01 May 2021

Détournement and the Form-Content Binary

Anselm Jappe
Guy Debord (1993)
trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1999)
...Debord's whole conception of society is founded on détournement: all the elements needed for a free life are already at hand, both culturally and technologically speaking; they have merely to be modified as to their meanings, and organized differently. (61)
In other words, nothing is new under the sun; but does that truism point to the Timelessness of what we've always had, or to its changeability via being "modified as to [its] meanings, and organized differently"? That question indicates that the form-content distinction is maintained intact here; or perhaps materials-process (i.e. "elements"-"meanings") would be more accurate. In any case, if such a distinction were specious or unimportant, it would certainly not be necessary to recapitulate it the way this passage does. And if it is thus indicated to be meaningful, the next question is why this should be so. There are several answers, I think: the statement is far less controversial with regard to production/consumption than it is regarding culture; it is less controversial regarding a Bird's Eye View of society broadly than it is regarding individuals, for whom production/creativity/agency of the type said here to be superfluous may in fact be a basic human (i.e. psychological) need; and is every artefact just this amenable to having its meaning reframed (willfully) by individuals and/or groups according to the ephemeral needs of the moment?

[from a post-it, 2017 or 2018]

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