From street to screen: Debord’s drifting cinema

Archibald, D. and Lavery, C. (2019) From street to screen: Debord’s drifting cinema. Performance Research, 23(7), pp. 109-119. (doi: 10.1080/13528165.2018.1558427)

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This essay offers a new and original way of relating to the drift by positing it not simply as a pedestrian activity, something that occurs on streets and in cities (as the SI wanted) but rather as a practice that can be expressed in celluloid – in the rhythms and syncopations of montage. Through a close analysis of Debord's second film Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps (On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time (1959), we argue that this cinematic reading of the drift retains and performs its politics through its capacity to disrupt capitalist modernity's temporal regime. For us, such a regime, as it was for Debord, is predicated on the production of an endless present, in which what matters is how attention is seduced and captured by an expanded notion of the cinematic – the ubiquity of networks of screens, consoles, images and data flows. Faced with the continual refrains of ‘24/7 capitalism’ (Jonathan Crary 2014), it is no longer enough to express political content explicitly and/or to highlight, in Brechtian fashion, the structures of the apparatus. Rather by drawing on (amongst others) the work of Jonathan Beller, Bernard Stiegler, and Michael J. Shapiro, we show how Debord's films retain their relevance in the extent to which their drift-like quality, the irregularity of their rhythms, contests the unspoken choreography of what we call, after Henri Lefebvre, capitalist ‘dressage’. Through its interruptions and stoppages, Debord's cinema, we claim, manages to use the drift as a device for producing memory – the temporal lag that contemporary capital is desperate to erase in order to exhibit its own immediacy as a kind of eternity, the only time worth living.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Archibald, Dr David and Lavery, Professor Carl
Authors: Archibald, D., and Lavery, C.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Journal Name:Performance Research
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1469-9990
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Performance Research 23(7):109-119
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
3008230Reviewing Spectacle: The Pasts, Presents and Futures of the Situationist International in Contemporary PerformanceCarl LaveryArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/N504592/1Arts - Theatre, Film & Television Studies