A term coined by Guy Debord and the Situationist International (SI) movement of the 1960's, Detournement is usually translated into English as ‘diversion’ and was the method of artistic creation used by the situationists. It was, in effect, plagiarism where both the source and the meaning of the original work was subverted to create a new work. In the SI’s own words "there is no Situationist art, only Situationist uses of art." Detournement is distinct from ‘theft’ plagiarism, which only subverts the source of the material and post-modern ‘ironic quotation’ plagiarism which only subverts the meaning of the material, the source becoming the meaning. The SI used detournement in films, art, graphics for their journal and in posters that detourned comics during the events of the Paris uprising of May ’68. Many Situationist ideas became 'popularised' further through the British Punk Rock explosion of the 1970's. As a movement it cast a lengthy shadow over subsequent developments in music, inspiring furious unresolved debates among hapless commentators over it's real legacy.
Detournement can be witnessed first hand on fortnightly Saturdays at The Joint, West Street, Brighton, UK. 10pm-2am. Inept smart-arse DJs play any record alluding to a Punk Rock aesthetic or vague notions of 'Outsider' chic.
by Sonic October 29, 2003