Om détournement

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Från A user's guide to Détournement, av Guy Debord & Gil J. Wolman (1956)

Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations. The discoveries of modern poetry regarding the analogical structure of images demonstrate that when two objects are brought together, no matter how far apart their original contexts may be, a relationship is always formed. Restricting oneself to a personal arrangement of words is mere convention. The mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supersedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organization of greater efficacy. Anything can be used.
It goes without saying that one is not limited to correcting a work or to integrating diverse fragments of out-of-date works into a new one; one can also alter the meaning of those fragments in any appropriate way, leaving the imbeciles to their slavish preservation of “citations.”
Such parodic methods have often been used to obtain comical effects. But such humor is the result of contradictions within a condition whose existence is taken for granted. Since the world of literature seems to us almost as distant as the Stone Age, such contradictions don’t make us laugh. It is therefore necessary to conceive of a parodic-serious stage where the accumulation of detourned elements, far from aiming to arouse indignation or laughter by alluding to some original work, will express our indifference toward a meaningless and forgotten original, and concern itself with rendering a certain sublimity.
Lautréamont advanced so far in this direction that he is still partially misunderstood even by his most ostentatious admirers. In spite of his obvious application of this method to theoretical language in Poésies — where Lautréamont (drawing particularly on the maxims of Pascal and Vauvenargues) strives to reduce the argument, through successive concentrations, to maxims alone — a certain Viroux caused considerable astonishment three or four years ago by conclusively demonstrating that Maldoror is one vast détournement of Buffon and other works of natural history, among other things. The fact that the prosaists of Figaro, like Viroux himself, were able to see this as a justification for disparaging Lautréamont, and that others believed they had to defend him by praising his insolence, only testifies to the senility of these two camps of dotards in courtly combat with each other. A slogan like “Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it” is still as poorly understood, and for the same reasons, as the famous phrase about the poetry that “must be made by all.”
Apart from Lautréamont’s work — whose appearance so far ahead of its time has to a great extent preserved it from a precise critique — the tendencies toward détournement that can be observed in contemporary expression are for the most part unconscious or accidental. It is in the advertising industry, more than in a decaying aesthetic production, that one can find the best examples.
We can first of all define two main categories of detourned elements, without considering whether or not their being brought together is accompanied by corrections introduced in the originals. These are minor détournements and deceptive détournements.
Minor détournement is the détournement of an element which has no importance in itself and which thus draws all its meaning from the new context in which it has been placed. For example, a press clipping, a neutral phrase, a commonplace photograph.
Deceptive détournement, also termed premonitory-proposition détournement, is in contrast the détournement of an intrinsically significant element, which derives a different scope from the new context. A slogan of Saint-Just, for example, or a film sequence from Eisenstein.
Extensive detourned works will thus usually be composed of one or more series of deceptive and minor détournements.
Several laws on the use of détournement can now be formulated.
It is the most distant detourned element which contributes most sharply to the overall impression, and not the elements that directly determine the nature of this impression. For example, in a metagraph [poem-collage] relating to the Spanish Civil War the phrase with the most distinctly revolutionary sense is a fragment from a lipstick ad: “Pretty lips are red.” In another metagraph (“The Death of J.H.”) 125 classified ads of bars for sale express a suicide more strikingly than the newspaper articles that recount it.
The distortions introduced in the detourned elements must be as simplified as possible, since the main impact of a détournement is directly related to the conscious or semiconscious recollection of the original contexts of the elements. This is well known. Let us simply note that if this dependence on memory implies that one must determine one’s public before devising a détournement, this is only a particular case of a general law that governs not only détournement but also any other form of action on the world. The idea of pure, absolute expression is dead; it only temporarily survives in parodic form as long as our other enemies survive.
Détournement is less effective the more it approaches a rational reply. This is the case with a rather large number of Lautréamont’s altered maxims. The more the rational character of the reply is apparent, the more indistinguishable it becomes from the ordinary spirit of repartee, which similarly uses the opponent’s words against him. This is naturally not limited to spoken language. It was in this connection that we objected to the project of some of our comrades who proposed to detourn an anti-Soviet poster of the fascist organization “Peace and Liberty” — which proclaimed, amid images of overlapping flags of the Western powers, “Union makes strength” — by adding onto it a smaller sheet with the phrase “and coalitions make war.”
Détournement by simple reversal is always the most direct and the least effective. Thus, the Black Mass reacts against the construction of an ambiance based on a given metaphysics by constructing an ambiance in the same framework that merely reverses — and thus simultaneously conserves — the values of that metaphysics. Such reversals may nevertheless have a certain progressive aspect. For example, Clemenceau [called “The Tiger”] could be referred to as “The Tiger called Clemenceau.”
Of the four laws that have just been set forth, the first is essential and applies universally. The other three are practically applicable only to deceptive detourned elements.
