Volume 15, Number 1 (November 2018)
Author: Richard G. Smith
Gerry Coulter (1959–2016) was the founder and editor of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (IJBS), and for more than a decade contributed significantly to the development of the field of Baudrillard Studies. Gerry was very much a latecomer to the international ‘Baudrillard Scene’ but nevertheless managed to make a significant contribution to Baudrillard Studies in two ways: through enabling scholarship by others, and through his own scholarship.
Gerry enabled scholarship by others in Baudrillard Studies through three major initiatives:
First, Gerry’s foundation and editing of IJBS, overseeing the publication of thirty issues – including three special issues – from January 2004 to May 2017, provided an online home for all things Baudrillardian. As an open-access peer-reviewed journal IJBS not only provides a dedicated on-line outlet for the publication of pieces on and related to Baudrillard’s philosophy and oeuvre, but also enables free access to those pieces – predominantly articles and book reviews, but also translations, interviews, videos, audio, comments, book excerpts, guest editorials, reprints, review essays, web materials, resources, poems, film reviews, undergraduate and higher degree theses, technical notes, conference reports, and obituaries. Gerry’s creation and extraordinary effort over twelve years to make IJBS a medium through which to promote the dissemination and discussion of Baudrillard’s ideas is an important legacy in itself, but Gerry managed to achieve much more.
Second, Gerry’s publication through IJBS of a concordance (2007) covering almost all of Baudrillard’s books published in English is an important contribution to Baudrillard Studies. One of the features of Baudrillard’s books – be they either in French, or any other language – is that they tend not to contain indexes, either Name or Subject. Gerry’s decision to assist those writing about Baudrillard through the publication of a concordance provided an invaluable tool to anyone seeking to engage with any topic or subject within Baudrillard’s oeuvre. In short, as with IJBS as a whole, Gerry’s ‘obscene’ concordance, compiled for all those who intersect with Baudrillard in their thought and writing, made Baudrillard’s works far more accessible.
Third, Gerry’s final substantial contribution to enabling scholarship by others on Baudrillard was his last book – From Achilles to Zarathustra (2016). Another substantial A to Z resource to assist those writing about Baudrillard, the book lists and briefly details many of the hundreds of people that Baudrillard’s mentions in his writings. From Pierre Abbé to Slavoj Žižek this invaluable resource catalogues, and to some extent contextualises, the theorists, artists, intellectuals & others that Baudrillard mentions or alludes to across his oeuvre.
Gerry also made a substantial contribution to Baudrillard Studies through his own scholarship. Before launching IJBS Gerry had only written a couple of reviews of books by Baudrillard (on Screened Out and The Spirit of Terrorism), and so it was in many ways through IJBS that Gerry chose to publish many, but certainly not all, of his subsequent publications on Baudrillard. Away from IJBS Gerry’s major publication was a book on Baudrillard’s philosophy – Jean Baudrillard: From the Ocean to the Desert, or the Poetics of Radicality (2012) –, and a book about artists whose work he thought resonated with poststructuralism and Baudrillard’s philosophy in particular – Art After the Avant-Garde: Baudrillard’s Challenge (2014). These two books – containing several pieces first published in IJBS – are testament to Gerry’s interests and contribution to Baudrillard Studies. His first book (2012) is his take on Baudrillard’s philosophy and makes the bold argument that ‘reversibility’ is Baudrillard’s ‘one great thought’. Gerry’s second book however really reveals his true passion, understanding art and photography through a Baudrillardian lens. Indeed, Baudrillard’s interest in Art and especially Photography was the topic of many of Gerry’s articles on Baudrillard, from his first to his last: e.g. see Coulter and Reid (2007) and Coulter, (2018)).
The contributions contained in this special commemorative issue of IJBS are testament to Gerry’s influence both within and beyond Baudrillard Studies. They are telling as to the regard in which he was held as a scholar and teacher, to the friendships he made across the world through Baudrillard Studies, and the contribution and continuing legacy he leaves for the international and multidisciplinary field of Baudrillard Studies.
Sadly I never got to meet Gerry in person because circumstances conspired against him and he was unable to attend the 1st International and Multidisciplinary Conference on Baudrillard Studies – ‘Engaging Baudrillard’ – held in Swansea in 2006. I knew Gerry through our correspondence as both an editorial board member of IJBS and through my assemblage of The Baudrillard Dictionary (2010) to which Gerry generously and enthusiastically contributed five entries on ‘Art’, ‘Language’, ‘Poetic Resolution’, ‘Reversibility’, and ‘Writing’. Gerry was very enthusiastic about The Baudrillard Dictionary, and looking back it must be because it very much aligned with his passion of enabling the scholarship of others in Baudrillard Studies. Finally, in September 2018 I will deliver the keynote International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Lecture at the 2nd International and Multidisciplinary Conference on Baudrillard Studies – ‘Applied Baudrillard’ – in Oxford. As a tribute to Gerry and his legacy in Baudrillard Studies I have chosen to speak on the topic on which he was most passionate: ‘Baudrillard’s Photographic Theory’.
Coulter G (2007) ‘Never Travel On An Aeroplane With God’: The Baudrillard Index—An Obscene Project, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies
Coulter G (2012) Jean Baudrillard: From the Ocean to the Desert, or the Poetics of Radicality (inter-theory Press)
Coulter G (2014) Art After the Avant-Garde: Baudrillard’s Challenge (inter-theory Press)
Coulter G (2016) From Achilles to Zarathustra: Jean Baudrillard on Theorists, Artists, Intellectuals and Others (inter-theory Press)
Coulter G (2018) ‘Jean Baudrillard’s Photography – A Vision of His Own Strange World’, in Tormey J & Durden M eds. The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory (Routledge, London)
Coulter G and Reid K (2007) ‘The Baudrillardian Photograph As Theory: Making The World A Little More Unintelligible and Enigmatic’, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 4 (1), January
Smith RG ed. (2010) The Baudrillard Dictionary (Edinburgh University Press)