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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathDebord
Dismantling the Spectacle: The cinema of Guy Debord
»Ciné qua non«: Guy Debord and Filmic Practice as Theory
Thomas Y. Levin


»The only interesting undertaking is the liberation of everyday life, not only within a historical perspective but for us and right away. This entails the withering away of alienated forms of communication. The cinema, too, has to be destroyed.« [1]

»It is society and not technology that has made cinema what it is. The cinema could have been historical examination, theory, essay, memories. It could have been the film which I am making at this moment.« [2]

1. The Society of the Spectacle

Among the various social practices that serve Guy Debord as paradigmatic instances of what he calls the «society of spectacle,» the most often cited are without doubt television and cinema. Typical in this regard is the American edition of Debord´s paratactic theoretical text »Society of the Spectacle« (hereafter referred to as SoS), where cinematic iconography dominates not only the front and back covers—which incorporate a photograph of spectators at a 3-D movie [3] —but also continues throughout the volume in a


series of illustrations located within the socketed frames of a film strip [Abb und Kommentar zum Bild! 6.2] [4] . However, although cinema is certainly a privileged figure of the society of the spectacle, it is a mistake to assume that Debord´s «spectacle» is synonymous with the «spectacularity» of the filmic medium. On the contrary, as is manifest from the very beginning of Debord´s text, the theoretical concept of spectacle is used to designate a historical, socio-economic condition: «The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images» (SoS, Thesis 37). The confusion surrounding the «spectacle» is to some extent produced by a slippage in Debord´s employment of the term. Sometimes it does refer to the realm of representation, as is evident in the structural analogy of the opening thesis of SoS: «In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.»

However, in the next thesis, Debord differentiates between «images of the world» and «the spectacle in

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