Tuesday, 25 March 2008


The spectacle comes to us as an absolute,that which unifies separation by condensation of experience to a mimesis of living value. The spectacle emits the perfected glow of continual success by appearing as though exchange was completely fluid—it is against autonomy, though it is itself autonomous. The spectacle is transcendental reification, a cult of spirit formed on the D.O.X. satieties and inculcated as the unfolding of consumer preciousness, overeating the dangling non-issues, the facefuck of rational reception.

The spectacle is a symbolic and rhetorically dynamic theory by which one may seek to understand the world as a failure of mediation beyond the image, as a negation of thoughtfulness. The banalization of broad directive action is the achievement of the spectacle: it is the means to represent discrepancies and moral contradictions as representations, a melting pot of achieved assimilation and unity. Thesis 3:

The spectacle appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges. Being isolated—and precisely for that reason—this sector is the locus of illusion and false consciousness; the unity it imposes is merely the official language of generalized speculation. (Debord 12)

Far from conducting one's solitude, the spectacular experience of being-alone flattens the loneliness into an addiction for media. The attention required in television is regulated in its claims on insociability, the function of ‘personal time’: how to eat, love, shop, etc.. The excess of choice-decisions reveals the bureaucratization of the will. The spectacle implicates us as spectators, passive recipients of markets and prescriptive, though assuredly balanced, non-perspectives; for the difficulty of attaining a position from which to identify a target domain is most relevantly difficult for the great convergence of automatic consciousness—the audience. Here, Debord is quite conscious of defining the spectacle as an appearance of society, as a non-totality or fragment of society and as the synthetic method by which unreality and society are fused: “the very heart of society’s real unreality”. And yet for all its intense imagination and creative will, one wants to ask whether this can provide a model for actual thought about concrete monopolies of power, or whether it revels in a theater in which paroxysmic flashes of truth periodically blind the audience. In the preface to the third French edition, Debord states that “it was written with the deliberate intention of doing harm to spectacular society” (Debord 10). The fundamental purpose is to generate an immanent disgust bound to critical action against the spectacle. When symbolic action has found the immensity of the project of identification and knowledge toward the object of inquiry unbearable, it resorts to a violent upheaval of disseminate terminologies which do not isolate and do not confuse but instead summon to the surface of language the embodiment of contradiction inherent in critical thought. Adorno describes precisely this kind of thought in Minima Moralia:

Dialectic thought opposes reification in the further sense that it refuses to affirm individual things in their isolation and separateness: it designates isolation as precisely a product of the universal. Thus it acts as a corrective both to manic fixity and to the unresisting and empty drift of the paranoid mind, which pays for its absolute judgments by loss of the experience of the matter judged (§ 45).

The work of thought must get inside the objective relational structure of inhuman distance and intend rivalries of unity over the universal isolation. The experience of reading such multivalent and circumreferential explications of a single concept is also the feeling of being preemptively silenced by the spectacle’s presence (if the project by Debord is the formation of the "spectacle" then what is the subsequent risk of such cumbersome formations?), the formal question not being merely how does one act against a presence in a theoretical model where capital has become image (§34)—the crisis as torputidinal blindness—but how can one now conceive a material culture apart from the apparent law of visual culture?

Can the “spectacle” be used to establish a relation to poetic production (a phrase that bears traces of the consummate history of the poem, from final draft to print in the reader’s hands)? Perhaps it can only render theoretical phenomena (§10) and alert the 'open thinker' to a critical intentionality that “must expose it [the spectacle] as a visible negation of life—and as a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself” (§10). One key could be through the “language of the spectacle”, which, “composed of signs of the dominant organization of production—signs which are at the same time the ultimate end-products of that organization” (§7), incessantly re-actualizes itself as a model of social life based on the consumption of various entertainments. Debord asserts that an analysis of the spectacle “means talking its language to some degree—to the degree, in fact, that we are obliged to engage the methodology of the society to which the spectacle gives expression” (§11). Must the potential for critical thought against the prevalence of the spectacle must bear the 'language of the spectacle'?

