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Abolish everything!

Andrew Hussey: Situationist International, 2 September 1999

The Situationist City 
by Simon Sadler.
MIT, 248 pp., £24.95, March 1998, 0 262 19392 2
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... series of frozen gestures or ‘spectacles’. Their originality lay in the claim made in 1967 by Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle that the forces of ‘spectacular domination’ could be fought and defeated on their own terms. Unlike their close contemporaries in the postwar French Left, Socialisme ou Barbarie, the group led by Cornelius ...


Jerome McGann, 22 June 1989

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... in a realm of amusements and commodities’. From the vantage of (any) realpolitik, Johnny Rotten, Guy Debord and the Cabaret Voltaire represent brief epiphenomenal waves on the powerful surge of human events – at most minor indices of greater and more important human struggles. Indeed, they customarily do not figure very largely in those monumental ...

You could catch it

Greil Marcus, 25 March 1993

Panegyric. Vol. I 
by Guy Debord, translated by James Brook.
Verso, 79 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 86091 347 3
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The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post-Modern Age 
by Sadie Plant.
Routledge, 226 pp., £40, May 1992, 0 415 06222 5
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... the Director of the Bancroft Library’ at the University of California at Berkeley, the ad read: GUY DEBORD Judging it necessary to disavow the new Editions Lebovici, SEEKS LITERARY AGENT or highly-placed independent editor for books that will expose the modernisation of the society of the ‘integrated spectacle’. Write to ... There was an irony ...

Crack Open the Shells

Hal Foster: The Situationist Moment, 12 March 2009

Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957-60) 
by Guy Debord, translated by Stuart Kendall and John McHale.
Semiotext(e), 397 pp., £12.95, February 2009, 978 1 58435 055 2
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... only radical but also forged together in radical fashion. Yet, as these early letters of the young Guy Debord, the leader of the group, make clear, they were the stuff of legend from the start. In late July 1957, in a little town in the Ligurian Alps called Cosio d’Arroscia, Debord met with a motley crew of seven ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’, 24 September 2020

... isn’t really quoting it: she’s delivering it, as if she were Kael. A bit later, when she cites Guy Debord on the society of the spectacle, Jessie Buckley’s place is taken for one shot by another actress, Colby Minifie, whom we saw earlier in a scene from a movie another character was watching. Where are we? In what place can we see people ...

Paris, 18 October

Alexander Zevin: The New ’68ers, 29 November 2007

... difficult moment: ‘Like Dombrovski . . . I’m like Iaroslav Dombrovski, you know . . . the guy who, when exiled from Poland, came to defend liberty in France? A great general!’ Incomprehension, blown out cheeks. ‘During the Commune, the Commune of Paris . . . you know, 1871!’ One person smiles and starts to walk the other way. Which is ...

E Bada!

Rye Dag Holmboe: What Isou Did to Language, 21 July 2022

Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted Life of Isidore Isou 
by Andrew Hussey.
Reaktion, 328 pp., £20, September 2021, 978 1 78914 492 5
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... squeaks. The lettristes came to include such luminaries as Maurice Lemaître, Gil J. Wolman and Guy Debord as well as students, drunks and petty criminals. Many of them really believed that Isou was a messiah, even, briefly, Debord, who thereafter made it his life’s mission to undermine him. In 1952, ...

We are our apps

Hal Foster: Visual Revolutions, 5 October 2023

Tricks of the Light: Essays on Art and Spectacle 
by Jonathan Crary.
Zone, 262 pp., £25, October, 978 1 942130 85 7
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... was the emergent ‘spectacle’ of capitalist culture – in the sense used by the Situationist Guy Debord, of a world made over into representation for our consumption. Yet ‘the eventual triumph of both [modernism and spectacle] depended on the denial of the body, its pulsings and phantasms, as the ground of vision.’ The body had to be ...

Where’s the omelette?

Tom Nairn: Patrick Wright, 23 October 2008

Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 488 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 19 923150 8
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... it to end.’ The Iron Curtain was by now a double-sided ‘spectacle’ in the sense described by Guy Debord. At the very moment the new managers in the East hoped to ‘demonstrate its superiority on the terrain of capitalism’, socialism ‘reveals itself to be a poor cousin of capitalism’; while capitalism’s ‘pseudo-freedom’ meant what the ...

Watermonster Blues

William Wootten: Edwin Morgan, 18 November 2004

Edwin Morgan: Inventions of Modernity 
by Colin Nicholson.
Manchester, 216 pp., £40, October 2002, 0 7190 6360 4
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translated by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 118 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 588 5
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by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 617 2
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... his belief in modernity and his homosexuality, helped along by references to Julia Kristeva, Guy Debord and the like, couched in cluttered criticalese; but he leaves it unclear how Morgan’s beliefs have determined his poetics. Reading Morgan’s most recent collection, Cathures (the old name for Glasgow), alongside the reissue of his early Beowulf ...

A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn, 5 June 2008

Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... it seems like a piece of conceptual art, a brashly clever take on the Society of the Spectacle (Guy Debord: ‘Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation’). At other times, it’s more like a grand essay in what might be called the Marshall McLuhan tradition, making oracular – if not exactly proven – assertions about ...

Aberdeen rocks

Jenny Turner: Stewart Home, 9 May 2002

69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess 
by Stewart Home.
Canongate, 182 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 9781841951829
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... really rock. He wasn’t going to pick up a hard-core following or sell over the long term like Guy Debord or William Burroughs. He had no devoted readership and little chance of remaining in print for long, let alone being republished in thirty or forty years’ time. In short, a typical midlist author. Is this sour grapes talking? Who knows? It is ...


David Edgar: The Angry Brigade, 16 December 2004

The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... off the masses (Christie himself downplays the importance of the Situationists, not least because Guy Debord was a ‘total arsehole in his everyday relationships’). In addition to attacking the homes of senior politicians and policemen, the Angry Brigade claimed responsibility for targeting an outside broadcast van at the 1970 Miss World Contest at ...

Après the Avant Garde

Fredric Jameson, 12 December 1996

Histoire de ‘Tel Quel’, 1960-82 
by Philippe Forest.
Seuil, 656 pp., frs 180, October 1995, 2 02 017346 8
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The Time of Theory: A History of ‘Tel Quel’ (1960-83) 
by Patrick ffrench.
Oxford, 318 pp., £37.50, December 1995, 0 19 815897 1
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The Making of an Avant Garde: ‘Tel Quel’ 
by Niilo Kauppi.
Mouton de Gruyter, 516 pp., August 1994, 3 11 013952 9
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... Sixties as running from about 1963 to the oil crisis of 1973. Let me here repeat the words of Guy Debord, quoted by ffrench, which raise the question of the mortality of an avant garde, a matter that seems oddly to obsess these books, more than does another mystery, which is the coming into being of an avant garde. Avant gardes have but a brief ...

Why all the hoopla?

Hal Foster: Frank Gehry, 23 August 2001

Frank Gehry: The Art of Architecture 
edited by Jean-Louis Cohen et al.
Abrams, 500 pp., £55, May 2001, 0 8109 6929 7
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... cultural centres appear as sites of spectacular spectatorship, of touristic awe. Thirty years ago Guy Debord defined spectacle as ‘capital accumulated to such a degree that it becomes an image’. With Gehry and other architects the reverse is now true as well: spectacle is an image accumulated to such a degree that it becomes capital. Such is the ...

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