Can the spectacle be found everywhere you look – especially in my university magazine?
Guy Debord, a French philosopher, filmmaker and writer, kickstarted the situationism movement in the 1960’s when he released his book, ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. He used the term ‘spectacle’ for the common manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity. Seeing it as capitalism’s tool for distracting, influencing and pacifying the masses. However, it’s critical to note before I continue, that while Debord’s theory of the ‘spectacle’ simply concerns the media of that time, it takes on many more forms today than it did during his lifetime.
He recognised that the spectacle actively alters human interactions and relationships:
- Images have the power to influence our lives and beliefs on a daily basis, for example, advertising produces new desires and aspirations.
- Through the use of simple narratives, the media interprets and reduces the world for us.
- New products transform the way we live. And it goes on.
Even if we just use the example of travelling, if you are lost in a foreign city, you are far more likely to use the maps app on your phone than you are to ask a passer-by for directions. And while, yes it is useful. Debord notes that our behaviours have entirely changed, making our lives a daily series of commodity exchanges.
So how does this correlate to my work? In numerous ways. Magazine’s play a significant role in this theory too. My group and I are creating a food, art and travel magazine, aimed at those who like to live a “nice” life/aspire to. Our demographic being men and women, who are between the ages of 20 to 35 and having an average household income of £40K, has been reflected in our magazine.
Firstly in our choice of articles. In each section of our magazine; food, art and travel, we provide an array of content relating specifically to a location, item, thing to buy or do. For my art piece, I wrote a 300-word piece on why we must pay to see never-seen-before work by Pablo Picasso’s at the Tate Modern in 2018. For food, I wrote a 500-word article on one restaurant; how great the food was and why you should go if you like Korean cuisine. For the travel piece, I wrote a 1,500-word article on the city of Nairobi, and where you should go while on holiday there. It’s these articles that are telling consumers what they “need” to know, to “buy” or to “do”. Thereby reducing reality to an endless supply of commodifiable fragments, which encourages us to focus on appearance. And that isn’t even the choice of ads.
“The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than “that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.” – Debord, 1967.
So what have I learnt?
Guy Debord’s theory of spectacle lives on in 2017 and lives in my magazine project.