizing it as an oxymoron.
This is not a call-to-arms against "The Matrix", or even a wake up call. Such a call would serve no point. Our brains make no real distinction between the visual and the visualized. An object seen with our eyes wide open (called a "percept") triggers the same neurological activity as when we close them shut and \ imagine the same object. It is a collusion of human nature and human technology that allows us to walk through life with our eyes open but live as if they were forever shut. From religious worship to celebrity worship; from stereotypical images of "the enemy" to archetypal images of "national heroes;" to the phenotypical cosmetic self-image, we are, all of us, designed for the blind acceptance of our own bullshit.