ISSN: 1705-6411
Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006)
Author: Dr. Scott A. Lukas

Note: Another version of this essay may be found in Singla Magazine: and at Unless otherwise indicated all photographs are by the author.

You never look at me from the place which I see you. 1

…the only truly profound pleasure, that of keeping on the move. 2

I. Journey Into Discontinuity
“Photography changes the mental landscape …the landscape of theory and ideas tend to shrink inexorably”.3 The photographs of my journey are traces also of mental states that accompanied me. “In every parting there is a latent germ of madness, wrote Goethe”,4 to which I would add: in every parting there is also a latent element of fantasy. As we leave one another at the airport, or as we leave a scene of our travel after a photographic moment, or after we leave our writing at its end, we make-believe that we are still there, “in it” as before. My photographs speak to me about who I am when I take them, and they emphasize the lack that I have felt as I have traveled, and the lack of closure that characterizes memories of this journey.

At some point – perhaps it was on the train from Oxford – I sent you a postcard with a picture from Paris, Texas on the front. In Wender’s films travel is intercut by isolation and moments of self-reflection. Postcards contain a communicative complexity, if not failure5 and it may be the case that my cards never got to you. You could have chosen not to read them; not to reflect on what I had written; and to avoid what I was trying to describe at that time. Postcards are also reflections of travel, but they seem to suggest that, like travel itself, meaning is slow to arrive. Postcards exist in Bataille’s understanding that “between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity”.6 When did you understand the end? Did I understand, at one specific point of traveling in the UK, that our six years were coming to a close, and could it be that I have a picture of that mental landscape hiding in one of photos?

Travel deepens meditation on the self, and for one who travels and studies travel, it becomes difficult to ascertain the self from its reflections on the consumer windows of billboards, programmatic attractions and tourist fantasies. In the end it is the journey (destiny) that is all that matters.7 I left with the sense of anticipation of coming home, but months later, I realized that there was no home, and even if there were, that you would not be there.

Jean Baudrillard. Las Vegas (1996)8

II. Between Real and Unreal
At Eden Camp9 I wandered through the bunkers trying to understand how one can comprehend war through paper mache dioramas, smells of the Blitz, and mannequins. Could it be that the most horrific events of the past are the most telling – in their punctum, as Barthes would say – or is it that these events are unknowable because of their very nature? As I try to better interpret the images from the camp, it occurs to me that as much as these war photos act out the world – or a world before the world – they expel the world, “without ever giving it a meaning”.10

The restless Irish Sea that circles the town, the historical architecture, the ramparts – would you see it the same way? After dark, after the noise settles, after the clothes have dried, I had dinner with a crew filming in Berwick. A conversation with a cast member turns on the subject of Kill Bill 2 and whether Tarantino is a genius or a con-artist. An unsettling authenticity permeates the space of our conversation. The conversation is cut short as the film’s director and “R” enter the common room. “R” sits down in his wetsuit to have dinner before the next scene. I am struck by the immediacy of his being real. How untidy the space between the real and the unreal is kept – and this is where we live. I was thinking of you, standing next to the Irish Sea, and now that “we” are no more, I look at this image and wonder how I could have been thinking of you then. I took so many pictures of Berwick – they now possess an unreal character, so disconnected from the history that made them. “Identity is a dream pathetic in its absurdity”.11

Lyotard spoke of the “differend” as a point of non-communication between people, systems of thought or viewpoints, in which no rule of judgment can be applied to both “arguments”.12 I believed that love is an answer to the impossibility of communication. The mystics tell us that we can never comprehend the nature of the universe, and postmodern theorists of culture tell us that we can never know if a message gets from A to B. Does the rhetoric of love predispose us to accept the meaning of all messages that we exchange while in a relationship, or none of them? Looking back at the Berwick photos, I think about the conversations I had with others about you. I told them how real our relationship was, how it endured like the ramparts surrounding the city. Knowing that I inhabit a world of fiction, our love was a reality that was absolutely necessary, and completely real. But, perhaps all this time, I should have considered the ways in which fictive forces embed themselves in us and in our relationships.

