BAD COPIES: The Experience of Simulacra in Interactive Art
Erin K Stapleton
Kingston University, London
 The simulacrum is an ancient concept that has haunted both twentieth century philosophy and art theory. The term can first be identified in Platonic theorizations of representational order, and, more recently, has been a concern of Pierre Klossowski, and Gilles Deleuze, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's project of reversing Platonism and the eternal return (Smith 2012, 3). In Klossowski's work, the simulacrum is a disruption to communication that prevents the accuracy of representation. For Deleuze, whose work is an acknowledged development of Klossowski's, through further consultation with Plato and Nietzsche, the simulacrum is a "bad copy" who undermines the structure of representation itself, causing difference and creativity by perverting repetition as a Nietzschean eternal return. For both Klossowski and Deleuze, the simulacrum is the (Platonic) product of both the effort of communication and the structure (language) designed to universalize it. The simulacrum is a representational dissonance that undermines the clarity of communicative structures.
 Interactive art, in particular electronic or new media art that incorporates interactivity between the art object and the participant, produces simulacra in a unique way. In this form of art, the production of representation is reliant upon the participant's physical engagement with an interface, without which the object remains dormant. I argue that this mode of communicative art can produce a different species of simulacrum from those previously theorised. This is because the art object does not contain the simulacrum internally, but instead produces it in the experiential body of the participant who chooses to interact with it. In other words, instead of being a simulacral effect of a work, the simulacrum becomes an affect of the participant.
 In discussing this experience of simulacra in participation with interactive art, I will primarily engage with several works by the artist Van Sowerwine, whose works use a variety of technologies to produce an interactive experience that offers the participant both agency and inevitability. Through the technological implication of the participant, her work creates aggressive new species of simulacra that transgress the boundaries between the body of the participant and of the art object. In It's a Jungle in Here (2011, in collaboration with Isobel Knowles) Sowerwine and Knowles exploit live streaming technology to repeat the participant back to themselves, and place the participatory image back in to the animated work. Two participants are required for the work to function, and both place their faces into holes similar to those of a cutout at a fairground. Like the cutout, once faces are placed in the holes of the structure, the participant's face is photographed. A live-streaming video feed is activated and the faces of the participants are transposed onto pre-set holes in the stop animated interactive video feed they are viewing, so the participants view the expressions on their own faces mirrored back to them but incorporated into the animation. While the participants both view the same video feed, watching each other on the screen, as well as themselves, they are given different roles. One side is the "aggressor" and the other is the "victim." The scenarios are of mundane interactions on a commuter train. The aggressor has a button she is prompted to push at intervals throughout each scenario, which causes the scenario to escalate and ensuring that the aggressor-participant is complicit in the action. The victim-participant is encouraged to make noise into a microphone, which prompts the feed to show other passengers in the train look awkward and ignore the victim-participant as she is attacked, in order to increase her "isolation" (Sowerwine and Knowles 2012). The resultant experience of this work is unsettling, as it puts the participant (very directly) in a position of engaging in an altercation as either an aggressor or victim, and ensures that both perspectives are complicit in producing that representation of themselves within that scenario. 
 In an example of Sowerwine's earlier solo work, Play with Me (2002), the participant is isolated entirely, and is invited to interact with a stop-animated doll. The work, exhibited inside a cubby house that participants are invited to enter alone, comprises of a doll that performs gestures that mirror social expectations of girlhood, but develop into mechanisms of self-harm when prompted by the participant. The participant is seated in the cubby house on a child's play chair, at a table the participant shares with the screen, and the animated doll projected on it. A mouse, concealed by a stuffed lion, is provided for the participant to interact with the doll, and icons of stereotypical girls' toys glow around her. The participant is invited to click on one of the icons, which prompt a variety of scenarios. The scenarios each pause at certain intervals, and once again invite the participant to select an icon, which prompts further action. As the scenarios develop, each one evolves from a typical childhood activity into self-harm (the nature of which is different in each instance). In this work, as in It's a Jungle in Here, the participant is made complicit in the narrative of the work, and is unsettled by it, as both present the participant with a simulacrum of control over the narrative action. 
