Situationists and Brandalism

Forming in 1957, the idea of the ‘spectacle’ world motioned by the European Situationist International organisation imposed an antagonistic view of remix culture that focuses on recuperation and détournement, and tactics of psychogeography to restore what has been lost to capitalism in its new consumerist form.

The ‘spectacle’ is the idea that everything we consume, do, say, hear, and think is taken up by the commerce and capitalist drive society we inhabit. Whilst, ‘in the ol’ days’ the culture of the Western world was exhibited between our family and friends, and the written word, the ‘spectacle’ has absorbed this behaviour and ‘mediated’ it: it has created a society of online communicators and brand-influenced identities. The Situationists formulated this concept to suggest that we now live in a culture without communication because everything we do communicate about is saturated with the influence of brands and corporations; we are the link between the two.

We, however, do not want to be owned by these brands and corporations which is where recuperation and détournement fit into the equation. Recuperation is the process in which politically radical ideas and images (the basis of remix culture) are appropriated and transformed within media culture to become interpreted with a different connotation in mainstream culture. Détournement, however, is the technique of turning expressions of the capitalist system against itself. Both recuperation and détournement are the essence of remix culture. These brands and corporations are our tools to get by everyday – from our smartphones to our shoes – and they are controlling our lives. Whilst they are remixing, they’re banning us from being apart of the conversation unless we are acting as consumers, rather than creators. This is the implication of our media.

The Situationists developed a tactic of psychogeography entitled dérive to emphasise drifting around urban environments without being a consumer to undo the ‘spectacle’ for a moment in our lives. To drop one’s usual motives for movement and action to be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters found there. The notion of brandalism, however, was another method curtailing the effects of the ‘spectacle’. Artists would remix the advertisements of brands and corporations to invest a deeper political commentary within the imagery, video and art installations.

Eat Fat - Die Young2 - AdBusters
Eat Fat – Die Young2 by AdBusters 

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