III. The Sublime and the Mundane

Truth is born of disillusion. The real is born of lack of imagination.13

You can only distinguish the sublime from the pleasant by the fact that the memory of it grips your heart.14

Too often we distinguish the spatial realities of our world in a Cartesian sense, and I believe that the same can be said of our interpersonal relationships – we cannot accept the mundane or the bad, only the sublime and the good. We desire the sublime in our own lives as much as it is reflected on Hollywood’s screens. In Edinburgh I tried to take pictures of both mundane and sublime spaces but eventually came to understand that I could no longer differentiate between them – the mundane and the sublime have merged. It is as if the world has lost all sense of differentiation.

“These things just happen…they are part of life,”…“You shouldn’t think about things so much…just let things happen” you said on the phone. Not having a reason for the demise of the relationship is particularly difficult, as is my current feeling that “our love was an answer to the existential gaps of life” was no answer. Not knowing becomes particularly difficult in all respects of self-reflection: “We always harbor the illusion that something will have an end-point, that it will then take on a meaning, and will allow us retrospectively to restore its origin and, with the beginning and the end, the play of cause and effect will become possible”.15

Like Jerry Black in Sean Penn’s film The Pledge, we all strive to solve the unsolvable crime in the ways in which we explain the failed relationships and social mishaps that populate our reality. In the film, the resolution to the crime comes at the meta-level – only the audience knows. Break-ups so commonly reflect both the plight of Jerry Black or what Baudrillard references in the concept of the perfect crime – it is one in which there are only victims and effects, no perpetrators or causes. In a postmodern society love becomes a series of after effects and aliased images, while lovers exhibit the perfect lovers’ discourse, “when no one speaks to anyone any more”.16

Camus once spoke of existentialism as a form of ontological suicide, and I cannot imagine that anyone could find pleasure in the depth of doubt that accompanies the loss of a partner. The sublime and the mundane, the normal and the abnormal and the whole and the fragmented merge in the relationship itself. After a certain point, we accept the will behind the other’s love as absolute – your “I love you” is saying that you believe the other’s “I love you” and that you accept each as simultaneous truths. So many parts of a relationship are reflections of mysteries that we have written as truths. Eroticism, and the innerness of a relationship that is established through processes of intimacy, is what Bataille denotes as a calling of one’s being into question.17 As a an interpreter of postmodern culture, I have understood society through the metaphor of disunity and fragmentation. After I got off the plane at LA “X” I realized that being an interpreter of one’s own postmodern life wasn’t all that enjoyable.18

IV. Photo

Photography conveys the state of the world in our absence.19

There is no ‘language’ in general, except as the object of the idea.20

How was I conditioned to take the photos that I take? Does this conditioning establish an “automatic writing” of me?  For Benjamin, photography is akin to capturing the world for the purpose of enjoyment as well as the greater purpose of establishing an economic function of mass consumerism.21 My enjoyment that was associated with the concomitance of the photos and the memories of the failed relationship diminished, while the photos remained as they were when I took them. When I participated in the photographic exodus at Paris Disneyland, I could not help but wonder how all the photos brought so much happiness to the people snapping them.

Like the images they capture, our cameras speak of a culture based on standardization and mass appeal. As Julian Stallabrass commented on the nature of tourist photography:

Photographers are urged to get closer to their subjects, to use backgrounds that do not distract from the main point of interest, to use portrait-format images for portraits, and to place objects in the foreground of landscapes. In all this, there is a very curious tension between creativity and rule-making”.22

At the numerous “Kodak Picture Spots” at Paris Disneyland, tourists were snapping “just the perfect photo” of Cinderella’s Castle. I reflected on the many consumer shots that had filled my own memory card. Does my role as a theme park critic permit me to take such images, for the purpose of critique? Could one take a non-consumerist photo at a place like Disneyland?

