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Sampling Media$
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David Laderman and Laurel Westrup

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199949311

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199949311.001.0001

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“Whatever Rubbish Was at Hand”

“Whatever Rubbish Was at Hand”

The Emergence of the Media Sample in Guy Debord’s Films

(p.43) 3 “Whatever Rubbish Was at Hand”
Sampling Media

R. D. Crand

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines radical French social theorist Guy Debord’s film career as a revealing episode in media sampling’s prehistory. Debord scripted and directed six films (1952–1978), each uniquely exhibiting his ever-evolving cinematographic technique of détournement—selection and recombination of representative images of postwar mass media. From his earliest cine-club provocations, through his sober dialectical critiques of consumer capitalism’s optical empire, to his funereal and memoirish career capstone, Debord’s cinematic corpus unfolds as a permanent struggle to integrate incommensurate revolutionary movements in politics and communications. From this struggle emerges a tactical practice of sampling that functions as a radical corrective to historiographic method and a prescient prototype for the demassifying media tendencies of the telematic twenty-first century. Returning to Debord in this way helps us problematize the banal liberalism that plagues many facets of digital culture today, despite that culture’s evident, if unwitting, embrace of Debord’s most innovative technical motifs.

Keywords:   capitalism, cinema, critical media theory, Debord, détournement, Internet culture, historiography, media archaeology, spectacle

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