This text is not exactly a translation of “Pop. Cin. Contre le public du cinema”. Rather, it is an other version.
In 1964, Asger Jorn had entitled “Against cinema” the pamphlet which included the text (soundtrack) of the film of Debord Against separation.
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni has this particularity of opening by a long and angry critic against the public of cinema. I will make no concessions to the public in this film is the first phrase. This prologue may be called “the tirade of the public”.
Guy Debord opposed this prologue – against the public- to the campaign of the minister of Culture in these years: “Quand on aime la vie, on va au cinema” (“People who love life go to the cinema”).
He had returned to the profane state of spectator this public of cinema, in that time consecrated, doubly and triply consecrated, as public, as public connoisseur of the “seventh art”, and as public that loved the life.
Class analysis was the favourite pass-time of petit-bourgeois in the 70 years. It was a frivolous sociology, with still much more resentment than the official one, what the singular of class was reputed to evocate powerfully.
What does interest the most the petit-bourgeois is himself. There was a professor who in these times taught to his followers the method for a subtle distinction between the inferior and the medium lays of the modern little bourgeoisie, itself conveniently distinguished with the ancient one.
Debord has parodied this class analysis in many texts, but never with such a malicious spirit than in this prelude of In girum.
He writes:” The movie-going public, which has never been very bourgeois and which is scarcely any longer working-class, is now recruited almost entirely from a single social stratum, though one that has been considerably enlarged – the stratum of low-level skilled employees in the various “service” occupations that are so necessary to the present production system: management, control, maintenance, research, teaching, propaganda, entertainment, and pseudocritique. Which suffices to give an idea of what they are.”.
Which suffices to give an idea. The so called question of social origins needs an expeditious treatment like this one. Then Debord compares successively these first rank wage earners with the slaves, the serfs and the proletarians, and – about the consumption on credit- with the system of “peonage”.
This arrival of peons is for me the signature of the technique of Debord. As the movie shows commercials with consumers-employees, the text diverts images of pampas, haciendas: true gauchos irrupt on historical theatre of wrongs, just as exited from cartoons of Glenn Baxter. These peons are minor figures of what Boris Donné calls paper-movie of Guy Debord, which imposes its images to the other.
And about the modernity of this new peons: “In other words, this is the first time that poor people have imagined themselves to be part of an economic elite, despite all the evidence to the contrary.”
That we may keep and adapt in this way: “In other words, this is the first time that illiterates have imagined themselves to be part of a cultural elite, despite all the evidence to the contrary.”
Their surplus of false consciousness and their purchase of two or three times as much of the miserable junk that constitutes virtually the entire market, beginning by movies, that is misery. The movie-going public is not rich, but, rather than poor, he is miserable.
This point is more unacceptable than the precedent; anyway it has not been accepted. And there is no probability that this truth of Debord has become more acceptable.
Nearly on the moment when Leibovici was programming In girum imus nocte, Cultural Studies (in France, the school of cultural practices) were diffusing the idea that, the uses being not completely definite by market, propaganda, procedure or institution, the users always keep a margin for “everyday invention”.
In the terms of the Situationnist International, the spectator was credited a priori with desire and capacity to create situations.
The prologue of In girum is simply irreconcilable with this idea. This film is difficult right from the start, which is not amiable.
The misfortune of the movie-going public, his misery, is not so mysterious as he believes, nor so complicated that social theories would like.
Every polemology of practices has to do with this so rough truth. And polemology of practices is the thing we need the most in this moment when the question of classes (new classes, of course…), or the question of subjectivities (new subjectivities, of course…) are reappearing.
NB: I have used the translation of Ken Knabb, however with some transformations.
See here the French version of this text, quite different, which has been published as a leaflet by blog&plec à Marseille, 2006.
Movies of Debord are on a good DVD by Carlotta films: here
Texts of the movies are in Oeuvres cinematographiques completes, Champ Libre, 1978.
English translation of In Girum on the site of Ken Knabb: http://www.bopsecrets.org