Jean Baudrillard, 1929-2007

In the Economist:

AT SOME point in his career—neither date nor time being important—Jean Baudrillard took a large red cloth, draped it over a chair in his apartment, and sat on it. He may have smoked or thought for a while, or scratched his nose; a large, doughlike nose, supporting glasses. He then got up, leaving an impression of his body behind. The image pleased him: so much so, that he took a photograph.

Since he made no comment on the event (beyond the fact that the chair was later broken), the exact details are conjectural. But by putting the cloth on the chair, and sitting on it, Mr Baudrillard added to the plethora of signs, objects and symbolic acts that made up, in his philosophical system, the whole woof and warp of the 20th century. By getting up, he left behind a “simulacrum” of himself: the truth, as he teasingly put it, that hid the fact that there was no truth there. And by photographing the chair he made it “hyperreal”: an image, which could be reproduced unendingly, of an object that claimed to have meaning and, in fact, had none.

Then he went to lunch.