...if I did not feel that their benevolence had found Ubu's belly big with more satirical symbols than we can possibly pump up tonight. The Swedenborgian philosopher Mésès has excellently compared rudimentary creations with the most perfect, and embryonic beings with the most complete, in that the former lack all irregularities, protuberances and qualities, which leaves them in more or less spherical form, like the ovum and M. Ubu, while the latter have added so many personal details that they remain equally spherical, following the axiom that the most polished object is that which presents the greatest number of sharp corners. That is why you are free to see in M. Ubu however many allusions you care to, or else a simple puppet — a schoolboy's caricature of one of his professors who personified for him all the ugliness in the world. - Alfred Jarry, opening speech.
"The central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world," wrote Jane Taylor. "Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification." Jarry's metaphor for the modern man, he is an antihero — fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly and evil...
Jarry satirises European philosophies and their absurd practices — in particular the propensity of the complacent bourgeois to abuse the authority engendered by success.
Max Ernst, Ubu Imperator, 1923
..Père Ubu, the grotesque symbol of authority invented by Alfred Jarry, is given visual shape in playful derision. What is more, in this guise there reappears the childhood of Max Ernst, a vision of "half-slumber", as he himself described it, in which all the prestige of paternal authority and likewise of artistic creation is de-sacralised. Behind the buffoonery of power alluded to by Ubu as a spinning top, the whole traditional aesthetic of rational construction and geometric perspective is also ridiculed.
For Jarry, Pataphysics is the anti-scientific realm beyond metaphysics that examines the laws which preside over exceptions - an attempt to elucidate an imaginary cosmos. Jarry specifically defined Pataphysics as the “science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments”. (*4)
So we recognize here some rhizomatic roots that may have nurtured Baudrillard's hyperbolic and jaded view of an incongruous virtual-reality drenched world. In Jarry we already relish an artificial Baudrillardian simulated world created by an hallucinatory social structure where shimmering objects decree in odd ways what people can and cannot do within the vast void of virtuality. Indeed, like Jarry, Baudrillard mostly arrives at this social examination without demonstrating any sustained systematic analysis. Poof! Voila: a gaseous bon délire: an airy imaginary solution. But in Pataphysics, every occurrence in the universe is established to be an extraordinary event. No simulation possible.
Of course this aim of creating an inorganic world ex nihilo and luxuriating in its rarefied artificiality was not unique to Jarry. Indeed it was perfectly articulated in 1884 with the publication of Joris-Karl Huysmans's décadent novel A Rebours (Against Nature), a story of a recluse art worshiper who yearns for new sensations and perverse pleasures within a transcendental artificial ideal.
Book Review of Jean Baudrillard’s Pataphysics
This is what Baudrillard meant by a total revolution: a strategy geared to escalate the system and push it to its breaking point. Then, giving up on every pretence of rationality, it would start revolving and achieve in the process a circularity of its own:” We know the potential of tautology when it reinforces the system’s claim to perfect sphericity (Ubu Roi’s belly)” (SE, p.4). Coming back full circle to his early pataphysical roots, Baudrillard was taunting capital to emulate Jarry’s absurdism—and share in Ubu’s grotesque fate. After all, wasn’t capitalism itself a pataphysical proposition? It was endlessly cutting the branch on which it sits, devastating the planet and endangering the human species while claiming to improve its lot. Capital didn’t care a fig for the fate of humanity. The real wasn’t its business. It had canceled the principle of reality and substituted a codification of a higher order, a hyper-reality that made the real obsolete. Its dirge-like flows were self-referential, leaving everything else in a state of self-induced simulation. The flows of capital were posthumous, post-human. In their nihilistic energy, they carried the seeds of their own destruction. Only Ubu, Jarry’s truculent hero, the coward king cannibalizing his own entourage, and himself in the process, could account for such a bullish cynicism. The society of the spectacle was turning into a soft version of the theater of cruelty, a burlesque of death with the globe as its stage. Life was being exchanged for nothing, for a handful of glittering toys, work absorbed time like a sponge and left no traces. Baudrillard wasn’t the exterminator, but the system itself. Yet no one was paying attention.