Someone has kindly pointed me in the direction of an article which makes the case cogently and clearly for accepting that simulacra can often be a legitimate substitute, and possibly even superior, to the real thing, as the Victorian certainly believed. But it doesn’t persuade me that people are going to stop wanting to go to museums as the history of the last eighty years suggests that the more people can read about art, the more they look at images, the more it’s available online, the more they want to see and experience the real thing. Yes, it may be irrational, but no copy is ever a 100% adequate substitute even if – and perhaps especially if – you have to queue to see it.
2 thoughts on “The simulacrum and the museum”
It doesn’t seem to me irrational at all. Standing in front of a work of art is an entirely different experience: richer, more profound, deeper in many ways. Looking at anything in reproduction, even on a glowing screen is a poor substitute. I would never spend an hour zooming in and out of a picture of Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” but did just that the last time I was in Chicago, sitting on a bench taking in the whole, moving in to look at details, then moving back to see that detail in the whole again. Even though a digital reproduction can show us tiny details that might not be apparent to the naked eye, the naked eye does see them and register them in the brain and the heart.
Dear Richard, A good description ! Yes, says just what needs to be said about the difference. Charles