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29 AUGUST 2017

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972

"The Situationist International (SI) was an international organization of social revolutionaries, the exclusive membership of which was made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists, active from its formation in 1957 to its dissolution in 1972.

The intellectual foundations of the Situationist International were derived primarily from anti-authoritarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century, particularly Dada and Surrealism. Overall, situationist theory represented an attempt to synthesize this diverse field of theoretical disciplines into a modern and comprehensive critique of mid-20th century advanced capitalism. The situationists recognized that capitalism had changed since Marx's formative writings, but maintained that his analysis of the capitalist mode of production remained fundamentally correct; they rearticulated and expanded upon several classical Marxist concepts, such as his theory of alienation. In their expanded interpretation of Marxist theory, the situationists asserted that the misery of social alienation and commodity fetishism were no longer limited to the fundamental components of capitalist society, but had now in advanced capitalism spread themselves to every aspect of life and culture. They resolutely rejected the idea that advanced capitalism's apparent successes—such as technological advancement, increased income, and increased leisure—could ever outweigh the social dysfunction and degradation of everyday life that it simultaneously inflicted.

Essential to situationist theory was the concept of the spectacle, a unified critique of advanced capitalism of which a primary concern was the progressively increasing tendency towards the expression and mediation of social relations through objects. The situationists believed that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicted significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society. Another important concept of situationist theory was the primary means of counteracting the spectacle; the construction of situations, moments of life deliberately constructed for the purpose of reawakening and pursuing authentic desires, experiencing the feeling of life and adventure, and the liberation of everyday life.

When the Situationist International was first formed, it had a predominantly artistic focus; emphasis was placed on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually, however, that focus shifted more towards revolutionary and political theory. The Situationist International reached the apex of its creative output and influence in 1967 and 1968, with the former marking the publication of the two most significant texts of the situationist movement, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. The expressed writing and political theory of the two aforementioned texts, along with other situationist publications, proved greatly influential in shaping the ideas behind the May 1968 insurrections in France; quotes, phrases, and slogans from situationist texts and publications were ubiquitous on posters and graffiti throughout France during the uprisings."

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TAGS

195719721989 • advanced capitalism • anti-authoritarianart movement • authentic desires • avant-garde art • Branka Bogdanov • capitalist societycommodity fetishism • commodity spectacle • consumer societyconsumerism • consumption of commodities • Dadadegradationdetournement • directly lived experiences • documentary filmearly 20th centuryeveryday life • exchange of commodities • expression and mediation of social relations through objects • feeling of adventure • feeling of life • first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires • graffiti • Greil Marcus • Guy Debord • individual expression by proxy • Jamie Reid • liberation of everyday life • Malcolm Mac Laren • Marxism • Marxist concepts • Marxist theory • May 1968 • means of production • mid-20th century advanced capitalism • mode of production • moments of life • political theorists • political theorypsychogeography • Raoul Vaneigem • reawakening • revolutionary theory • second-hand alienation • Situationist International • situationist movement • situationist theory • situations • slogan • social alienation • social dysfunction • social relations • social revolutionaries • Society of the Spectacle (Guy Debord)spectaclesurrealism • The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) • theory of alienation • Thomas Levine • UbuWeb • unified critique • unitary urbanism • video documentary

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
02 SEPTEMBER 2013

Retrospective exhibition of surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim

"Die Meret Oppenheim Retrospektive im Bank Austria Kunstforum zeigt Arbeiten aus allen Schaffensperioden Meret Oppenheims. Eine umfassende Schau, die Gelegenheit bietet, Meret Oppenheim abseits bekannter Klischees neu zu entdecken."

(Joseph Schimmer, 20.03.2013)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
18 NOVEMBER 2012

The Fallen Easel: an evocative and visually stylish provisionality

"John Baldessari's 1987 work titled The Fallen Easel is made up of nine framed panels containing fragmentary images that seem to add up as a complex non sequitur. The lone diagonal panel shows a grayscale screen print of an easel laying on the ground, while other panels show faces and hands that are sometimes obscured by ovals of bright flat colors. Clearly, we see a rebus of sorts, but its substitution of picture–fragments for a syllogistic circuit remains just outside of the grasp of routine readability. Mentally reassembling them does not help, and the narrative context that would enable the work to be analyzed in the manner of a dream is missing. We can only conclude that the relationship between the work's diverse elements is one of an evocative and visually stylish provisionality, but we remain haunted by it, for it keeps us coming back in search of the key that will unlock its beguiling mystery of allegorical displacements and substitutions. Yes, this is an update of a kind of surrealism, but there is something else going on here as well, something pertaining to the typical psychological distance created by mass media imagery striped of its pretense of narrative coherence. All at once, the linked histories of Surrealism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Postmodernism flash before our eyes. We are not in Kansas anymore, but is unclear exactly where we are or where anything else is for that matter."

(Mark Van Proyen, November 2009, art ltd. magazine)

Fig.1 John Baldessari (1987). "The Fallen Easel" colour lithograph and screenprint in five parts printed on paper and aluminium plates. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer. Photo: courtesy of Legion of Honor Museum.