In many respects, photography delivers a consistent ideological message of “This is the way things are” and “the world as it is”.23 In a surveillance-drenched society like ours, photos become mania – we desire records of every moment of our lives (Jennycam),24 we use the nearly infinite storage capacity of our digital cameras to capture shots from every angle and we take a piece of every subject, and we use hidden cameras to police ourselves (CCTV).

…recording, filing, and memorizing everything of our own past and the past of all cultures. Is this not a symptom of a collective presentment of the end, a sign that events and the living time of history have had their day and that we have to arm ourselves with the whole battery of artificial memory, all the signs of the past, to face up to the absence of a future and the glacial times which await us?25

On the day that you asked me to move my things out of our apartment, we came across the issue of how to divide up the photo albums. The photo album is a remainder of our modernist visual culture and the myth of permanence. In the case of the digital photos on the computer – again, categorized by theme into neat folders on the hard drive – it was easy to make duplicates for each of us, but with the photo albums we only had one copy of each photo, and it seemed impossible to devise a system of separating the photographic moments of the last six years. The digital facilitates human separation.

V. The Remainder

An aura of death is what denotes passion.26

The most tender kisses have an aftertaste of rat.27

Because I had recently begun work on themed spaces, I was looking forward to going to Frankenstein, one of Scotland’s major themed venues. This picture bespeaks of the general ambiance of the place. I manage to snap a few photos but the waiters express trepidation about my taking the photos. Apparently, theming is to be experienced, not represented and remembered.

We are reflections of geography, and most of our contemporary geography is consumerist. With the image of Frankenstein I can now come to terms with the void that love and intimacy no longer fill. Kipnis suggests that we are at a threshold of love in which Puritanism and postmodern ambiguity simultaneously define our intimacy.28 For couples, understanding “where they are at” can be as confusing as the mélange images of Frankenstein, and their lack of referents.

There is always a remainder, and in love there will be an unredeemed state of love. In the aftermath of love the remainder of it becomes hideous. As only humans can do, we can move from holding the most angelic thoughts for a person and then, in the next moment, view the same person as a monster (see the film Dogville). Concealment plays an important part in a relationship. As I remember the substandard meal in a kitschy restaurant, I now wonder if our relationship had meaning or if it was, like the restaurant’s electrodes and video screens, nothing more than a series of aesthetic effects. Failed love leaves many forms of the remainder – many are emotional and are functions of inconsistency between vivid and fond memories of the past relationship and tormented, unhappy realities of the present. Others are physical, such as old pictures, videotapes, miscellaneous objects that meant nothing before the breakup, which now take on entirely different meaning.

One of the most difficult remainders of love is the effect of analysis that it generates. Zizek suggests that the analyst “occupies the place of the surplus object; he identifies himself directly with the leftover of the discursive network”.29 My subconscious tells me that I am thinking about the outcome of the last six years of my life too much and in too great of detail. Bits of places, memories and situations of good and bad, barks of a dog and wonderful moments of sharing life with a person to whom I once said “I love you”, are detritus of a condition that was once organic and holistic and is now nonsystemic and fragmented. “You cannot theorize something as the ‘accursed share’…without yourself being part of that  curse”.30

VI. Seduction

Seduction is a more fatal game, and a more dangerous one too, which is in no way exclusive of pleasure, but is something different from jouissance. Seduction is a challenge, a form which tends always to unsettle someone in their identity and the meaning that they can have for themselves. In seduction they find the possibility of a radical otherness.31

In contemporary consumer society the familiarity of advertising penetrates  our intimate lives to the point that advertising and the self are increasingly difficult to distinguish. The intent is for me to be aroused, for me to be affected by the image of the woman on the billboard, for me to be compelled by the language of “flirtatious, mysterious, sensuous,” for me to be compelled (also) to purchase alcohol, and to be “cointreauversial.” On Cointreau’s website32 I took a quiz to determine if I am “cointreauversial.” Here I discovered that a “cointreauversial” person is edgy with a bold sense of style and a self-assured attitude. Cointreau’s website, like their billboards, promotes a merging of the personal (sex and alcohol) with the corporate (death).