THE SIMULACRUM IN ART THEORY
 The use of the term simulacrum in the critical description of art and representation is Platonic in origin. In writing on the simulacra in the history of visual art analysis, Michael Camille refers to Plato's (somewhat scandalized) description of sculptors adapting the proportions of large-scale works to accommodate the gaze of a viewer. The pre-modern role of the simulacrum is as a trick of perspective—making a copy appear more lifelike for the benefit of the viewer, while the actual dimensions of the sculpture are less like their object-referent. As Camille notes, the term simulacrum remained a derogatory description of artwork that appeared unskilled, and of "false idolatry" throughout pre-modern visual art analysis (Camille 1996, 31). Platonic representation operates by making a hierarchical distinction between truth and the false, or between "claimants" who represent a true copy of an "Idea" and those who carry a falsified appearance of the that Idea, who comprise "the problem of simulacra" (Smith 2012, 4-5).
 In Plato's "The Simile of the Cave,"( 2007) figures are chained in a cavern, watching false images, or representations of the world flickering across the screen between their field of vision and the outside world. Plato posits that if one person is released, and reaches the outside, and sees the 'truth' at first he will think that this 'truth' is false but if he is forced to live outside of the cave then he will understand that everything he experienced before has been a representation or shadow of reality (VII 515a-d). The simile proceeds that the released man must try to enlighten the prisoners to the darkness that surrounds them. It establishes that there are ideals, or models that the shadows represent, "it establishes the copy in the image and subordinates the image to resemblance" and that it is the ignorance of the other cave dwellers that find them threatened by the escapee (Deleuze  2003, 257). Where a replication of something (a copy) is always the poor cousin of its referent (the original), and that a copy of that copy, or a copy without contact of the original is contrary to the being itself, one cannot be just (or make a just judgment) unless one has witnessed "justice itself"—you cannot be, or replicate something unless you have contact with a true copy of it (Plato  2007, VII 517e). Therefore, as the simulacrum is a copy without a referent, "the real concern for Plato is that, being a step removed from the model, the simulacrum is inaccurate and betrays the model" and is therefore identified as a problem to be suppressed (Roffe 2005, 250).
 In this model, then, there is a single version, a model that a copy resembles. However, the cave simile also suggests that there may be a copy that does not resemble its model. This "false copy" is a simulacrum, an "image without resemblance" (Deleuze  2003, 257) The simulacrum, however, is not just so degraded that it no longer resembles its original, it actively resists true resemblance through its resistance to the primacy original. This resistance gives the simulacrum its subversive quality, and the power to disrupt the hierarchy of semiotics, "for no model can resist the vertigo of the simulacrum" (Deleuze  2003, 262). The symbolic hierarchy, so disrupted by the repetition of difference (the condition of the eternal return) is reversed and dispersed by the simulacrum, which produces difference.
 Where Baudrillard ( 1994) condemns the simulacrum as a pervasive and vacuous replacement for real experience in postmodernity, Deleuze ( 2003) embraces the simulacrum as a locus for creativity, subversion, and change—a position constructed around his use of Nietzsche's eternal return. The eternal return can be seen to produce a simulacrum, "implying an essential perversion or a deviation" the eternal return produces simulacra in its repetition without thought for the referent, or original source of the object of that repetition (256). Difference is repeated as the will to power is exercised over the becoming of the individual. The simulacrum in Deleuze's work, then, is the locus for this change, it is the challenge that prevents repetition from becoming replication. It does this by exposing the artificiality of the difference between the (linguistic) original and the copy, the signifier and the signified. In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze ( 2003) instructs the reader to pursue the destruction of Platonism by championing the creative nature of simulacra. He emphasizes the importance of Nietzsche's eternal return, and his radical interpretation of it—the eternal return of difference not only in the production of simulacra but also in the reversal of the Platonic order. Deleuze identifies the difference between copies (those images that contain a true representation of the model) and simulacra (those images that are predicated on a "dissimilarity" from the model), "false pretenders" that are "implying an essential perversion or a deviation" (294). Deleuze then likens this to mans' behaviour toward god—we are not god's resembling images because we sin and therefore have "forsaken moral existence in order to enter into aesthetic existence" (295).
