deconstructive détournement

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Deconstrucitve Détournement

In order to challenge today’s form of the spectacular governmentality, a new form of détournement not reliant on recall is required; it must be capable of dis-integrating the two forms through which spectacle governs by separating them. Description and reconstruction as a singular act must be resolved as two distinct events. Détournement must articulate the links that the spectacle works to make invisible. Spectacular visuality is the decoy, the alibi, for the workings of power that happens elsewhere. Détournement, in order to expose symbolic domination, must discover and expose the channels of invisibility through which it operates. This type of détournement, must renegotiate its relation to memory since there cannot be “recollection of the original contexts of [its] elements,” cannot rely on the determination of it’s public in the same sense implied by Debord’s definition. Détournement must produce the materials that “publics” are denied in order to intervene there, to produce there, for the first time, recognition of separated events as related, and to connect spectacular memories and knowledges that these publics do posses but only in isolated, un-related forms. Neither context absorbent nor context additive, it is context generative. It also insists on a socialized aesthetic-political practice by generating for inspection what is non-public, secret, private knowledge. This form of détournement may be called, deconstructive détournement because it takes différance as its model, instead of the dérive. Its purpose is to negate both consumption and production in order to illuminate the far more subtle and abstracted aspect of capitalized human relations – that of exchange.

The A-effect (Brecht’s concept of alienation effect, Verfremdungeffekt) of détournement requires memory exchange because it is the supplementarity of the memory-trace that provides the material to be detourned. Because memory can also take the form of habit, as in sensory-motor and linguistic memory, its force, policed by the spectacle, is more often conservative than liberating – Maria Shriver’s capitulation kiss exchanges liberalism for conservatism, in the form of acceptable public display of desire, as the matrimonial core of “family values.” It is these habituated schemata that détournement relies on to cause alienation, as it seeks to give them new significances through “distorting” them – through the same processes of the spectacle Debord has insightfully named – description and reconstruction, acting together. The description of a memory-image oriented toward a new context is an act of reconstruction. As we have seen, the difference between détournement and the spectacle is only one of scale and degree of saturation, of dissemination, and systematicity. Spectacle works through détournement so thoroughly, is “integrated into reality” so completely, that détournement that intends to act against the spectacle is in effect, counter-détournement. Détournement is to this degree merely reactionary.

Forms of negation can work only if the axes of spectacle-identities are clearly determined. The case of Brecht’s A-effect is important here for its failure. It failed because of the often didactic mode of its presentation. It assumed that criticism would be an automatic effect of the presentation/appearance of false consciousness, or some aspect of capitalist ideology, in the presence of self-criticism, of the actor dimension in which the actor portrays criticism by simultaneously assuming and critiquing the role he assumes. The A-effect fails because the critical form of the ideology has not yet appeared sufficiently in spectacle terms. The false consciousness of capital cannot therefore be negated because it has not yet become one of the identities of spectacular capital, not yet revealed as an agent of obedience. Brecht’s tactic assumed a pre-spectacular form of consciousness, pre-media, and was in effect, still grounded in the 19th century.

This is still a problem today. Because of the invisibility-effect of the spectacle, effective forms of oppositional practice can fail in exactly the same way the A-effect fails. It fails because it targets still unconscious spectacle forms of identity. Such forms of protest become merely non-spectacle, rather than sharply anti-spectacle. Schwarzenegger’s symbolic, filmic value is easily converted into political value precisely because his identity was already so deeply integrated into spectacular realism, and because he was able to leverage the Reagan-effect. His power is possible because it flows in two directions, through the double, double-cross flows of neoliberal conservatism. Martin Sheen does not have this type of symbolic power, who maintains the image of status quo liberal policies as President Bartlet.

deconstructive détournement

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