My intent was to collect this photo for a “Gender Ads” project,33 but later, as I unpacked all of my images from the camera into my folders, I found that this particular image had taken on a more personal meaning. The image speaks to me at a point of merging in my life, in which I question both the seduction of consumerism (I am in debt consolidation from the expenses I incurred in our name) that affected my relationship and my sense of self, and my being seduced by, and also ambiguously seducing, another. Seduction, as Baudrillard remarks, involves a form of destiny, a dual form of symbolic exchange between two persons – or a person and an order, like consumerism – and which involves a complicity of the self in the end”.34 The “original crime is seduction.”35

VII. Circling

The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.36

On the one hand, if we assess all that would have had not to have happened for the event not to take place, then quite clearly it could not but occur. There would have to have been no Pont de l’Alma, and hence no Battle of the Alma. There would have had to have been no Mercedes, and hence no German car company whose founder had a daughter called Mercedes. No Dodi and no Ritz, nor all the wealth of the Arab princes and the historical rivalry with the British. The British Empire itself would have had to have been wiped from history. So everything combines, a contrario and in absentia, to demonstrate the urgent necessity of this death. The event therefore, is itself unreal, since it is made up of all that should not have taken place for it not to occur. And, as a result, thanks to all those negative probabilities, it produces and incalculable effect. Such are the lineaments of a Fate-based Analysis, an unrealist analysis of unreal events. And the death of Diana is an unreal event…In the present case, the interminable commentaries on the ‘accident of fate’ or the ‘fated conspiracy’ merely betray collective remorse at being the virtual murderers of Diana.37

The attempt to impose linearity of memory often results in a synecdocheal representation of the past in the minds of the public. 9/11 is remembered as the crumbling of the World Trade Center, when in reality many other “scenes” speak of the cause of the tragedies – the U.S. support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, misplaced or ignored intelligence memos, the open nature of airline travel as a result of the consumer economy of the U.S. Likewise, with Diana the public may desire one picture or image that symbolizes the life.

None of us can be entirely sure if our emotional reaction to Diana’s passing was a construction of the media or if we were reacting to a legacy (Diana’s humanitarianism) that was truly gone. As Zizek says, “for reality to exist, something must be left”,38 and in the case of reactions to public events (especially tragedies) and our own love lives there is an uncanny similarity in the remainder that we are left to assess, compartmentalize and restore. We may debate the politics of memorialization in museal and political spaces, but there is no social device, save the blues, that is given to individuals to deal with the remainders of love. Of course there is the love culture industry which purports to “mend broken hearts” and offer lonely people a way out of their messy lives, but in fact such industries are based on the rhetorical identification of things we may already know.

Diana’s Hyde Park memorial exemplifies the complexity of her life, the inexplicable nature of her death, and the inability to represent her life-death in a memorial. The circularity of the fountain drew me back to the spot many times, and it was not that I felt a spiritual connection while standing on the monument, but I felt a sense of the further entrenchment of reality into deeper levels of mystery. I am unsure if I interpret the circularity of this moment as a reflection of desire and psychological drive, as Lacan would have it, or as a function of the cyclical nature of interpretation as argued by Gadamer (1975). Whatever the case, geography has taught me to respect the circle and to always distrust the line.

