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The Hidden Work
It's very tricky to talk or write about Debord, in the sense that his is the work that lends itself least to analysis or commentary. That's why, for me, there was a sort of immediate necessity to write on him at the moment of his death. It seemed to me that I needed to say something at that very moment, and I felt I could say it in a way that was precise, clear, and very detailed. I say that Debord's work is difficult to discuss in the sense that it is entirely built on the instant. There is always this idea, in Debord, of saying things that have to do with the present time, that are instantly verifiable and relevant. They have to do, of course, with something that has value in time, the global value of the analysis of the society in which one lives, but their strategic value is always — and this seems to me to be the very basis of Debord's thought — linked to the instant itself. Next — beyond that, or parallel to that — there is Debord's poetry, his way of looking at the passage of time and at the vanity of things, that eternal truth to which he is profoundly connected. And this is, all the same, the essence of his artistic work, in the reductive sense of the term. But his philosophical work and his artistic work are always preoccupied with clarity, with precision, and with the link to the world as it presents itself to him at this moment. I always have an impression that discussion of Debord is a way of withdrawing his work from specific time (which is a time that Debord has defined and drawn) in order to put it into the much more indistinct time of reflection, analysis, or commentary, a time that always risks being either academic, or else placed within a kind of literary history to which he never wanted to belong. For my part, I had the feeling — at the time when Debord's work was being published by Champ libre — that it existed in a territory that was his own, in terms which were Debord's, in fact it was a kind of meta-edition. There was not just the work in itself, but also a very coherent affirmation concerning the way in which a text should be circulated, how the force or the veracity of that text are equally linked to the conditions in which it is published. This also had to do with why Champ libre chose not to publish a pocket edition, not to send review copies, to be a political and artistic act within the world of publishing. Obviously, once Debord's work passed outside this unique situation of control and rigorousness, once it reentered the classical circulation system of publishing (Gallimard is, after all, a very good posthumous publisher for Debord), the work loses something. I don't think my viewpoint is excessive or unfaithful to Debord's memory; I'm sure that he himself would have looked at it that way.
Anyway, it was his choice, and he made it knowing that it would give him greater circulation, but above all that what was in a question was a second time for his work. After the present — for a work whose relation to this thought of the present was of such density and a total rigorousness — there is a second time, which is that of history, of posterity, whatever you want to call it. The way his relationship with his first publisher evolved, and then the fact that at a given moment there was, simply, the need to find another one, also had to do with the prolongation and the qualitative transformation of his work. The new edition of his writings, on a different terrain, has produced in turn misunderstandings of a new and different nature.
That, in any case, is what the book Cette mauvaise réputation deals with, it's the very object of this book. And thus, the question I'm asking — a purely academic one, by the way — is: what will be the exact nature of the transformation of Debord's films, from their very special status of rarity to their status of visibility? From whatever point you take up Debord's cinematographic work, it is built around an extreme singularity. It's a work that is immensely admired by the rare spectators who have seen it, but which also has a kind of aura — in Walter Benjamin's sense — that is specific to being a hidden work. I think that the artistic act, the aesthetic act of Debord's cinema is, in part, also defined by this choice not to be shown, in a time when all images present themselves as having to be shown. The radicality of his approach is linked to this act, a remarkably violent one in the world in which we live, of hiding one's films for twenty or thirty years.
His films were literally no longer shown anywhere after 1984, and were not much shown before Gérard Lebovici bought the Studio Cujas to show them continuously. These are films that are parallel to the history of cinema and that are the inverse of it, the negative of it, whatever word one wishes to use. So there is going to be a kind of transformation or transubstantiation of this cinema, from the moment when it becomes accessible and visible. What effect and what violence might be caused by this eruption of Debord's cinema in our reading of contemporary cinema? These films are milestones in the history of modern cinema, but that wasn't recognized; and so, as a result, are they going to give rise to a re-reading, or will they simply be classed in the dictionary next to other works? Will they keep their intrinsic aura and radicality, or will they be classified alongside other works of experimental cinema, if not placed somewhere between the cinema that is shown in museums and the films of Jean-Luc Godard, for example?
