PSA: Against Cinema – Situationist Film and its Legacy (Aug 30 – Sept 27)

Dear readers,

For those of you living in or near the San Francisco Bay Area, I am co-curating an exhibition/retrospective entitled Against Cinema: Situationist Film and its Legacy. It will be held at the ProArts Gallery at 150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza in Oakland California from August 30 to September 27. More information can be be found here

Untitled

On June 30, 1952, Guy Debord’s Hurlements en faveur de Sade (trans: Howls for Sade) premiered at the Ciné-Club d’Avant-Gardes in Paris. A few minutes into the film, a narrative voice stated: “There’s no film. Cinema is dead. There can’t be film anymore”. Many of the viewers walked out, while others loudly protested the film. The chaos was so severe that the screening was halted after only a few minutes.

Situationist cinema is both scandalous and revolutionary because it rejects many of the core premises of cinema. First: Film-making is about creating new images, producing new representations. La Société du Spectacle (trans: Society of the Spectacle), Debord’s screen adaptation of his 1967 book, defies this principle. The 88-min full-length feature contains absolutely nothing new – every shot is “borrowed” from existing media sources. The film includes footage from TV ads, news reports, documentaries, and masterpieces of world cinema like Battleship Potemkin.

Second: Images and sound should support each other to create an immersive (or at least coherent) viewer experience. In La Société du Spectacle, Debord substitutes the footage’s original soundtrack with voice-over readings of material from his theoretical treatise and music by 18th century classical composer Michel Corette. In his La Dialectique peut-elle casser des briques? (trans: Can Dialectics Break Bricks?) – dubbed “the first completely detourned film in the history of cinema” – René Vienet takes a conventional, B-list martial arts film and turns it into a story of revolutionary class struggle. This is done by preserving all the visuals while altering the soundtrack (through a “creative” dubbing of the original Chinese) to tell a completely different story.

For Debord, “the spectacle is…a social relation among people, mediated by images.”. Through film, he (and other like-minded film-makers) seek to “dismantle the spectacle” (T. Levin) – that is, to uncover the mechanisms at play in spectacular society. As such, cinema operates as a critical medium for Situationists to articulate their radical criticism of the spectacular-commodity society.

The exhibition, Against Cinema: Situationist Film and Its Legacy, seeks to retrace the history and legacy of Situationist film. From its inception in the Lettrist works of Maurice Lemaitre, Gil Wolman and the young Guy Debord in the 1950s through the Situationist-influenced films of René Vienet in the 70s, Isaac Cronin in the 80s, Michel Hazanavicius in the 90s, and Tiqqun in the 2000s. While there have been numerous retrospectives of Guy Debord’s film – at the Magic Cinema in Bobigny (2002), the Cinema le Miroir in Marseille (2006), the German Cinemateque in Berlin (2008) and the Yamagata Film Festival (2009), among others – far fewer (if any) attempts have been made to look at Situationist film more broadly. In addition to film programming, this exhibition is unique in bringing together some of the most prominent creators, translators and critics of Situationist cinema. The gallery will also feature a collection of unique original artifacts pertaining to Lettrist and Situationist artifacts, with items ranging from movie posters, lobby cards, film stills, original movie scripts, bootleg VHS tapes, censorship leaflets, film synopses and more. All in all, this is an occasion to fully immerse yourself in Situationist cinema.

Public Program

Opening Reception: Aug 30, 6 – 9 pm with an introduction by Mehdi El Hajoui.

Film Screening series:

Sep 6, 7 – 8:30 PM, door opens at 6:30 PM

Guy Debord. La Société du Spectacle (1973) with an introduction by Ken Knabb

Sep 12, 7 – 8:30 PM, door opens at 6:30PM

René Vienet. La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques? (1973) with an introduction by Keith Sanborn

Sep 19, 7- 8:30 PM, door opens at 6:30 PM

Isaac Cronin and Terrel Seltzer. Call it sleep (1982),  And the war has only just begun (2001).

Sep 27, 7- 8:30 PM, door opens at 6:30 PM

Heath Schultz and Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle (2013) with an introduction by Heath Schultz

About the archive

The exhibition draws from the Internationale Situationniste and its aftermath archive. Through nearly 2,500 items, the archive retraces the History of the avant-garde movement, starting with the foundation of the Internationale Lettriste (1952-1957) through the Internationale Situationniste (1957-1972). Significant attention is paid to the ways in which the Situationist International shaped the artistic and political discourse in the U.S. and the U.K. from the 1970s onwards, with the likes of King Mob, Black Mask, Processed World, Upshot (John Zerzan), the London Psychogeographical Association, or Tom Vague – to name a few. The archive also shows particular strength in Lettrist and Situationist cinema.