VIII. Network

Everything habitual draws an even tighter net of spider webs around us; then we notice that the fibers have become traps, and that we ourselves are sitting in the middle, like a spider that got caught there and must feed on its own blood. That is why the free spirit hates all habits and rules, everything enduring and definitive; that is why, again and again, he painfully tears apart the net around him, even though he will suffer as a consequence from countless large and small wounds – for he must tear those fibers away from himself, from his body, his soul. 39

Everybody at the speed of light tends to become a nobody.40

Here is the perfect social sphere – the “one in which everyone is among ‘the excluded.41

In Tarrying with the Negative, Slavoj Zizek suggests that cultures, contrary to the notion that they communicate using principles of shared values, are able to connect only through a failure, “insofar as they can recognize in each other a different answer to the same fundamental ‘antagonism’, deadlock, point of failure”.42 The same can be said of individuals in the contemporary. Consultants who advise couples on failing relationships speak of the need to “communicate effectively and openly,” without realizing the demon that populates the discourse of lovers. Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Love addresses the postmodern face of intimate relationships. In it we learn that the network is the place where things happen, but not for the sake of connection (or communication) as we all suppose. In the network we are given a sense of power, the self is modified but remade as it was before, and people share in a collective urge of narcissism. Television shows like Sex and the City and The Apprentice highlight the idea that the network is the raison d’etre of the social, but both shows – one a situation comedy, the other a “reality” show – use the network to further the cause of the (consumer) individual.  In the network, both “connecting and disconnecting are equally legitimate choices”.43  It is this facet of social life that legitimates the “decline of the family” – which itself is a hegemonic construction – and which leads people to choose a multiplicity of social facades – from the work group, to the PTA to religious organizations. They all serve the purpose of giving the individual new life in a formerly solid world that continually “melts into air.” In societies of risk, we are inclined to cling to forms of the social that will give us some hope, however small, of resisting liquid disorder.44 The security, real or imagined, that is provided by our relationships has been present since the times of early humans, but today’s network arrangements of security are a new jumping-off point of the social. As Bauman observes:

Being in a relationship means a lot of headaches, but above all perpetual uncertainty. You can never be really, fully sure what to do – and never certain that you have done the right thing or that you did it at the right time …you sought the relationship in the hope of mitigating…insecurity…a commitment to a relationship that is ‘meaningless in the long term’ (of which both sides are aware!) is a two-edged sword.45

As a society, we do not have the discourse to speak of Bauman’s concept of the “meaningless in the long term” nature of our relationships. Our speech about networks leaves us lost in, and below, the network. Some time in the middle of a rainy day in Oxford, I was unable to take any more pictures, and at that moment I asked myself, “What will I do with all of these images, anyway?” I entered a bookstore only to find Bauman’s Liquid Love opening it to a page that provided an answer: “When the quality [of love] lets you down, you tend to seek redemption in quantity. If ‘commitments are meaningless’ while relations cease to be trustworthy and are unlikely to last, you are inclined to swap partnerships for networks”.46

IX. Images and Memory

We spend the rest of our lives seeking a lost moment.47

History breaks down into images, not into stories.48

The uncertainty principle is at the very heart of sexual life, as it is at the heart of all value systems.49

A year earlier, at this same window, I would have seen something entirely different, and now I see reflections of the past which confuse me and an archive of memories that I would rather leave unvisited. As optics stretching our eyes into the world, windows and lenses share much in common, but lenses allow the archiving of the present on tape while windows emphasizes the role of the viewer in interpreting the world: “there is a value to think through things, not above them”.50 In the case of the camera, we may be inclined to think above the images that are produced, while the window may allow us to reflect on our own ocularity in the sense of what we see in the world and how it impacts our consciousness. Looking out the window, I see images of our former relationship pass by me, and where once these images flowed together as a cinematic production, complete with happy ending, they now represent an assemblage that can be best described as cutting room floor debris.

In both her experimental (Meshes of the Afternoon) and ethnographic (Divine Horsemen) films anthropologist Maya Deren used the camera lens to produce powerful allegories of the self and culture. Deren used the trance produced by Haitian vodun as an allegory for what she termed “depersonalization”.51 The concept suggests not an erasure of the self but an expansion of it, through the achievement of trance and the collective experiences of ritual. We have all had moments in which we think of the self as a window – we can see clearly to the point of understanding who we are – but, especially in difficult times, we enter the realm of what Walter Benjamin considered the unresolved self existing in a world lacking affirmation.52 My own views of our relationship were the results of images, perfected by the metaphorical Photoshop filters of my optimism. We desire organic selves even when there are none and we wish for perfect relationships even when one or both partners are considering the end of the union. My image of the near-perfect relationship as I boarded the plane at LA “X” was clearly far from the image of us that you held.

