The Inside-Your-Outside Machine

House of Leaves has given me a lot to think about. Firstly, I see a kinship between the monstrous house and the book. The book is in a sense bigger inside than its outside, most obviously in the reams and reams of footnotes and the constant references to sources and people and art that exist outside of the book. It shares a lot of the aesthetic conceits we’ve seen in other postmodern works, namely, the cobbling together of difference voices and pieces of writing, the use of an interrupted format, the presentation of itself as a puzzle, and the voice of Truant that constantly jerks us out of the other narratives and brings us to Truant’s present, forcing us to share it with him, along with his difficulties regarding Zampano’s text. It reminds me of a hypertext article on the Internet, where every highlighted word brings you to another work, and theoretically that can proceed infinitely, from link to link to link without end.

The critical texts both deal with space, and as such remind us that we are dealing with a space that is breaking all of the rules. Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces” argues that we are living in a particular age with a particular relationship to space that is not the same as the ages that proceeded it and hypothically will not be the same as the ages that come after. Foucault writes: “These are opposition that we regard as simple givens: for example between private space and public spave, between the space of leisure and that of work. All these are still nurtured by the hidden space of the sacred” (Foucault 23). Yet Navidson’s placement of the Hi-8 cameras throughout the house collapses these distinctions. We can take this a step further with the Internet and the idea of simultaneously living “private” lives while also living the same life simultaneously in the most public and anonymous way possible. (In fact I think that cyberspace might be the metaphor in examining these works).

I found Jean Baudrillard’s piece much harder to understand (in contrast I’ve always thought that Foucault has a singularly clear way of writing) but I was also fascinated by his description of religious and religious iconography as one way of looking at the idea of simulacra. Having attended a Baptist church for a number of years, I heard many sermons on why the Baptist cross is an empty cross as opposed to the occupied Catholic crucifix-the argument being that Jesus was not in fact on the cross anymore, and portraying him thus in a sense “weakened” him. Really a ridiculous argument after a fashion but it aligns perfectly with Baudrillard’s argument about the substitution of the simulacrum for the real. The argument about Disneyland didn’t resonate quite so much as I’ve never been there and therefore have to imagine it, but his point that it is “meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the “real” world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere” (Baudrillard 172). In a sense then, are the adults pretending to be adults pretending to indulge their childishness when in fact they are pretending to be what they are already? And how does the idea of the simulacra relate to House of Leaves?

While this article leaves me with more questions than answers, it’s particularly helpful to use this paradigm to look at economic and political systems. I think it has a particular relevance today, when we are learning exactly how ephemeral, even imaginary, our concept of wealth has become-the vanishing of imaginary dollars that may never have existed in the first place, or the concept of “value” that fluctuates wildly and is completely divorced from any tangible value in the first place.