“Post-Spectacular Atrophy Notes”
In the late 1980s, Guy Debord wrote a book to reflect and expand on the ideas that were put forward in his acclaimed publication of 1967. He describes how the spectacle of society has contributed to the manufacture of “a present which wants to forget the past and no longer seems to believe in a future”. And he comments on how the integrated spectacle “has integrated itself into reality to the same extent as it was describing it, and that it was reconstructing it as it was describing it”. He boldly suggests that “The highest ambition of the integrated spectacle is to turn secret agents into revolutionaries and revolutionaries into secret agents”.
This was part of the inspiration behind the name Spectacular Atrophy — this idea that people collectively construct uninhabitable worlds and produce seductive illusions and mirages behind which is nothing but a void space. A drum sounds loud because it is empty.
An eponymous publication was released on the day of the event. It catalogues the collaborators, performers, exhibitors, and other contributors, binding together texts and images that trace much of what converged across divergent lines of flight. It’s just a book printed in black ink on white paper. It’s an appendage to the event proper. It’s non-required reading.
It could be referenced in the future, as if it were an artefact or an archive of what occurred. After all who were involved have passed away, it could even be read as an obituary — a sort of record that could be referenced in the writing of a history. In such a sense, its function might not be so different from that of a photograph document which makes sense of a scene or scape. Both publication and photograph capture and expose to produce a representation on a flat plane. Through its reproduction, the publication could form or transform a public, and might even deform one.
The point is that it’s possible no one there at that time was totally sure what it was all about, and surely in the future such facts will only fog over further. It’s not all too different from any other event that happens all at once and then immediately ceases to happen. These things happen all the time.
From Pipi Freestone