Dear readers,

Please excuse the shameless self-promotion, but for those of you living in (or traveling through) the Philadelphia area, please come and listen to me talk about my collection around the Internationale Situationniste and its aftermath. Please leave me a note if you’d like to attend.

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THE PHILOBIBLON CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA

Collecting the “Spectacular-commodity:” the Internationale Situationniste and its Aftermath

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Founded in 1957, the Internationale Situationniste was one of the foremost Post-war European avant-gardes. Its leader, Guy Debord, posited that “in modern societies… everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” In a sense, the opening sentence of the Society of the Spectacle (1967) – Debord’s magnum opus and the movement’s key theoretical foundation – encapsulates the Situationsists’ unique take on traditional Marxo-Hegelianism. According to Debord, alienation does not lie in workers’ lack of agency (as Marx believed) but – and this is a simplification – in the fact that, in modern societies, social interactions are mediated by (distorted) images.

Collecting the Internationale Situationniste is, in many ways, a duplicitous, even counter-revolutionary, act. The Situationist movement rejected the accumulation of material goods and attacked the concept of copyrights, viewing the former as a noxious byproduct of the “spectacular-commodity” economy and the latter as a means to constrain ideas within controlled, commercialized distribution channels. Unsurprisingly, then, the group’s eponymous journal opens with a statement that “all texts published in Internationale Situationniste may be reproduced, translated, or adapted without indication of origin”.  Many took the Situs to their word – their writings can be purchased for a small price at most anarchist bookstores or downloaded free of charge from the internet.

This talk will provide an introduction to the Internationale Situationniste through the prism of book collecting. It will also address some of the joys and challenges of acquiring material whose materiality actively rejects its collectible status (e.g., endless pirate reprints, no imprint information, unknown run, poor quality paper, etc.).

More about the collection can be found on Public Collectors, a project to make public “cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible” (http://publiccollectors.org/SituationnisteCollection.html). Unique or otherwise unusual items from the collection are shared on a regular basis through a dedicated blog (https://situationnisteblog.wordpress.com/).

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