The Aesthetic of Disappearance


Andreas J. Pratama


The Aesthetic of disappearance is a book by Paul Virilio (1980). Written in the age of Television and rampant bombardment of advertising, the public were introduced to an endless blast of imageries in advertising purpose. Likened to a deafening loud noise everywhere we go the pamphlets, titan-trons, billboards were as if screaming alluring messages to hook would-be customers to hop on to the consumeristic bandwagon. These phantasmagoric sets of images appear and disperse at an alarming rate continually seizing our attention towards them. Our eye tracking gone haywire from one place to the next seeking meaning or some sort of connection if any – only to be left perplexed unable to make sense of any.


As Marcel Proust wrote through what he referred to as the Madeleine moment in his book Remembrance of things past (1922) that the process of remembering involves also the process of forgetting. Therefore, to bring the light back into phantasmagoric advertising only under the condition of forgetful can we piece together the rapid flashes of images, slowly the lost information no longer within our vision must be filled with assumptions and presumptions. Any gaps in between the advertising served as a pause, a moment of flash-flushing of memory. Or so we would call it in French term ‘petit mal’ (picnolepsy / a very brief epilepsy) where we forget, yet unaware of the forgetfulness, yet time passes by.

If the petit mal already caused such brief relapses of consciousness gone, imagine what will happen in the instance when countless images are flashing across the vertical space of our phone’s screen. The idleness of the mind and the process of forgetting is no longer avoidable. The post that we saw, the account that posted it, no longer can be remembered unless we saved them or purposefully forces our mind to remember them. Our minds are now made to forget even faster than ever before and forced upon to rely on the brief process of forgetting to reconstruct meaning.


Time used to be relative and less precise – days went by slower when appreciated. the rhythm of life ever since the internet age speeds up for the worse, the pandemic caused acceleration that half our minds had to be supported by machines: the agenda, the backup of our pictures, credentials, etc. There is a deep reliance on tapping into a huge collection of data online, such as google and search engines, it no longer makes sense to remember everything by a human mind alone. The expression ‘google it up’ is an easy way out to compensate for this inability to remember.


As visually, interest in large contemplative images dwindles, we are at the mercy and plead to surrender to the visual bombardments, if we remember the futurists movement in Italy back in 1915 that favored movement and dynamism over static existence. Our minds and understanding in contemporary time are at the mercy of the speedy journey, always looking out for the excitement of what is to come, yet never have any time to reflect and appreciate how far the journey had taken us; continuously forgetting yet not minding at all of the disappearances.