---- by Graeme Gilloch
  From earliest times, human beings have imagined themselves to be accompanied by the double, be it as a shadow, a spirit, a namesake, a reflection or a totem. But while 'the primitive has a non-alienated duelrelation with his double' (SED, 141) based on reciprocity, dialogue and exchange, this figure has taken on a sinister aspect in modern times. A commonplace in nineteenth-century Gothic and Romantic literature as well as in the modern thriller genre, the doppelgänger constituted for both Otto Rank (1914) and Sigmund Freud (SE XVII) the definitive figure of the uncanny, of the unheimlich, of the strangely familiar. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also one of Baudrillard's favourite and most frequent motifs. Appropriately, the double appears in his writings in a number of different incarnations and guises: as mirror-image (as Narcissus in S; as the 'mirror people' in PC), as shadow (SV), as twin (see CM2, and see also the discussion of the Twin Towers in ST) and, finally, as clone (S; SS). As a disquieting manifestation of both identity and non-identity, of ambiguity and anomaly, the double serves as a recurrent trope for so many of those conventional binary oppositions and antitheses beloved of dialecticians that Baudrillard eagerly sets in play and subverts through ironic inversion and sudden reversal: 'reality' and representation, essence and appearance, soul/spirit and body, subject and object, self and other, original and copy, authenticity and (dis)simulation, good and evil, absence and presence, surface and depth, secret and obscene, critique and complicity.
  The figure of the doppelgänger poses such questions as: which of these is which? how can we tell them apart? which of these takes precedence and priority over the other? which of these is to be believed? who is to be trusted? who is haunting whom? The double challenges epistemological certainties and ontological securities, and in so doing becomes a key agent and instrument of Baudrillard's critically subversive fatal theory.
  The double may be understood as the double, so to speak, of the Möbius strip. Both tropes suggest the singularity of the dual and the duality of the singular. In the single-sided looping mathematical construction, there is the seemingly impossible dissolution of one surface into another; with the sinister figure of the doppelgänger, that which seemed individual and indivisible, the human subject, becomes duplicated in some way: through bisection, bifurcation, distillation, reflection, mimesis, separation, polarisation, (re)generation, reproduction, replication and/or artificial fertilisation. And, importantly, this double appears not as something wholly different and other (good old-fashioned dialectics!), but as an embodied being both radically contrary yet seemingly and simultaneously identical.
  Here, it would seem, the double belongs to the realm of seduction, those in finite and involuted games of appearances and illusions that Baudrillard so relishes. And indeed, the double figures prominently in an exemplary instance of seduction, the act of following in Suite vénitienne/Please Follow Me (1988a [1983]). The intriguingly inexplicable pursuit of Henri B. sustained over many days by the photographer Sophie Calle, tailing him in his banal meanderings around the streets and across the bridges of Venice, is characterised by Baudrillard as the most perfect art of shadowing, as the act of becoming another's shadow, of the mimetic doubling of a life.
  But, perhaps more surprisingly, Baudrillard's most developed discussion of the double is in relation to the order of production, specifically in the rather curious Conclusion to The Consumer Society (1998a [1970]) where Baudrillard offers a distinctive reading of the old silent film, The Student of Prague (Paul Wegener/Stellen Rye, 1913; remade by Henrik Galeen in 1926). In this Expressionist historical drama, the eponymous and impecunious young man Balduin makes a rash bargain with a sinister magician Scapinelli (in the later version the Devil himself) in which a fortune in gold is exchanged for whatever the conjuror chooses to take with him from the student's humble abode: to the astonishment of the unfortunate student, his own mirror image. Baudrillard sees this tale as an allegory of capitalist exchange relations, alienation and commodity fetishism: commodity production involves the worker investing and selling him/herself in the labour process of objectification and the extraction of surplus value. Removed by the capitalist, the object produced appears to take on an independent existence, a life of its own. The student has lost his shadow. And worse. For the benign companion of the 'primitive' becomes the malevolent tormentor of the modern subject. Freed from the mirror, the doppelgänger, does not leave Balduin in peace but rather murders the cousin of his beloved, sabotaging the very romantic aspirations for which the newly acquired riches were necessary. The student is haunted by his doppelgänger, cannot escape him or the increasing disgrace that follows his every crime. Finally, Balduin hunts him down, confronts him, fires at him with a duelling pistol and collapses. He has shot, not his double, but himself. He dies. Scapinelli reappears and tears up the contract, the shreds of papers falling like confetti on Balduin's corpse. Baudrillard's point is that if commodity production involves the selfestrangement of the worker, consumer culture is that moment when the object returns as an alien thing, not casually and contingently, but persistently, insistently, compellingly. The worker is haunted by the commodity. Marx, then, exposes the deception of 'formally free' labour in the capitalist production process; Baudrillard reveals the myth of 'individual choice' in the system of consumption.
  The significance of The Student of Prague for Baudrillard's conception of seduction must be stressed. The film dramatically envisions a plethora of key motifs: the importance of the pact/bargain as a ritual form in contrast to the contract of capitalist exchange relations; the notion of the duel and irresistible logic (however illogical) of the challenge; the act of reversal when the haunting of first one by another (of the student by his likeness) gives way to the hunting down of the double by Balduin; destiny, fate and fatality.
  Baudrillard insists that one cannot survive the encounter with one's double. This is the moral of Balduin's death; it is also that which gives Calle's ludic pursuits their tension and frisson. She must remain disguised; she must keep her distance; she must not be discovered. Can she elude detection? This is what makes her shadowing fascinating.
  Nor can the double and doppelgänger survive today. For Baudrillard, these figures, too, have encountered their own fatal double, their own likenesses, their destiny. The double is a figure of the imaginary reliant on distance, fascination and the possibility of reversal. The advent of scientific cloning (with its own double helix of DNA) has realised the planned production of the replica. The double becomes the treble, the quadruple in an infinite mass proliferation. All this reproductive technology is banal, obscene, lacking any secrecy, any charm, any aura (see 'Clone Story' in SS). Cloning is cancerous metastasis. It is without interest, without seduction. The double has had its day. The mirror people have deserted us in this age of mechanical reproduction. And who can blame them?
   § double spiral
   § duality
   § fatal
   § following
   § mirror
   § photography
   § seduction

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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