The strongest and most intimate feeling that I get from Sur le passage [de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps] and Critique de la séparation, which I've just watched, touches on the coherence that they reveal at once. These are two essential missing milestones in the knowledge and understanding of Debord's trajectory. There are two works that are completely linked: Mémoires and Hurlements en faveur de Sade. It could be said that Hurlements en faveur de Sade is the cinematic counterpart of Mémoires. It's very strange, how Mémoires was eventually read, somewhat, at the time of its republication, and yet it has not been placed as it should be in history. Mémoires is one of the great books, one of the masterpieces, without doubt, of contemporary French poetry. Myself, I put it very high, it's an overwhelming, magnificent text. If the trouble were taken to situate it in its context, it seems to me that it would be very illuminating, including in terms of our perception of the poetry of that period. And when you see Sur le passage and Critique de la séparation, it becomes clear that that poetic vein of Debord goes on and very quickly transforms itself into something new.
I used to situate this deployment of his poetry in cinema much later, to the extent that for me, In girum [imus nocte et consumimur igni] was its moment. Actually, it was, above all, its qualitative transformation. The mistake was, of course, to see In girum in relation to the other Debord films that I knew, that is to say, La société du spectacle and Réfutation de tous les jugements.. I thought that basically In girum began a melancholy, introspective vein, which would be continued with Panégyrique, especially. But really when you see the short films it becomes clear that this vein was there from the beginning, this melancholy, the sense of the passage of time, this central notion of Debord's thought was already there, in raw form. It's there in raw form in Hurlements en faveur de Sade; it's there, in similarly intense terms, in Mémoires, six years later, and it's there — let's say — internalized, commented on, and mirror-reflected in Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps.
That film, shot in 1959 and examining the validity of reproducing, six years later, events and situations that took place in 1953, is in the same relation to that moment of poetic intensity that In girum was in later. And in reality, they are already films of summation, retrospective films, on the difficulty that cinema has in seizing, reproducing, or stopping time. That's why they touched me very much. Is it in In girum, or in Panégyrique, that Debord says: "but what aroused displeasure in a very durable way was what I did in 1952"? I find that magnificent because that's exactly the moment of his poetic work, it's the year of Hurlements en faveur de Sade, it's a moment of absolute harmony among his poetry, his political vision, and his life. Everything comes together in an instant of his existence to which he will go on referring constantly. He always returns to that period when life gave the feeling of being fully lived. Debord had an extraordinary lucidity about the importance of this unity of time, not just in his life, but philosophically and intellectually in the history of postwar French art.
The question is: what can one build on top of ruins? For me, I'm fascinated by the people who restarted cinema from zero. It's for that reason, no doubt, that I'm very responsive to Warhol's cinematographic work, because Warhol, in a different way, began making film by starting with nothing: he decided that at a given moment there could be a zero point of cinema. And in a certain way, Debord himself established that zero point. Again, everything he says should be taken very seriously. In Il girum, he affirms — I'm paraphrasing very badly — that making an important work in film took him relatively little time and effort. It's very beautiful because it's entirely true.
In the film theory of that time, faith in a kind of ontology was a way of saying that film was an art. But all that was very late in comparison with how the very nature of art in painting and the plastic arts in general, which were blown apart by Dadaism, was put in question. Film had not met its Dadaist moment, its moment of having its system of representation and exposition submitted to an absolute questioning. And when Debord makes Hurlements en faveur de Sade, he has in mind, I think, very literally the idea of making the Malevich's White on White of film. Hurlements en faveur de Sade is Malevich's White on White, with the same (it's hard to find words that he wouldn't have disliked) spirituality as in Malevich. The ambition, the spiritual inspiration that we project onto the intention of Hurlements en faveur de Sade is identical to those that we project onto White on White; this timely vertigo, in the sense of accomplishing an act that, beyond being a painting, is a moment in art history. White on White isn't a pictorial genre of its own; Hurlements en faveur de Sade isn't a cinematic genre. It's a cinematic gesture that can be considered a milestone.
In the very matter of all arts, whether it be literature, music, or film, it seems to me that there is always a poetic core, a very dense matter, that is at the heart of things and from which the rest radiates. In Debord's work, this core of poetry — in the strongest sense of the term, that is to say, in the sense of the poetry of the greatest poets — is in Mémoires and Hurlements en faveur de Sade. These are works that can exist only in a moment of grace, in a moment of privileged intensity. In the same way that, when Isidore Isou makes Traité de bave et d'éternité, it's the work of a 23-year-old poet who makes one film and then nothing more, in any case, nothing more of that value, of that intensity. There is this faith of believing that art is an extremely acute way of restoring the truth of an exceptional moment and that the most important, the most superior art works are those that take account of that instant, that seize it and have no descendance, cannot have any.
