Guy Debord

Guy Debord (1931-1994) was a French cultural critic, artist, and filmmaker, perhaps best known as the leader of the Situationist International, and for his seminal critique of contemporary culture, The Society of the Spectacle.

Guy Debord holdings at the Beinecke

Internationale lettriste, August 1953, journal of the Lettrist International, edited by Debord.

Potlatch: bulletin d'information du groupe français de l'Internationale lettriste, 1954-57, nos. 1-29, journal of the Lettrist International, edited by Debord, and including many articles by him.

Manifestez en faveur de l'urbanisme unitaire, 1956, published by Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, headed and signed by Debord.

Toutes ces dames au Salon!, 1956, published by the Lettrist International, a manifesto against the exhibition L'Industrie du pétrole vue par des artistes, signed by Debord and other members.

Fin de Copenhague, 1957, artist book created with Asger Jorn.

Guide psychogeographique de Paris, 1957, map poster by Debord, published by Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus.

Rapport sur la construction des situations et sur les conditions de l'organisation et de l'action de la tendance situationniste internationale, 1957, published by Situationist International.

Internationale situationniste, 1958-69, nos. 1-12, edited by Debord and featuring many contributions by him.

"Furax c'est bien, Florencie c'est mieux: La Méthode, 2 rue Descartes," 1958, poster advertising the cabaret operated by Debord and Michèle Bernstein.

The Naked City: illustration de hypothèse des plagues tournantes en psychogéographique, c. 1958, poster.

Mémoires: structures portantes d'Asger Jorn, 1958, original edition of artist's book comprised of detourned text and images with drawing and overpainting, published by the Situationist International.

Mémoires: structures portantes d'Asger Jorn, 1959, second issue of the same book, in slightly different format.

Constant: Konstruktionen und Modelle, 1960, brochure text by Debord for exhibition at Galerie van de Loo.

"Nicht hinauslehnen," 1962, announcement of the expulsion of Gruppe SPUR by the Central Council of the Situationist International, headed by Debord.

"Critique européenne des Corps Académiques des Universités," 1962, bilingual tract in French and English, attributed to Guy Debord and Asger Jorn.

"Mutant," 1962, tract (reprinted in The Situationist Times, issue 1).

Theses on the Commune, 1962, English translation pamphlet of "Sur la Commune," dates March 18, 1962, by Guy Debord, Attila Kotányi, and Raoul Vaneigem, originally published in Aux poubelles de l'histoire and reprinted in Internationale situationniste#12 (September 1969).

Aux poubelles de l'histoire, 1963, publication of "Sur la commune," printed alongside Henri Lefebvre's article "La signification de la Commune."

Destruktion af RSG-6, 1963.

Contre le cinema, 1964.

La société du spectacle, 1967, original edition, treatise comprised of 221 short theses divided into 9 chapters.

"Le prolétariat comme sujet et comme représentation," 1968, detourned comic-strip by the Conseil pour le maintien des occupations (C.M.D.O.), of which Debord was a member, with text from La société du spectacle (chapter 4, no. 123. A).

Society of the Spectacle, 1970, English translation of Société du spectacle.

Four Situationist Texts: To Create at Long Last a Situation which Goes Beyond the Point of No Return, c. 1971, English publication of "Decline and Fall of the 'Spectacular' Commodity-economy" and "Theses on the Commune," as well as texts by Attila Kotányi and Raoul Vaneigem.

La véritable scission dans l'Internationale, 1972, includes "Thèses sur l'Internationale situationniste et son temps," by Debord et Gianfranco Sanguinetti, and a fictitious article by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels on the splits within the Situationist International.

Viva la Comune, 1973, Italian translation of "Sur la Commune."

La società dello spettacolo, 1976, Italian translation of Société du spectacle.

Rapporto sulla costruzione di situazioni e su le condizioni dell'organizzazione e della azione delle tendenza situazionista internazionale, 1976, Italian translation of Rapport sur la construction des situations..., published by Gruppo anarchico bresciano.

"The society which rests on modern industry...," 2012, poster accompanying English reprint of Society of the Spectacle, graphic by Brother in Elysium, published by Verso.

 

Archival material

Attila Kotányi Papers, spans c. 1947-2000, includes material related to Debord.

Jacqueline de Jong Papers, spans c. 1960-69, includes material related to Debord: correspondence, manuscripts, publications.

Gianfranco Sanguinetti Papers, spans c. 1968-80, includes material related to Debord: manuscripts, pamphflets, collaborative projects with Sanguinetti, significant correspondence (310 original letters from Debord, a significant number of which have never been published).

Raoul Vaneigem Papers, spans c. 1950-2015, includes material related to Debord: correspondence (published and unpublished), manuscripts, annotated documents (such as newspaper clippings and drafts by RV), the prototype of Debord's Game of War.

Related material

Préliminaires pour une définition de l'unité du programme révolutionnnaire, 1960, by Daniel Blanchard, edited by Debord, published by Situationist International.

Préliminaires pour une définition de l'unité du programme révolutionnaire, 1960, by P. Canjuers, signed at the end by Guy Debord, July 20, 1960.

Shit Plug: "addition propposition," 2002, by Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades, an artist's book derived from Debord and Asger Jorn's Mémoires, 1959, published in conjunction with the exhibition Shit Plug at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich.

 

Related collections

Constant and New Babylon

Jaqueline de Jong

Asger Jorn

Attila Kotányi

Lettrism

Gianfranco Sanguinetti

Situationist International

The Situationist Times

Gil J Wolman

Guy Debord

Guy Debord was born in Paris on December 28, 1931. He spent his childhood years in Paris – a time overshadowed by the early death of his father Martial Debord as well as by the economic misfortune of the family. With the outbreak of WWII, Guy entered a period of peregrinations between the Île de France and the southern regions of France, mostly the Côte-d’Azur. It was only in the spring of 1945 that, upon the second marriage of Guy’s mother Paulette with the notary Charles Labaste, the family would finally settle down in Cannes.

In April 1951, during the Cannes Film Festival, Debord assisted the premiere of Isidore Isou’s first film Traité de bave et d’éternité (Venom and Eternity), which marked the inaugural moment of Lettrism’s cinéma cisélant. In the immediate aftermath of the scandal accompanying the screening of the piece, Debord joined the Lettrist Movement, ruled by Isidore Isou with a rod of iron. Intent on starting his own artistic career under the egis of Lettrism, Debord moved to Paris, where he was soon to become witness to another instant of indignation and public protest against the Lettrist désinvolture – notably in the context of the presentation of Gil J. Wolman’s film L’Anticoncept in February 1952.

 

Debord’s debut in the artistic circles of postwar Paris coincided with the conception and production of his first film Hurlements en faveur de Sade (Howls for Sade), premiering in June 1952. Transgressing the Lettrist anti-tradition of Isidore Isou’s Traité and Maurice Lemaître’s Le film est déjà commencé, this oeuvre not only broke up the conjunction of image-track and soundtrack, but – similar to Wolman’s Anticoncept – it also sought to push the subversion of the image to its climax.

Suppressing the epitome of the cinematographic convention, which is the moving image, Hurlements en faveur de Sade presented the spectator with an alternation of black and white sequences. While the black sequences of the film were entirely silent, the white sequences were accompanied by a soundtrack, made up of literary quotes, quotes from the French Code civil and a Lettrist impromptu performed by Wolman.

What, too, coincided with Debord’s artistic debut was his expeditiously maturating discontent with the rather doctrinal Lettrism of Isidore Isou – an avant-gardism that, for Debord, was lacking not so much in theoretical radicalism, as he understood it to lack in a radical, provocative praxis. I

n June 1952, during a stay in Brussels, Debord and Wolman founded the Internationale Lettriste (Lettrist International), which was meant to represent the intellectual stance of the leftist members of the Lettrist Movement. Yet, it was only in the aftermath of the Chaplin affair in the fall of 1952 that this rupture with Isou was publicly manifested and consecrated by the declaration Finis les pieds plats (No More Flat Feet). In clear contradistinction with Isouian Lettrism, the Lettrist International advocated an artistic praxis that was to foster the dépassement (surpassing, going beyond) of the arts, and that was thus ultimately aimed at dissolving itself.

With the foundation of the Lettrist International, Debord realized the transition from an aesthetic vision of art to a more politicized vision, based on the creation of ephemeral, and continuously changing situations. This refocusing of the Lettrist stance was reflected in publications such as Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography (1955), A User’s Guide to Détournement (1956) and Theory of the Dérive (1956).

In these articles and declarations – co-authored, oftentimes, by other members of the Lettrist International – were developed the essential themes, which would later come to determine the thought and the activities of the Situationist International. These were, among others, the practice of détournement, the dérive set in urban space, psychogeography and the ludic construction of situations and ambiances.

On July 28, 1957, the Lettrist International fused with the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, founded by Asger Jorn, Guiseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Piero Simondo, and the London Psychogeographical Association. The fusion of these independent groups resulted in the formation of the Situationist International.

To be continued ...

The society whose modernization has reached the stage of integrated spectacle is characterised by the combined effect of five principal factors:

incessant technological renewal, integration of state and economy, generalised secrecy, unanswerable lies, and living in an eternal present....

GUY DEBORD, The Society of the Spectacle

"Révolution prolétarienne est entièrement suspendue a cette nécessité...", c. 1968, detourned comic-strip by the Conseil pour le maintien des occupations, of which Guy Debord was a member; text from Debord's La société du spectacle, chapter 4, no. 123. A.

Guy Debord: Prototype of The Game of War (Jeu de la Guerre, or Kriegsspiel), 1965

Raoul Vaneigem Archive

Guy Debord, Sur le passage..., 1959, film.

Resources

Debordi@na, comprehensive collection of Guy Debord's work and writing (in French).

Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documentsedited by Tom McDonough (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2002) (pdf).

 

Guy Debord on NOT BORED!, a pro-situationist digital 'zine run by Bill Brown, featuring chronology, texts, correspondence, and images related to Debord, Lettrism, and SI.

 

Guy Debord's Films on Bureau of Public Secrets, run by Ken Knabb.

Society of the Spectacle, 1973, film by Guy Debord, on Ubuweb.