Ways of (Not) Seeing:

On Spectacle and Mis-Recognition


Lecture and Seminar

" Images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream, and the former unity of life is lost for­ ever. Apprehended in a partial way, reality unfolds in a new generality as a pseudo-world apart, solely as an object of contemplation. The tendency toward the specialisation of images-of-the-world finds its highest expression in the world of the autonomous image, where deceit deceives itself. The spectacle in its generality is a concrete inversion of life, and, as such, the autonomous movement of non-life." Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

The dictionary definition of the  term “post-truth” states that it is an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Its increased use is very much related to recent political events, which demonstrated (yet another) crisis of collective modes of seeing and deciding and indicates that we are all caught in our own “echo chamber” to use filmmaker Adam Curtis’ expression. In the present moment Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle appears strikingly relevant. It never lost its relevance with its sharp analysis of a reality of woven by collective fantasies we live by in the contemporary capitalist spectacle. The lecture will focus on Debord's ideas of the spectacle and questions as what are its effects in the present moment, can we device strategies in order to reclaim our experience in the condition of its increasingly accelerating mode? Hito Steyerl’s  analysis of the networked production of images, surveillance and effects of the “machinic vision” on our lives provides another angle of analysis of the way various computational technologies have silently assumed the power to shape reality. 

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone books, 1992), Chapter One "Separation Perfected," pp. 11-25.

Hito Steyerl, “A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition” e-flux journal # 72, April 2016.