Yes, these are real sunglasses

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Yes, these are real sunglasses.

A girl on the street was wearing them a moment ago. Our real world is becoming pixelated.

What does this mean?

Naturally, everything is always already pixelated. In other words, the pixels are already here. It is not that somehow the pixels arrive on the scene and that they introduce a whole new world for us. Not at all, instead, the pixels are the basic substratum of the symbolic world. To get to this substratum on a computer you only have to zoom into the image until you reach its brutal and violent symbolic reality: despite initial appearances the image is reduced to a chain of isolated and distinct colors, always lacking true gradation. If you zoom back out to the image proper there again appears to be consistency, demonstrated by the ostensible gradation from color to color.

Today the pixels do not give rise to consistency at the level of the image. In other words, the pixels do not rise triumphantly to form an image. The image itself becomes a pixelated image of pixels – a multiplicity of atoms or of ones. This is precisely what we see in the rise of the blockbuster hit “Pixels” or in the immensely popular video game “Minecraft”: the pixel triumphs over the image in the battle of the century! The true temptation is not to fall into some nostalgia, then, but to make a choice, in the end, between the symbolic reality of the pixel or the smooth consistency of the pixel – or, it would be claimed, to make a pact between the two of them so that they may co-exist.

When we talk to people on the street we discover very quickly that nobody believes in the power of images anymore. They see right through the image to its authoritative symbolic apparatus. Beneath the consistency of the image’s propaganda there is a chain of symbolic authority. We are all in on it. Lacan’s warning “Be Wary of the Image” is today raised to the level of popular ideology: we are all wary of the image and we are today all aware of the brutal symbolic reality hiding beneath it. All the more to elevate the imaginary function to its properly narcissistic register: pixel art remains nonetheless a multiplicity *of ones,* that is, of that which appears to fill in the lack in the heart of the one.

I shall provide two examples to demonstrate my thesis. First, when the blockbuster hit “Gravity” came out audiences everywhere were in an uproar, they shouted: “Do you expect me to believe this horse-shit?” They were, of course, responding to a particular scene where a single screw floated ever so slightly in the wrong direction, thus revealing the rupture between the image and the symbolic rules governing the spectacle (i.e., the laws of gravity). When the screw floated in the wrong direction the whole ruse was caught! Now, it was no longer the narcissism of the scream which triumphed but the narcissism of the audience: we all knew better, we know the true way to suture the gap between the imaginary spectacle and the symbolic rules: make the screw go in a precise direction according to the laws of gravity! The problem with “Gravity” was that it carried a pretense of “realism,” that is, it began by offering itself as a believable narrative. It naturally followed that the only way to secure belief was to critique the narrative.

We need to ask ourselves a crucial question: why do audience members not scream “do you expect me to believe this horse-shit?!” when watching cinematic fantasies like the “X-Men”? It is because the film begins precisely by subverting the audiences’ relation to the spectacle. The director’s proclaim, in their own way: “In the beginning, understand that this is not reality – we are detaching the image from its symbolic form.” And so the superheros can fly, travel through time, and so on. Reality is itself destroyed at the very beginning, thus ensuring that there can be no relation between belief and seduction, between audience attention and the film’s sense of reality.

Isn’t it the case, then, that it is precisely by destroying the consistency of the image, that is, by exposing the disjunction between imaginary and symbolic forms, that the image all the more triumphs and that our belief in the narrative is all the more secured? In other words, we look cool in pixel sunglasses because they reveal the image in its most seductive lure, as that which is lacking in consistency – but forever, precisely, to accelerate the consistency of the pixel itself.

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