Détournement of the Song “Lenny Bruce” by Bob Dylan

Guy Debord is dead but his ghost lives on and on

Never did get any Golden Globe award, never made it to Synanon
He was an outlaw, that’s for sure
More of an outlaw than you ever were
Guy Debord is gone but his spirit’s livin’ on and on

Maybe he had some problems, maybe some things that he couldn’t work out
But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth and he knew what he was talkin’ about

Never robbed any churches nor cut off any babies’ heads
He just took the folks in high places and he shined a light in their beds

He’s on some other shore, he didn’t wanna live anymore

Skjermbilde 2015-11-09 kl. 17.59.38

Guy Debord is dead but he didn’t commit any crime
He just had the insight to rip off the lid before its time
I rode with him in a taxi once
Only for a mile and a half, seemed like it took a couple of months
Guy Debord moved on and like the ones that killed him, gone

They said that he was sick ’cause he didn’t play by the rules
He just showed the wise men of his day to be nothing more than fools

They stamped him and they labeled him like they do with pants and shirts
He fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts
Guy Debord was bad, he was the brother that you never had


The Origin of the Spectacle

From merriam webster: “Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin spectaculum, from spectareto watch, frequentative of specere to look, look at — more at spy

First Known Use: 14th century”
From notbored.org:
“Guy Debord’s situations of the historical beginnings of the spectacle — he made at least two of them — are quite different than T.J. Clark’s attempt. Significantly, Debord’s situations are much closer to our own time. In The Society of the Spectacle (1967), Debord identifies the Russian Revolution of 1917 as the spectacle’s beginnings; in Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), he identifies the start of World War II as its beginnings. Taken together, Debord’s and Clark’s theories cover a very wide historical period, from the 1860s to the 1930s. “
From aphelis.net:
«“Full frame of movie audience wearing special 3D glasses to view film Bwana Devil which was shot with new “natural vision” 3 dimensional technology.”»
More from merriam webster:
a :  something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining;especially :  an eye-catching or dramatic public display

b :  an object of curiosity or contempt <made a spectacle of herself>

plural :  glasses
:  something (as natural markings on an animal) suggesting a pair of glasses

Debord’s Language and Critical Metaphysics


Nathalie Quintane: “With Debord there is never any doubt regarding the necessity of returning to the classical canon, he clings to this style. Thesis 204-206 in The Society of the Spectacle expresses this clearly: on should not touch the syntax (the classical), nor the vocabulary (marxist & enlightenment); this «style of rebellion» reminds of some kind of musical chairs (called «détournement») which is about replacing the subject with the predicate («reversing the genitive») – Debord gives us the famous example with the transition from the misery of philosophy to the philosophy of misery, believing the Holy Grail then to be found.”

Why this aversion to classical theory? And Why this ironical use of religious artifacts? The problem with the spectacle is it’s metaphysical implications. We need a critical metaphysics. But what is critical metaphysics? Tiqunn writes: “It does not escape us that “‘metaphysical’- exactly like ‘abstract’ and even ‘thinking’- has become a word before which everyone more or less takes flight as before a plague victim.” (Hegel). And it is certainly with a shiver of wicked joy, and the worrying certitude that we’re going right to the wound, that we bring back into the center what the triumphant frivolity of our times believed it had forever repressed to the periphery. In so doing, we also have the effrontery to claim that we’re not just giving in to some sophistical caprice, but to an imperious necessity inscribed in history. Critical Metaphysics is not just one more piece of blather about the way the world is going; nor is it just the latest piece of heady speculation with some particular intelligence to it – it is the most real thing contained in our times.  Critical Metaphysics is in everyone’s guts Whatever we might protest about this, there is no doubt that people will try to say we were the inventors of Critical Metaphysics, so as to hide the fact that it existed already before finding its formulation, that it was already everywhere, in the state of emptiness behind suffering, in the denial behind entertainment, in the motives behind consumption, or, obviously, in anxiety.  It’s clearly a part of all the sordid spinelessness, the incurable banality, and the repugnant insignificance of the times called “modern” that it’s made metaphysics the apparently innocent leisure activity of learned men in stiff suits, and that it’s reduced it to the sole exercise proper to insects like that: a kind of platonic mandibulation. Merely by virtue of the fact that it is not reducible to conceptual experience, Critical Metaphysics is the experience that fundamentally denies an inept “modernity”, and, with open eyes, celebrates more each day the excesses of the disaster.”