The first visible consequences of a widespread use of détournement, apart from its intrinsic propaganda powers, will be the revival of a multitude of bad books, and thus the extensive (unintended) participation of their unknown authors; an increasingly extensive transformation of phrases or plastic works that happen to be in fashion; and above all an ease of production far surpassing in quantity, variety and quality the automatic writing that has bored us for so long.
Détournement not only leads to the discovery of new aspects of talent; in addition, clashing head-on with all social and legal conventions, it cannot fail to be a powerful cultural weapon in the service of a real class struggle. The cheapness of its products is the heavy artillery that breaks through all the Chinese walls of understanding. It is a real means of proletarian artistic education, the first step toward a literary communism.
Ideas and creations in the realm of détournement can be multiplied at will. For the moment we will limit ourselves to showing a few concrete possibilities in various current sectors of communication — it being understood that these separate sectors are significant only in relation to present-day techniques, and are all tending to merge into superior syntheses with the advance of these techniques.
Apart from the various direct uses of detourned phrases in posters, records and radio broadcasts, the two main applications of detourned prose are metagraphic writings and, to a lesser degree, the adroit perversion of the classical novel form.
There is not much future in the détournement of complete novels, but during the transitional phase there might be a certain number of undertakings of this sort. Such a détournement gains by being accompanied by illustrations whose relationships to the text are not immediately obvious. [...]
It is obviously in the realm of the cinema that détournement can attain its greatest effectiveness and, for those concerned with this aspect, its greatest beauty.
The powers of film are so extensive, and the absence of coordination of those powers is so glaring, that virtually any film that is above the miserable average can provide matter for endless polemics among spectators or professional critics. Only the conformism of those people prevents them from discovering equally appealing charms and equally glaring faults even in the worst films. To cut through this absurd confusion of values, we can observe that Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is one of the most important films in the history of the cinema because of its wealth of new contributions. On the other hand, it is a racist film and therefore absolutely does not merit being shown in its present form. But its total prohibition could be seen as regrettable from the point of view of the secondary, but potentially worthier, domain of the cinema. It would be better to detourn it as a whole, without necessarily even altering the montage, by adding a soundtrack that made a powerful denunciation of the horrors of imperialist war and of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, which are continuing in the United States even now.
Such a détournement — a very moderate one — is in the final analysis nothing more than the moral equivalent of the restoration of old paintings in museums. But most films only merit being cut up to compose other works. This reconversion of preexisting sequences will obviously be accompanied by other elements, musical or pictorial as well as historical. While the cinematic rewriting of history has until now been largely along the lines of Sacha Guitry’s burlesque re-creations, one could have Robespierre say, before his execution: “In spite of so many trials, my experience and the grandeur of my task convinces me that all is well.” If in this case an appropriate reuse of a Greek tragedy enables us to exalt Robespierre, we can conversely imagine a neorealist-type sequence, at the counter of a truck stop bar, for example, with one of the truck drivers saying seriously to another: “Ethics was formerly confined to the books of the philosophers; we have introduced it into the governing of nations.” One can see that this juxtaposition illuminates Maximilien’s idea, the idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat.
The light of détournement is propagated in a straight line. To the extent that new architecture seems to have to begin with an experimental baroque stage, the architectural complex — which we conceive as the construction of a dynamic environment related to styles of behavior — will probably detourn existing architectural forms, and in any case will make plastic and emotional use of all sorts of detourned objects: careful arrangements of such things as cranes or metal scaffolding replacing a defunct sculptural tradition. This is shocking only to the most fanatical admirers of French-style gardens. It is said that in his old age D’Annunzio, that pro-fascist swine, had the prow of a torpedo boat in his park. Leaving aside his patriotic motives, the idea of such a monument is not without a certain charm.
If détournement were extended to urbanistic realizations, not many people would remain unaffected by an exact reconstruction in one city of an entire neighborhood of another. Life can never be too disorienting: détournement on this level would really make it beautiful.
The title contributes strongly to the détournement of a work, but there is an inevitable counteraction of the work on the title. Thus one can make extensive use of specific titles taken from scientific publications (“Coastal Biology of Temperate Seas”) or military ones (“Night Combat of Small Infantry Units”), or even of many phrases found in illustrated children’s books (“Marvelous Landscapes Greet the Voyagers”).
In closing, we should briefly mention some aspects of what we call ultradétournement, that is, the tendencies for détournement to operate in everyday social life. Gestures and words can be given other meanings, and have been throughout history for various practical reasons. The secret societies of ancient China made use of quite subtle recognition signals encompassing the greater part of social behavior (the manner of arranging cups; of drinking; quotations of poems interrupted at agreed-on points). The need for a secret language, for passwords, is inseparable from a tendency toward play. Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite. The royalist insurgents of the Vendée, because they bore the disgusting image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were called the Red Army. In the limited domain of political war vocabulary this expression was completely detourned within a century.

