Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wark Book Review

The Spectacle of Disintegration, by McKenzie Wark discusses the history, both past and modern, of Situationists and their cause and movement. Within this book, Wark focuses on the Situationist movement post-Situationist era. The book starts by giving you a history of the movement, and really details Situationism from 1968 and on. Though this book was full of information, it was very specialized for people with backgrounds and knowledge of French art and culture and it’s ties with Situationism. Further more, this book was entirely made of up anecdotes, and unless you knew a good amount of information about the Situationists and their history, you would be lost in reading, which I was. This book would be a great second or third book to read about the Situationist history and movement, but not for your first encounter with the ideals and thoughts behind the Situationist movement.
My problem with this book was the fact that it was so entirely based on un-explained notions, making it inaccessible as it connected real life events and trends to specific knowledge. The details within the book seemed to run together, as even after googling information on Situationists; I could not comprehend their detailed yet seemingly arbitrary stories connections to “situationists” ideas. This book would be much easier to understand if the author gave some back story or explanation of what exactly Situationists were and did, rather than just giving example after example and making the reader sift for information.
            Wark’s book mapped the society of the spectacle, while tracing Situationist ideas and occurrences and showing how they could still relate in our present day society. The book starts off with an anecdote and then traces the history of Situationism. In Chapter 2 of Wark’s book, he states that he has purposely put anecdotes cut from their context to connect a theoretical itinerary to every day life to prove that the Situationist theory is still applicable and alive today. Wark points out in chapter one that today, our society relies on consuming and buying, a much more consumer-based society comparatively to past generations. Wark continues to state that this book is concerned with the “third step” of taking three steps back to take one forward. This “third step” is post May 68’ political defeat, and it works to continue to prove that the Situationist movement is alive (Wark, 19-20).
            The topic of the Situationist idea of the spectacle was very interesting in Wark’s book. The idea of the spectacle – government control through media and central images, was shown through examples of daily life spectacles. Although it was hard to decipher, the examples were very relevant. The spectacle is now quite different from the original ideas of the term ‘spectacle.’ It is now much more decentralized and in our every day lives via television commercials and shows, advertisements on the Internet, magazines, social media, clothing, etc. And as we absorb these images, ideals, and so called ‘norms,’ they become apart of our lives and us. Wark shows how the spectacle has shifted and changed, but continues to stay alive past the official “movement.” He also gave examples of the revolution in 2010 in Thailand to show that there is still a more close to original idea of the spectacle still in certain areas of the world (Wark, 27).
            It was interesting that Wark showed participatory culture through a history and examples of a movement that wanted to change the ways of the world. It allowed me to understand how beneficial participatory culture can be, but it also shows that even though many participated through the decades, the Situationists did not win and grand win, but rather were able to change their daily lives through being aware of the spectacle, compared to people who allowed themselves to be influenced and apart of the control of media, government, etc. The book also pointed to things that could be fixed within society that would make the world a better place – less corrupted. Although this book was not my first choice for a read or textbook, it did allow for me to see specific participation in many different cultures, as well as the idea of how participation can change.

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