Quintane mentioned some of Debord’s paragraphs, they are quoted under (from Marxist.org):


Critical theory must be communicated in its own language. It is the language of contradiction, which must be dialectical in form as it is in content. It is critique of the totality and historical critique. It is not “the nadir of writing” but its inversion. It is not a negation of style, but the style of negation.


In its very style. the exposition of dialectical theory is a scandal and an abomination in terms of the rules and the corresponding tastes of the dominant language, because when it uses existing concrete concepts it is simultaneously aware of their rediscovered fluidity, their necessary destruction.


This style which contains its own critique must express the domination of the present critique over its entire past. The very mode of exposition of dialectical theory displays the negative spirit within it. “Truth is not like a product in which one can no longer find any trace of the tool that made it” (Hegel). This theoretical consciousness of movement, in which the movement’s very trace must be evident, manifests itself by the inversion of the established relations between concepts and by the diversion of all the acquisitions of previous critique. The inversion of the genetive is this expression of historical revolutions, consigned to the form of thought, which was considered Hegel’s epigrammatic style. The young Marx, recommending the technique Feuerbach had systematically used of replacing the subject with the predicate, achieved the most consistent use of this insurrectional style, drawing the misery of philosophy out of the philosophy of misery. Diversion leads to the subversion of past critical conclusions which were frozen into respectable truths, namely transformed into lies. Kierkegaard already used it deliberately, adding his own denunciation to it: “But despite all the tours and detours, just as jam always returns to the pantry, you always end up by sliding in a little word which isn’t yours and which bothers you by the memory it awakens” (Philosophical Fragments). It is the obligation of distance toward what was falsified into official truth which determines the use of diversion, as was acknowledged by Kierkegaard in the same book: “Only one more comment on your numerous allusions aiming at all the grief I mix into my statements of borrowed sayings. I do not deny it here nor will I deny that it was voluntary and that in a new continuation to this pamphlet, if I ever write it, I intend to name the object by its real name and to clothe the problem in historical attire.”

Convolute E: Sparkling Colors, The Truth in Painting

Skjermbilde 2015-04-22 kl. 18.50.27

Still from The Society of the Spectacle (directed by Guy Debord, 1973)

Skjermbilde 2015-04-22 kl. 18.50.32

Skjermbilde 2015-04-22 kl. 18.50.38

Skjermbilde 2015-04-22 kl. 18.50.39

Quote from Derrida, The Truth in Painting:

In the Analytic of the Beautiful,  the note is appended to the

definition of the beautiful concluded from the third moment: the

judgment of taste examined as to the relation of finality. According

to the framework of categories imported from the Critique of Pure

Reason,  the Analytic  was constructed and bordered by the four categories:

quality and quantity (mathematical categories), relation and

modality (dynamic categories) . The problem of the parergon,  the

general and abyssal question of the frame, had arisen in the course

of the exposition of the category of relation (to finality) . The example

of the tulip is placed right at the very end of this exposition:

the last word of the last footnote, itself appended to the last word

of the main text.

Convolute A: Memory, art, holocaust

Still from Guy Debord's film Critique of Separation, 1960

Still from Guy Debord’s film Critique of Separation, 1960

I could hear them howling from afar
I saw them rushing to your car
In a moment all went screaming wild
Until the darkness killed the light

I remember running to the sea
The burning houses and the trees
I remember running to the sea
Alone and blinded by the fear
Röyksopp – Running To The Sea feat. Susanne Sundfør

“No wonder, then, that the Nobel committee should have compared this writer of corrupted autobiographies to Proust, but the reader who expects Proust’s polymorphous sentences will be disappointed. Modiano’s prose is a bleached surface, and Polizzotti has produced a satisfyingly neutral equivalent: «That Sunday evening in November I was on Rue de l’Abbé-de-l’Epée. I was skirting the high wall around the Institut des Sourds-Muets …» For Modiano is really the anti-Proust – in his writing, time is lost for ever. True, these novels are dense with Parisian place names, and the minor characters often turn out to encode a network of occupation history: the modern neon city is identical to its ghostly sepia twin. But the past in Modiano’s novels is also irrevocable: «It’s like in the morning when you try to recall your dream from the night before, but all that’s left are scraps that dissolve before you can put them together.»”
Adam Thirlwell, “Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano – three novellas from the Nobel laureate”

