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

FOLLOWING THE DIRECTION POINTED OUT in the late 1940s by the Marxist sociologist Henri Lefebvre, who had been a Surrealist partisan in his youth and had not lost his feel for art, the Situationist International based their unified project in the demands and expectations associated with everyday life and the subjectivity of individuals, rather than in those demands and expectations associated with history and the objectivity of so-called Progress. For the SI, both modern art and radical politics had to be exciting, satisfying and effective immediately, in the here-and-now, in life as it is, day after day, for the majority of society -- and not in some far off future, some Heaven, or some period after the Great Revolution.

ART AND POLITICS THAT CONTINUED to defer the delivery of satisfaction and human enrichment , while all the time making promises and proclaiming that delivery was nevertheless certain, had to be abolished. Those forms, which the situationists called "spectacular," were designed to obscure the fact that so-called Progress had long ago produced the material preconditions needed to make everyday life in the modern world a paradise on Earth, rather than a living hell. Since no one else was around or willing to do it, the SI took upon itself the burden of starting the onslaught against "the society of the spectacle" (the irrational society that intentionally perpetuates that which is outmoded, obsolete and decomposed), quite confident that others would soon join in. Slightly more than a decade after the organization's founding, it became clear that, in a word, the SI was right. Social revolution was and still is both desirable and possible.

THE MEMBERS OF THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL came up with several names and phrases that designated the new hybrid of art and politics (i.e., the new forms of social life) they visualized. The most important of these designations was the "constructed situation," which the SI would define in the first issue of its journal as "a moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and a game of events." It was from this central and yet deliberately vague notion that the name "situationist" was derived. A situationist is "one who engages in the construction of situations," who has "to do with the theory or practical activity of constructing situations," as well one who is a member of the SI.

A FUNDAMENTAL AND THUS VERY PRODUCTIVE ambiguity is thus created: though there are situationists, there can be no "situationism" -- in the SI's words, no "doctrine of interpretation of existing facts," no dogma to learn and repeat -- precisely because situations truly worthy of the Twentieth Century had not yet been constructed. Such situations would have to be constructed BEFORE one could derive a dogma or doctrine of interpretation from them. Thus "there is no such thing as situationism," the SI declared in the first issue of its journal; "the notion of situationism is obviously devised by antisituationists." But if we withdraw the very idea of situationism, how can we speak of "the theory of constructing situations"? What theory can there be?

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