situationism


situationism
  ---- by Paul A. Taylor
  A term that is used to describe the thought of the Situationist International: a loose grouping of radical artists, activists and theorists. Active in the heady days of 1960s Paris they were led by Guy Debord (1932-94) and popularly known as 'Situs'. Although Baudrillard was never directly linked with the group, there are clear parallels between his central concepts and those found within Debord's key work - The Society of the Spectacle (1983) - published in French in 1967.
  Developing Lukács' notion of the commodity as advanced capitalism's defining feature, its universal concept, Debord argued that the spectacle had become the (il)logical conclusion of the commodity form. Marx famously observed that within capitalism, 'all that's solid melts into air' and mass media have exponentially furthered this process. Exchange value that stemmed from use value has, in its turn, morphed into the societywide pervasive and invasive spread of 'sign value'. McLuhan argued that this creates a total environment that colonises and supplants traditional, non-mediated values. Both Debord and Baudrillard's work is characterised by the sustained, critical nature of their theoretical exploration of the full implications of this new totalising experience.
  For Debord, the spectacle stands in the same relation to the commodity as the commodity did to the earlier forms of exchange it supplanted. Just as the commodity absorbed and abstracted the economic relations that pre-dated it, so the spectacle absorbs and abstracts the commodity form. Money as a medium of exchange permits a false equivalence to be established between two otherwise incommensurate objects. Money transforms and conflates distinctly different physical qualities into the sameness of a new medium. Capitalism extends this process to the point where it does not simply mediate prior forms of human experience, but begins to determine the fundamental nature of that very experience: 'The spectacle is the developed modern complement of money where the totality of the commodity world appears as a whole, as a general equivalence for what the entire society can be' (Debord, 1983: 49).
  Baudrillard's notion of simulacra provides a Situationist-like appreciation of the extent to which mass media do not simply mediate reality, they now serve to hide the fact there is no longer a reality to be mediated. The total nature of the society of the spectacle is such that the individual has merely become a relay station, a medium among media. Baudrillard's notion of 'integral reality' (LP) describes the phenomenological experience of life in the resulting society in which our basic interactions are pre-enscribed with mediated values. Similarly, in his late essays 'Dust Breeding' and 'Telemorphosis' (CA), Baudrillard describes how genuine human relationships are replaced by a 'mirror of platitudes' (CA, 181) and social experience mediated by an endless chain of solipsistic screens in which mobile phone-wielding, über-networked contemporary citizens become denizens of an 'umbilical limbo' (CA, 191).
  The Situationists saw the whole of society as a vital 'theatre of operations' and sought to develop corresponding forms of 'industrial action', the cultural equivalents of 'wildcat strikes' or 'work to rule', an 'aesthetic terrorism' to directly intervene in cultural production. Likewise, Baudrillard saw at least a partial counterpoint to the media's society of signs in street-level symbolic responses: 'Graffiti is transgressive, not because it substitutes another content, another discourse, but simply because it responds, there, on the spot, and breaches the fundamental rule of nonresponse enunciated by all the media' (CPS, 183). And:
  There is no need for organized masses, nor for a political consciousness to do this - a thousand youths armed with marker pens and cans of spray-paint are enough to scramble the signals of urbania and dismantle the order of signs. Graffiti covers every subway map in New York, just as the Czechs changed the names of the streets in Prague to disconcert he Russians: guerrilla action . . . It is nevertheless astonishing to see this unfold in a Quaternary cybernetic city dominated by the two glass and aluminium towers of the World Trade Center, invulnerable metasigns of the system's omnipotence. (SED, 80-2)
  However, Situationist aesthetic terrorism is always vulnerable to being processed away and co-opted by the media system's 'mortal dose of publicity' (CPS, 174) so that the oppositional act merely becomes yet another spectacle. Under a capitalism dominated by exchange-value and crude industrial exploitation, at least workers still had their chains. In the society of the spectacle, alienated life itself forms the basis of the spectacle. Life thus becomes doubly alienated: in the society of the spectacle/simulacra we are alienated from alienation by alienation!
  Passwords
   § city
   § media

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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