McKenzie Wark’s new book The Spectacle of Disintegration: Situationist Passages Out of the Twenty-First Century (Verso, out today in the US and May 20 in the UK) completes his non-trilogy of writings on the SI, begun with 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) and continued with The Beach Beneath the Street (Verso, 2011). I sat down with Wark to discuss the application and recuperation of SI tactics in the contemporary mediated landscape.
3D-printed Guy Debord action figures (2012). Produced by McKenzie Wark, design by Peer Hansen, with technical assistance by Rachel L.
BB: You’re very upfront about how you didn’t intend to write a “great man” history of the Situationist International, instead incorporating marginalized and forgotten figures. Yet The Spectacle of Disintegration focuses on Guy Debord, especially in its second half, if simply because there is no one left.
MW: The place were I started the whole thing was just an obsession with two late texts of Debord’s, Panegyric and In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. I think they’re two of the most luminous critical Marxist texts, avant-garde texts, prose poems, of the late 20th Century. It took me a long time to even understand what they were doing. And so the whole thing grew over 20 years, just returning to those texts and trying to figure out a framework for interpreting them. The whole project was somehow leading up to writing about those. I learnt to read French by reading these texts. I just taught myself. And my French is terrible. I make no claims to be a scholar of the language or anything like that whatsoever.
BB: Debord’s conception of the interactivity of the spectacle seems to be a bit limited in terms of where ...