The archive was exhibited at the Lily Library at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) as part of the Wounded Galaxies – Beneath the Paving Stones, the Beach symposium and festival in 2018. Individual items have also been featured in Geneva’s MAMCO (Die Welt als Labyrinth) and Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (The Most Dangerous Game), also in 2018.

The archive is currently located in Mountain View, CA and is accessible free of charge, by appointment. Hundreds of unique or otherwise unusual items have been digitized and are shared through a dedicated blog: https://situationnisteblog.wordpress.com/. The archive is also part of the Public Collectors, a project to “make available cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible” (http://publiccollectors.org/SituationnisteCollection.html)

About the archivist

Mehdi El Hajoui has been researching and collecting the Internationale Situationniste and its aftermath for the last decade. He has spoken about the topic at Princeton University, Indiana University – Bloomington, the Philobiblon club of Philadelphia, and the Red Victorian in San Francisco, CA. Mehdi was the winner of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation Student Book Collecting Competition in 2010, and he completed the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) in 2015. He is a graduate of Harvard University.

La Conspiration Dépressionniste, Volumes I-V [2009].

[La Conspiration Depréssionniste] La Conspiration Dépressionniste Volumes I-V (2003-2008). Montreal: Moult Editions / Lux Editeur, 2009. 222 p.; ill.; 31 x 14 cm.; ill. tan wrappers with text in black.

Reprints the first 5 issues of the French-Canadian underground zine La Conspiration Depréssionniste (Trans: the Depressionist Conspiration), originally issued between 2003 and 2008 in 200 (issue #1) to 525 (issue #5) copies. Also includes other ephemeral publications by the group, such as Cahiers 76439 and Bulletin Dépressionniste 1. Three additional issues of La Conspiration Depréssionniste have since been published, and are available at Le Pressier.

La Conspiration Depréssionniste is the work of a small group: Simon-Pierre Beaudet, Jean-Sebastien Coté, Matthieu Gauthier, Yannick Lacroix, Jasmin Miville-Allard and Grégory Sadetsky are members of the editorial committee, with occasional or regular contributions by several others. The periodical takes its name from the group’s belief that late capitalism deliberately imposes an ugly, unassuming landscapes as a way to control the masses. A depressing environment, they theorize, is a way to inject feelings of boredom and resignation into the working class. The depressionist conspiration, then, is the (not-so-secret) attempt to preemptively quash revolutionary aspirations through grey, monotonous urban/suburban landscapes and architecture. The writing is mordant, when not outright scandalous. 

The Situationist influence is clear. In a recent article « L’ennui est contre-révolutionnaire » : réappropriation des discours lettriste et situationniste dans la revue « La Conspiration dépressionniste » (2003-2011)Guillaume Bellehumeur demonstrates that “the Québécois journal ‘La Conspiration dépressionniste‘ appropriates the concept of ”détournement” as theorized by the Situationist International in the 1960’s, by employing it on the ideas of the very group who initiated the practice. Furthermore, it explains that the Conspiration forges the notion of ”dépressionnisme” using Guy Debord’s  ”spectacle”, thus embodying its paroxysm. Finally, building on a comparative analysis of two Essais de description psychogéographique, the paper comments at length on where the theories of both groups most predominantly overlap – namely urbanism”. 

We locate 5 OCLC copies.


 

Bibliography

Bellehumeur, Guillaume. « L’ennui est contre-révolutionnaire » : réappropriation des discours lettriste et situationniste dans la revue « La Conspiration dépressionniste » (2003-2011). in @nalyses. Revue des littératures franco-canadiennes et québécoise, v13 n2 (20180817): 10-38.

Simon-Pierre Beaudet et al. La conspiration dépressionniste, volumes I-V, 2003-2008. in Recherches sociographiques, v51 n3 (2010): 503.


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A Table! [1966]

JONG, Jacqueline de. A Table!  La Louvière (Belgium): Daily-Bul, 1966. n.p. [24 p.]; ill.; 11 x 14 cm.; orange wrappers with text in black

Series of black & white drawings that allude to the encounter between a man and a woman around a table.

