The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “High-Quality” Dessert in a Shoe

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Benjamin Netanyahu has put his foot in it with the Japanese prime minister.

In the latest news from hyperreality, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demonstrated simultaneously his commitment to innovating in the “art de la table” and his total absence of cultural sensitivity by serving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife dessert in a shoe.

The publicist of Israel’s celebrity chef, Segev Moshe, who devised this hyperreal surprise explained, “This is a high-quality piece of art made of cast metal in the shape of a shoe; it is not a real shoe.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

High-quality:

The essential attribute of hyperreal objects, justifying their otherwise unjustifiable existence

Contextual note

British political theorist Andrew Robinson gives this explanation of the concept of hyperreality put forward by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard: “The term has implications of ‘too much reality’ — everything being on the surface, without mystery; ‘more real than reality’ — too perfect and schematic to be true.”

Hyperreality always serves a purpose and conveys a message related to the exercise of power. It says, “We are the masters of the universe because we can do a better version of real things and thereby create a universe we alone control.” It could also be called hubris-reality, as its promoters see themselves as gods.

Robinson continues: “Hyperreality corresponds to the disappearance of intensity. It becomes something ‘cool’ — stripped of intense affective energies and the power of the symbolic and of fantasy.”

Putting a shoe on a dinner table would create an unbearable level of intensity in most cultures, particularly in Japanese culture, where diners always leave their shoes at the door. Putting a “high-quality piece of art” on the table removes the intensity but doesn’t fail to convey the meaning of the insult that a real shoe would represent. More than that it says, “We can use our art and artfulness and our wealth to do anything we want in the world, including hiring an industrial designer to deliver dessert to our guests. Like it or lump it.”

Historical note

This author of Globetrotter Diaries reminds us of an essential characteristic of the ancient art of Japanese cuisine (which means neither sushi, yakitori, nor tempura): “In traditional Japanese cuisine, visual presentation is as much a part of the dining experience as the taste of the food itself, so beauty is always an essential ingredient in any Japanese meal.”

Segev Moshe may have had this in mind when he decided to regale the Japanese PM with his “shoecolate” dessert. But the spirit of his artistry — the hyperreal shoe itself was a “creation” of industrial designer Tom Dixon — thus appeared as a double insult. Beyond the repulsive symbolism of the shoe itself, Japanese observers would likely perceive a misguided, inelegant hijacking of their own traditions, a heavy-handed insult to their tradition of delicate, sensitively composed fare.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined any responsibility for the choice of symbolism and defended the Moshe, affirming, “We respect and appreciate the chef. He is very creative.”

In the culture of hyperreality, creativity serves as the ultimate alibi, which in itself is ironic given that the object “created” is the slavish imitation of a real shoe. Hyperreal creativity is, by definition, anti-creative. It thrives on repetition, duplication, the most superficial imitation, the avoidance of the kind of composition and management of the complex that great art implies. The same logic as Hollywood’s obsession with “remakes.”

Each Japanese dish seeks to combine into an original composition, a symphony of taste and visual display that recycles but does not imitate shared symbolism. A hyperreal shoe is literally a kick in the face of Japanese culture. Should we — or the Japanese — write this off by considering it an innocent example of the famous directness or “straight-talking” observers of Israeli culture have consistently noticed?

That would actually make matters worse because it would mean that the symbolism of the shoe was consciously intended. By now most people, even those unfamiliar with Israeli culture, would have noticed that Netanyahu himself has never been a paragon of subtle thought, respect for other cultures and diplomatic tact.

It’s a pity Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, who wrote extensively about hyperreality, are no longer around to comment. Baudrillard passed away in 2002 and Eco in 2016. They would have been amused to see the world of diplomacy overtaken in such egregious fashion by hyperreality.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: FabrikaSimf / Shutterstock.com

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