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Guy Debord & The Situationist International

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on 3 December 2011

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Transcript of Guy Debord & The Situationist International

Debord and Wolman (1956) explained that detournement entailed "the reuse of pre-existing artistic [and mass produced] elements in a new ensemble" for the purpose of critique, which was the ultimate purpose of art in situationist theory: "Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations . . . . When two objects are brought together, no matter how far apart their original contexts may be, a relationship is always formed. . . . The mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supercedes the original elements and produces a sythetic organization of greater efficacy. Anything can be used." (p. 9, Situationist International Anthology). What Is Detournement? Who Were The Situationists? Paris, May 1968 Rene Vienet Vienet's Detournement Film:
Can Dialectics Break Bricks? A Brief Introduction to Guy Debord,
The Situationist International, The Spectacle,
and Detournement Situationist-Related Books Another definition comes from Elizabeth Sussman (1989): "Detournement ('diversion') was [a] key means of restructuring culture and experience . . . . Detournement proposes the violent excision of elements--painting architecture, literature, film, urban sites, sounds, gestures, words, signs--from their original contexts, and a consequent restabilization and recontextualization through rupture and realignment" (p. 8, On the Passage of a Few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time). Guy Debord (1931-1994) What Is "The Spectacle"? Asger Jorn's "Modifications" Paintings,
i.e., "Detourned" Paintings A Brief History
of the Situationist International "The spectacle," Debord said, "was capital accumulated until it becomes an image." A never-ending accumulation of spectacles--advertisements, entertainments, traffic, skyscrapers, political campaigns, department stores, sports events, newscasts, art tours, foreign wars, space launchings--made a modern world, a world in which all communication flowed in one direction, from the powerful to the powerless. One could not respond or talk back, or intervene, but one did not want to. In the spectacle, passivity was simultaneously the means and the end of a great hidden project, a project of social control. On the terms of its particular form of hegemony, the spectacle naturally produced not actors but spectators: modern men and women, citizens of the most advanced societies on earth, who were thrilled to watch whatever it was they were given to watch." (p. 99) Debord's analysis is based on the everyday experience of the impoverishment of life, its fragmentation into more and more widely separated spheres, and the disappearance of any unitary aspect from society. The spectacle consists in the reunification of separate aspects at the level of the image. Everything life lacks is to be found within the spectacle, conceived of as an ensemble of independent representatons. "Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectcle" [thesis 25 from The Society of the Spectacle], and individuals, separated from one another, can rediscover unity only within the spectacle, where "images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream" [thesis 2]. Individuals are reunited solely 'in [their] separateness" [thesis 29], for the spectacle monopolizes all communication to its own advantage and makes it one way only. The spectacle speaks, "social atoms" listen. And the message is One: an incessant justification of the existing society, which is to say the spectacle itself, or the mode of production that has given rise to it. For this purpose the spectacle has no need of sophisticated arguments; all it needs is to be the only voice, and sure of no reponse whatsoever. Its first prerequisite, therefore, and at the same time its chief product, is the passivity of a contemplative attitude. Only an individual "isolated" amidst the "atomized masses" [thesis 221] could feel any need for the spectacle, and consequently the spectacle must bend every effort to reinforce the individual's isolation. (pp. 6-7) Anselm Jappe (1999) on The Spectacle Greil Marcus (1990) on The Spectacle Constant's Detournement of
Urban Spaces & Architecture Pinot-Gallizio's Detournements,
Industrial Painting Situationist Art, Slogans
and Various Other Detournements Internet Resources about the SI http://www.bopsecrets.org/ Bureau of Public Secrets http://ubu.com/ UbuWeb Contains most of the SI's writing, and more Massive website of avant garde sources that has SI documentary, Debord's films, Vientet's film, and various other SI, Lettrist, and post-situ sources Situationist filmmake Rene Vienet (1967) explains that a situationist film practice "lends itself particularly well to studying the present as a historical problem, to dismantling the processes of reification" (p. 215, SIA). In a discussion of Vienet's views of cinema, Thomas Levin (1989) explains that: Vienet's conception of an SI film enlists the specific capacities of the medium (above all, photographic documentation, voice-over, and analytic montage) to express the always mediated status of the seemingly immediate and "natural" world constructed in classical, or pre-situationist, cinema. The present is studied as a historical problem, and, above all, the practice of representation itself is continuously subjected to critical interrogation. This staging of mediation takes the form of a work on other mediations, primarily by means of cinema's elective affinity to the important strategy of citation and reinscription referred to as detournement. (pp. 76-77 in Sussman, 1989). Best & Kellner (1997) on The Spectacle For Debord, the spectacle is a tool of pacification and depoliticization; it is a "permanent opium war" [thesis 44] that stupifies social subjects and distracts them from the most urgent task of real life: recovering the full range of their human powers through creative practice. In Debord's formulation, the concept of the spectacle is integrally connected to the concept of separation, for in passively consuming spectacles, one is separated from other people and from actively producing one's life. Capitalistic society separates workers from the product of their labor, art from life, and spheres of production from consumption, all of which involve spectators passively observing the products of social life. The situationist project, in turn, involved an overcoming of all forms of separation by advocating taht individuals directly produce their own life and modes of self-activity and collective practice. (p. 84) The Lettrists
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