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TAGS

1987allegorical displacements • allegorical substitutions • allegory • beguiling mystery • colour lithograph • complex non sequitur • composition • compositional practice • conceptual art • diverse elements • easel • flat colourfragmentary • fragmentary images • framed panels • John Baldessari • Legion of Honor Museum • linked histories • mass media • narrative coherence • narrative context • non sequitur • not in Kansas anymore • obscured view • oval • picture fragmentspop artpostmodernism • pretense • print retrospective • provisional • provisionality • psychological distance • readability • rebus • routine readability • screenprintsurrealism • syllogism • syllogistic circuit • The Fallen Easel • unlock • visually stylish provisionality

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 MARCH 2012

Jean Cocteau: la Belle et la Bête

"La lumière brillante et surnaturelle qui avait dominé toute la scène du château (flamme des chandeliers, feu, reflets étincelants de l'argenterie) s'estompe pour laisser la place à la lumière naturelle du jour [plan 9] [9]. Ces rayons lumineux rappellent ceux des dernières gravures de la Belle au vois dormant. D'autant plus que cette lumière naturelle n'est pas légitimée par la présence d'une fenêtre, comme c'est le cas chez Doré. C'est une lumière naturelle, la lumière du jour, mais elle semble toujours éclairer le personnage de manière surnaturelle : comment la lumière extérieure peut–elle pénétrer à l'intérieur sans la présence d'aucune fenêtre ? Les flambeaux s'éteignent un à un, le personnage traverse un grand pan de lumière blanche, la porte se referme toute seule, l'escalier apparaît en plongée : la scène semble se rejouer à l'envers, ce qui souligne la structure circulaire et la clôture de la séquence, mais aussi l'influence de l'œuvre de Gustave Doré. Le dialogue des contes et des illustrations se poursuit jusqu'à la dernière image de la séquence puisqu'elle se termine sur les ronces qui envahissent l'escalier du château de la Bête, comme celles qui envahissent les gravures du château de la Belle au bois dormant."

(Estelle Plaisant Soler, 26 juin 2006)

Fig.1 Jean Cocteau (1946). "la Belle et la Bête"

2). PDF of 100 Cult Films (Screen Guides).

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TAGS

1946atmosphericbeastbeauty • candlebra • candlestick • caryatids • castlechandelierscostume design • daylight • eerie • enchanted garden • engraving • external light • externalisation • extinguished • fairy talefantasyfilmfilm designfireflameFrenchgloveGustave Dorehorse • iconogaphy • in the mindinterior spaceJean CocteauJean Marais • Josette Day • Jungian • key • La Belle et la Bete • light • living arms • Madame Leprince de Beaumont • magic • merchant • metaphormotion picturemyth • natural light • Prince Charmingrealityset design • silverware • Sleeping Beauty • smoke-breathing • sparkling reflections • spatial symbolismspecial effectsstaircasestory • supernatural • surrealismsymbolismtalismantheatrical space • torch • visual designvisual metaphorvisual spectacle • white light

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
02 OCTOBER 2011

Un Chien Andalou: a masterpiece of surrealist cinema

"Acclaimed as a surrealist masterpiece, Un Chien andalou aggressively disconnects itself from narrative flow. The creators of this short film. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, fully intended there to be no links between successive scenes. Fortunately this didn't inhibit their dreaming up of some of the most striking moments ever to be projected upon the silver screen. The opening focuses on a man (Luis Buñuel) stropping his cut–throat razor, honing it to a perfect edge. Stepping onto the balcony, he gazes at the moon. This celestial orb is instantly replaced with a woman and, enlarging rapidly, her left eye. The bare blade then descends on her unprotected pupil, a graphic incident.

Designed to shock, which it still does almost 70 years later, quick editing removes the image before it has time to fully sink in. Suddenly the viewer is faced with a nun–like figure weaving uncertainly down the road on a bicycle. There is no bridge to the previous horror, although this mysterious person does provide a number of objects which resurface at odd intervals. Later there is the unusual sight of a man (Robert Hommet) hauling two grand pianos, each stuffed with the putrefying remains of a donkey, as he trudges towards a cowering woman (Simone Mareuil). He is also unfortunate enough to have a hole in his hand, where the ants live. None of this is significant.

A marvellous aspect of something as wilfully bizarre as Un Chien andalou is that almost any interpretation can be drawn from the images shown. Perhaps every single scene is random and unconcerned with any other, although Buñuel certainly seems to have included items which are present throughout the film. In some ways the repeated glimpses of these things in situations where they shouldn't be adds to the confused feel, enhanced by the off–putting and nonsensical time–markers deployed.

The eternal themes of life, death, lust and love are thrown up at various points, although there is no framework on which to attach these emotions. This is of no consequence though as Buñuel has already hurried onto the next sequence, violently cutting so that the desired woman becomes naked in a flash – a picture of what are ardent suitor really sees. Un Chien andalou does not require such deep analysis though, being much more a film which should be purely experienced. It achieves that which Buñuel and Dalí aimed for and, with a live music accompaniment, is unstoppable."

(Damian Cannon, 1997)

Fig.1 Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (1929). 'Un Chien andalou'

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TAGS

1929aggressionAn Andalusian Dog (1929)art film • cut-throat razor • deathdogdreamfilmFreudiangraphic representationinfluential works • interrupted narrative flow • lifeloveLuis BunuellustmasterpiecenakednunRobert HommetSalvador Dalishockingsilent filmSimone Mareuil • slice • slicedSpanish filmspectaclesurrealismsurrealist cinemasurrealist filmssymbolismUn Chien Andalou (1929)violencevisual metaphor

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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