détournement

2004.02.15

Douglas Edric Stanley

The fundamental nature of the machine is to remodel itself into an infinite series of new forms. With terms such as « détournement » all the rage for many idealistic young artists, it might drop like a total bummer to learn that the machine is already designed as a sort of endless re-purposing machine. For in any discussion of art practice as « re-purposing », there is most probably a certain desire to define digital art-making as the next form of « détournement » and therefore uniquely in-step or ahead of the curve of the society from which it emerges. And yet as we have argued here, the machine is already a re-purposing machine, as the computer industry has long since understood. This should give pause to anyone trying to suggest that by merely redefining the purpose of the machine they have somehow redefined its social impact. Such a definition of « détournement », which lacks the essential critical component, should most certainly be considered instead mere « retournement », i.e. the purely automated upheaval of inherited social codes and behaviors.