Situationist Aesthetics: The SI, Now
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK – Friday 8th June 2012
Keynote: McKenzie Wark (The New School, NY), author of The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International (2011), Gamer Theory (2007) and Hacker Manifesto (2004).
Since the beginning of the movement there has been a problem as to what to call artistic works by members of the SI. It was understood that none of them was a situationist production, but what to call them? I propose a very simple rule: to call them ‘antisituationist.’ We are against the dominant conditions of artistic inauthenticity. I don’t mean that anyone should stop painting, writing, etc. I don’t mean that that has no value. I don’t mean that we could continue to exist without doing that. But at the same time we know that such works will be coopted by society and used against us. Our impact lies in the elaboration of certain truths which have an explosive power whenever people are ready to struggle for them. At the present stage the movement is only in its infancy regarding the elaboration of these essential points.
- Attila Kotányi at the Fifth Conference of the SI, 1961
Is it oxymoronic, heretical or just plain wrong to talk about Situationist aesthetics? The Situationist International (SI) condemned attempts to discuss its work in terms of aesthetics, but perhaps it is now time to brush the SI against the grain.
When it first announced its programme, the SI insisted that ‘There is no such thing as Situationism’. A few years later, before expelling its members deemed to be too invested in artistic production, the SI declared that in an age of spectacle any work of art produced by a Situationist must necessarily be ‘antisituationist’. The SI’s tactical intransigence regarding the political value of the aesthetic, and its refusal of the possibility of a specifically Situationist aesthetic, threw up problems that remained unresolved by the time of the SI’s dissolution. Since 1972, particularly in Anglophone contexts, Situationist practices have penetrated an array of cultural spheres, and much cultural production which the SI would have dismissed as spectacular has claimed some Situationist influence.
The SI located itself within but against culture. This symposium asks whether such a position is tenable, and what possibility might there be for Situationist aesthetics after all. Do cultural phenomena such as punk, or the current psychogeography industry, for example, work as or against Situationist aesthetics? Is it possible to identify art works and/or practices indebted to the SI that do not recuperate its politics but fortify and develop them?
Possible themes include, but are not limited to:
· the work of Guy Debord and other members of the Situationist International
· the work of artists, writers, thinkers or film-makers proximate to or influenced by the SI
· critiques of the SI
· (post-)Situationist theory now
· détournement, plagiarism, and recuperation
· spectacular and anti-spectacular aesthetics
· the uses and abuses of psychogeography
· punk and art writing
Please submit proposals of no more than 250 words for papers or presentations of 20 minutes to Sam Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org by 16th March 2012. For further information: situationist-aesthetics.blogspot.com.