X. Haunted Landscapes

Critical thought sees itself as holding up a mirror to the world, but the world knows no mirror stage. Thought must, then, go beyond this critical stage and reach the ulterior stage of the object which thinks us, the world which thinks us.53

According to Anglo-American conceptions of masculinity, a man who gives in to language’s manifestations, who allows language to happen through him, who valorizes language as energy and movement independent rather than subservient to his rational mastery, is questionable as a man.54

According to Walter Benjamin architecture “presents material to a simultaneous collective reception”.55 I may have discovered what motivated Walter Benjamin to begin his Arcades Project. This photo speaks to the idea of the arcade, where the past and present meet in a phantasmagoria of consumer life. A few alterations of the photo are necessary to create a new space that is both haunting and beautiful. The end result is an amalgamation of the imagined and the real arcade. I think about how you would like the fashion here, but it is beyond the point of gifts, so the walk takes me on a Situationist stroll, pass t-shirt deals, ambient club CDs (I almost buy one), more food stands (quite a few dessert places, including crapes), sundry after sundry shop, and everything else. The arcades flow out into the streets, and the market itself resembles the BwO (body without organs) that Deleuze and Guattari described (1987). A few times, while in the indoor arcades, I double back as I find myself lost between aisles of clothing. It is unbearable here, and I cannot breathe with the overflow of the crowd. But amidst all of the panic, there is something more, something draws me in without my knowledge. As Benjamin quotes Mallarme, “a landscape haunts, intense as opium”.56

XI. Flux

The paradoxes of acceleration are indeed numerous and disconcerting, in particular, the foremost among them: getting closer to the ‘distant’ takes you proportionally from the ‘near’ (and dear) – the friend, the relative, the neighbour – thus making strangers, if not actual enemies, of all who are close at hand, whether they be family, workmates or neighbourhood acquaintances.57

The great traveler is the person who passes through cities and countries with anamnesis; and because everything seems closer to everything else, and hence to him, since he is in their midst, all his senses respond to every nuance as truth. The distanced Romantic is as ignorant as the Positivist.58

This photo represents the London that I experienced in 2004 – a London stained by a consumerism that is somehow managed and a cultural history that often escapes the native and the tourist alike. There are always mental images of our travels that stay with us when we return, but this image of London is stronger than I had anticipated. It is a London “under erasure” – for the fact of it being marked by my experiences with the breakup and for the fact that it was in London in which my self was thoroughly strained – but it is a London that I truly appreciate.

While in the Europe I was amused to the slogan “Come in and Be Creative” emblazoned on the many Starbucks cafes that dot the landscape of London, the U.K. and now much of Europe. The languages of our collective consumer landscapes – whether on television, the Internet or in the logos and signage of storefronts – speak of our determination by the ideologies of societies from which we seek disconnection. At times it seemed easier for me to escape mass-produced reality while in the U.K., but for as many independent pubs, used bookstores or local markets that I frequented, I passed by as many or more chains, many of which bespoke a familiarity of home that was not welcomed. Near the end of our collective study abroad program, some of my students spoke of desiring that familiarity – having Kraft macaroni and cheese or visiting an American fast food chain. I suppose that a portion of this longing for (consumerist) home is conditioned by the fact or our social lives being determined by forces of consumption. We can laugh at slogans like the Olive Garden’s “When You’re Here, You’re Family,” but they determine who we are much more than we like to admit. Today, on the way into Starbucks, a McDonalds billboard proclaimed, “New McChickens are Here!” The wording, as if religious discourse, heralds the arrival of chicken (or Christ) and we, the fawning followers, file into McDonalds to receive our salvation.

