Guy Debord

Artist (1931 - 1994)

Guy Debord was a thinker, artist and author of many essays and experimental films. Back in the 1950s, he developed a virulent critique of contemporary culture, and in particular the notion of “spectacle”, whose revolutionary content and originality are today still inspiring the most radical and innovative of political, aesthetic, architectural and urbanistic reflections. In the early 1950s, influenced by both Marxism and Dadaism, Debord joined the Lettrist movement established by Isidore Isou, with the avowed aim of achieving something surpassing art. In the tradition of Lettrist custom, he chose a second name for himself, Ernest, which he would affix to his first name until 1964. His uncompromising stance and his determination to dissolve art in life culminated, in 1952, in the creation of a dissident branch, which took on the evocative name of Internationale Lettriste. Together with other members, Debord then developed what would become the pivotal concepts of Situationism, and proffered a novel approach to the city, which Constant would illustrate with his project New Babylon (1956-1974). He called for the creation of a new science called psychogeography, “a study of the exact laws and precise effects of the geographical environment, wittingly developed or otherwise, acting directly on the affective behaviour of individuals”, and rendered understandable by the “technical drift of the hasty passage through varied ambiences”. The discovery of these psycho-geographical laws would be part of the elaboration of a unitary urbanism, to which all the arts would contribute, establishing the framework for a playful pattern of behaviour, and encourage the construction of situations. The ideological evolution of the Internationale Lettriste, the repeated excommunications which undermined the ranks, and the encounter with new companions, all led, in 1957, to the foundation, together with the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus and the Psycho-geographical Committee in London, of the Internationale Situationniste, which would in turn break up in 1972.

The self-taught Guy Debord was the author of books (The Society of the Spectacle, 1967; Panegyric, 1992…) and several experimental films (Hurlements en faveur de Sade, 1952; Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unite de temps, 1959; In girum imus nocte et consumimur Igni, 1978…) He wrote and co-authored many manifestoes and most of the leading articles for the Internationale Lettristes and the Internationale Situationnistes, for which he edited the eponymous magazine between 1958 and 1969. Guy Debord committed suicide on 30 November 1994.

Gilles Rion

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