The Situationist International (S.I.) was a political and social movement that ran from 1957 to 1972 that attempted to synthesise elements of Marxism and anarchist themes with ideas from avant-garde art movements such as Dada and Surrealism. Although the Situationists cannot be reduced to an avant-garde art movement, Tom Bunyard notes that their “unabashedly utopian goal was to infuse lived experience with the passion, creativity and imagination that had previously only been articulated within the cultural realms of art and poetry.”
“For the Situationists, whose political goals had developed from their early concerns with avant-garde art, the modern revolution would afford a ludic, creative relation to lived time: art would cease to function as a means of representing and commenting upon life, and would instead become one with life itself. This would be achieved through using society’s previously alienated technological and creative powers to consciously create the ‘situations’ that compose lived time. Within modern society, they claimed, all such situations are dull, rationalised components of the spectacular social order; the all-encompassing revolution that the S.I. envisaged would, however, afford a social existence within which these moments of experience would take on more festive qualities.” (Bunyard, p5)
The Situationists imagined a revolution where the line between art and life would disappear. Rather than experiencing the world as passive spectators, we would become active agents engaged in shaping our own history.
Due to their utopian ambitions and deployment of aesthetic devises, the Situationist International has often been seen as an art movement, and their seminal text, Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (1967), is frequently viewed as a piece of media theory. Tom Bunyard challenges these assumptions. Although the Situationists emerged from a set of concerns with avant-garde art and culture, the ideas and ambitions of the S.I. extended far beyond the arts; Likewise, The Society of the Spectacle’s claims are not reducible to the contention that advertising and mass media constitute pacifying spectacles. Bunyard argues that The Society of the Spectacle is more generally a book about time and history, in the sense that it “describes a society that has become detached from its capacity to consciously shape and determine its own future.” In his book Debord, Time and the Spectacle, Bunyard provides an impressive reconstruction of Guy Debord’s political thought that centres around Debord’s preoccupations with temporality, and which demonstrates its connection to the writings of Marx, Hegel and Hegelian Marxism. In this session, we will be talking to Tom Bunyard about his work on Debord and the Situationists and exploring connected themes of avant-garde art, Hegelian Marxism, strategy, history, spectatorship, revolution and temporality.
This session will be run as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group’s fortnightly meetup. The sessions are free and open to everyone. No prior knowledge of the subject matter is needed, but if people are interested, further reading can be found here:
Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
Tom Bunyard, Debord, Time and the Spectacle: Hegelian Marxism and Situationist Theory
The Situationist International Anthology
Debord’s film version of The Society of the Spectacle
The online session will take place via Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86471639139?pwd=N0poczBnbUg4b2VUYVZJTVZZeSs4QT09). The meeting ID is 864 7163 9139. The passcode is “914092“.
This session will take place both online via Zoom and in person at The Artist Residence, Brighton, UK. The Artists Residence can be found on 33 Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2GG. Join us in Venue from 7pm and online from 730pm. To book a free place in the venue, click here. For any questions please message me at email@example.com
This session will be run by Bradley Tuck and take place on the 1st February 2022 from 19:30 – 22:30 (UK time). If you have any questions please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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