Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Busy day in class, what with a basic Introduction to concepts of 'detournment', which according to our friend wikipedia, "is a variation on a previous media work, in which the newly created one has a meaning that is antagonist to the original. The original media work that is détourned must be somewhat familiar to the target audience, so that it can appreciate the opposition of the new message."
Read this comic and this other comic for a funny unsparing introduction to their ideas!
This strategy of detournemnt was initially practiced by the Situationist International, and we read some excerpts from Situationist theorist and filmmaker Guy Debord, most famous for his text and film Society of the Spectacle, where he states " The spectacle is not a collection of images, rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images." He is often spoken of in the same breath as his contemporary Jean Baudrillard who used the term 'simulacra' rather than Debord's 'spectacle'.

We watched an excerpt of the classic 1973 SI film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? by Rene Vienet, which influenced many works such as the Bay Area's st01len collective's The Lord of the Rings of Free Trade (2001). See more of their activist remixes here.

Another work worth mentioning that we didn't quite have time for is an audio tape collage called Reagan Speaks for Himself (1981) made by sound artist Douglas Kahn. As you can see from the picture above it was distributed via a flexi-disc that btw was inserted inside Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's comic-art magaizine RAW.

Up next: Duchamp's Readymades and Ken Jacobs Perfect Film (1985).


Jeri said...

Lots of links in this post! I enjoyed the Reagan audio collage by Douglas Kahn, since being in art school, I've come to really appreciate the use of repetition (& variation) in art.

Well, and Marcel Duchamp, too. Like a lot of other people (non-artists), at first I was like, "Whaaaa?" at Duchamp's readymades, but I feel like so many of my capitalist/mainstream opinions have been overtaken so that I now appreciate art exponentially more than when I started school.

The Lord of the Rings films were both intriguing. I liked the choice of putting the text there, even when it's what was said by the character. It's so crazy for me to watch a film and think, "Could I use a piece of this?" and to be able to take it all from 1 film, or use an unedited Kung Fu episode... ridonkulous.

Ken Jacobs' "Perfect Film": I love the idea of untouched/raw things. To just, leave them "as is". Leads us right back to Duchamp!

yourpartnerincrime said...

"I'm supposed to be the big reactionary" YES damnitt! the biggest until the whole Bush family showed up and pooped all over the people. This reminds me a bit of the yes men, activists who impersonate the world trade organization, while trying to convey the organizations true intentions as well as they possibly can:


Moving on, this idea of readymades seems threateningly close to the existential abyss of nothingness that I have fallen into before. If nothing can be called our own as "the tubes of paint have already been manufactured for us" then why should we create or detourn anything? Oh I have been deep in that abyss before, and perhaps I am still crawling out, hoping to escape it's suffocating grasp and live once again in the sunny world of meaning and purpose where I can dance and sing with glee, unhindered by that horrible self-defeating philosophy of anguish and despair!

sicate! sicate, sicate...

nikki king said...

i enjoyed the links very much and reading about duchamps readymades and ken jacobs "a perfect film". i really like that ken jacobs did nothing to the film and left it just as it is. its a wonderful peice of work and i like that he kept it the way it originally was. i think that its interesting to change things and make variations to them but it is also important to sometimes look at something as it is and not change a thing about it. i still cant believe that "a perfect film" was untouched. its insane because it works so well. the structure and the flow are just as the title describes: perfect.. i also enjoyed reading duchamps readymades article too. i think that its an interesting idea to find a peice and to do a slight variation to it and make it your own. i think it can be funny too though. for example when duchamp found that piece called "pharmacy" he just added to small dots to it and it became his own. its an interesting concept and its an important idea...

yourpartnerincrime said...

Whoa! our foreign porn-spam friend has made a really excellent point. Perhaps putting the truth into the mouth of a liar devalues said truth by placing it in a context which has already been proven worthy of distrust. (I think this is close to what I tried to say in class when I declared that nothing can be COMPLETELY detourned because the original source material still has some inherent propagandizing ideology that lives within it.