01 May 2021

Détournement as Resistance to Ownership of the Commons

McKenzie Wark
The Beach Beneath the Street (2011)

pp.40-41—Détournement as resistance to ownership of the commons

The only problem I have with this is that it deprives the person making the reclamation of the transformative struggle which comes with striving for a unique, original accomplishment. Perhaps wholesale appropriations are crucial for their potential to remind collective society of its collective aspects; but the perpetrator has, as I take Debord to have said repeatedly, not accomplished much for themselves. They have Never Worked in one important sense, and again, while someone's gotta do it, a whole mess of such someone's isn't socially sustainable.

[from a post-it, 2017]
[The passage:]
Michel Foucault (1926-84) undermines the romantic theory of authorship by speaking of discourse as a distribution of author functions. For Foucault, a statement is authorized by a particular form of discourse, a regime of truth, a procedure for assigning truth-value to statements. It's not hard to see why this captivated the minds of academics. It made the procedures in which academics are obsessively drilled the very form of power itself. As if that by which academics are made, the molding of their bodies to desks and texts, that about which they know the most, even more than they know their allotted fields, were the very index of power. Reading Foucault is like taking a masterclass on how the game of academic scholarship is to be played, and with the reliable alibi that this knowledge of power, of knowledge as power, is to be used in the interests of resistance to something or other. Détournement, on the other hand, turns the tables, upends the game.

The device of détournement restores all the subversive qualities to past critical judgments that have congealed into respectable truths. Détournement makes for a type of communication aware of its inability to enshrine any inherent and definitive certainty. This language is inaccessible in the highest degree to confirmation by any earlier or supra-critical reference point. On the contrary, its internal coherence and its adequacy in respect of the practically possible are what validate the symbolic remnants that it restores. Détournement founds its cause on nothing but its own practice as a critique at work in the present. Détournement creates anti-statements. For the Situationists, the very act of unauthorized appropriation is the truth content of détournement. (40-41)

No comments: