Getting to better ideas – #2
Just this word used to make me run scared. I almost failed high school because of it.
But now I’m coming back to it with new eyes and maturity (hysterical laughing) and I’m now starting to realise what an important tool it can be in a planning and creative toolkit.
We are always looking for fresh point of views on what a brand can say. And it becomes harder and harder to find interesting things to say on very generic territories, when your products don’t really have anything that stands out.
I came accross Guy Debord’s work recently, most notably the ‘detournement’ (I’m ashamed to admit it, being French) and thought it was fascinating.
Here’s a good definition for it, taken from BeyondTV:
Detournement is the subversion, devaluation and re-use of present and past cultural production, destroying its message while hijacking its impact.
Comics, ads, movies, ‘fine art’ or even city spaces are manipulated and placed in new and radical contexts (one contemporary example is ‘adbusting’ or ‘subvertising’ and culture-jamming).
Paris. May, 1968: the SI (Situationalist International) successfully fed the revolutionary spirit by subverting popular comics in posters and flyers.
Detournement is most commonly associated with the Situationalists, whose ideas and spirit inspired the near spontaneous revolution in France in 1968. Situationists envisioned a society on the foundations of creativity, pleasure and free play where people actively participated in the reconstruction of every moment in life.
By encouraging people to detourne their own everyday-roles, ‘spectacular lifestyle’ and seize control over their own lived space through the creation of unique situations, the SI hoped to achieve a way towards Utopia by functioning as the trigger to a grand anti-spectacular revolution by the people.
The Situationists were not the kind of people who thought the only right thing to do was just to sit down peacefully and wait for a revolution to pop up in a distant future. Instead they recognised the idea of doing something immediately and reinvent everyday life here and now as necessary.
Art was considered central in the deconstruction as well as reconstruction of society. Paintings, sculptures and such were considered ‘spectacular phenomenons’. Instead of transforming everyday life to art, it remained an entity separated from everyday life or just another type of commodity.
Situationist ‘art’ emphasised more on human interaction and the ‘art’ of creating new spaces and forms of communication. Arguing that our perception of the world is closely related to the structure of the society, the prime task was to liberate people’s everyday-life from the narrow-minded discourse provided from the spectacle. If ordinary citizens were given a widened and more creative perception of what our world was capable of becoming the structure of society would change.
It surprised me how modern these thoughts still sound and how relevant to our digital society they are. The situationalists thought that people should regain control of the media by participating and creating their own content…
There is a lot to be stolen and re-adapted from them. This philosphy has strongly inspired Adbusters for example. I loved how Guy Debord had put sandpaper on the cover of his book, the society of spectacle, so ir would destroy other books in a library. I believe there insights can be used to create advertising that is more intelligent and subtle, that challenge people perceptions. That uses provocation but in a positive way.
Modern philosophy is very readable and still very thought provoking. For interesting point of views on what a ‘home’ means to people, ‘the architecture of happiness, by Alain De Botton is a must read. (Especially read it if you work for Ikea). Providing inspirational insights on why human beings desperatly try to make a house a home. Actually I would recommend most of his books, just for general culture.
Before embarking on a brainstorming for a new client, I would strongly recommend quickly going through what philosophers have been talking about on your subjects… The relationship with a home, technology, what makes us happy… It will be worth it.