In Debord's work, there is a second aspect, which is that of literary détournement or collage (one can call it whatever one wants; in literature, what he did before others did it has been called collage). At a given moment, literary collage turns into the thought of cinematographic détournement. It is expanded on in Sur le passage de quelques personnes and in Critique de la séparation, and then, in a certain way, it is completed with the film La société du spectacle. The starting point is the question of how to reconstruct a cinema starting from the zero point: what cinema can be made after Hurlements en faveur de Sade, it's a little like defining what poetry can be made after Mallarmé, or what novel after Proust, to speak of works that are metaphysical upheavals from the very point of view of their own essence.
Debord's artistic, intellectual courage lies in not retreating from that question. He could just as well have stayed at Hurlements en faveur de Sade, but at the same time he knows that it's not enough to make a tabula rasa, you have to know what you're going to build, what is still possible in this art and how, once you've reached that point. There is a way of examining film, of examining art through, precisely, its limits in its ability to reproduce the past, the difficulty it has in rendering the confusion of the world. It's this that I find very beautiful in the two shorts (it's Critique de la séparation, I think, that starts specifically with this idea), that cinema is built on a way of reorganizing the world; so if one really wants to take account of the world one must first of all be able to render its confusion, its contradictions.
The aim of Sur le passage is exactly that, the inability of film to reproduce truth, the truth of an instant, an inability that results from its particular nature of delay. At the same time, perhaps, film can serve to put that loss in perspective. Sur le passage is the starting point of a large part of Debord's cinema. It's there that it becomes clear that, in a certain way, film takes account of loss. If film is incapable, precisely, of taking account of the instant, since the instant can only be miraculously preserved by artistic lightning-strokes, it can, on the other hand, restore the melancholy of its absence. And melancholy is Debord's subject, the flight of time, always, always, always. And I think that he becomes aware of it himself when he makes Sur le passage; after that his cinema will be nothing more than the celebration of this flight of time.
I don't compare Debord with Warhol from the point of view of their artistic approaches, which have no relation with each other. What links them is the fact that Warhol takes up American cinema again practically from zero. When he makes Sleep, and his first films, they're in black and white and silent. He starts by making static images of objects or of John Giorno sleeping, and then, progressively, sound appears, then speech, then color, two screens. Next he has the idea of building canvases inside these moments, and he reinvents the notion of the actor. He says, "I'm not going to use professionals, I'm going to take people who are themselves actors of their own lives, who are themselves in representation, and that should be enough to make a film character." And we come to his last film, Lonesome Cowboys, which ends up being a narrative film in color. After that he stops. Let's say, without being mean, that from that point on Paul Morrissey more or less liquidates Warhol's cinema, he sells what there is to sell.
What is very beautiful in Warhol's cinema is this movement, I think between '63 and '68: in five years he goes through the entire progress of film, and when he reaches the point where film is, when he becomes synchronous with American cinema, it no longer interests him. To the contrary of Debord, his cinema is completely documentary. He thinks that he can capture beings, that he can catch instants in their flight. These are films in which he captures in a documentary manner something that is in the process of really happening around him, individuals who are permeated by the air of time, in the most literal sense of the term. Debord isn't interested for a second in the documentary value of the image. He doesn't believe in it at all. It's one of the main singularities of his cinema. In general, with Debord, when there are eruptions of the truth, it's in photos. When he shows Asger Jorn or other close friends, it's always faces, and they're the same ones who return cyclically in all his films, till the end. In a certain way, those faces are truthful, they're the real, the really documentary instant. For example, the café scene with Jorn, himself with his arm around this girl's neck, and so on. it's a posed photo, but because it puts into play a reality, incarnated by the beings who have taken it on, it becomes truthful de facto, it truly captures the instant, and does not pose the problem of the reproduction of the instant. There's this idea that as long as real life is experienced by beings in poetic moments that have an intrinsic poetic value, the camera can't be there because it blocks them, which is profoundly true. On the other hand, photography can be a shadow of that instant, whereas film can have the capacity to evoke its memory. Just as music — outside time — restores its soul, putting it back within the eternal return of human passions, always that music of the 17th century, which has this kind of nobility and melancholy, at the same time this joy, this spirituality and this metaphysical sadness which also belongs to Bossuet. What also struck me about the two short films is that they don't come out of a will to control. They are films that expose their vulnerability. Debord himself questions himself about what he is doing, about what he is saying, the limits and ambitions of what he is trying to grasp through these films. They are films in which doubt is integrated, included, and not just concerning the way they might be understood or seen. I have the impression that this is a dimension that is absent from the other films: when, later, he makes La société du spectacle, and even, all the more so, when he makes In girum, he has found a form. In the two shorts, this idea of cinema is literally in search of itself, it's someone who is in the process of inventing, before our eyes, a cinematic language. In the end things need to be put back into their context; let's admit that a film like Traité de bave et d'éternité showed the way; in any case Isou's image appears in Sur le passage. Later, in La société du spectacle and in In girum the syntax is there, Debord has invented his own cinematic language and suddenly this language opens up: it has the ability to absorb new things and take hold of new dimensions. Particularly through the use of film sequences, which are then, strictly speaking, détournements, which sometimes have the same place or the same value as the citations, the text détournements that he practiced starting with Mémoires.
