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Member Area
Venice Biennale

It would be nice to do something political (AIS 22)

Situating cinema
Guy Debord and The Society of the Spectacle. How did the Situationists think about film? By Gareth Buckell
“The Avant-garde is Undesirable,” proclaimed the Situationist International in 1961. “The aesthetic debris of the avant-garde (pictures, film, poetry, etc.) have become both desirable and ineffectual. What is undesirable is the complete reorganization of the condition of life such that the basis of society is altered.”1 The Situationists reflected the widespread disillusion with Modernism among post-war thinkers; their critique of the avant-garde as ‘desirable and ineffectual’ highlighted the complicity between the avant-garde and the state, and the incorporation of experimental forms into advertising and propaganda during the inter-war period.
While in England and America, many (but by no means all) creative artists turned their back on formal exploration, a number of European intellectuals aimed to rehabilitate the avant-garde, wanting to take the theoretical rigour and revitalising energy of the early movements (such as Futurism and Dadaism) while maintaining an opposition between art and the state, with its attendant ideological culture. The Situationists grew out of the Lettrists, a group concerned with the relationship between culture and society who produced both theory and radical art. Guy Debord became involved in 1951, a year before Charlie Chaplin’s visit to France, and Debord joined in their incendiary attack on one of the few Hollywood directors to have been championed by the inter-war avant-garde. “Because you’ve identified yourself with the weak and oppressed, to attack you has been to attack the weak and oppressed … Go to sleep, you fascist insect.” 2