On the Passage of a Few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time
The Situationist International, 1957–1972
Texts by Peter Wollen, Greil Marcus, Tom Levin, Mark Francis, Elisabeth Sussman, Mirella Bandini, and Troels Anderson. These photographs, essays, drawings, and original texts document the rich agit-art legacy of the Situationist International, a group of European artists and writers who emerged from such avant-garde movements as COBRA, Lettrisme, and the Imaginary Bauhaus and from the breakup of surrealism to launch a strategy of art as cultural critique. The SI's attempt to transform everyday life through paintings, films, manifestos, posters, pamphlets, maquettes, acts, and agitations culminated in the 1968 student uprising in Paris and shifted the focus of the situationist platform from aesthetic concerns to political instigation. Elisabeth Sussman describes the significance of the SI exhibit at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art in the context of American Museums Mark Francis's introduction explains the background of the SI and is followed by a documentary section that includes translations of emblematic pre-situationist and situationist texts. The SI, prominent situationist artists, and their techniques are then examined and critiqued in five insightful essays. Peter Wollen looks at the SI in light of its paradigmatic attempt to marry art and politics. He evaluates the traditions that led to and from this moment of fusion and to its successes and its failures. Greil Marcus examines Memoires, a collaborative book project by the painter Asger Jorn and the writer and theorist Guy Debord. Marcus's close reading of the book's construction in which a series of clips or "appropriations" from mass media sources were splattered with paint, shows that it literally demonstrates the situationist technique of detournement the dislocation or "turning" of the everyday. Tom Levin focuses on the films of Guy Debord and on their relation to the Lettrist cinema and the American avant-garde cinema of the early 1960s. Two brief essays by Troels Andersen and Mirella Bandini respectively take up Asger Jorn's relationship to the SI and the 1956 Congress at Alba that laid the foundations for the formation of the SI.
Co-published with The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and distributed by The MIT Press.