Re: [-empyre-] Why US DAT is Virtual


The remix is the canonical form of the moment. The revolutionary potential of collage / detournement - creating unexpected, surrealistic connections - has become the orthodoxy of transnational networked capital discourse, in other words totally banal.

Concerning locative psychogeographers there is no doubt that Debord would unconditionally reject any use of the SI legacy that relied so heavily on technological gadgetry. He, like Marcuse et al. would see it as yet another form of commodity fetishism. I mean, we are talking about someone who probably never travelled by plane...

Psychogeography as I understand the SI's practice of it, essentially meant "experiencing poetic moments in urban environments" and a precondition seems to have been to get really, really drunk before any drifting was to occur.

At the same time, the SI, like most radical 60s groups, thought that mechanization and automation would solve the problems of production by liberating everyone to enjoy creativity, free time, etc. Though Debord did spend the 70s in Italy, the SI had not seen, as the Italian autonomists did, that the automated factory was the means of a) removing workers from the site of production, thereby disarming their control of machines and denying them the possibility of meeting together in person and b) turning the whole of society into a "social factory" networked towards production.

While I'm on my soapbox, I'd like to frame a question about the popular political artform, tactical media, as practised by Critical Art Ensemble, RTMark and others.

The tactical media discourse holds that corporations are like the net – nomadic, fluid, unfixed, horizontal, highly responsive to changes in the environment in which they make money... therefore any action taken against them must take account of their mobile nature; it must be tactical.

“The flexibility of corporate power, its lack of a center, comes at a price: it has no brain. It may be as tenacious as a virus, but it also has the intelligence of one: mechanical, soulless, minuscule” (RTMARK, Sabotage and the New World Order, in Stocker and Schöpf, Infowar).

So they believe that minor assaults - each tailored to new situation brought about by their predecessors - can drive real change. The irony, as pointed out by Julian Stallabrass amongst others, is that this view of corporate power buys into the conservative view of the market and its creatures as natural forces. In fact, corporations, even when networked, are highly structured and hierarchical entities with geographical bases in global cities.

Corporate and state power can act in concert, have long-term forward planning, and organize systematic destruction of their opponents. Indeed the entire neoliberal (and Debord would add: postmodern) shift is proof of that.

In short, it's highly debatable whether minor, fluid assaults such as remixes of corporate discourse, pranks, etc have any effect on capital beyond providing entertaining content for the mass media. Tactical media may bring small increments of change, but activists realise that they need wider strategic projects.

Finally, though I have a lot of time for Debord's ideas and style - and how he lived in agreement with his beliefs, i.e. never gave in, never spoke to the mass media - that kind of purity comes at a price... the Situationists hurt a lot of people, by excluding, insulting, or physically beating them. Was it worth it? I would like to quote another Frenchman:

"Avant-garde artists, like many political agitators, propagandists and demagogues, have long understood what TERRORISM would soon popularize: if you want a place in ‘revolutionary history’ there is nothing easier than provoking a riot, an assault on propriety, in the guise of art. Short of committing a real crime by killing innocent passers-by with a bomb, the pitiless contemporary author of the twentieth century attacks symbols, the very meaning of a ‘pitiful’ he assimilates to ‘academicism’." (Virilio, A Pitiless Art)

Virilio then gives the example of... Guy Debord who declared that with his first film "Howls in Favor of Sade" (Hurlements en faveur de Sade) he wanted to kill cinema because it was ‘easier than to kill a passer-by’. The founding act of the Lettrist International, Debord and Wolman's breakaway left-wing of Isidore Isou's Letttrists, was to throw pamphlets around while running through the crowd gathered for the press conference of Charlie Chaplin, pitiful author par excellence… vilifying him as a sentimental fraud, the mastermind of misery, proto-fascist...

It's easy to dismiss Virilio as an out-of-date humanist / catholic / whatever... His questioning of the contemporary art / terror / technological nexus won't go away, though.



On 22/10/2004, at 3:57 PM, tobias c. van Veen wrote:

while Guy Debord was concerned
with politically shifting the urban -
psychological landscape.

I'm curious about this claim, if only because of the apparent heritage being
claimed today by various artists of locative media, mobile media, urban
interventionism, heirs to psychogeography, etc. It seems you can't turn a
corner without encountering it these days.

Does anyone else find the claim often misrepresents the SI's full impact?
Forgive me, for I spent the summer doing some reading .. it seems that after
the early '60s, the artists were excommunicated, along with the earlier
psychogeographical experiments. Although we all know _Society of the
Spectacle_ (film and book), less studied is the decisive step from art to
what can only be called revolution, when Debord's focus shifted quite
squarely to rewriting Marx's theory of value and to confronting capital
beyond artistic intervention. For some this was the beginning of the end for
the SI; for others, its necessary self-critique in the face of inaction, May
'68 notwithstanding.

In considering Debord, do we consider him as an artist, alongside Duchamp,
Beuys, et al? (Are Beuys or Duchamp artists either, come to think?)

Does anyone else see the current appropriation of psychogeography from the
SI arsenal as often quite superficial? As supporting, more often than not,
the continuation of technological fetishism (mobile-this, locative-that)
that Debord so abhorred?

I apologise for this tangent; but it's been bugging me lately, and for good
reason -- I just finished curating an artist's residency of
"psychogeographers" -- and for other reasons too: for the tactics of the SI
are claimed by a widescope of culture jammers, for example, Adbusters.

I'm wondering if anyone else out there thinks about it.

And I am thinking here again of "The Society of the Spectacle Remix" I had
the chance to see in Paris .. (by Mark Amerika, Rick Silva, Trace Reddell
et al) .. which for me raised these issues in a light I remain perplexed by:
how aforementioned technology relates to the politics of the remix and what
the thrust of the Society of the Spectacle Remix is getting at:
reintroducing art & tech to the SI? Getting the ex-art SI to laugh a little?
Proclaiming that, in the end, Debord lost, technology won? That art wins
over revolution (also reversing Breton, thus)? There is some irony to this
remix, I wonder ...



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Dr Mathieu O'Neil
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