30 April 2021

Karen Kurczynski—Détournement and Sexual Objectification

Kurczynski, The Art and Politics of Asger Jorn
p. 186—in an endnote
Baum ["The Sex of the Situationist International", 2008] defends the SI's use of erotic images of women as critical détournements. I would argue that those images fail to accomplish the SI's critical goals, however, because even out of context they continue to function as heterosexist images of the female body as passive object of desire.
Without yet having read Baum's article, I'm predisposed to agree with KK's assessment here. In fact this is quite an excellent test of the theory of détournement which it fails very much because of the exceptionally Spectacular nature of the source material rather than in spite of it. The uniquely loaded question of sexual objectification hence proves less rather than more susceptible to diversion; and in any case, there's nothing stopping the onlooker from simply gawking if that is what they choose or are inclined to do.

There is besides these occasional cameos by objectified women of course plenty of classically male energy baked right into Situationist theory via Debord's fascination with war, his rather direct application of its historical strategies to his practical political projects, and his conception of it as ineluctably two-sided and zero-sum. Hence the feminized, open-ended, festival-esque stagings by Class Wargamers rather soften this aspect of theory to a, debatably, unfaithful degree, though the festival idea was probably more central to Situationist thinking anyway and hence itself poses a possible practical contradiction once the theory is read in a gendered way.

[from a notebook, 2018]

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