Debord is the only representative of an idea of film that has been neglected. He asks himself the question of whether or not he is the precursor of something. In any case, he uses film for different reasons, and in a different manner, from what film progressively became, and even from what he was searching for in a period when work of experimental reflection on meaning or on the use of the other cinematography was more on the agenda than it has been at other times.
So, is it a proper way of putting things, to compare Debord's cinema with the New Wave? It's a real question, a complicated question and one which has to do with the nature of film and the profound relationship of cinema with the other arts. I myself tend to think — it's my experience and my practice as a filmmaker — that film stands apart from the other arts. I don't know if it's an art or if it's not an art. anyway, it's certainly an art very different from the others, in the sense that it has this capacity of documentary recording. A film image is made, and, instantaneously, it's the documentary of something: the more or less adroit way that a group of people go about reconstructing a situation whose nature they know or don't know. That's almost a kind of definition of a film image. But this documentary aspect makes it happen that film can also be a witness of the other arts, it can put them in perspective. I always have the impression that film isn't preoccupied with the same interrogations as the plastic arts, but that in the best of cases it can take account of those interrogations, it can serve to document that history. Godard has been the privileged representative of this whole debate. Godard was the one who asked himself the question of how to place film in relation with modern art, while moving away from the Bazinian ontology of film — an ontology that doesn't make room for that reflection. Film in an examination of perception, film in an examination of itself as an art: these are two completely different things. Godard is on the side of the examination of film as an art, in the same way that Debord is. But — without calling Godard's work into question — Debord stands for this examination in a more essential and more profound way. With him, cinematographic acts, their chronology and their value, are decisive.
With the circulation of the films after Venice a transmutation in the nature of the works is going to happen, in that today, at the moment when we're speaking about it, in June 2001, Debord's cinema is in part constituted by the aura of its invisibility. Debord's artistic, cinematographic gesture is inextricably linked to the invisibility of his cinema; it's an act of supreme radicality. The fact that these films are now going to be shown doesn't throw into question the artistic importance of having hidden his films. Having chosen not to show them anymore is (like everything Debord did) an incredibly relevant and profound artistic choice. Now that act is going to belong to the past. Today, the invisibility of these films is the last artistic gesture of Debord's with which we are still contemporary, in its total purity, and after Venice, it will be talked about in the past tense. We'll be able to analyze the invisibility of Debord's films, we'll be able to discuss the films while integrating in a theoretical way the fact that they were invisible and withdrawn from circulation, but we won't be able to talk about them anymore with this intimate feeling that is aroused by their rarity.
The relationship that I was able to have with this cinema, the feeling of having been one of the rare spectators of a remarkable event, an extraordinary event, the uniqueness of the experience of knowing these films and being inspired by them — well, very simply, all that is going to be lost because these films will be seen and distributed; and people will mis-see them, just as one can observe today that very often Debord is misread, even by people who often admire him. By people who perceive one of the dimensions of his work but not the totality: those who appreciate the poetry of his work are less sensitive to his thought, or to his philosophy, and those who appreciate his philosophy understand nothing of his poetry, and neither of the two understand a thing about his cinema. Today there is a supplementary piece of the puzzle that is going to be brought to light, and perhaps in that visibility it will no longer be seen, because one of the characteristics of the things that are plainly visible in today's world is that they are not seen, while those that are invisible create an effect of magnetization, of fascination, and also of truth (not that this keeps them from having the power to deceive). Everyone feels very clearly that there is something very right, very true, and very authentic in not wanting to be seen in today's world: these films are the final testimony to this. I feel a real melancholy, a circular one, because it's one that resembles the melancholy that comes from the films, in the fact that from now on these invisible films are going to be visible; personally, I liked the idea that there could be hidden masterpieces, that someone could not want to show such very great films. That idea is magnificent and incredibly relevant, at once politically, intellectually, and artistically. It's idiotic to say that I would rather these films were not seen, but at the same time I know that the films will lose something by it, something of what Debord had wanted them to be. In short, that they are entering another time.
