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    On The Non-Pejorative Use of "Spectacle"

    By Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke
    Oct 21, '06 2:02 PM EST

    Anyone else notice how easily people are able to invoke both Guy Debord and the term spectacle? Doesn't seem wrong that people do so without batting an eyelash, as if the term "spectacle" was something positive, or something to be admired or utilized? This, from RETORT's (Iain Boal, T.J. Clark, Joseph Matthews, and Michael Watts) Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (Verso 2005):

    We take it we are not alone in shuddering at the way "spectacle" has taken its place in approved postmodern discourse over the past fifteen years -- as a vaguely millenarian accompaniment to "new media studies" or to wishful thinking about freedom in cyberspace, with never a whisper that its orignial objects were the Watts Riots and the Proletarian Cultural Revolution (17)

    Ever notice that the most widely-read version of Debord's Society of The Spectacle comes courtesy of Bruce Mau's Zone imprint? Any one else find this troubling or (at least) ironic? Why are people so williing to eviscerate the derivé from the Situationist project, as if this vaguely urbanist notion had nothing to do with the group's Marxist program?

    Just thinking out loud.


    • I scnnd the motion.

      Oct 21, 06 2:19 pm  · 


      I have also noticed the same thing happened to "deconstruction". A great paper that brings that to light is: "We are No[w here]: A Social Critique of Contemporary Theory" from Tony Schuman.

      Oct 21, 06 3:29 pm  · 

      What did the word spectacle mean before Debord?

      Oct 21, 06 5:03 pm  · 

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us... It makes me think I should read archinect blogs more often.

      Well I just finished my final year thesis (B Arch) on something that may be relevant. My initial thought process began from a similar point of view: the concept of DeBordian spectacles and their manifestations in the current society. As far as architecture goes, I found it very helpful to look at modernism and mass media as a starting point of comparison as their development curiously paralleled each other. Le Corbusier was the first to use mass media as a political tool to advocate his philosophy, though I am still not entirely convinced that he was successful in practicing what he preached. Nonetheless the current obsession with transforming museums and galleries to accommodate New Media reflects on how image-obsessed people have become. Semantics constantly change, and while this may except the term 'spectacle' since people do acknowledge its origial source, I can only speculate that either it really has become a fashionable term (like greenwashing sustainability) or it is un-PC to own up to our dystopian reality. However, I am all for utilising the lure of spectacles as an effective instrument for persuasion.

      Oct 21, 06 7:05 pm  · 

      i don't think it is anything more than natural evolution enrique. people are perversely illogical all the time. which makes for interesting times, and oddball affectations, even allusions to shit we don't understand. ironic? yup.

      which is to say, the whole thing is is funny, but with literary aspirations...

      Oct 21, 06 8:05 pm  · 
      vado retro

      i prefer the monocle to the spectacle...

      Oct 21, 06 10:24 pm  · 

      The genius is that these guys seem to have created these concepts to be deliberately spiky. Even after they've been swallowed, there's always a line leading back out to the orginal texts, or a handle that can be grabbed to flip the idea back out again, or the whole thing's a time bomb that's just gonna tick away and go 'pop' inside someone's gut. CF recuperation, they knew all along that subversive cultural ideas have limited relevant lifespans, and they were skilled enough in their construction that the concepts remain mutable.

      Oct 22, 06 12:44 am  · 

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