Från Definitions i första numret av Internationale Situationniste (1958).

Short for “détournement of preexisting aesthetic elements.” The integration of present or past artistic productions into a superior construction of a milieu. In this sense there can be no situationist painting or music, but only a situationist use of those means. In a more elementary sense, détournement within the old cultural spheres is a method of propaganda, a method which reveals the wearing out and loss of importance of those spheres.

Från Détourned Painting, av Asger Jorn (1959).

Be modern,
collectors, museums.
If you have old paintings,
do not despair.
Retain your memories
but détourn them
so that they correspond with your era.
Why reject the old
if one can modernize it
with a few strokes of the brush?
This casts a bit of contemporaneity
on your old culture.
Be up to date,
and distinguished
at the same time.
Painting is over.
You might as well finish it off.
Long live painting.
The result is that this perspective leads one necessarily to consider all creations simultaneously as reinvestments, revalorizations of the act of humanity. The object, reality, or presence takes on value only as an agent of becoming. But it is impossible to establish a future without a past. The future is made through relinquishing or sacrificing the past. He who possesses the past of a phenomenon also possesses the sources of its becoming. Europe will continue to be the source of modern development. Here, the only problem is to know who should have the right to the sacrifices and to the relinquishments of this past, that is, who will inherit the futurist power. I want to rejuvenate European culture. I begin with art. Our past is full of becoming. One needs only to crack open the shells. Détournement is a game born out of the capacity for devalorization. Only he who is able to devalorize can create new values. And only there where there is something to devalorize, that is, an already established value, can one engage in devalorization. It is up to us to devalorize or to be devalorized according to our ability to reinvest in our own culture. There remain only two possibilities for us in Europe: to be sacrificed or to sacrifice. It is up to you to choose between the historical monument and the act that merits it.

Détournement as Negation and Prelude, från Internationale Situationniste 3 (1959)

