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Class Warfare: Radical French philosopher Guy Debord’s Situationist board game


Guy Debord and Alice Becker-Ho playing Kriegspiel in 1977. Photo by Jeanne Cornet via Cabinet
 
After he disbanded the Situationist International in 1972, one of the obsessions that consumed Guy Debord was a board game he invented. Kriegspiel, or Le Jeu de la Guerre—German and French, respectively, for “war game”—was based on Debord’s reading of the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. The London-based group Class Wargames describes Kriegspiel’s purpose concisely:

For Debord, The Game of War wasn’t just a game - it was a guide to how people should live their lives within Fordist society. By playing, revolutionary activists could learn how to fight and win against the oppressors of spectacular society.

So convinced was Debord of the game’s utility and revolutionary potential that, in 1977, he founded Les Jeux Stratégiques et Historiques (Strategic and Historic Games) to produce a limited run of Kriegspiel sets. Ten years later, Debord and his wife Alice Becker-Ho published a book about Kriegspiel, Le Jeu de la Guerre. Debord opens the sixth chapter of his memoir Panegyric with these reflections on his game:

I have been very interested in war, in the theoreticians of its strategy, but also in reminiscences of battles and in the countless other disruptions history mentions, surface eddies on the river of time. I am not unaware that war is the domain of danger and disappointment, perhaps even more so than the other sides of life. This consideration has not, however, diminished the attraction that I have felt for it.

And so I have studied the logic of war. Moreover, I succeeded, a long time ago, in presenting the basics of its movements on a rather simple board game: the forces in contention and the contradictory necessities imposed on the operations of each of the two parties. I have played this game and, in the often difficult conduct of my life, I have utilized lessons from it – I have also set myself rules of the game for this life, and I have followed them. The surprises of this Kriegspiel seem inexhaustible; and I fear that this may well be the only one of my works that anyone will dare acknowledge as having some value. On the question of whether I have made good use of such lessons, I will leave it to others to decide.

The Atlas Press English-language edition of Becker-Ho and Debord’s book, A Game of War, comes with a board and punch-out pieces, but Board Game Geek warns that this edition “has a faulty translation of the rules, making it more or less unplayable.” The Radical Software Group’s web version of the game has been down for some time. So if, like me, you enjoy using things without paying for them, the best bet seems to be Class Wargames’ printable boards, pieces, and battle maps. Their website also has the free book Class Wargames: Ludic subversion against spectacular capitalism, plus information about such radical board games as Imperialism in Space, which promises to give players “a critical understanding of the political and theoretical arguments of Vladimir Lenin’s famous 1916 pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”

After the jump, an explanation of Kriegspiel’s rules….

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Malcolm McLaren demonstrates how to make subversive trousers


 
An exhibit called “Eyes for Blowing Up Bridges: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren” opened this past weekend at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, UK. Endeavoring to do exactly what the subtitle says, the exhibit features, among many other artifacts, porn novels by the Situationist-affiliated novelist Alexander Trocchi, radical tracts published by the UK anarchist group King Mob, and the punk music and fashion instigator’s student artwork, notes and sketches, all to underscore the influence that the Situationists’ critique of Capitalism’s insidious effect on everyday life had on McLaren’s cultural-prankster sensibilities at the time of his seismic impact on early UK punk.

Presenting rarely exhibited material – including cut-ups, film, video, sound and slide, as well as self-published books, pamphlets, anarchist propaganda, punk ephemera and graphics – the exhibition examines the creative interplay between William Burroughs, Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, Alexander Trocchi and King Mob, and their collective influence on Malcolm McLaren in his endeavours to disrupt the cultural and social status quo from the 1960s to his premature death in 2010.

Having repudiated painting as a bourgeois form of expression like Asger Jorn before him, McLaren’s lifelong work was inspired by such Situationist techniques as détournement (the juxtaposition of pre-existing elements), Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’, and Debord’s emphasis on the staging of situations “that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics and art”. Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges will present representations of the “defiguration” paintings exhibited by Jorn in the early 1960s, alongside the détourned comic strips of the Situationist International’s literature and Debord’s cinematic masterpiece, The Society Of The Spectacle.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, curator Paul Gorman has shared a wonderful rarely seen clip from a French TV special called “Being Malcolm.” It was released by McLaren’s estate via Dazed Digital, and in it McLaren discusses the inspiration for bondage pants and work-safely demonstrates the utility of a zippered split crotch.
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Superb documentary on Malcolm McLaren from 1984

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Punk Rock and the Situationist International
07.01.2014
07:21 pm

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
Situationist International
Guy DeBord


 
“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities.’”—Karl Marx

“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.”—Guy DeBord

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”—Guy DeBord

“We are not working for the spectacle of the end of the world, but for the end of the world of the spectacle.”—Raoul Vaneigem

“Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.”—Guy DeBord

“We’re not here to answer cuntish questions.”—Guy DeBord

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is an interesting short film by Branka Bogdanov primarily documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy DeBord, author of the influential post-Marxist study of late 20th capitalism Society Of The Spectacle. The film explores the Situationist International’s role in inciting the Paris riots of May 1968 and the influence of the SI’s nihilistic aesthetics on the punk rock era.

Interviewees include Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, the late Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Vive la (stalled) révolution: Cinema subverted Situationist-style in ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’

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Taking a page from Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? which re-dubbed humorous dialogue over a Japanese spy movie to make the plot about a recipe for egg salad, René Viénet’s 1973 film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (“La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser Des Briques?”) did the same sort of thing, but here the cinematic Situationist provocateur is less out for laughs (although there are plenty of them) and more about the political subversion.

