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The Situationist International
July 19, 2005 6:11 AM   Subscribe

The Situationist International (this is a punk rock introduction from 1984, published in Maximum Rock 'n' Roll), a group of artists, writers and filmmakers from Europe, were active as a group from 1957-1968. Their influence extended beyond those confines, though, as Greil Marcus outlined in Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century. Ken Knabb has released online his indispensable Situationist International Anthology, and has collected many other crucial texts, including many about San Francisco Situationist groups, at The Bureau of Public Secrets. A more recent appropriation of Situationist rhetoric and strategies can be found in Ulysses Speaks (previous MeFi link here), the organ of the DC punk rock band Nation of Ulysses. More information and Situationist repositories here and (including a detailed timeline) here.
posted by OmieWise (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bureau of Public Secrets head honcho Ken Knabb's other projects linked on MeFi here and here. Give this man a grant, I say.

My all-time Situationisms are the graffiti/fortune cookies scribbled on the walls of Paris in that much-missed May of '68. BOP link here. And should you want the originals en francais you can find 'em here.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:45 AM on July 19, 2005


[this is good]
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:48 AM on July 19, 2005


Free the Stoke Newington Eight!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:53 AM on July 19, 2005


Heh.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 AM on July 19, 2005


Omiewise: Were you inspired by Borf?
posted by terrapin at 7:23 AM on July 19, 2005


That's quite a spectacle. But it's rather Vague.
posted by warbaby at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2005


Unfortunately, Guy Debord is really dead. And all Luther Blissett other texts (Italian, Spanish).
posted by nkyad at 7:47 AM on July 19, 2005


terrapin-No, I pretty much missed the Borf thing, living in Baltimore now. I was just poking around and I kept looking at Lipstick Traces on my bookshelf.
posted by OmieWise at 8:00 AM on July 19, 2005


great thanks
posted by nervousfritz at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2005


Some people (instead of snarking) could actually read Debord's work and decide for themselves what they think of it.

Or, since they are likely to think it is "trying too hard to be theoretical", they could start with Marx, or this.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:34 AM on July 19, 2005


Just a strange coincidence then. Cool.
posted by terrapin at 9:45 AM on July 19, 2005


gorgor_balabala writes "Some people (instead of snarking) could actually read Debord's work and decide for themselves what they think of it."

Maybe you should concede some people may have already read and decided. It is not like Debord, whose seminal work is now almost 40 years old, was discovered this week. Anyway, if people are to read something, they should be reading The Society of Spectacle (online full-text), shouldn't they? (those really wanting to be situationists should read the French original - the [defunct] SI would expect nothing less).
posted by nkyad at 10:19 AM on July 19, 2005


nykad, i'm sure some people have decided (whether for their own personal reasons or with some grasp of the text). But having been around awhile does not necessarily activate the 'irrelevance' button (something to do with the printing press vs. the internet perhaps?), and some of these same people will probably never read The Society of THE Spectacle, but will instead be inclined to egotistically shrug it off as so much rebellious french nonsense. /rant
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:33 AM on July 19, 2005


Thank you omie for posting this. I have not been to bureau of public secrets lately although I always enjoy that site immensely.

If you have not read Andre Breton's "manifesto of surrealism" lately, it says in there that the ultimate surrealistic act is to take a loaded pistol and go onto a crowded street and randomly shoot people. Which is, oh I don't know, quaint?
posted by bukvich at 10:39 AM on July 19, 2005


Pardon my detournemont, gorgor, but isn't having four faction fights with only three people in the room very Situ? The spectacle is recouperated subversively by the injection of chaos and entropy. We need a good scandal here.
posted by warbaby at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2005


My 2 cents: I think eventually the capitalist world is gonna have to re-deal with what Debord and the Situationists presented, namely that it creates an oppressive/boring world where people walk around zombified-working, worshiping and re-creating more and more oppressive/boring worlds. Debord wrote one of the most powerful books of the sixties but he's really approaching a Che level of abstraction now. My question is this: Is the work of the Situationists made more or less relevant by the war on terror?
posted by PHINC at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2005


and some of these same people will probably never read The Society of THE Spectacle,

and some of us have tried (as a music fan I read Lipstick Traces and was somewhat intrigued) to read about this stuff and still can't quite figure out what the hell their getting at, and decided to say the hell with it.
posted by jonmc at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2005


gorgor_balabala writes "i'm sure some people have decided (whether for their own personal reasons or with some grasp of the text). But having been around awhile does not necessarily activate the 'irrelevance' button "

If you read the "irrelevance button" carefully, specially the one I linked first, the ever elusive underlying point is not that the theory is itself irrelevant, but that the Situationists (and Debord leading them) conjured their own irrelevance when they allowed themselves to become an institution - a part of the very spectacle they were trying to subvert and eventually surpass.

jonmc writes "some of us have tried (as a music fan I read Lipstick Traces and was somewhat intrigued) to read about this stuff and still can't quite figure out what the hell their getting at, and decided to say the hell with it."

Or "Where the hell are the Cliff Notes for this damn book?"
posted by nkyad at 11:48 AM on July 19, 2005


WTO protests in Seattle were very Situ, but lacked the element of organizing through scandal.

The possibilities exist as close as here. (Or actually anywhere, these days. It's a target rich environment.)
posted by warbaby at 12:40 PM on July 19, 2005


Full disclosure: I like the idea of the Situationists, and I've read plenty of their stuff, but I find it mostly indigestible as actual commentary on anything. A lot of it is fun to read, the urbanism stuff in particular, but much of it hovers in an unhelpful space between sloganeering and political theory. The more practical (read praxis) and artistic stuff I really like, but I actually disagree with nkyad, I think Society of the Spectacle is a failure. After the first couple of pages Debord's trick of reversing the terms that he employs gets old quickly. The society of the spectacle is really the spectacle of a society etc etc etc ad infinitum.
posted by OmieWise at 12:43 PM on July 19, 2005


terrapin: I thought the exact same thing.

Odd how the Situationists keep coming up @ mefi (NoU thread, Borf, etc.). Theories, anyone?

Thanks for the post, OmieWise.
posted by shoepal at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2005


The cliff's notes for the situationists. Or close.
posted by bukvich at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2005


Situ is fun to do, boring to study.

*drifts off*
posted by warbaby at 3:15 PM on July 19, 2005


Let me just add my vote that everyone ought to read The Society of the Spectacle. Actually I think it ought to be taught no later than at secondary school. What was obscurely the case back when it was written is most clearly the case now. And Debord's suggestions for a remedy are as apposite now as they were then, if not more so.
posted by donfactor at 5:13 AM on July 20, 2005


Forget that boring old fart Debord. Larry Law's Spectacular Times pocket books are the Cliff's Notes - with clarity and humour. For, as Vaneigem said,

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth."
posted by Pericles at 10:55 AM on July 20, 2005


Fantasic post, OmieWise. Ulysses Speaks is a great find and I picked up Lipstick Traces today from the library today and am loving it. Thanks.
posted by mike_bling at 7:13 PM on July 20, 2005


Pericles, those pamphlets are better than butter.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2005


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