A webwork by Luis C. Vega
For COM 105: Introduction to Media Studies



Further Examples
Bansky: Detournement and Dérive Combined


We discussed in class about Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" and how it is seen to be merely an appearance that is also a visible negation of life. Because of the Spectacle, our lives have become somewhat numb to the world of consumerist ideals, only to leave us with a sense of being through materially having.

Guy Debord belonged to a group known as the Situationist International who constantly attempted to find ways of going against the Spectacle. Through this group, we are able to understand his concept of the Spectacle further and find ways on how to improve our lives detached and diverted from it.

For my webwork, I plan to do a more concrete analysis of the Spectacle by providing contemporary examples of Dérive and Detournement, which Guy Debord believes to be actual applications or actions that can be taken to "go against the Spectacle." Specifically, I will discuss what Dérive and Detournement are and then evaluate these contemporary forms eventually explaining how they can be seen as actions that can be taken to go against the Spectacle.


The concept of the Dérive is taken from Guy Debord's text known as "Theory of the Dérive". The basic idea of Dérive is that it is an attempt to take a look at our current surroundings and find a way to "break free" in such a way that we may encounter a liberating experience from today's Spectacle that has negated our lives. In class, Sir Andrew discussed a simple yet very radical way of Derive - take a stroll or a drive outside with only one catch: you must not have an idea of exactly where to go. The thought of such an act is certainly mind-boggling for us since our lives seem to always seeking to fulfill a goal or purpose. However, the radical and liberating experience that arises from this stroll or drive is to encounter something new that can immediately allow us to see life in a very different way - thus letting go or liberating us from the Spectacle that aims to dominate our culture and thinking.

Since Dérive talks about our current surroundings as being dominated by the Spectacle of consumerist thinking (remember, Spectacle believes we come to have being through having), Dérive talks much about our urban environment and an analysis of this urban environment through "Psychogeography" It is defined by Guy Debord 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. As a result, Guy Debord uses Psychography as an attempt of Dérive where we can detach ourselves from our current environment due to its effects. He believes that through Psychogeography, we can detach ourselves from the Spectacle into a new understanding of our surroundings, and not merely as an "appearance" of how our lives should be.

A contemporary example this Derive is the Urban Alteration Game. Although somewhat very strange and new, the UAG is a very Situationist form of thinking where in this "game", players are tasked to alter their urban environment in order to encounter a new experience. Indeed, as seen in the video, the players play around with their environment in such a way that they gain a new perspective of their surroundings. Simply put, this is a form of "going against the Spectacle" since players are immersed into this new experience, something liberating and something radical.


The other forms of radical movement is known as Detournement, literally "diversion" in English. Here, an artist now uses popular forms of media and modifies it in such a way that it offers a new message or understanding, commonly as a way to counter the original media's message. There are different types of Detournement, all with their own way of bringing about a new take on how we perceive media and culture around us. It is a form of revolution against the Spectacle since it allows us to see media in a new way, and not as an "appearance" seeking to dominate our way of living. As a result, we are derailed and diverted into a new message - one that liberates us.

Subvertising is one form of Detournement that clearly expresses going against the Spectacle. Subvertising uses different forms of advertisements and manipulates them in such a way as to create an opposed message to the original one. Clearly, Subvertising plays with the elements of today's Spectacle only to use it to open our eyes to the see the representations that the Spectacle uses to negate life. What is very interesting about Subvertising is that even though there is a reference to the media, it does it in such a way that it disturbs us, it derails us and it diverts us to a new understanding. It plays around with the manifestations of the Spectacle to give us an even greater awareness of how our lives are lived today. Thanks to the Adbusters, we are given a new way of approaching these consumerist ideas that we may become aware of how they can negate life to mere representation - one that dictates how we should 'be'.

The video talks about how companies today have bought out these public spaces to propagate their own messages. As the public, the video talks about how we are attacked by these messages. As a result, the video's author believes that we need "public bubbles" where we can express ourselves, hence going against the "Spectacle."

Futher Examples

Below are some of my favorite Subvertisements since they really offer that idea of going against the Spectacle.
This is said to be one of the Adbuster's logos, representing how America is not made of the 50 states but is actually made up of these capitalist companies, constantly dictating how people should exist - by promoting their products.

This logo of Coke has been replaced by "Capitalism", showing how this softdrink is merely a product that doesn't even give nutritional benefits but rather, is marketed as an essential product for everyday life.
This ad is very amusing but it does make one simple yet very provocative statement.
This subvertisement directly attacks ExxonMobil, a massive oil company explaining how it currently contributes to the problem of global warming. Through this subvertisement, consumers clearly grasp the image and the idea sticks to their heads because of its satirical approach to the company's logo.

Bansky: Detournement and Dérive Combined

I got the idea of Bansky from one of the videos that I embedded. I checked out his work and it turns out that his artistic applications may be said to be a combination of Detournement and Dérive. Bansky's work combines the alteration or the "breaking free" of one's current surroundings (Dérive) as well as the manipulation of a message as counter of understanding the original message (Detournement). I checked out his website and I found out that his concepts and artworks do allow for some very radical form of experiencing our surroundings through a totally revolutionary message. He transforms the common surroundings, giving us an idea of what he is trying to say. Here are some of my favorite examples.

This artwork by Bansky is my favorite since it concretely applies Dérive and Detournement approaches. Notice how "Bart" is not his original figure yet he wears the same clothes and same color of hair and is doing his most famous trademark action. What is even interesting is what he's writing "I must not copy what I see on the Simpsons". Take note also of the surroundings where Bansky painted this picture. Immediately, we are offered a radical idea that begins to boggle our minds. This approach to Simpsons allows us to think twice on what we normally perceive as enjoyable and innocent. This artwork is very powerful.


To conclude, Guy Debord offers two ideas of how to go against the Spectacle. Interestingly enough, people today have begun to adapt his Situationist thinking and applying it through new forms - forms that Guy Debord himself was never able to reach. Indeed, we are all becoming entertained by the Spectacle.

Similar to Horkheimer and Adorno's ideas about the avant-garde, going against the Spectacle requires a new forms of liberation from our surroundings. However, instead of impatiently waiting for an avant-garde to arise, Guy Debord emphasizes that we ourselves have the power already to go against the Spectacle. We can take charge of our surroundings and adapt a thinking and culture that allows for prosperity.


Debord, Guy. "Theory of the Derive." Bureau of Secrets. Dec 1958. bopsecrets. 15 Feb 2009 <>.
Debord, Guy. "Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography." 15 Feb 2009 <>.
Debord, Guy. "User's Guide Detournement." Bureau of Secrets. 1956. 15 Feb 2009 <>.
-, -. "Urban Alteration Game." wikibin. -. -. 15 Feb 2009 <>.

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