‘Never work’ Guy Debord
I love quotations: Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Shaw, Dickens; all the usual suspects, but what I really love is the wacky stuff, and Guy Debord is a particular favourite.
Debord was a French Marxist theorist, writer, and a founding member of Situationist International. Some consider his book Society of the Spectacle (1967) to have been instrumental in the Paris uprising in 1968. And he was a drinker. He defined Psychogeography as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” Another definition is “a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.” Heavy duty, philosophy? Well, yes and no. “This apparently serious term ‘psychogeography,'” writes Debord biographer Vincent Kaufman, “comprises an art of conversation and drunkenness, and everything leads us to believe that Debord excelled at both.” One of the ‘playful, inventive strategies’ involved taking a city map and taking a route from A to B simply following the directions on the map: second left, first right etc….. the absurdist element was that the map was not of the city in which the journey would take place. Therefore Debord and his colleagues/drinking buddies would, for example, carry out a journey in central Paris using a street map of Berlin: a journey which involved a large number of re-fuelling stops – a sort of Philosophy Crawl – sounds like fun! In his own words: ‘I have written much less than most people who write, but I have drunk more than most people who drink’
Of course it was not only Debord, who enjoyed intoxication. Julian Trevelyan, British surrealist and fan of psychtropic drugs wrote: ‘On mescalin, I have fallen in love with a sausage-roll’
And, with or without stimulants, Jean-Paul Sartre said, enigmatically, ‘Jazz is like a banana, it has to be consumed on the spot.‘
They’re all such great lines. I’d be happy to go down in history, having said one great phrase, such as, um . . . er . . . . . ah well, there’s time yet . . . . .