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2. Yet Another Introduction to the Situationist International . . . Bill Brown

QUITE OBVIOUSLY, THESE FOUR TEXTS do not account for all of the hits in a search for the word "situationist." As a matter of fact, a great many of the articles and reviews currently available on the Internet that mention the magic word concern Guy Debord, a founding member of the SI, its most prolific and influential theoretician, and one of its last remaining members in 1971. Because of Debord's enduringly central role in the development of the SI, and because of the fact that in the post-SI period Debord continued to write and publish short but very potent books, and made several feature length situationist-influenced films, the habit of most students and amateur historians of the situationist movement is to treat the SI as a moment in Debord's life, rather than treat the SI as a group that contained 70 different people, one of whom was Guy Debord. And so many overviews of or introductions to the situationists can be found tucked within reviews of Debord's books, especially his 1967 masterpiece, La Societe du Spectacle, his 1988 follow-up to it, entitled Commentaires sur La Societe du Spectacle, and his 1989 autobiography Panegryque.

AN ESSAY SUCH AS THIS NEW INTRODUCTION to the Situationist International apparently needs to be (re)written and (re)published every five years or so; no definitive introduction, overview or critique of the SI seems likely to be written. Why is this? One might think it should be easy to summarize definitively a group that no longer exists, that remains fixed in the now-gone post-World War II period. But this isn't the case. It just isn't sufficient to keep reprinting the same old introductions to the SI every time someone new is interested in finding out where he or she should start in his or her own studies. One must start again, each time.

ONE EXPLANATION FOR THE EXISTENCE of this unusual situation -- which is not necessarily a bad thing (indeed, it seems to be quite a good thing, for it prevents dogmatism) -- is that, ever since the mid-1960s, publishers in the United States and England have been bringing forth waves of translations of situationist books, pamphlets, flyers, wall posters, graffiti and film-scripts. (Though there were British and American sections of the SI, the vast majority of the organization's sections were based in European countries. Since the French section contained the SI's most prolific theoreticians and writers, most of the situationist texts now translated or still awaiting translation into English were originally written in French.)

SIGNIFICANT WAVES WERE MADE in 1981, when Ken Knabb published his Situationist International Anthology, now in its third printing; in 1983, when the small American presses Left Bank and Black & Red reprinted or brought into print new translations of Raoul Vaneigem's 1967 book Traite de savoir-vivre a l'usage des jeunes generations and Debord's La Societe du Spectacle; in 1989, when the Institute for Contemporary Art mounted a traveling exhibition (Paris, London and Boston) of situationist works and produced an exhibition catalogue that included previously untranslated materials; in 1992, when the small English presses Pelagian and Rebel brought forth translations of the film-scripts for each of Guy Debord's six films; and in 1995, when Keith Sanborn produced a subtitled translation of Debord's most celebrated film, La Societe du Spectacle (Simar Films, 1973).

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