But why weren't these films seen when they were visible? That's a completely different question, which is much harder to answer. First, it's necessary to return to the context of the period, when Debord was very little read. Today everyone talks about nothing but situationism, it's as if everyone had always read Debord and known his theses, as if the obviousness of the importance of situationism as an artistic or intellectual movement had always been recognized. But really it was a minority within the minority, it was quasi-invisible. It's only today that people are willing to say that situationism was at the heart of May '68. For twenty years after May '68 no one was saying that, that thought was really inside the margin of marginality. I'd be curious to know what the print run was of the Champ libre texts, including those of Debord. At the time, no one even wanted to reconsider Debord's cinematic work. On the jacket of the first Champ libre edition of La Société du spectacle, if you remember, there was a kind of biographical note written up by Debord, saying about himself: "calls himself a filmmaker". it's magnificent! At the time people were saying: "what, he made films?" No one took him seriously, there was no curiosity. His films were denied. It's interesting to see, through Réfutation de tous les jugements., how the press received La société du spectacle when the film was released.
At the beginning of the '80s, almost twenty years ago, no one wanted to see them, no one wanted to go to the Studio Cujas and ask themselves the question of what the cinema of Guy Debord was. It's a little bit exaggerated, but I think that at the time, the Studio Cujas had more or less the kind of status that a cinema would have that showed continuously — for example — the work of Maurice Lemaître or of Marcel Hanoun. A picturesque phenomenon, a demonstration by an exotic sect. It made people laugh, the fact that Debord's films were shown continuously at the Studio Cujas. No critical article appeared in the press or in magazines. None! That was consistent with Debord's invisibility at that time. The general ignorance concerning situationist thought was dizzying. Afterward, very slowly, things turned around, and now people have the impression that it was always there. In a certain way, how situationism was perceived then is like how Lettrism is perceived today, some kind of rather pathetic avant-garde sect that outlived its time, with no relevance to the vision of the contemporary world. At the time, people had the feeling that it was just one of the dead ends of modern art. Or else one of the multiple esoteric subdivisions of leftism.
In Debord's work, art has meaning only if it's linked to practice, to existence, to life, in an intrinsic manner. Works of art have value only as restitution, as traces of lived experience, and only if the implication of the artist in the work is complete. That's why I insist strongly on the idea I spoke about, that books or films are not just books and films, they also have value in their perfect coherence in their relationship to publication and to production, in the way they are circulated. It's exactly for that reason that Debord published the texts of the contracts for his films.
If you look at Debord's work as it was preserved by him during his life, it has a limpid clarity, an absolute purity. Everything responds to everything else, everything is in a system of correspondences all of which have to do with the central notion of his work, the idea of going beyond art. Going beyond art lies in action, in this case, an action on the world; poetry in action is revolution, the transformation of the world through a questioning of its values, of its functioning, in the name of a superior idea introduced by poetry. I'm using words that Debord wouldn't have liked much, but they're the simplest ones to use in accounting for this experience.
Each of the films is conceived at once as a poetic act and as a political act. It's a question each time of posing, through this work, a defiance to the world, a defiance to the system. Each of the films, in its own way, asks the question of what is, at this moment, all the rest of cinema, all the rest of political thought, all the rest of poetry. In this capacity for solitude and for the solitary affirmation of an intimate truth, there is a way of being that is obviously the very essence of the most important part of what is done in art. In the case of the two short films, it's very striking, the extent to which, today, these lost, forgotten films that were invisible for twenty years — but not really seen for forty — return to us and suddenly reach us, they touch us, they move us all the more for belonging to a solitary voice, to someone who was talking in the void forty years ago. Suddenly, they have this rightness, this obviousness, this modern beauty that can be seen in a limpid state today and that was invisible at that time. Debord believed that there was a truth to say, and that if his time was unable to see it, to feel it, well then, tomorrow those people who will have been raised up by the world as it was in the process of being transformed at that moment, will be able to see and understand it. It's a marvelous wager. The trajectory of his films and the way that they have come to us are pretty unique experiences.
