Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some Sunday Morning Avant Garde

The avant garde is dead, long live the avant garde. Three essays (Roland Barthes, George Kubler and Susan Sontag) and two films by Debord on ubuweb:



The scene changes to an empty room.
Rimbaud has gone to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the slave trade. Wittgenstein has first chosen schoolteaching, then menial work as a hospital orderly. Duchamp has turned to chess. And, accompanying these exemplary renunciations of a vocation, each man has declared that he considers his previous achievements in poetry. philosophy, or art as trifling, of no importance.
But the choice of permanent silence doesn't negate their work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off; disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness. That seriousness consists in not regarding art (or philosophy practiced as an art form: Wittgenstein) as something whose seriousness lasts forever, an "end," a permanent vehicle for spiritual ambition. The truly serious attitude is one that regards art as a "means" to something that can perhaps be achieved only by abandoning art; judged more impatiently, art is a false way or (the word of the Dada artist Jacques Vaché) a stupidity.

Guy Debord, Hurlements en faveur de Sade
The spectacle is permanent. The importance of aesthetics still makes a very beautiful subject for pleasantries after drinking. We are leaving the cinema. The scandal is only too legitimate. I will never give explanations. Now you are all alone with our secrets. AT THE ORIGIN OF A NEW BEAUTY and later in the great liquid desert and limited to l'allee des Cygnes [the Boulevard of Swans] (all of the arts are mediocre games and change nothing) its face was discovered for the first time in this infancy that it calls its life. The specific conditions of the cinema permit the interruption of the anecdote by masses of empty silence. All the perfumes of Arabia. L'Aube de Villennes. AT THE ORIGIN OF A NEW BEAUTY. But it will no longer be in question. All of this isn't truly interesting. It is a question of losing oneself.

Guy Debord, In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni/We Spin Around the Night Consumed by the Fire (1978) 100 mins.
Debord's anti cinema statement might be considered repellent in his first film (when it is extremist innovation); but in this one, the use of stills upon which the discourse progresses from the evocation of the mechanisms of the society of the spectacle, the alienation by consumption, the oppression of modern society to the deception of imbecile propaganda cinema, transmitting falsehood, to considerations about Paris, the loss of its true spirit and about himself, Guy Debord, is not only an illustration of détournement. It is a beautiful work in which the relation between the image and the narration is incessantly questioned; the two expressions interfere enigmatically, in a secret game of analogies, they collide, complete each others, combine to produce a third element that a linear use of cinematic images produced for the narration would fail to achieve. Not only the political content is pretty up to date but it is simply a beautiful work of modern visual poetry.

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