by Lily Greeley
When people started to understand how deeply steeped in artifice ‘this’ all is, society opted to dive head on into the artifice, sacrificing any inclination of a better now, in service of searching for that which is left to do, that which may reduce the artifice, or at the very least let the richest of us live on as rotting monarchs with a myriad mixed blood chemistry forever and ever until there’s a purpose to it all. No matter the cost.
The cost, of course, for the average person means losing any chance at living a good life; advertising is less marketing than ever and is more aptly described as an invasive species, originiality and artistry are so often struck from the mainstream for every crumb of profit, governments throw billions of dollars at corporations for vanity projects while basic human needs are unmet, and the natural state of things could be described as ‘existential ennui’ if not ‘irrevocable despair’
We have gone beyond a societal structure and have created conglomerated structures within that structure, a kind of simulacrum in which one only asserts themselves in set patterns that are abstractions in their entirety. The World is an ideal take on the postmodern—perhaps even the metamodern—but these terms are essentially meaningless in that they, at base, should not really represent anything; they are monolithic terms for artistic and sociopolitical understanding that inherently go against the idea of postmodernism or its endless subsidiaries; we understand how farcical The World is, but we cannot reorganize into something sensible because it goes against our understanding of said world—absurd and artificial—it only makes sense that we would mirror that nonsensicality by steeping ourselves so deeply, that we can never differentiate ever again; perhaps happiness will come once we’ve lost all essence of what is real and what is a fabrication, a facsimile. We continue to ask the questions, what has been with us since the morning? What will leave us when the night falls? We know the answer.
Jia Zhangke portrays The World as that which is constantly aware of its own failings, that which patches its wounds with band-aids, and that which lies constantly; love malformed and understanding baked in to a labyrinthine facade seeming nothing like reality. Even the film’s opening credits sequence ends with a link to Beijing’s World Park website, ‘protecting imperialist property’ as one character puts it, signifying from the beginning the inherent fakeness of the film itself and the limits of our modern understanding under bureaucratic hegemony.
‘We have the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. All that French stuff.’ If you can experience all that is worldly just outside your home, what do you have to do with the rest of it? Why bother leaving Beijing if I can get everything I need right here? The consequence is a world so filled with object but not essence. The physical frame but nothing soulful within. The Eiffel Tower is not an icon of human architectural ingenuity, it is just ‘France’. The Tower of Pisa is at best a photo op. We’ve superseded creation, true understanding, for consumption—leaving critical thinking to the wayside.
The world is a lie, but so is The World, and that’s why it is so intriguing and worthwhile; the harsh glow will assert itself endlessly and we’re all just supposed to sit with it and tell ourselves nothing can be done.