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The Situationist International (1957–1972)
An Bauhaus imaginiste
Heinz Stahlhut, May 14, 2007
Guy Debord_Bouteile du roman, 1953_Yves Bresson_Paris_France
Guy Debord_Bouteile du roman, 1953_Yves Bresson_Paris_France
 
1968

Over the course of the SI’s history, the relationship of practice and theory shifted increasingly to the theoretical analysis and critique of society. Consequently, in the wake of the student unrest the movement entered the spotlight of a broader public for the first time, when a group of students in Strasbourg turned to them in 1966 with a request for revolutionary backing. The brochure “De la misère en milieu étudiant considérée sous ses aspects économique, politique, psychologique, sexuel et notamment intellectuel et de quelques moyens pour y remédier” disseminated the Situationist doctrines to all of the universities in France.

As a result, the students revolting in Nanterre, Paris, and later throughout France quoted Situationist slogans, and the posters, manifestos, and comic strips of the SI were disseminated throughout France and translated into a half dozen languages throughout the world. Although the uprising of the students in 1968 was not able to realize the dream of free life, it was, in a sociocultural sense, the beginning of a new epoch that finally overcame a “postwar period” that sought to restore the old order. What May 1968 also demonstrated exemplarily was the Situationist conception of revolution as a celebration of the imagination and of overexertion.

FUTURE OF THE PAST

In 1972 the SI was officially dissolved. It had reached the zenith of its influence in May 1968. Its revolutionary project sank in a flood of texts that were nothing more than nostalgic self-assessments. Moreover, it ran the risk of itself becoming a “spectacle,” and so it was increasingly co-opted by France’s culture industry.

The self-glorifying myth that the SI left behind tells of a polished diamond of the revolution that succeeded in preserving the purity of its radicalism against any compromise. Its policies of permanently excluding members and its grandiose self-promotion to preserve its purist ideal of revolution led the SI to ossify under Debord’s thumb. The repression of art ultimately led to its return in the form of the SI as a gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts).


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