DÉTOURNEMENT, the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble, has been a constantly present tendency of the contemporary avant-garde, both before and since the formation of the SI. The two fundamental laws of détournement are the loss of importance of each detourned autonomous element — which may go so far as to completely lose its original sense — and at the same time the organization of another meaningful ensemble that confers on each element its new scope and effect.
Détournement has a peculiar power which obviously stems from the double meaning, from the enrichment of most of the terms by the coexistence within them of their old and new senses. Détournement is practical because it is so easy to use and because of its inexhaustible potential for reuse. Concerning the negligible effort required for détournement, we have already noted that “the cheapness of its products is the heavy artillery that breaks through all the Chinese walls of understanding” (A User’s Guide to Détournement, May 1956). But these points would not by themselves justify recourse to this method, which the same text describes as “clashing head-on against all social and legal conventions.” Détournement has a historical significance. What is it?
“Détournement is a game made possible by the capacity of devaluation,” writes Jorn in his study Detourned Painting (May 1959), and he goes on to say that all the elements of the cultural past must be “reinvested” or disappear. Détournement is thus first of all a negation of the value of the previous organization of expression. It arises and grows increasingly stronger in the historical period of the decomposition of artistic expression. But at the same time, the attempts to reuse the “detournable bloc” as material for other ensembles express the search for a vaster construction, a new genre of creation at a higher level.
The SI is a very special kind of movement, different in nature from preceding artistic avant-gardes. Within culture, the SI can be likened to a research laboratory, for example, or to a party in which we are situationists but nothing that we do can yet be situationist. This is not a disavowal for anyone. We are partisans of a certain future of culture and of life. Situationist activity is a particular craft that we are not yet practicing.
Thus the signature of the situationist movement, the sign of its presence and contestation in contemporary cultural reality (since we cannot represent any common style whatsoever), is first of all the use of détournement. Examples of our use of detourned expression include Jorn’s altered paintings; Debord and Jorn’s book Mémoires, “composed entirely of prefabricated elements,” in which the writing on each page runs in all directions and the reciprocal relations of the phrases are invariably uncompleted; Constant’s projects for detourned sculptures; and Debord’s detourned documentary film, On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Period of Time. At the stage of what the “User’s Guide to Détournement” calls “ultradétournement, that is, the tendencies for détournement to operate in everyday social life” (e.g. passwords or the wearing of disguises, belonging to the sphere of play), we might mention, at different levels, Gallizio’s industrial painting; Wyckaert’s “orchestral” project for assembly-line painting with a division of labor based on color; and numerous détournements of buildings that were at the origin of unitary urbanism. But we should also mention in this context the SI’s very forms of “organization” and propaganda.
At this point in the world’s development, all forms of expression are losing their grip on reality and being reduced to self-parody. As the readers of this journal can frequently verify, present-day writing invariably has an element of parody. As the “User’s Guide” notes: “It is necessary to conceive of a parodic-serious stage where the accumulation of detourned elements, far from aiming to arouse indignation or laughter by alluding to some original work, will express our indifference toward a meaningless and forgotten original, and concern itself with rendering a certain sublimity.”
This combination of parody and seriousness reflects the contradictions of an era in which we find ourselves confronted with both the urgent necessity and the near impossibility of initiating and carrying out a totally innovative collective action — an era in which the most serious ventures are masked in the ambiguous interplay between art and its necessary negation, and in which the essential voyages of discovery have been undertaken by such astonishingly incapable people.

Från The situationists and new forms of action against politics and art, av René Viénet (1967).

By detourning the very propositions of the spectacle, we can directly reveal the implications of present and future revolts.
I propose that we pursue:
1. Experimentation in the détournement of photo-romances and “pornographic” photos, and that we bluntly impose their real truth by restoring real dialogues [by adding or altering speech bubbles]. This operation will bring to the surface the subversive bubbles that are spontaneously, but only fleetingly and half-consciously, formed and then dissolved in the imaginations of those who look at these images. In the same spirit, it is also possible to detourn any advertising billboards — particularly those in subway corridors, which form remarkable sequences — by pasting pre-prepared placards onto them.
2. The promotion of guerrilla tactics in the mass media — an important form of contestation, not only at the urban guerrilla stage, but even before it. The trail was blazed by those Argentinians who took over the control station of an electronic bulletin board and used it to transmit their own directives and slogans. It is still possible to take advantage of the fact that radio and television stations are not yet guarded by troops. On a more modest level, it is known that any amateur radio operator can at little expense broadcast, or at least jam, on a local level; and that the small size of the necessary equipment permits a great mobility, enabling one to slip away before one’s position is trigonometrically located. A group of Communist Party dissidents in Denmark had their own pirate radio station a few years ago. Counterfeit issues of one or another periodical can add to the enemy’s confusion. This list of examples is vague and limited for obvious reasons.
The illegality of such actions makes a sustained engagement on this terrain impossible for any organization that has not chosen to go underground, because it would require the formation within it of a specialized subgroup — a division of tasks which cannot be effectual without compartmentalization and thus hierarchy, etc. Without, in a word, finding oneself on the slippery path toward terrorism. We can more appropriately recall the notion of propaganda by deed, which is a very different matter. Our ideas are in everybody’s mind, as is well known, and any group without any relation to us, or even a few individuals coming together for a specific purpose, can improvise and improve on tactics experimented with elsewhere by others. This type of unconcerted action cannot be expected to bring about any decisive upheaval, but it can usefully serve to accentuate the coming awakening of consciousness. In any case, there’s no need to get hung up on the idea of illegality. Most actions in this domain can be done without breaking any existing law. But the fear of such interventions will make newspaper editors paranoid about their typesetters, radio managers paranoid about their technicians, etc., at least until more specific repressive legislation has been worked out and enacted.
3. The development of situationist comics. Comic strips are the only truly popular literature of our century. Even cretins marked by years at school have not been able to resist writing dissertations on them; but they’ll get little pleasure out of reading ours. No doubt they’ll buy them just to burn them. In our task of “making shame more shameful still,” it is easy to see how easy it would be, for example, to transform “13 rue de l’Espoir [hope]” into “1 blvd. du Désespoir [despair]” merely by adding a few elements; or balloons can simply be changed. In contrast to Pop Art, which breaks comics up into fragments, this method aims at restoring to comics their content and importance.
4. The production of situationist films. The cinema, which is the newest and undoubtedly most utilizable means of expression of our time, has stagnated for nearly three quarters of a century. To sum it up, we can say that it indeed became the “seventh art” so dear to film buffs, film clubs and PTAs. For our purposes this age is over (Ince, Stroheim, the one and only L’Age d’or, Citizen Kane and Mr. Arkadin, the lettrist films), even if there remain a few traditional narrative masterpieces to be unearthed in the film archives or on the shelves of foreign distributors. We should appropriate the first stammerings of this new language — in particular its most consummate and modern examples, those which have escaped artistic ideology even more than American “B” movies: newsreels, previews and, above all, filmed ads.
Although filmed advertising has obviously been in the service of the commodity and the spectacle, its extreme technical freedom has laid the foundations for what Eisenstein had an inkling of when he talked of filming The Critique of Political Economy or The German Ideology.

Från The revolution of everyday life, av Raoul Vaneigem (1967).