In the UK, I tried to apply some of the Situationist techniques of the derive (drift). The goal is to use a means (random map techniques, following people) to achieve an escape from the urban plans and machinations laid out by others. Interestingly, in many of London’s (as well as Edinburgh’s, Glasgow’s, York’s, Stratford’s, Oxford’s, Blackpool’s, Bath’s and Cambridge’s) locales, drifting from one consumer environment takes you into the next, albeit with a few castles and historic dwellings along the way. As a powerful lesson on identity and its connection to geography, London and the U.K. taught me that a certain consumerist legacy is here to stay. Familiarity is a hallmark of consumer society, whether the U.S. or the U.K. Many of the tourist snapshots reflect the same urge: we capture moments from our travels so that we will be content when we return to our equally familiar space of the home. Familiarity never before bred such contempt.

During my journey I savored the familiarity of my life back at home. I imagined and longed for repetition of walks on Santa Barbara beaches and dinners at our favorite restaurants. Anticipation built as I visited new places in the U.K. and at times my consciousness was dominated more by the absence of the home than the presence of the away. When things turned sour, the familiar joys of home became bitter fuel for the realization that such times had passed. “Home” was no longer that, and my movements through London’s spaces were constantly interrupted by a projected imagining of what coming home would be like.

The Deer Hunter is a powerful film because it problematizes home, and it suggests that no matter how much we desire a fictive place that is “ours”, we can never come home. The theories and photos finally speak clearly to me: I sought closure in a world which offers only flux. “When something comes to an end, this means it really took place; whereas if there no longer is any end, we enter interminable history, interminable crisis; we enter upon series of interminable processes”.59 All the images that I have gleaned from the world, they then begin to move on their own. At the time I “took” these photographs I did not know what I would do with them, but I knew I would need them. As it has been for all the books I have read, and in this writing, which have read me. “It’s the book which reads me… It’s the object which thinks us. It’s the lens which focuses on us. It’s the effect which causes us… It’s time which wastes us.”60 Theory has been many things, and even if it ends in challenge, it sees us through.

About the Author
Scott Lukas is Chair of Anthropology and Sociology at Lake Tahoe College. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rice University in 1998 and  is currently working on a number of publications that relate to his dissertation study of theme parks, organizational culture and U.S. popular culture. He is author of  “An American Theme Park: Working and Riding Out Fear in the Late Twentieth Century”. In George E. Marcus (Editor). Late Editions 6, Paranoia within Reason: A Casebook on Conspiracy as Explanation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. He also authored two chapters in Patricia Rice and David McCurdy (Editors). Strategies in Teaching Anthropology (Second and Third Editions). Prentice-Hall, 2002 and 2004. In 2005, he was selected winner of the McGraw-Hill Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology by the American Anthropological Association.

1 – Another version of this essay may be found in Singla Magazine: and at Unless otherwise indicated all photographs are by the author.

2 –  Jacques Lacan cited in Slavoj Zizek. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991:126.

3 – Jean Baudrillard. America (c1986). New York: Verso, 1988:53.

4 – Jean Baudrillard, Photographies 1985-1998. Graz: Hatje-Cantz, 1999:145.

5 – Goethe cited in Eric J. Leed. The Mind of the Traveler: From Gilgamesh to Global Tourism. New York: Basic Books, 1991:25.

6 – Jacques Derrida. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Translated by Alan Bass Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

7 – Georges Bataille. Eroticism: Death and Sensuality. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986:12.

8 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories (1980-1985). New York: Verso, 1990:168.

9 – Jean Baudrillard. Photographies 1985-1998. Graz: Hatje-Cantz, 1999.

10 -Eden Camp (Modern History Theme Museum) See:

11 – Jean Baudrillard. Photographies 1985-1998. Graz: Hatje-Cantz, 1999:146.

12 – Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm. New York: Verso, 1998:49.