This is the seventh volume of the “Poquettes volantes”, edited by the Daily Bul, and is one of 1,000 numbered copies (ours no. 828)

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Poesin måste göras av all!/ Poetry must be made by all! / Förändra världen! / Transform the world! [1969]

[Hunt, Ron]. Poesin måste göras av all!/ Poetry must be made by all! / Förändra världen! / Transform the world! Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 1969. 112 p,.; ill.; 26 x 19.5 cm.; ill. Green and white cover with text in black.

“This publication sees the avant-gardes of the 20s and 30s finding a partial realization in the events of May 68” (Loi 71). Includes early photomontages by Stuart and David Wise from King Mob, as well as photographs from the May 68 slogans.

In an interview published in Bricks from the Kiln #1, Ron Hunt explains:

A few years later, having written a long piece for Artforum on Constructivism, which ran across two issues, Pontus Hulten contacted me asking would I like to do a show on Constructivist theatre and film at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. To which I said ‘Yes, fine’. I had started working on it when May’68 happened and I thought ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, there’s something more interesting I could do’. So I told Hulten I wanted to redirect the whole thing to show the way the twenties avant-garde was resurfacing in Paris: in the politics, in the street theatre and particularly in the slogans that were being sprayed up everywhere […] So I whittled down all the Constructivist theatre stuff and added material on Dada and surrealism and the May’68 evenements – mainly graffiti […] The show, entitled, Poetry must be made by all! Transform the world!, went down well in Stockholm […] The gallery itself was a also a space for people to gather and discuss revolutionary ideas. The Black Panthers were there, they were in exile in Stockholm. There was also a left-wing bookshop in Stockholm, it was another of Hulten’s ideas to ask them in and to let them set up in the middle of the show. There were lectures on May’68 and theatre groups etc. I designed the poster for the exhibition with a detourned Brigitte Bardot and Hulten designed the catalogue (I’d also done a free broadside called Interview with B.B., which I was fond of). […] After Stockholm, the exhibition went to Kunstverein in Munich, where they took Hulten’s idea that they should ask people to respond to the show. So they asked the local art college to come in and apparently they made a hell of a mess […] From there it went to Vancouver, where I was teaching, although it had nothing to do with me […] It’s become of a but of a cult now, which is odd. The first time I knew it was resurfacing again was the event in Zurich (Poetry will be made by all! at LUMA Foundation, Zurich, 2014] […]” (pp.10-17)

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Ah!…Comme elles savent bien y faire / La Revolution continue!

Federation des Comites Ouvriers-Etudiants. [Ah!…Comme elles savent bien y faire / La Revolution continue!]n.p. [France]: n.p., n.d. [ca. 1969]. 4 p.; ill.; 18 x 26 cm.; black ink on white stock.

Detourned comic in the Situationist tradition. While nothing is known about this group, it came to the attention of the Situationists, who reprint an article from the journal Minute in Internationale Situationniste no.12, p.87: “«Belle mentalité!» Conçue à partir d’une bande dessinée publicitaire, c’est la première page d’un de ces tracts dont nos lycées sont journellement inondés. Celui-ci est un mélange délirant et détonnant d’anarchisme infantile et de pornographie enragée. Il est publié par une certaine «Fédération des Comités ouvriers-étudiants de la banlieue sud de Paris» dont les slogans affichés sont « Crève salope » (à l’adresse de « papa, monsieur le professeur, monsieur le curé ») etc., qu’on nous excuse, « Ne nous laissons plus enc… ». Même si les lycéens ont assez de bon sens pour traiter par le mépris de telles aberrations, on se demande qui finance la coûteuse impression de ces torchons. Et surtout quelle autorité peut prétendre exercer dans les établissements scolaires un ministre de l’Éducation nationale qui les tolère. »”

We would be grateful to our readers if they could help in our efforts to identify the 5 men shown on p.1.

We locate a single OCLC copy at Yale’s Beinecke Library.

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De la Misère en milieu féministe ou la pouffiasserie à visage humain [1977]

[Les Affranchies du Vieux Monde]. De la Misère en milieu féministe ou la pouffiasserie à visage humain. n.p. [Paris, France]: Les Emissions des Femmes, November 1977. 31 p.; ill.; 14 x 25 cm; printed black cover with text in pink.

