Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds /Milk Tea Alliance

The Dharma of the Situationists

I’m exploring the Situationist International (1957 to 1972) as a source for creating a new dharma. Creating ‘situations’ is about making both art and meaning out of direct engagement with everyday life, with other people, without the interference or marketing of mass media, or, more currently, internet social media. The Situationists recommended certain “practices”, derive and detournment. Derive, or ‘drift’, is a practice derived from ‘psychogeography’, in which people ‘drift’ through an urban landscape, reacting to and playing with whatever is encountered: people, spaces, forms, movements and sounds. I have written about this practice recently as jazz dharma.

Detournment is taking what is produced by capitalist mass marketing and overlaying it with other meanings: satirical meanings, personal meanings, natural, spiritual or political meanings, whatever the individual wants to bring to the ‘situation.’ Adbusters is the most recent incarnation of detournment. I have featured the dharma of Adbusters several times in this blog. The most recent ‘borrowing’ from Adbusters is my current series on memes. So this is another kind of ‘practice.’

To complete Situationist dharma, we need to add Badiou’s event. The event occurs when something breaks through and shatters the smooth surface of reality, which interrupts, startles, ‘wakes up’ the observer. One who experiences this break through, this event,  thus ‘wakes up’ to the artificiality of conventional reality and sees alternate and ‘other’ levels of reality. Perhaps the two truths or realities should not be ‘conventional’ vs ‘ultimate’ reality, but conventional vs. obverse or ulterior reality, an alterity of conventional reality.

See The Event: Revolutionary Explosion of the Excluded [Shunyata] as my first application of the event in a dharmic context.

New Dharma Practice: Walking Meditation as derive, as psychogeography.

[Wiki] The dérive (French: “drift”) is a revolutionary strategy originally put forward in the “Theory of the Dérive” (1956) by Guy Debord, a member at the time of the Letterist International.[1]Debord defines the dérive as “a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” It is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, in which participants drop their everyday relations and “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”. Though solo dérives are possible, Debord indicates

that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions.[3]

The dérive‘s goals include studying the terrain of the city (psychogeography) and emotional disorientation, both of which lead to the potential creation of Situations.

Future blog entries will feature detournments: images stolen from various places (concrete or virtual) with words scrawled across them to create new meanings, new dharmas. And I will soon publish two new audio practices on SoundCloud featuring jazz dharma and derive, or psychogeography as walking meditation. This is part of my move towards creating practices of engagement rather than silent, still meditation which isolates and disconnects people from their environments. The whole movement of engaged practice is on intensifying the experience of relationships.

2 comments on “The Dharma of the Situationists

  1. mike

    My mind was exploding from thought and work overload, when I was miraculously sent this article. Its so refreshing. I must follow. I must bathe in Dharma of The Situationists. love aleaz mike

  2. Shaun Bartone

    Hey thanks Mike. This kind of fresh experimentation keeps my head from exploding also. 🙂

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This entry was posted on 2018/03/27 by .


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