The raw material for Viénet’s détournement is a 1972 Hong Kong kung fu flick titled The Crush (唐手跆拳道) directed by Tu Guangqi. In Viénet’s hands, the movie was turned into a critique of class conflicts, bureaucratic socialism, the failures of the French Communist Party, Maoism, cultural hegemony, sexual equality and the way movies themselves prop up Capitalist ideology, all in a manner that would turn such a product against itself, using Situationist aphorisms, arguments and in-jokes.
 
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Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Society of The Spectacular Toys: Guy Debord, Situationist action figure!


 
Yeah, it’s great that doctors can print casts and prosthetic legs and stuff, but to my mind, this is what 3-D printing was invented for…

Behold cultural theorist Mackenzie Wark’s limited edition Guy Debord figurine. Two-hundred of these post-Marxist bad boys were printed up. The project was conceived and designed by Wark, Peer Hansen and Rachel L. Verso Books gave away one of them to promote Wark’s new book, The Spectacle of Disintegration: Situationist Passages out of the Twentieth Century.

If you happen to own a 3-D printer, or have access to one, you can download the plans for your own 3-D Guy (that rhymes, btw), here, as the plans were released under a Creative Commons license. Rather predictably, Wark’s clever publicity stunt brought on humorless protest from Situationist-types.

There’s also a remixed version of the Debord figurine with Stelarc’s 3rd Ear on his back and Eduardo Kac’s infamous “Alba” bunny ears. That one you’d probably want to print up in fluorescent lime green…

Imagine a Lenny Bruce action figure, or Robert Anton Wilson, Wittgenstein, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, Grace Slick, James Joyce, Vivian Stanshall, Orson Welles, Nico… I’m sure they’re all on their way soon.

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Destroy Boredom: Punk Rock and the Situationist International


 
On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is an interesting short film by Branka Bogdanov primarily documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy Debord, author of the influential post Marxist study of 20th capitalism Society of the Spectacle. The film explores Debord’s influence on the Paris riots of May 1968 and the nihilistic aesthetics of the punk rock era.

Interviewees include Greil Marcus, Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid.
 
image
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cinema subverted in ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’ (1972)

image
 
Taking a page from Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? which re-dubbed humorous dialogue over a Japanese spy movie to make the plot about a recipe for a egg salad, René Viénet’s 1973 film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (“La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser Des Briques?”) did the same sort of thing, but here the cinematic Situationist provocateur is less out for laughs (although there are plenty of them) and more about the political subversion.

The raw material for Viénet’s détournement is a 1972 Hong Kong kung fu flick titled The Crush (唐手跆拳道) directed by Tu Guangqi. In Viénet’s hands, the movie was turned into a critique of class conflicts, bureaucratic socialism, the failures of the French Communist Party, Maoism, cultural hegemony, sexual equality and the way movies prop up Capitalist ideology, all in a manner that would turn such a product against itself, using Situationist aphorisms, arguments and in-jokes.
 
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Below, an excerpt from Can Dialectics Break Bricks?. If this looks like your cup of espresso, you can download the entire film at Ubu Web.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
What sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement in the first place?


 
Nice short article at Salon from Justin Elliott, who asked editor-in-cheif, Kalle Lasn about the role Adbusters magazine had in instigating the growing Occupy Wall Street movement:

SALON: You issued the original call to occupy Wall Street back in July. How did that come about and what was the thinking behind it?

ADBUSTERS: It was a poster that we put in the middle of the July edition of Adbusters magazine and a listserv that we sent out to our 90,000-strong culture-jammers network around the world. It was also a blog post on our website. For the last 20 years, our network has been interested in cultural revolution and just the whole idea of radical transformations.

After Tunisia and Egypt, we were mightily inspired by the fact that a few smart people using Facebook and Twitter can put out calls and suddenly get huge numbers of people to get out into the streets and start giving vent to their anger. And then we keep on looking at the sorry state of the political left in the United States and how the Tea Party is passionately strutting their stuff while the left is sort of hiding somewhere. We felt that there was a real potential for a Tahrir moment in America because a) the political left needs it and b) because people are losing their jobs, people are losing their houses, and young people cannot find a job. We felt that the people who gave us this mess — the financial fraudsters on Wall Street — haven’t even been brought to justice yet. We felt this was the right moment to instigate something.

SALON: One Adbusters editor was quoted saying the role of the magazine in this is “philosophical.” Can you define the philosophy behind this?

ADBUSTERS: We are not just inspired by what happened in the Arab Spring recently, we are students of the Situationist movement. Those are the people who gave birth to what many people think was the first global revolution back in 1968 when some uprisings in Paris suddenly inspired uprisings all over the world. All of a sudden universities and cities were exploding. This was done by a small group of people, the Situationists, who were like the philosophical backbone of the movement. One of the key guys was Guy Debord, who wrote “The Society of the Spectacle.” The idea is that if you have a very powerful meme — a very powerful idea — and the moment is ripe, then that is enough to ignite a revolution. This is the background that we come out of.

1968 was more of a cultural kind of revolution. This time I think it’s much more serious. We’re in an economic crisis, an ecological crisis, living in a sort of apocalyptic world, and the young people realize they don’t really have a viable future to look forward to. This movement that’s beginning now could well be the second global revolution that we’ve been dreaming about for the last half a century.

Read more of The origins of Occupy Wall Street explained (Salon)

Occupy Wall Street FAQ (The Nation)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment