Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guy Debord & Neighborhood Maps

Guy Debord (1931-1994)

Founding member of the Situationist International

Founding member of the Lettrists

Author of the Society of the Spectacle

dissertation on the media infused life and its shortcomings

dissertation on our lives in relation to reproduction versus experience

Work in film and “Nothingness”

Last piece was a direct contradiction of his work—an idealistic look back at the Paris of his youth

overly romanticized

one person’s view

Situationist International (1957-1972)

Lettrists (1952-1957) precurser

Aimed to disrupt any form of what they took to be the dominant regime or capitalist power

Accelerate the collapse of “the society of the spectacle”

“Hoped to overcome art as a whole in the name of the only true art that did not allow itself to become co-opted by the spectacle and the market.”

“The artist was left with a single mission: to create new situations for a new kind of human being”

Children of the existentialists and the surrealists, one must acknowledge and use art and society, as well as overcome it.

Full of contradiction—to deny the cannon yet become a part of it

To create ephemera and entertainment as a critique of its own medium

To become famous off denying the idea of celebrity

To benefit from the capitalist system you hate- Make money

Discours sur les passions de l’amour

Map of a drift through the city of Paris, walked through city and turned wherever he chose

Not interested in art objects and styles

Interested in engaging life situations and social formations


According to Debord: “The study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”

Exploring cities via non-predictable paths and jolting back into awareness of the space


Creating a “map” has an implied audience, thus Debord is forcing his experience on others

Cannot be an equal creation- his map is more widely disseminated than mine would be because of his resources and stature within a group

Is able to make money off of its reproduction

Contribute to his celebrity, because it was his singular view

Able to follow path, out of curiosity with Debord, not curiosity of the city

Reduce an experience into 2d form

creation of art object

Boyland Heights Pumpkin Map

Dennis Wood, 1982

many other maps created

viewers would know the streets very well as it was placed in a book of maps of the neighborhood, for its inhabitants

more pumpkins ended up in richer neighborhoods

speak to economic conditions

speaks to environmental knowledge

physicality of streets is removed, but referenced

Unable to navigate if you do not know, useless if you have a motive

Time and seasonally specific

Choose pumpkin faces randomly

some did not turn out right

some were repeated

Visually appealling


Harold Horowitz, 1997

Poem took a year to write

Personal experience

Physicality of streets removed

Geography, emotion, and culture referenced and work together in visual space

Imposing view of city on others

Color impressions

Idealize situation

Useless of you have a motive

Visually appealing


City/Neighborhood with physical elements removed or skewed

This is not an areal view, street view, without the streets

useless if you have your own motive

what is next is not addressed

how do I get here?

How do I get out?

What is the audience’s role?

Time as a silent element

Horowitz’s Manhattan references events that are seasonal, or things that no longer take place in the corresponding space to their relationship on the map

Debord’s reflection of his own drift through Paris

How long was this drift?

I would not be walking through the same Paris has he did

How did the time of day effect his walking patterns?

Was it midday during a traffic jam?

Did he record his walk during it or after it had taken place? Could his walk actually have been different

Wood’s record of pumpkins

If you went there now there might be pumpkins, but they would not be the same.

If you went in the spring there would be no pumpkins

Would times of economic hardship change the amount of pumpkins?


When one is recording an experience there are many more questions that arise than answers

This is not an areal view, street view, without the streets

Personal view imposed and printed, although changing through time

Can maps really be universal?

Can maps really be personal?

Can maps pinpoint a time and space and experience that can be recreated or not recreated?

Are we inherently following someone else’s plan whenever we seemingly “drift” or use maps?