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Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents

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Overview

This volume is a revised and expanded version of a special issue of the journal October (Winter 1997) that was devoted to the work of the Situationist International (SI). The first section of the issue contained previously unpublished critical texts, and the second section contained translations of primary texts that had previously been unavailable in English. The emphasis was on the SI's profound engagement with the art and cultural politics of their time (1957-1972), with a strong argument for their primarily political and activist stance by two former members of the group, T. J. Clark and Donald Nicholson-Smith.Guy Debord and the Situationist International supplements both sections. It reprints important, hard to find essays by Giorgio Agamben, Libero Andreotti, Jonathan Crary, Thomas Y. Levin,Greil Marcus, and Tom McDonough and doubles the number of translations of primary texts, which now encompass a broader and more representative range of the SI's writings on culture and language. In a field still dominated by hagiography, the critical texts were selected for their willingness to confront critically the history and legacy of the SI. They examine the group within the broader framework of the historical and neo-avant-gardes and, beyond that, the postwar world in general.

The translations trace the SI's reflections on the legacy of the avant-garde in art and architecture, particularly on the linguistic and spatial significance of montage aesthetics. Many of the translated works are by Guy Debord (1932-1994), the impresario of the SI, especially known for his book The Society of the Spectacle.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"... [A] balanced, critical view of the history of the SI." Geert Bekaert Archis

"This nicely produced work is an encyclopedic rendering of the SI philosophy and legacy..." Ali Houissa Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Igniting as an arts avant-garde in the 1950s and exploding as politically revolutionary at the heart of the Paris 1968 uprisings, the Situationist International has proved a tenaciously compelling radical movement in terms of asthetics and political theory. The MIT anthology, which includes both hard-to-find original material along with critical essays focused on central figure Debord, is ambitious and exciting, focusing on the group members' significance as political and urban theorists, refusing to let them be written off as idiosyncratic heirs of dada and surrealist art-as-provocation. The argument is persuasive, though the critical essays devoted to their art (like a lengthy amble through Debord's several films) aren't nearly as riveting as the group's manifestos, musings and collective position papers. Only the passionate note by T.J. Clark and Donald Nicholson-Smith matches the intensity of the original documents and no wonder, as they briefly were the group's British wing. The Consul, in which SI founding member Rumney recounts his life and times, is the second in a series of oral histories assembled (with photos) by French publisher Berreby, but it lacks the savor of '50s Parisian street and intellectual life that informed his earlier volume, The Tribe. Rumney's story doesn't revolve around the SI (particularly as he was booted early on); other claims to fame include a painting in the Tate Museum and a marriage to scion/suicide Pegeen Guggenheim. That might be enough to render Rumney's tale engaging, or at least juicy, but his self-justifying soliloquies stand in the way, and his vague uninterest in politics leaves the book without a center. But the MIT anthology stands as a fine compendium of the most poetic of political writings, albeit still a partial measure for fans, followers and future revolutionaries awaiting the complete translations of the journal Situationist Internationale. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A leftist art movement that emerged from Surrealism, Situationist International (SI) developed as a network of artists and thinkers, active during the 1950s and 1960s, who rejected the perception of art as "a bourgeois commodity" to be bought and sold rather than a source of inspiration and transformation. Much of this volume reprints the Winter 1997 issue of the journal October, which was devoted to the SI group, with some very useful revisions and additions. Following an introduction by editor McDonough (art history, SUNY at Binghamton) to the movement's ideology and main shapers, most notably Guy Debord (1931-94), there are sections of previously unpublished critical essays and translations of primary texts and documents that are, thanks to this book, finally available in English. This nicely produced work is an encyclopedic rendering of the SI philosophy and legacy that also helps fill in missing pieces of one of the 20th century's significant artistic and philosophical currents. Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries and for special collections with an emphasis on history and philosophy of art.-Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262633000
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Series: October Books
  • Pages: 514
  • Sales rank: 1,270,337
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas F. McDonough is Associate Professor of Modern Architecture and Urbanism in the Art History department at Binghamton University, and an editor of Grey Room.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Ideology and the Situations Utopia
The Long Walk of the Situationist International 1
The Great Sleep and Its Clients (1955) 21
One Step Back (1957) 25
Report on the Construction of Situations and on the Terms of Organization and Action of the International Situationist Tendency (1957) 29
One More Try If You Want to Be Situationists (The SI in and against Decomposition) (1957) 51
Theses on Cultural Revolution (1958) 61
Contribution to the Debate "Is Surrealism Dead or Alive?" (1958) 67
In Praise of Pinot-Gallizio (1958) 69
Extracts from Letters to the Situationist International (1958) 75
Editorial Notes: Absence and Its Costumers (1958) 79
Editorial Notes: The Meaning of Decay in Art (1959) 85
A Different City for a Different Life (1959) 95
Editorial Notes: Critique of Urbanism (1961) 103
Editorial Notes: Once Again, on Decomposition (1961) 115
Comments against Urbanism (1961) 119
Editorial Notes: Priority Communication (1962) 129
Editorial Notes: The Avant-Garde of Presence (1963) 137
Editorial Notes: All the King's Men (1963) 153
The Situationists and the New Forms of Action in Politics or Art (1963) 159
Perspectives for a Generation (1966) 167
Captive Words - (Preface to a Situationist Dictionary) (1966) 173
The Situationists and the New Forms of Action against Politics and Art (1967) 181
The Practice of Theory: Cinema and Revolution (1969) 187
Asger Jorn's Avant-Garde Archives 189
Architecture and Play 213
Situationist Space 241
Lefebvre on the Situationists: An Interview 267
Angels of Purity 285
Difference and Repetition: On Guy Debord's Films 313
Dismantling the Spectacle: The Cinema of Guy Debord 321
Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory 455
Why Art Can't Kill the Situationist International 467
Letter and Response 489
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