The Society of the Spectacle

February 21, 2024

Two individuals in black attire against a graffitied wall.
4/14 8:23:45 UTC
NightDay
If your life feels like a treadmill of work and consumption, then allow us to help you understand how an obsession with the image sits at the heart of that problem.

Or rather, allow Guy Debord, to do so. Already in 1967, he articulated how emergent consumer culture led increasingly to alienation and passivity, the devaluation of real lived experience, and the perpetuation of existing power structures.  

He outlined this view and pointed us toward solutions in his book The Society of the Spectacle, from which our collection takes its name. In it, he describes the pain of the “decline from being into having.”  He explained clearly how an obsession with the image sat at the heart of a hedonic treadmill, which would only become more all-consuming.

Three images: Left, a black and white crowd photo titled 'THE PROLETARIAT AS SUBJECT AND AS REPRESENTATION'; middle, a wall with graffiti 'NE TRAVAILLEZ JAMAIS'; right, a book page with a camel with a human face, captioned 'Je ne suis l'alpha ni l'oméga'.

Situationist ephemera.

What is the answer?

Cultivate “situations.” Situations are moments when we break free from the shackles of the spectacle to experience authentic human existence. String enough of them together, and you create a legitimate challenge to the dominant capitalist consumer culture of the 20th century.

Some situationist liberatory practices we suggest adopting today:

  • Reject the domination of visual media culture in favor of listening and experiential media. Close your eyes and listen.
  • Urban exploration, particularly with a view towards unplanned, spontaneous wandering to discover hidden or overlooked aspects of city life. The Situationists called this the dérive, and practiced it as a part of their art of psychogeography, which involved creating maps that represented the emotional and psychological experience of the wanderer.
  • Be realistic: demand the impossible!  Do so by challenging the status quo of endless striving and extractive productivity in favor of a more fulfilling life — especially one that subverts dominant narratives and power structures. 
  • Support urban planning and architecture, maintaining a global and transnational mindset even as you act locally to strengthen your city and collective.
  • Engage in collective, direct action. Find out how at MoveOn.org, CrimethInc, or The Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.
  • Create art that provokes critical thinking and political engagement.
Top image: Map-like silhouettes over blue background with white text. Bottom image: Collaged aerial maps forming an abstract pattern.
Top image: Map-like silhouettes over blue background with white text. Bottom image: Collaged aerial maps forming an abstract pattern.

Artwork by Constant Nieuwenhuys & Isidore Isou.

To that end, and in keeping with the anti-consumerist nature of situationism, all profits from this collection will be gifted to artists advancing the situationist project. For more info, contact info@atelierpopulaire.org.

Each shirt is designed to support the practice of cultivating situations in general and the dérive in particular— unplanned, spontaneous wandering through urban landscapes. Featuring situationist slogans and art, our t-shirts practice détournement by remixing the original works, liberating them from the arid archives of art history, and releasing them into the street.

A collection of graphic tees on a white background.

Designs by Aika Cherdabayeva with additional art direction by Stefan Kjartansson.