Debord's meeting with Lebovici belongs to another time, another epoch; it's the relationship between an artist and a patron of the arts, in the best sense of the term. It's something completely unique in film and in contemporary art, at once very beautiful and completely anachronistic. That's also because of the puritanism in France regarding money. The little that people understood of situationism was that there was no ideology of mistrust toward money and no complacency regarding poverty. It was very provocative and very much a break with the very conventional prevailing ideology of leftism. Still today, by the way. Money is made to be spent. In situationism, there is the artistic idea of expense (already in the notion of potlatch), of jouissance, money is there where it is and you take it; this situationist mythology was at once fascinating and irritating because freedom in the relationship with money is always judged from a stingy point of view. But in Debord there is no stinginess, and above all with respect to money; on the contrary, there's an indifference to its use and its circulation. Thanks to Lebovici, Debord could make his films, his films could be shown, and Champ libre could be what it was. The editorial activity of Champ libre is indissociable from Debord's work. In the Champ libre catalogue, even if Debord partly rejected it, there's something that is the emanation of his thought. In a time of terrible ideological puritanism, Champ libre published classics that for a long time no one had read any more: Omar Khayyam, Vittorio Alfieri, Li Tai Po, Baltasar Gracián, Karl Kraus, Carl von Clausewitz, George Orwell. Through publishing, there was something of Debord's openness of mind, his artistic and literary curiosity. He loved poetry, he loved writing, and he had a deep generosity toward works that, by their intellectual and human dignity, made a spontaneous echo in him.
The current vulgarization of the name of Guy Debord means that some of the situationists' ideas are being recycled in a kind of postmodern pap. He's been linked to the posterity of surrealism, or else to that of Dada, to that of the architectural utopias of the '70s — so many interchangeable masks that can be used in this sort of postmodern globality in which everything is emptied of its meaning and everything is no longer anything but a game of appearances. Today people are so thrilled with the notion of radicality that they've forgotten what that meant. Radicality means taking the risk of being invisible, of not being seen at all, of being hated. Debord's whole work was built on that, and in a certain way, the power with which it reaches us today also comes from its invisibility, or the earlier misunderstanding. And why do we have the feeling that it's truthful? It's truthful because it was hidden. It's not difficult, it's very easy, but no one has the courage to do it. The essential thing with Debord is the homogeneity and the absolute harmony between theory and practice. For Debord, it's a matter, in effect, of going all the way to the extreme of an idea of art, or an idea of life, or how that idea of life and that idea of art come together, simply to demonstrate that there is, in that, a possible way. I don't have the feeling that Debord claims to be a model or wants to give anybody lessons; but there is simply this need to search, within himself and for himself, for the absolute of coherence in his reflection on the world and more precisely the transformation of the world before his own eyes. From this point of view, it's up to everyone to decide what to make of this example, up to everyone to make what one likes of one's own practice, in relation to one's own thinking. Today, as people become more and more agents of the integrated spectacular, they think they can be in activities, in an employment, or in a practice of the world that is absolutely opposed to what they really believe, whether ideologically or artistically. For someone to have imposed on himself his whole life long the rule of being absolutely in accord with himself, in his acts, in his life, and even in the ultimate extremities and consequences of those choices, this is something that is part of Debord's work. Fundamentally his life is a kind of meta-work, his work tests his life totally, superimposes itself on it all the way until his suicide, and it's in this that he is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. I think Debord answered a question that is central in the questioning of art in the twentieth century. How does art match with our practice of the world, or how does art remain possible in the contemporary world? That's the question left hanging by Tzara, by Breton, which was at last formulated in its real terms and resolved by Debord. He answered for himself, he gave an answer, his work, which is here, which looks at us, and which judges us.
Remarks recorded in Paris by Enrico Ghezzi and Roberto Turigliatto on June 19, 2001, and published in Italian in Contro Il Cinema, the catalog of the Debord retrospective at the Venice Film Festival. Reread, corrected, and completed in March 2002 for the catalog of the retrospective presented at Magic Cinéma in Bobigny. (Translator's note: This translation is based on the version published in Autour des films [Document], a booklet accompanying Guy Debord: Oeuvres cinématographiques complètes, a DVD box published by Gaumont in 2005.)
This English translation, by Chris Fujiwara, was commissioned for a book published in conjunction with the Guy Debord retrospective at the 2009 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival.