Situationism

I found this article I wrote for Art and Social Change.  Coming from Portland State, I think the idea is so ingrained in the art world.  Too many try to change art for changes sake, not for the good or betterment of it.  They fight so hard that they become the establishment they are fighting against. 

Situationism

Who They Are (or were):
Situationism refers to an international art movement that sprung after World War II. Groups such as Siutationist International, which formed when two post-war The Situationists believed that Capitalistic ideals threatened the personal identity of individuals by creating their identities for them. They identified closely with the Dadaists and the Anarchist movements that were concerened with suppressing art as a form of currency. Situationists fostered the idea that art should just be something a person does, not something they sell or use to sell. They criticized modern society for alienating people and for turning their lives into meaningless pursuits of consumer commodities. The Situationist’s blend of punk rock Anarchism and Marxist ideals did not stop them from attacking both Anarchy and Communism for their failings. They called the USSR a “Capitalist Beuracracy” because it failed to disolve into Marx’s utopic society.

Artistic Methods:
‘Detournement’ is usually translated into English as ‘diversion’ and was the main method used by the situationists for artistic creation. Detournement was a form of plagiarism where both the source and the meaning of the original work was subverted to create a new work. The Situationist Internation has said ‘there is no Situationist art, only Situationist uses of art.’ Detournement is similar to the methods Dadaists employed. Duchamp’s work, ‘The Fountain’ could be considered a prime example. They used comic art extensively in this way, adding word bubbles to effectively change the meaning and context of the images.
The hope of a ‘proleriat revolution’ that would result in people doing activities for the sheer joy it brings them, was embodied in their architectual concept of ‘unitary urbanism’. The term was used by Situationists to describe their experiments with creating a new city that would allow the inhabitants to ‘play’ and realize their desires. Their architectual theories involved the practice of  ‘dérive’. The practice is effectively to wander or ‘drift’ aimlessly throughout the city, soaking up its ambiences. Their ideas rarely translated into artworks, but served more as a political theory and set of mechanisms by which an artist should practice. There were only a few examples of Situationist work on display in galleries. One was the showing of Inustrial Paintings. Industrial Painting was a form of abstract expressionism. The ‘paintings’ consisted of Giant rolls of canvas up to 90 feet long. ‘Industrial Paintings’ were meant to highlight the scale of the production of the paintings instead of their methods of production, which were more traditional. The rolls of canvas were sold off to the public by the yard. A more common from of Situationist art that was able to more clearly identify the theories and attitudes of the group were comic strips.
The End of ‘The End of Art’:
The group faded away after 1968, apparently unable to withstand the lack of permanent members, their growing infamy caused by their antics, or perhaps the
inherent contradictions that their ideology contained. Contradictions that are apparent in punk rock culture include the marketing of merchandise to sell a way of life. Situationists ideals embraced theories such as the idea of the Spectacle, written about in Guy Debord’s written work called ‘The Society Of The Spectacle’.
“The spectacle is an extension of the idea of reification where what ‘was directly lived has moved away into a representation,’ all real relationships having been replaced by that of relationships with commodities, and where commodities have a life of their own – ‘the autonomous movement of the non-living.’ The spectacle exists where there are ‘modern conditions of production’ and has only existed since around the 1920s when commodities became abundant. The spectacle is not the domination of the world by images or any other form of mind-control but the domination of a social interaction mediated by images. Reification separates people from one-another but the spectacle is a unifying principle of society where it ‘reunites the separate, but reunites them as separate’.”(Taken from Barbelith Webzine.)
 
Interestingly, even this call to rebel against the mundane life and uniformity caused by living under the spectacle was eventually negated by being sold back to the eager to consume public. ‘It is a question not of elaborating the spectacle of refusal, but rather of refusing the spectacle’ Unfortunately for Situationists, everything becomes a commodity in the spectacle society. Even rebellion is sold back to us as an image and idea that pacifies us.

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