“It is necessary to destroy memory in art. To undermine the conventions of its communication. To demoralize its fans. What a task! As in a blurry drunken vision, the memory and language of the film fade out simultaneously. At the extreme, miserable subjectivity is reversed into a certain sort of objectivity: a documentation of the conditions of noncommunication.”
Guy Debord, Critique of Separation (film soundtrack) translated by Ken Knabb

“With a single stride he was out of the café, not turning around, and I felt an emptiness all of a sudden. This man had meant a lot to me. Without him, without his help, I wonder what would have become of me, ten years back, when I was struck by amnesia and was groping about in a fog. He had been moved by my case and, through his many contacts, had even managed to procure me a legal identity record.”
Patrick Modiano, “Missing Person” (“Rue des Boutiques Obscures”)

“Indeed, Derrida’s writings deploy the word «holocaust» in a variety of contexts, at times recalled to its original, Greek sources as if current usage could (or should) be ignored, at other times stunningly decontextualized. («I am still dreaming of a second holocaust that would not come too late,» he wrote; or again: «Of the holocaust there would remain only the most anonymous support without support, that which in any event never will have belonged to us, does not regard us. This would be like a purification of purification by fire. Not a single trace, an absolute camouflaging by means of too much evidence.») In Derrida’s work, «holocaust» is subjected to iterations that could almost be said to aim at or, more precisely, to tend toward banalization — unless it is the precise opposite.”
Gil Anidjar, Everything Burns: Derrida’s Holocaust (http://lareviewofbooks.org)

Notes on “[Notes] Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle”

From the blog Avoiding the Void

Debord plato Nietzsche

 From Simon Critichely’s Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity are worth a look:

From Simon Critichely’s Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity

From a panel debate on The Society of the Spectacle:
“Man in audience: -When I listen to you it’s like a Bible reading.
Will Self: -Bible reading is cool, man!
Man in audience: -Yeah! That’s why I came here!”

Something like this would be my response to the Plato-Nietzsche critique of Debord in the screen shots above.

hirn Says:
July 16, 2010 at 7:13 am | Reply
what the f*ck am i supposed to do? as one person- can someone tell me that!!

avoidingthevoid Says:
July 16, 2010 at 9:04 am | Reply
Apply ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ to all of your actions and towards all beings and you’ll see through the spectacle. This understanding has changed my life quite considerably recently. As one person, you have the ability to change and to help those things that are suffering right in front of you. If we stop thinking about grand notions of change and start to look at small changes, the big changes will come. It’s quit simple, but it does and has worked for me.

A Conflict Between Debord vs. Baudrillard

Works by Richard Prince from 2014

Works by Richard Prince from 2014

From «On Kenneth Goldsmith: The Avant-garde at a Standstill» by Joshua Schuster, found here.

«Goldsmith’s poetics (my hypertxt) still need to respond to the lame-duck status of recent Baudrillard writing. Maybe not a wholesale return to Marx, but since labor can trigger both boredom and events, Goldsmith’s intuitive understanding of how work is being redistributed in the 21st Century (via copying, archiving, moving information, plundering, etc.) will be of help for a new challenge to the ongoing disenfranchisement of labor.

Goldsmith’s work entertains a conflict between Debord vs. Baudrillard. Both see that the contemporary is saturated with so much capital that the real (of desire or of suffering) is no match for the insatiable demands of ersatz reality whereby ideology is absolute and commodities control the fate of cities and personal identities. Yet whereas Debord still conceives of resistance under a Marxist banner led by a universal class doing battle in the streets, Baudrillard has not left the living room and is watching television flicker a revolution in technology and media every second.

Return to Debord’s critical concept of spectacle, which he defines as “capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image”. Perhaps we could describe Goldsmith’s books as language accumulated to the point where it becomes image. Day is exactly this unit of capital accumulated as image in the block of a book. By including the text of ads and all the marginalia of newspaper operations in the same flow of writing, Goldsmith provokes a reading that does not distinguish between capital and content, administration and meaning.»