Wark 2011

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Wark, McKenzie. The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International. London: Verso, 2011.
"The Letterist International are ethnographers of their own difference, cartographers of an attitude to life. This life did not lie outside the modern, Western one, but inside, in the fissures of its cities. It did not yearn for a primitive life from before history, but rather for one that was to come after it. In the life of the Saint-Germain delinquents' tribe could be found particles of the future, not the past, and not from some colonial Donogoo Tonka but from the very epicenter of what history had wrought: the colonization of everyday life at the heart of empire." (22)
"That is the challenge of the derive. The breakaway Letterist International created a new practice, a new way of being in the world, out of which to derive a new kind of practice. Strikingly, both capital and labor accept the division between work time and leiusre time. Capital extends or intensifies the working day; labor struggles to shorten it, and within it to resist speed-ups and other attempts by capital to extract more value from it. Perhaps it is this shared fixation on productive time that will draw both capital and labor towards the middle-class cultural norm." (25)
"The Letterist International refuse the separation of urban space from urban culture, each assigned to their own specialists. They refuse the separation of the external, social space of the city from the internal, private space of subjectivity. The subjective belongs to the city and can be analyzed experimentally, much as the city is subjective and can be reconstructed to expand with our desires." (26)
"In the jungle is a city that moves. When its inhabitants build new districts it is always to the west. Each time they cut the ribbon opening a new quarter, an old one to the east is abandoned, gradually to disappear beneath the overgrowth of tropical vegetation. This is more like it! The moving city would burst the bubble of the sustainable city, the fantasy that the city can become one with its environment, a pure homeostasis, outside of history. It would lay bare the process by which the city transforms nature into second nature, in the process making nature appear as a resource for the city's consumption. And besides, the ruins left behind in the east would be perfect terrain for the derive. Why can such a city not exist? The conceit of private property is that it is something fixed, eternal. Once it comes into existence it remains, passed in an unbroken chain of ownership from one title-holder to the next. Yet in the course of time whole cities really do disappear. We live among the ruins. We later cities know we are mortal. And yet in the name of property we would hold back the very sea." (29)
"'We need to flood the market -- even if only for the moment the intellectual market -- with a mass of desires whose fulfillment is not beyond humanity's present means of action on the material world, but only beyond the capacity of the old social organization.'" (30)
"The originality of the Letterist International consists in understanding form not as literary form, in terms of genre, style, poetics and so forth, but as material form, as the book, the film, the canvas. Materiality is the key to the lag by which past culture shapes present culture. If the effects in the architectural domain seem mostly negative, there might be some hope in the lag effect of certain texts. But for past works to become resources for the present requires their use in the rpesent in a quite particular way. It requires their appropriation as a collective inheritance, not as private property. All culture is derivative." (37)
"Capital produces culture in its own image, a culture of the work as private property, the author as sole proprietor of a soul as property. Detournement sifts through the material remnants of past and present culture for materials whose untimeliness can be utilized against bourgeois culture. But rather than further elaborate modern poetics, detournement exploits it. The aim is the destructio nof all forms of middle-class cultural shopkeeping. As capital spreads outwards, making the world over in its image, at home it finds its own image turns against it." (39)
"Detournement is the opposite of quotation. Like detournement, quotation brings the past into the present, but it does so entirely within a regime of the proper use of proper names. The key to detournement is its challenge to private property." (40)
"Detournement treats all of culture as common property to begin with, and openly declares its rights. Moreover, it treats it not as a creative commons, not as the wealth of networks, not as free culture or remix culture; but as an active place of challenge, agency, strategy and conflict. Detournement dissolves the rituals of knowledge in an active remembering that calls collective being into existence. If all property is theft, then all intellectual property is detournement." (41)
"Every kid with a BitTorrent client is an unconscious Situationist in the making. What remains is the task of closing the gap between a critical theory gone astray, still caught up in the model of knowledge as property, and a popular movement that cannot quite develop its own consciousness of its own power." (42)
"For the Situationists, the very impossibility of the pure gift calls into being a whole terrain of possibility for an art and politics of the impurity of the gift. Every impure donation forces both giver and receiver into the invention of an attitude to life that can accept the donation, but not exchange it. The invention of everyday life could be nothing but the inventive accommodation to donation, to the subtle art of not returning the donation, of giving again in a way that is not circular, that does not simply pass on the debt." (72)
"Love is temporal, an event. There is nothing eternal in it. Timeless Love, like God, like Art, is dead. Eternal love is death itself, the metaphysical principle that plagues romance, that would make the lover one's private property for all time. All that remains is the possibility of constructing situations." (81)
"A welder welding and a weaver weaving perform quite different acts, but Marx has shown in elaorate detail how the qualitative particulars of such concrete labors become the quantifiable substance of abstract labor thorugh the imposition of the wage relation, the commodity form and the general quivalent of money. The Situationists wanted to create what one might call the spcific non-equivalent, and their name for this was the situation. But the very word resisted becoming a concept. The relationship between Lefebvre and the Situationists would dissolve before they got very far with their parallel investigations and experiments with it. It was, as Lefebvre later said, 'a love story that ended badly, very badly.'" (95)
"the signature Situationist concept for such -- recurring -- events is the potlatch. Where Marx compared the transformation of the object of labor into a commodity to a transubstantiation, the Situationists were interested in a kind of reverse miracle, by which the thing lost its status as commodity and became the gift. The looted object is no longer a commodity. But the perversity of the gesture is that its seizure does not break the spell of exchange and return to things their value. Rather, looting takes the spectacle at its word. In the spectacle, what is good appears and what appears is good. The looter jumps the gap between desire and the commodity. The looter takes desires for their necessity, and necessity for their desires, but freeing the commodity from exchange does not expunge exchange from the commodity." (148-9)