Volume 15, Number 1 (November 2018)
Author: Alan Cholodenko
Gerry Coulter was a friend of mine, though I unfortunately never met him, other than via email, that is.
We tried to meet up, face to face, as it were.
We organized for it to occur when I gave a paper at the University of Montreal in 2011.
The day arrived.
Gerry set out on the road to Montreal, drove half way there…and his car gave out!
He had to get the thing fixed, then turned around and headed home.
That alas turned out to be the end of that project of meeting, his recent communication with me for a prospective lecture tour to Sydney and Melbourne in 2020 now never to come to pass.
I guess it was destiny we wouldn’t have that face to face.
In any case Gerry was a friend, indeed great friend, of mine.
And let me add, great colleague, because he gave me my first publication on the work of Baudrillard in a journal. (I already had some in a number of anthologies.)
And he was more to me, but not just me.
Because he had the courage, the talent, the farsightedness and the drive to bring into being and make available to scholars world-wide a vehicle of publication dedicated to the address, even celebration, of the work of Baudrillard where none had heretofore existed and that, moreover, he maintained and stewarded to great success over 13 years.
To paraphrase Star Trek, he boldly went where no editor had gone before, exploring ‘strange new worlds’, seeking out ‘new life’…!
That first publication by Gerry of an essay by me, ‘“The Borders of Our Lives”: Frederick Wiseman, Jean Baudrillard and the Question of the Documentary’, was in IJBS, vol. 1, no. 2, July 2004.
It was a publication with a fraught history, having to wait 14 frustrating years to see what they call ‘the light of day’.
Its publication was quite the victory for me as I had presented the paper in 1990 at the annual Ohio University Film Conference, that year dedicated to documentary film.
Naturally, I offered it for publication at the end of the conference.
It was rejected outright, first by the journal affiliated with Ohio University, Wide Angle, then by Quarterly Review of Film Studies.
But what was most galling for me was watching a noted documentary film theorist laughing at me throughout my presentation of the paper.
Of course, he was laughing not just at me but at what my paper was presenting, the theoretical suppositions of my Harvard PhD dissertation, a theory of documentary based in Baudrillard, a vision of world based in Baudrillard.
So when Gerry created IJBS, I was not only elated but hopeful that the drought might end for that paper.
And, thankfully, it did, and became the first of a number he published of mine.
Gerry was always receptive, supportive and appreciative of my work, something up to that point rare in my experience, and not without a larger reason.
When I gave the Introduction to the public lecture by Baudrillard on his second visit to The University of Sydney, which was in 1994, I referenced the reception of his work as follows:
We know that Baudrillard’s work elicits condemnation without being understood, without being read, even in advance of its publication(!), ‘proof’ of its continuing provocativeness and currency. By ‘provocative’ I also mean, more radically, that he takes provocation as his vocation in the fatal sense of the term, in the sense that he issues a challenge to ‘reality’, as his work constitutes a defiance, an outbidding, a leading astray—in a word, a Seduction—of that zone of referentiality called ‘the real’, summoning meaning to appear the better to make it disappear in its apparition.
It was clear to me that all who followed Jean were potentially subject to the same hostility, condemnation, even enmity.
That all who followed his dictum that the role of the intellectual is to increase the confusion would potentially be in considerable jeopardy.
And in the face of that, Gerry acted.
I was so appreciative of not only Gerry’s appreciation of me but Gerry himself, of what he had animated, of what he had built, had accomplished, an appreciation ever increasing as the years passed.
I had a vindication of sorts in 2005, when a person involved in rejecting my essay by QRFS came up to me at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in London and, out of the blue, apologized to me for rejecting it, saying they should have accepted it!
But while it was shocking to hear and gratifying to receive it, that apology was of no substantive consequence and that was thanks to Gerry.
I owe an incomparable debt to Gerry, as for me all who have published and, I hope, will publish in IJBS do; and I shall remember it and him until the day I die.
I still have on my desktop images I asked Gerry to take for me of autumn in his neck of the woods, images that evoke the 16 exquisite autumns I had in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and before that, growing up in New Jersey, before I came to Sydney.
Now, they will inspire me, as he has, as IJBS has, over the last 13 years, in the time that remains to keep on keeping on with the writing, which is what I believe he would most want of me.
I think of it as a pact with Gerry, and, of course, with Jean, whom both Gerry and I have followed, shadowed.
Since both Gerry and Jean appreciated my play with words—at least they gave me to understand that!—let me turn this appreciation toward what I take to be some wit, in the hope the reader finds it so, even in the face of such wounds as we are now feeling in the terrible loss of Gerry.
To wit: in the era of post-truth, therefore post-falsity1—what we term, after Baudrillard, hyperreality (‘the final frontier’?!)—I would wish to but cannot rest upon a characterizing of the present moment as what I have called Trump l’oeil!
Rather, I must mobilise the more cumbersome but more suitable hyperTrump hyperl’oeil!
I wish Jean and Gerry were here for me to try it out on them!
And to attend with me to what lies ahead, watching the increasing coming to pass of what Jean so presciently anticipated and so singularly elaborated and Gerry helped massively to elucidate and disseminate, continuing to ‘keep faith’ and maintain that enterprise after Jean’s death in 2007 up to his own.
But, lacking now that companionship, let me just conclude with a statement of enormous gratitude, regard and respect and this declaration.
As we say Down Under, ‘Lord luv ya’, Gerry.
You will be sorely missed.
1. On this point, see Alan N. Shapiro’s cogent blog, ‘Baudrillard and Trump: Simulation and Object-Orientation,