This past weekend my partner Heath wrapped up the Situationist Film Fest as a part of his MFA thesis show. On Friday night, to a packed (!) room at Public Space One here in Iowa City, he debuted his remake of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle from 1973 (a film Debord based on his own book from 1967).
Because he’s great (and perhaps despite my bias), you should head over and read what he has to say about this project. Here’s an excerpt:
In SoS Debord writes of détournement that it is the “flexible language of anti-ideology,” meaning that détournement is necessary and meant to be used to transform meaning with time. It is the only way in which one can resist falling into the trenches of dogmatism. It is a mode of “communication which includes a critique of itself.” Thus in re-stating SoS in 2013, it must be revised and simultaneously plagiarized, and it is in this vain in which I re-introduce this project. As Debord himself says (détourning Lautréamont) “Ideas improve. The meaning of words plays a role in that improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress depends on it. It sticks close to an author’s phrasing, exploits his expressions, deletes a false idea, replaces it with the right one.”
Détournement need not only be a mode of subversion, but can also be a self-critical and open-ended way of thinking and making — one that might also be used by others. I like to think of my project as a piece of research by way of re-making or re-stating; a research project which makes use of Debord’s work not as a quotation but as an appropriation of a collective inheritance in the cultural commons. This is how Debord worked, both with his own work as well as his use of the work from others. For Debord, and I’m inclined to agree, it is the “first step toward a literary communism.”
If you’ve got the time, watch this 2013 version in just under 75 min. I promise it’s way more watchable than the original—and a lot more relevant to contemporary society. Proud, proud, proud.
Title design by yours truly.