Spectacular attention is the warrant for superficial desire. The method of distraction to sustain the consumer’s temporal fidelity asserts a kind of ‘training’: the frequency of impressed, habitual input of brand logos seeks to oust other logos, and it is precisely this distraction on which is based the project of advertisement (that which distends distrust and inwardness) as autonomous: the consummate product dancing across the screen. Thus, the complex merging of previously separate spectacular mediums and the attitudes concerning them--as when the release of a product has the symbolic structure of a movie premiere or pop concert, with long lines, anxiety, and the narrative of product ‘discovery’--reinforces the system of consumer validation in apparently diverse sectors. The spectacle is a satire of experience.

The spectacle dissipates anxiety of issues that might have otherwise led to a thoughtful recoil and made the leap from thought to action--often this seems whatever ‘action’ against oneself might entail--as the increasingly self-consciousness of some contemporary poetry marks a critical concurrence of temporalities, the event structure twisted into dialectical relief-- now one may be assuaged by the multivalence of critical attitudes towards the world not only as the singular perceives, but as many could perceive. The harshness and condensed energy of this poetry radically disregards the non-pluralistic self in favor of the limit-experience, discursive inversion and metonymic reversals, it is the hyper-sense of the stupid sacred fragile beauty of the world. It is sometimes the lashing out from a sanctioned guilt in dismay of global events turning on an analysis of the traces of injustice, clear and structural violence and how this reacts with the values of an imagined self (or selves) as an implicated citizen, as an inevitable player in the global economy. The intensity of social engagement seems at an unprecedented level. To feel itself as having some breach of the separation of body and State, this poetry implicates itself in the foci of biological, economic, legal, among many other ‘specialized’ channels, shifting through and outside them; the interval leaps are virtuosic but steadied by an unabashedly critical hand, without aesthetic victory. It is also displayed in a sardonic (and cathartic) humor: the usage of bathetic response long having done with irony now refreshes itself to subsume with force the guidelines of marketing agendas in the variety of approaching global media. The semantic intelligence of harsh juxtapositions, often in refusal of “syntactical regularity” makes the possibility of apprehension of what is going on a skeptical reality. In other words, the resistance to habits of reading is a moral gesture.

The inclusion of sentiment in poetic language may be seen as a subsuming of ‘spectacular language’—as analogous to the aestheticization of commercials and advertising dialogue (c.f. Debord’s preference for advertising over proper films in acts of detournĂ©ment). This advertising language attempts not to push the product directly by way of superlative description or by presentation of its sheer use-value, but through entertainment. The spectator is amused or made to laugh at an attempt at mutual solidarity between the company and the viewer, the wager no longer on the product but on a brilliant relation of affection.

Habitation without community in the large urban centers: our habitual coexistence does not coincide with any communal warmth as most of our encounters with strangers are resultant in the least amount of energy expenditure, thus, the silence which regulates the errant communication is always ready to swallow whole any potential future relation. The greater quantity of dissonant bodies, whose ‘path’ is coincident with their integration into somatically habitual passages, the less chance one has to balance solitude and solicitude: the conditions by which the spectacle is most salient. Routine in its dull unwaver presents an obverse axis from which the spectacle ‘performs’, for it is the inatttention to the spectacle on which the spectacle seems to ‘thrive’, and provides a motive sphere from which it can further inculcate the non-demands of service and wishlisting.



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Posted by Robert at 11:20 PM


March 25, 2008 12:08 PM


Have you a Box upon which yourself soon may be perched?


Have thee a Stool on which ye may Situate and Eat your Cake?


Havest thine own scorn upon which thine own porn might be scorned?

"Can I see your panties girl? You wanna take it off. Dye your hair blonde, hook on your weave, and call Steve for the photo session." -> chorus of secret song on Sex Style. Did we find it?!?!?! I did...

Anonymous said...

i've always been confused. what exactly is "spectacular language"? advertising copy? and what is "the behaviour that it regulates"? purchases? is there a more general way to take it? and isn't it frustrating how he goes on about spectacle being an image, and then clearly indicates that he doesn't literally mean image? i find it a bit frustrating anyhow.