The Materials of the Situation

“The interest is not in consciousness and its freedom, but in the production of new situations as an end in themselves” (Wark 58).

In The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark introduces the many players in the Situationist movement through a historical derive. This form allows the reader to experience the feeling of being within the SI. It’s a process I’ve enacted in my own life many times: someone introduces me to a new subject or concept, and then I spin off into learning more, following hidden paths of information, making my own map of the topic. What I remember most about these moments is the feeling of being absorbed, of traveling into a different mindspace where connections can occur. Transposing myself into a moment where time is past and present, and a time outside of both.

“While acknowledging the power of feeling, it can nevertheless be crafted and directed. It can become the material of play and strategy” (Wark 76).

What is most interesting to me about the Situationists is their ability to discover new materials that can serve as the basis for play, providing the possibility for a situation. Michele Bernstein’s novels use desire as a material. Desire creates pairings of lovers, lines between people that can create intersections in time and space.

“Love is temporal, an event. There is nothing eternal in it. Timeless Love, like God, like Art, is dead. Eternal love is death itself, the metaphysical principle that plagues romance, that would make the lover one’s private property for all time. All that remains is the possibility of constructing situations” (Wark 81).

The Situationists take what we consider static or linear places and relationships and imbue them with the possibility of transformation. There is, beneath these actions, a kind of “lived time” that we can enter via the process of these transformations (Wark 25). Through psychogeography, a static city becomes a changing, interactive labyrinth. Places have connections and relationships to people, but these ties are not eternal or immutable. Through detournement, literary work engages in new relationships with other authors. And like a person in new relationship, the words take on a shared energy from the excitement of the pairing, the new possibilities, a different kind of smile into the mirror.

“Tintomara’s turn is the transformation of natural substance into aesthetic substance” (88).

For the Situationists, the natural substance is not always tangible or ownable. It is also time, the participation of the gift, the enactment of desire. It is our bodies, not just through dancing or lovemaking, but in the embodiment of the situation, the participation in the collective. Pushing into spaces, suturing the materials of the situation.

* Thanks to Amanda Haag’s composition pedagogy presentation for the concept of suturing between space and body.*

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