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appearance: «The arts of the future will be violent upheavals in situations, or nothing» says a programmatic sentence from the dialogue in the screenplay.[23] Like Cage's «4'33'',» Debord's film also rejects any form of spectacle. This radical critique of the media society then became the cornerstone for his theory of the «Society of the Spectacle,» which was to form the basis of the 1968 movement. His aim of «harming the spectacle society,» which he was still proclaiming in 1992, is already clearly present in his cinematic work forty years earlier.[24]

Three media, three strategies

These three archetypical examples of media art have two things in common: their astonishing simultaneity and the fact that they have survived only as drafts or memories, because they have been lost in audio-visual form: Fontana's broadcast went out live, without being recorded, as was customary at the time. There were no recordings of Cage's compositions with radios on principle, because according to Cage, as for «4'33''» they had meaning only in the here and now of their performance. Debord's film is thought to be lost; only various versions of the screenplay have survived.[25]


The theses put forward by these three artistic interventions can perhaps also be related to the state of development of each of the media concerned around 1952, in that they turn the chronology of technical development back to front: the film is already so well organized and commercialized that the only possibility left is a radical anti-approach of the kind that was later demonstrated in experimental work and video art. Radio's sound material still seems open to manipulation; it can be deconstructed and recombined, and this strategy too then becomes part of the artistic work program, from ‹found footage› to rave music's sampling. Only television, which seemed to offer a new field that was still open for the art of the future, still has utopian hopes clinging to it, though they were soon to be bitterly disappointed by TV reality.[26]

These three strategies, presented here in their pure conceptual form, are thus continued, differentiated and developed further from the 1960s in the many media art forms that exist in a state of tension with technical and social media development.


Translation by Michael Robinson