The Spectacle of Artistic Decomposition

“The spectacle… in ideology, art and culture, turns the wolves of spontaneity into the sheepdogs of knowledge and beauty. Literary anthologies are replete with insurrectionary writings, the museums with calls to arms. But history does such a good job of pickling them in perpetuity that we can neither see nor hear them.

ln this area, however, consumer society performs a salutary task of dissolution. For today art can only construct plastic cathedrals. The dictatorship of consumption ensures that every aesthetic collapses before it can produce any masterpieces. Premature burial is an axiom of consumerism, imperfection a precondition of planned obsolescence.

Sensational aesthetic departures occur only because someone briefly finds a way to outdo the spectacle of artistic decomposition in its own terms. And any such originality soon turns up mass-marketed in every five-and-dime.

Bernard Buffet, pop art, Andy Warhol, rock music… where are you now? To talk of a modern work of art enduring is sillier than talking of the eternal values of Standard Oil.”

From Raoul Vaneigem’s 1967, The Revolution of Everyday Life.

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