Urban Spectacle and Détournement

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This article addresses instances of contemporary art that operate within the hyper-visual urban landscape of late capitalism, countering its “economy of appearances.” This article’s aim, however, is to contend that the Situationist International’s concepts of “spectacle” and “détournement” may be repurposed into a critical framework and vocabulary for examining said contemporary practice, shaped by the conditions of “urban spectacle.” This repurposing of Situationist debate has significant theoretical implications as, within contemporary art scholarship, it is assumed that the visual must be rejected in favor of an “aesthetics of action.” The emergence of “socially engaged” and “participatory” art debates has fostered an assumption that visual art problematically imitates spectacle. However, by repurposing Situationist debate, this article will demonstrate that visuality has proven an effective tool with which contemporary art has undermined, and even problematized, the urban spectacle.