 The key aspect of the simulacrum is difference, and that aspect is created by repetition of the copy of the original—make enough copes and eventually one will be different to the model one is working from, "the simulacrum is built upon a disparity" (Deleuze  2003, 295). The repression of simulacra is the foundation of Platonic philosophy, "the domain of representation filled by copies-icons" (Deleuze  2003, 296). Deleuze considers the simulacrum in excess of the "bad copy" or "false pretender" of Platonic order. He emphasises the creative potency of the term, as it undermines the relationship, or rivalry, between the model and copy. In doing so, Deleuze shows the artificial nature of that relation as it "places into question the very notations of copy and model" ( 2003, 294). The simulacrum appears as a copy, but as it is disloyal to the intention of the model, if exposed, it destroys the veracity of both the copy and the model.
 Simulacra create scalar difference, reducing hierarchy to surface area, which again rejects the nature of the polar Platonic icon. James Brusseau (1998), writing on Deleuze, designates simulacra as deceitful, that they span breaches and create connections between isolated signs. They are the glue that holds the arbitrary nature of representation to the icon it has attached itself to. For Brusseau, Deleuze's simulacrum creates illusions that sit in the fabric of society, in its structure. Brusseau presents the simulacrum as the fabric by which difference is held together, the simulacrum is in comparative distance between the icon and its referent (161). Without simulacra, he claims that difference is arbitrary; that there is no similarity between two things that enables them different. The effect of simulacrum becomes alienation—difference without distance—and simultaneously paradoxically infinite distance, complete alienation from within and around things and icons, without remove. The identification of the simulacrum is the identification of alienation. Simulacra form difference from the generation of signs and signals, "the simulacrum claims and appears to be" (Brusseau 1998, 162). The simulacrum appears in "the opposition between exchange and true repetition" (Deleuze  2003, 328). The distinction here is between (as it is in the essay "Plato and the Simulacrum") that repetition repeats the same, whereas an exchange (between meanings) "authenticates the different" (Deleuze  2003, 328, emphasis original). The proposition of the simulacrum-exchange is further explored in relation to repetition and resemblance.
 The Deleuzian simulacrum does not support the false polarity of representation that is created to conceal the labyrinth and does not set "the illusion of measurable distances" but rather reveals the impossible distance between bodies (Brusseau 1998, 161). Simulacra expose the instability of representational order, rather than support it. To gain insight into this exposure, the trick is to be able to identify the simulacrum when it is revealed. Brusseau maintains that difference uses the simulacrum as a cover for its production and operations. However, it is not differentiation that he uncovers, but the production of rivalry to which he refers. "Internal differentiation" does not make things unequal, it is the resultant rivalry, of which has the greatest force of power, which creates hierarchy (162). Simulacra are used as a deliberately "imperfect" camouflage of difference, but it is not difference that so desperately needs to be camouflaged, it is the uncertainty of the rivalry between the differentiated terms that must be concealed.
 Attempting to conceal the artifice of the image rather than engaging with it does not repress the simulacrum, it multiplies it everywhere, infecting and obscuring the intention of representation. As Krauss (1984) argues in "A Note on Photography and the Simulacral," the representational medium of photography cannot help but produce simulacra. It is up to the artist who produces an image to be aware of, and to exploit, the apparition of disrupted meaning. The alternative is, as Krauss shows in reference to the work of Irving Penn (although the point could equally be made about most artists who also produce commercial images), that art and commerce become aesthetically identical (68). By directly engaging with it, one is complicit in creating meaning through it, rather than being a victim of simulacral rebellion.
 Interactive art such as It's a Jungle in Here and Play with Me present the participant with the opportunity to not only engage with but to produce simulacra. It's a Jungle in Here presents the participant with her own image, but incorporated into an animated scenario that in order to operate, requires her to participate in an aggressive confrontation. In each scenario, the narrative apex is marked by the production of mythological creatures from the bodies of the animated characters, which stand in for affective intensity. Play with Me presents the participant with a simulacrum of girlhood—the feminized doll. The doll used for the animation, a "Blythe" doll, is characterized by oversized eyes, small mouth and tiny body in proportion to her head—all aspects of ideal femininity, but amplified. As she cannot speak, however, she communicates through another simulacrum of girlhood, self-harm, and as she does, she glares at the participant with the malice of simulacral rebellion.
