Category Archives: situationist

Ten thousand Rimbauds

fig. 1. Thinking of Melville reading Mallarmé in a spacesuit. Image: Frank Hamspon, Dan Dare, Eagle Magazine, 10 May 1957, Vol. 8 No. 19. Text: Stephané Mallarmé, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard, translated.

Even if there are thousands of J. Arthur Rimbauds now walking the earth, one million Melvilles and Homers, a growing army of George Eliots and Isidore Ducasses, who cares? This year’s latest product. It is almost certain, combined with industrial levels of forgetfulness and self-obsessed market driven self-perfection you will never know even if you do care. Modern capitalist society, which has chased itself across the globe and outer space, now produces so much stuff, so much culture and assorted other trinkets for sale, theft and destruction. How can anyone stay abreast of this torrent?

A clarification on method

fig. 1. détournement as method; as means and end.

Generally, I do not believe that pulp fiction should be read as a bigoted assertion of power, whatever the trend in today’s academia. So, for instance, James Earl Jones’ performance of the evil Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian (1982), is just a great performance, and rightly read by its mainly working class audience as encouraging the play of the imagination. Keeping this in mind, I am mostly interested in using pulp fiction—détournement as the situationists said—to help make plain the ongoing destructive, cybernetic and technocratic aspects of contemporary capitalism.

Even though semiotic analysis can sometimes prove illuminating, by unearthing the ways in which cultural commodities often reproduce the dominant ideas of the capitalist present, the practice of détournement is more immediately destructive of such oppressive ideas. By proposing the “the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble”, the practice of détournement makes it clear that the interpretation of the world is alone insufficient for changing it.