Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Boredom is always counter revolutionary

Bored in the City take their name from my favourite classic situationist text Ivan Chtchglov's Formulary for a New Urbanism (The Hacienda must be built) which you can read in its entirety at

Rather more in keeping with this website I have been meaning to share the text below for some time, it was originally written for the zinefest treasury and is an attempt to introduce the curious to the basic tenets of the Situationist Internationale and explain a little of their enduring fascination

Why I love the situationists

I can’t hope to do the situationists justice in a hastily scrawled midnight ramble as I eagerly await zinefest; these are just thought scraps. I urge you to investigate them – a really fascinating movement and one with lasting repercussions on popular culture.

The slogans overleaf are all graffiti from Paris in May 1968 – when situationist agitators and others conspired to oh so nearly overthrow the government. If they sound like clich├ęs now it’s because they have been appropriated by every flavour of punk, anticapitalist and radical and also diluted and recuperated by advertising and the mass media.

Like all the most interesting movements the situationists were gloriously messy and inherently contradictory – talking about everyday revolution in elitist language and riddled with internal schisms – but they were passionate, sexy, mischievous and wise.
Audience member: ‘Can you explain what situationism is all about?’
Guy Debord: ‘We’re not here to answer cuntish questions’
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1961

In answering this cuntish question, some unraveling needs to be done. The situationists were anti-capitalist: they were against work and looked to play and spontaneity as the cornerstones necessary to modern life. As they saw it, modernity, limited work and relative abundance, city planning and the welfare state produced not happiness, but depression and boredom.

Boredom to the situationists was a modern phenomenon, a modern form of control. With God missing (presumed dead), people felt their condition not exactly as a fact but simply as a fatalism, devoid of meaning, which separated every man and woman from each other

They sought to understand that
moment when people gain insight into the alienated patterns of their everyday lives, prompting the question: ‘I’m not happy- what’s wrong with me?’ In a new world of unlimited leisure each individual might construct a new life just as in the old world a few privileged artists had constructed their representations of what life could be. It was this desire that drove 25 year old Guy Debord to gather artists and writers avant-garde into the Situationist International.

From Situationism and Rock
by Paul Fitzpatrick (Perfect Sound Forever October 2000)


Key terms (very briefly and clumsily explained by me)

The Spectacle Modern cities are constructed as a series of spectacles, created by authority and the mass media to dazzle and control. Disrupting the spectacle and reclaiming the city – and our lives – are key to the situtionist manifesto. Overthrowing the capital system will create a revolution of every day life which we can experience in an unmediated and non-hierarchical way

The SI (Situationist Internationale) see picture was formed in 1957 and was a fusion of members of several smaller groups all interested in the avant gaurde, radical Marxist politics, dissolving the barriers between art and life and rejecting dogma. The key theorist was Guy Debord. Members included Alexander Trocchi, Ralph Rumney, Michele Bernstein, Raoul Vaneigem and others

Detournement – the act and art of: turning the system’s images against them (literally divert.

Recouperation: the dominant hegemony appropriating radical art and neutering its power

Psychogeography: Debord defined it as‘ the study of the precise effects of geographical setting on the emotions and behavior of individuals.’ It includes both objective and subjective views of the city Later, Will Self said psychogeographers are ‘glorified local history buffs’ The concept has evolved and the LRM definition consists of a Venn diagram you can find throughout our literature

Derive or Drift – the practice of aimlessly wandering through the city, abandoning usual restrictions and experiencing all is glory and horror. It’s a key tool in psychogeography

A Flaneur is described by Baudelaire as a "gentleman stroller of city streets", the notion influneced the development of psychogeography and streches back a long way. Despite not being a gentleman I consider being a flaneur my vocation.

Inspired? There are many situationist resources on the web. The original texts and much else can be found here at and there’s some interesting articles at


subversion minded said...

also check

Charon Nogues said...

Please call me about tonights film.
I saved the wrong number the day I spoke to you...which was the day that my father died...I have been texting you...only it's not you.
I am in Detroit until Feb 3RD...but the show must go on.

562 895-9399