SIMULACRA, AND THE BODY OF THE PARTICIPANT
 Interactive art creates meaning by intervening upon—invading—the surface of a participating body. This section explores the operations and effects of this exploitation when the intention and effect of the artwork is to disrupt rather than maintain dominant representational practices. Georges Bataille (1995) observed that "the museum is a colossal mirror" and that people visiting are caught up in an ecstatic self-reflection (64). Following this, visitors to a contemporary museum may approach the experience of viewing artwork as a colossal mirror, but find, particularly in approaching interactive work, that they become complicit in the representation itself. If the participant chooses to interact with the artwork, they necessarily take a position in relation to it. Interactivity is a far more aggressive way of addressing (and disrupting) a participant's "ecstatic self-reflection" and therefore, an insistent and affecting simulacrum.
 The medium of interactive artwork, therefore, exploits the attraction of self-reflection to uncover and challenge the structure through which participants (physically and linguistically) understand themselves. Bataille (1995) observes that "the origin of the modern museum is thus linked to the development of the guillotine" exposing the vicarious ecstasy derived from the observation of a public and violent execution, similar to the experience of watching oneself in the mirror-museum (64). The guillotine, like the museum, reflects and reproduces the dominant moral and social order in which it is situated. Public executions, like (particularly traditional) public artwork reinforce to those who experience it how they should understand the society in which they are situated, and how they should behave accordingly. The museum, the screen, and the execution are all affective spectacles that reproduce a dominant representational order. Where the execution sacrifices the bodies of those selected as disruptions of the moral order to reaffirm societal order and continuity, the museum and the screen confirm and exploit the socialization of their audience to have a similar effect.
 It is important at this juncture, to recognize the body of the participant, not simply as the unwitting avatar of the mind, but a site where chemical and affective modalities constantly alter the state of its surface and volume. The body, both actual and represented, can be the locus of an event, a surface or medium through which any delineation or disruption can occur (Deleuze  2011, 87). Colloquially, one thinks of a body as a single, whole entity—a somatic quantity. Self contained, and containing a single consciousness, that can be accessed via interaction with that body. This rejection of volume is a rejection of hierarchy between inner and outer, and what can be linguistically expressed, and what can be felt. Instead, experience, mediated or otherwise, becomes scalar rather than polar, measured in size and impact, without a false hierarchy of value. Bodies are able to be penetrated, and not just in the sexual or surgical sense, but in any "ecstatic" interaction in life (Bataille 1985, 6). There are "everyday" events which change the physicality and chemistry of a body, like taking medication, having a shower, getting a haircut, eating getting dressed and so on. There are also interactions—speaking, listening, working, typing and so on—which are physical events, that arguably alter consciousness, even if it is on a minute scale. These events not only occur to bodies, but also flow from them, sometimes with control, sometimes without; these events are communicated between them.
 Bataille ( 1988) argues that this loss of self is an "ecstatic" event that infiltrates physical bodies and social events (81). Defining the whole and autonomous body as fictional beyond the subatomic level, he uses the example of the sponge, describing how "non-linear," less complex life forms can operate equally as a piece of sponge, or may join to create a greater whole with the same level of function (94). More complex, or "linear" animals, which include anything with a seemingly autonomous body and function (including humanity), cannot conjoin to another of its species to create a single volume. This inability for our bodies to immerse completely in another body, or into a larger whole creates a necessity for communication (95). The learned, but fluid agreement about how representation operates confuses, limits, and shapes this communication, making expression almost impossible and achievable only by an agreement regarding the arbitrary and inadequate nature of language.
 The problem of communication between bodies is the subject of the simulacrum in both Play with Me and It's a Jungle in Here. Play with Me is a request, a dare and command made by a simulacral doll to an isolated participant. It's a Jungle in Here creates a simulacrum of the participants themselves—in a direct example of the exploitation of self-reflection. In participation with these works, one communicates with the screen to drive the production of this physically experienced simulacrum. The ludic nature of both works creates the conditions for this simulacral experience, which necessarily entails a loss of self, in self-reflection. In the preface to The Thirst for Annihilation, Land (1993) reiterates, after Bataille, that the desire for annihilation is inherent in communication (xiv) Bataille's consistent and obsessive reference to himself, "the obsessive reiteration of the abstract ego, mixing arrogance with pallid humility" implicates identity as it is destroyed (Land 1993, xv). The production of communication between the art object and the participant (and the interactive merging of these two bodies) results in a similar, self-referential loss of identity. The simulacral experience of the loss of cohesive identity is achieved in both works by mirroring participants, an effect that produces self-loss through repetition.
 Deleuze uses the mirror as a meeting place for the confusion between signifier and signified and in doing so, challenges the Lacanian mirror-stage. Jacques Lacan ( 2001) has used the image of the infant gazing into the mirror as a metaphor for the point at which the individual identifies herself as distinct from her visual field, creating "the armour of an alienating identity" (5). The process is repeated to identify points of difference between the "I" and the "other," "the narcissistic libido and the alienating function of the I" continually reassert the threatening difference of the "other" on the surface of the mirror (7). This is an ongoing process of identification of the other as a figure that can then be rejected in order to protect the subject's own identity. The mirror is a silent marker of difference in the formation of identity. The mirror reflects and therefore repeats difference, but this reflection also reveals difference in the process of repetition, which undermines its referent, the stable subjectivity.
 Deleuze ( 2003) challenges the stability of subjectivity by suggesting that the site of differentiation—the mirror—is a critical point of contact between the series of the signifier and the signified (36). The mirror provides the focus for a series of ongoing negotiations between the signifier and signified. Simulacra are produced in this exchange on the mirror's surface. In this model, the mirror is a "paradoxical entity" which "ensures the communication between the two series" (40). This means that the series of the signifier—the series of language and structure—corresponds with the series of the signified—the series of the corporeal through the moving mirror—and ensures that the two remain in constant contact. The Deleuzian use of the mirror, as the locus for the meeting between the signifier and signified, complicates signification by confusing the hierarchical identification of each of the two positions (41). The simulacrum exposes this confusion, demonstrating representational order to be an artificial construction between the two series of signification. The simulacrum is produced from the mirror's surface (the surface of the screen) when each series comes in contact with the other, creating an affective resonance in each.
THE EXPERIENCE OF SIMULACRA IN INTERACTIVE ART
Yet to the extent that something must happen to someone in order to be able to speak of an experience as occurring, will the simulacrum not be extended to the experience itself, as long as Bataille declares that it is necessarily lived as soon as he speaks of it, even if he later refutes himself as a subject addressing other subjects allowing only the contents of the experience to be emphasized. (Klossowski 1995, 148, emphasis original)
 The screen of Play with Me acts a mirror, as a point of contact between the doll and the participant, and the animated doll is a representational simulacrum of girlhood, more recognizable and symbolic of a generalized girlhood than any one child could be. The participant, then, is challenged by the expression of girlhood as being destructive—feminized play is so oppressive that the doll rebels in the only way available, self-harm. This challenge reflects both the limitations of the socialization process that is girlhood, and the more general process of representation. The doll undermines any expectations and intentions of the participant, and in doing so enters into a communication that creates an experienced simulacrum. The participant is obliged to sit on a child's seat, opposite the doll projected on screen—the contemporary cave wall—and unlike the natural cave dwellers, is immediately uncomfortable. The cave dwellers are chained, but have been in the situation their entire lives, and hence, are content with their surroundings. The participant in Sowerwine's work feels ill at ease, but conversely nostalgic, on a child's chair, in a cubby-house far too small. The doll sets about exposing the hierarchy she is constrained by. This is an experiential reversal of Platonism. The doll rejects speech, and hence language, and resists symbolic order. The participant undergoes an experience that challenges a learnt linguistic rivalry. The immersion inherent in the experience of the work makes this challenge a corporeal process from a linguistic phenomenon. In the instance of this artwork, the reversal of Platonism operates in an ironic, feminist gesture, the reversal of the rigid construction of girlhood.
 The specific myth the work refers to and resists is the construction of gender by linguistic and symbolic order. The restriction placed on the doll is the social process of the feminization that structures the bodies of girls. It is also here that the importance of the cave myth becomes the myth of hysteria—Luce Irigaray observes that the cave is a metaphor for the womb (1974, 244). The hysteria or womb association with the cave myth ironically implies that the subjects in the cave are unchallenged and complacent inside the safety of its walls. The protection the hysteria offers is one of total immersion in representation—total and simple hierarchy, without resistance or subtlety. When the hysteria resists, as is the case in Play with Me, instead of the cave being a sanctuary of base aesthetics and idealized virtue, it becomes an environment that produces simulacra.
 The screen is also the locus for the production of simulacra in It's a Jungle in Here. In this work, the screen reproduces images of the participants, directly implicating their physical presence in the production of simulacra (in fact, the work can only operate if two participants are willing to interact with it). Instead of communication between a single participant and the doll of Play with Me, participants communicate with one another through the animated images on the screen, which act as an active, but intermediary device between the two positions of victim and aggressor. The negotiation of these positions, like the negotiation between the participant and the doll, are underwritten with specters of force and control. However, in It's a Jungle in Here, the power relations between participant positions are far more explicit.
 The simulacra produced in It's a Jungle in Here are borne from the exposure of the structure of these power relations. No longer content to remain "signifier" and "signified," the victim-aggressor scenarios of It's a Jungle in Here are designed to articulate the negotiation of these power relations in public, mundane situations (the commonplace occurrence of being assaulted on a train). It's a Jungle in Here engages participants with the power relations that form social experiences, and exposes the boundaries, or limits they are formed with. The other characters on the train are crucial to this formation, as they demonstrate the basis for apathy, the social unacceptability of transgressing the boundary of intervention. Conversely, the relationship between the victim and the aggressor in each scenario is characterized by the simulacral exposure through the reproduction of social limitations. Foucault ( 1998) describes the act of transgression as repetitious crossing of a line of the limit. This repetition both re-establishes the line of the limit as a boundary, whilst undermining its integrity. The act of transgression itself can be the whole space of "the line it crosses, or just a passage" (27). In the instance of It's a Jungle in Here, the aggressor transgresses the physical boundaries of the victim, while the participant watches her own face, transposed onto the body of the aggressor as the attack occurs. The situation for the victim-participant is one of discomfort as the physical boundaries of her on-screen avatar are breached, and as long as she continues to engage with the work, she is not able to avoid the intrusion. This focus on the physical experience of the avatars of each participant is affected by the relationship between the two participants prior to engagement with the work. The experience of It's a Jungle in Here is significantly different if participants are related, in a relationship, friends, or strangers. The production of meaning in this work is also altered by the participation of bodies that identify as different genders in each role, particularly as one of the scenarios depicts a sexual assault, while another is an attack on a man by a group of schoolgirls. This transposition of a simulacral double of the participant has the effect of fragmenting identity, and undermining the assumed stable boundaries in the relationship between the participants.
 The transgression of physical boundaries of a participant by simulacra produced in concert with the operation of an interactive art object serves to expose and to renegotiate the power relations buried in the structures of language and socialization addressed. In doing so, interactive art explores the limitations of language and representation to express experience, and produces simulacra in the experience of the participant. The analysis of an experience of a simulacrum—the event it incites—is a way of understanding the production of corporeal interventions that comprise interactive art. The physical experience of simulacra is highly specified and personal, transmitted along the surface of the ensnared participant. The simulacrum is the seditious copy, or representation, that bears no resemblance to its origin, while remaining in its image. The simulacrum's lack of resemblance is that which makes it subversive. Its effect is to expose the hierarchy of the original and the representation as a false pretence, created to place order upon language and symbols. Therefore, if the simulacrum exposes the representational hierarchy in which our language is bound, then the effect of a physical simulacrum is to disrupt and expose the moral hierarchy that binds our bodies. Bad copies offer us the simulacra of the loss of ourselves by penetrating the surface of our linguistic skins.
 Video documentation of Play with Me can be found here: «http://www.vansowerwine.com/installation/playwithmeint.htm».
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