13 – Jean-François Lyotard. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

14 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories IV. New York: Verso,  2003:33.

15 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories 1980-1985. New York: Verso,1990:78.

16 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories IV. New York: Verso,  2003:57.

17 -Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm. New York: Verso, 1998:69.

18 – Georges Bataille. Eroticism: Death and Sensuality. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986:29.

19 – Somewhere along my travels, there is a sign that takes on the state of compulsive beauty. It is no longer a function of geography, but of symbolizing systems. I stare at the “Wireworks Manufacturers” on the sign and I realize that the image gives me no direction, and as I have no direction, I become a part of signing systems that have no relationship to my being. A sign? This is precisely the space that separates you and me, and it is one that I cannot capture in a photo.

20 – Jean Baudrillard. Photographies 1985-1998. Graz: Hatje-Cantz, 1999:136.

21 – Jean-François Lyotard. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992:xii.

22 – Walter Benjamin. “The Author as Producer”. In Reflections. New York: Shocken Books, 1978:230.

23 – Julian Stallabrass. “Sixty Billion Sunsets”. In Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture. London: Verso, 1996:20.

24 – Ibid.:24; Walter Benjamin. “The Author as Producer”. In Reflections. New York: Shocken Books, 1978:230.

25 – See: (link no longer active 2019)

26 – Jean Baudrillard. The Illusion of the End. Stanford University Press, 1994:9.

27 – Georges Bataille. Eroticism: Death and Sensuality. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986:20.

28 – Georges Bataille. The Impossible. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1991:81.

29 – Laura Kipnis. Against Love: A Polemic. New York: Vintage, 2003:11.

30 – Slavoj Zizek. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991:131.

31 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories (1980-1985). New York: Verso, 1990:78.

32 – Jean Baudrillard. Passwords. New York: Verso, 2003:22.



35 -Jean Baudrillard. Passwords. New York: Verso, 2003:69-70.


37 – Roland Barthes. “A Lover’s Discourse”. In Robert Scholes, Nancy Comley, Gregory Ulmer (Editors.) An Introduction to Literary Language. New York: St. Martin’s Press:1998:99.

38 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange. New York: Verso, 2001:136-137.

39 – Slavoj Zizek. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 1991:45.

40 – Friedrich Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

41 – N. De Hart and Paul. Benedetti (Editors). Reflections On and By McLuhan. Toronto: Prentice-Hall, 1996:101.

42 – Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm. New York: Verso, 1998:68-69.

43 – Slavoj Zizek. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham, NC.: Duke University Press, 1993:31.

44 – Zygmunt Bauman. Liquid Love. Cambridge, Polity Press, 2003:xii.

45 – Ulrich Beck. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: SAGE, 1992.

46 – Zygmunt Bauman. Liquid Love. Cambridge, Polity Press, 14-15.


48 – Georges Bataille. The Impossible. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1991:25.

49 -Walter Benjamin. The Arcades Project. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.

50 – Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm. New York: Verso, 1998:73.

51 – Siegfried Kracauer. History: The Last Thing Before the Last. Oxford University Press,  1997:192.

52 – Catherine Russell. Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video. Durham, NC.: Duke University Press, 1999:207.

53 – Susan Buck-Morss. The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 1990.

54 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange. New York: Verso, 2001:23.

55 – Maria Damon. Talking Yiddish at the Boundaries. Cultural Studies, Volume 5, Number 1:25.

56 – Walter Benjamin. L’homme, le language et la culture. Paris: Denoel, 1971:69.

57 -Walter Benjamin. The Arcades Project. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1999:416.

58 -Paul Virilio. Open Sky. London: Verso, 1997:20.

59 – Walter Benjamin. “The Great Art of Making Things Seem Closer Together”. In Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1934. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2001:248.

60 – Jean Baudrillard. Passwords. New York: Verso, 2003:55.

61 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange (c 1999). London: SAGE, 2001:89.