Modeled after  Mustapha Khayati’s famed De la Misère en milieu étudiant (Strasbourg: AFGES, 1966), this Situ-inspired pamphlet offers a violent attack on identity politics in the aftermath of May 1968. The text opens with: “Nous pouvons affirmer sans grand risque de nous tromper que la femme « émancipée » est, à l’encontre du policier, du prêtre et de l’étudiant, l’être le plus universellement adulé” (1977), which is an echo to Khayati’s “Nous pouvons affirmersans grand risque de nous tromper, que l’étudiant en France est, après le policier et le prêtre, l’être le plus universellement méprisé” (1966). Overall, the authors, argue that so-called “liberation movements” alienate individuals by confining them to new roles within the capitalist system.

Excerpts of this text are available here: http://golemfuturo.blogspot.com/2011/11/de-la-misere-en-milieu-feministe.html . Because the full text isn’t available online, we have reproduced it in it entirety below.

Referenced in Marcolini (Le mouvement situationnistE) p. 292 and Guy Debord : un art de la guerre p. 220.

We locate 3 copies on OCLC (IISG, BNF, Nanterre).

Note: For legal reasons, we had no choice but to censor p.16. 

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Ron Hunt – Interview with BB [1969]

[HUNT, Ron]. [Interview with BB] [aka New tremors are running through the atmosphere, all we need is the courage to face them] [aka Bash Street magazine #1]. n.p. [London]: n.p. [Bricks from the Klin], n.d. [2015]. 1 p. (two-sided); ill.; 43.5 x 26.5 cm.

Facsimile reprint of the 1969 free broadside by Ron Hunt, which relates to the Poetry must be made by all! / Transform the world! exhibition that was held in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 1969. Ron Hunt explains: “The gallery itself was a space for people to gather and discuss revolutionary ideas, which was Hulten’s idea…The Black Panthers were there, they were in exile in Stockholm. There was also a left wing bookshop in Stockholm, it was another of Hulten’s ideas to ask them in and to let them set up in the middle of the show. There were lectures on May’68 and theatre groups etc. I designed the poster for the exhibition with a detourned Brigitte Bardot and Hulten designed the catalogue. (I’d also done a free broadsheet called Interview with BB, which I was fond of.)” (Interview with Ron Hunt in Bricks from the Kiln #1, December 2015).

The broadside consists of a detourned image of Brigitte Bardot on one side, and a fictional interview with the actress (where she discusses May 68 and the Situationists) as well as a comic strip about unruly children on the other side.

We locate no OCLC copy, though there is a copy in the collection of Andrew Burgin (see Tanya Loi, We Make Revolution in Our Spare Time: The history and legacy of the Situationist International, 2019).

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Situationistisk Revolution 2 – Elendigheden i studentens milieu [1968]

[Situationistisk Internationale]. Situationistisk Revolution 2 – Elendigheden i studentens milieu. Randers (Denmark): S.I., November 1968. 48 p.; ill.; 21 x 14.5 cm.; ill. Cream wrappers with text in black

Second (and rarest) issue of Situationistisk Revolution, the journal of the Scandinavian section of the SI. Bernstein, Debord, Khayati, Vaneigem and Vienet are listed as members of the editorial committee, with J.V. Martin as editor-in-chief. This issue largely consists in a translation of De La Misere en Milieu Etudiant into Danish as Elendigheden i studentens milieu (p.5-31). However, other items are included: an original collage by J.V. Martin (p.32), reproduction of Situationist broadsides (p.33-36), a translation of Definition Minimum des Organisations Revolutionnaires and several leaflets from the CMDO (p.37-45), a list of publications by the Scandinavian section of the SI (p.46), and a translation of Debord’s Theses sur la Revolution culturelle (p.47-48).

See below for past blog entries on other issues/items related to Situationistik Revolution.

Scarce, with no copies found on OCLC (librairies only own issue 1 & 3)

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Constant – Amsterdam (1961)

CONSTANT (Nieuwenhuys). Constant – AmsterdamBochum: Stadtische Kunstgalerie, 1961. n.p. [72 p.]; ill.; 26 x 26 cm.; ill. black wrappers with text in grey.

Catalog of Constant’s exhibition at Stadtische Galerie in Bochum, held from March 4 to April 9, 1961. includes a list of 60 exhibited works, and an introductory essay on New Babylon by Constan (New Babylon: das experimentelle Denk-und Spielmodell/New Babylon: the experimental think and play model). Text in German.

A superb large format catalog. See https://stichtingconstant.nl/exhibition/constant-amsterdam

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