Détournement. In its broadest sense, repurposing means putting every thing back into play. It is the act whereby the unifying force of play retrieves beings and things hitherto frozen solid in a hierarchy of fragments.
One evening, for example, as night fell, some friends and I wandered into the Palais de Justice in Brussels, a familiar elephantine edifice whose mass dominates the poor districts below while standing guard over the affluent Avenue Louise (which we shall one day turn into a fabulous adventure playground). As we drifted through a maze of corridors, staircases and suite after suite of rooms, we pondered how the place might be rearranged. For a while we occupied enemy territory; the magic of our imaginings transformed that sinister pile into a fantastic fairground, a sunny pleasure dome, where the most exhilarating adventures would allow themselves to be directly experienced.
In a word, détournement is the most elementary form of creativity. In daydreams subjectivity repurposes the world. Sometimes such repurposing resembles Monsieur Jourdain speaking prose; sometimes it is more like James Joyce writing Ulysses. Which is to say that it may be spontaneous or it may require a good deal of reflection. It was in 1955 that Debord, struck by Lautréamont’s systematic use of this device, first drew attention to its rich possibilities. In 1959, Asger Jorn described détournement as ‘a game made possible by the fact that things can be devalued. All components of past culture must be reinvested or else disappear’. Returning to the subject later that year, in Internationale Situationniste 3, Debord elaborated as follows: ‘The two fundamental principles of détournement are the loss of importance of each originally independent element (which may even lose its first sense completely), and the organization of a new signifying whole which confers a fresh meaning on each element.’ Historical conditions have since bolstered these remarks, and it is now clear that:
(i) As the swamp of cultural disintegration broadens, spontaneous repurposing proliferates. The age of consumable values is remarkably well suited to the creation of ‘new signifying wholes’.
(ii) Nor is culture now an especially privileged sphere in this regard. Repurposing can be an integral part of all forms of resistance in everyday life.
(iii) Under the dictatorship of the fragmentary, repurposing is the only subversive technique that serves the totality. No other revolutionary act is more coherent, more demotic or better adapted to insurrectional practice. Thanks to a sort of natural process—the desire to play—it fosters extreme radicalization.
Amid the decay affecting the entirety of spiritual and material behaviour—and made inevitable by the imperatives of consumer society—the ‘devaluing’ phase of détournement has in a sense been taken over and guaranteed by historical conditions themselves. With negativity embedded in factual reality, repurposing comes increasingly to resemble a tactic of supersession—an essentially positive act.
Although the abundance of consumer goods is hailed on all sides as a major step forward, the way the social system deals with these goods, as we have seen, corrupts any good use of them. The primacy of the commodity-as-gimmick as a source of profit for capitalist and bureaucratic regimes alike means that commodities must be deprived of utility. The ideology of consumerism thus acts like a defect in manufacture, sabotaging the commodity it packages and turning what could be the material basis of happiness into a new form of slavery. In this context, repurposing popularizes other ways of using goods—of inventing superior uses for them whereby things marketed with a view to manipulating subjectivity can instead be manipulated by subjectivity to its own benefit. The crisis of the spectacle will reassign forces now serving lies to the camp of directly experienced truth. The main tactical and strategic issue is how to turn the weapons that commercial pressures oblige the enemy to distribute against that enemy itself. A user’s guide to repurposing should be available to all consumers who want to stop consuming.
The weapon of repurposing, first used in the sphere of art, has now been deployed in every sphere. The technique emerged amid the cultural turmoil of the years between 1910 and 1925, but its use has gradually spread to every area touched by social disintegration. The fact remains that the artistic realm continues to offer repurposing a viable area for experiment; the fact remains, too, that much must still be learnt from the past. Thus Surrealism’s premature attempt—in a perfectly suitable context—to reinvest Dadaist antivalues which had not yet been reduced to zero shows that trying to build on inadequately devalued elements can only result in co-optation by the prevailing mechanisms of social organization. The ‘combinatorial’ approach to art by today’s cyberneticians goes so far as to prize any accumulation of disparate elements whatsoever, even if the particular elements have not been devalued at all. Consider Pop Art or the work of Jean-Luc Godard: the same apologetics of the junkyard.
Artistic expression also makes it possible, albeit tentatively and cautiously, to explore new forms of agitation and propaganda. In 1963, for instance, Michèle Bernstein produced a series of relief-plaster works with embedded lead soldiers, cars, tanks, etc. With such titles as Victory of the Bonnot Gang, Victory of the Paris Commune, Victory of the Budapest Workers’ Councils of 1956, these works were meant to spur efforts to rectify and improve certain historical events artificially frozen in the past—to revisit the history of the workers’ movement and at the same time to fulfil art. No matter how limited it may be, no matter how speculative, agitational art of this kind opens the door to every one’s creative spontaneity, if only by proving that in the especially distorted realm of art repurposing is the only language, the only action, that contains its own self-criticism.
Creativity has no limits; repurposing knows no bounds.

Från Skådespelssamhället, av Guy Debord (1967).

Den stil som innehåller sin egen kritik måste klart visa att den aktuella kritiken behärskar hela sitt förflutna. Genom den vittnar sättet att framställa den dialektiska teorin om den negativa anda som den innehåller. "Sanningen är inte som det färdiga kärl som inte bär spår av verktyget" (Hegel). Detta rörelsens teoretiska medvetande, där spåren av rörelsen måste vara närvarande, kommer till uttryck genom en omkastning av de relationer som etablerats mellan begreppen och genom ett détournement av den tidigare kritikens alla landvinningar. Omkastning av genitivet är ett sådant uttryck för historiska revolutioner, som bevarats i nedtecknat tänkande, som har betraktats som utmärkande för Hegels epigrammatiska stil. Sedan Feuerbach gjort systematiskt bruk av det, förordade den unge Marx att predikatet skulle ersätta subjektet och uppnådde det mest konsekventa bruk av denna upproriska stil som av eländets filosofi gör filosofins elände. Detournementet återför till det subversiva området de kritiska slutsatser ur det förgångna som stelnat till respektabla sanningar, det vill säga omvandlats till lögner. Kierkegaard har gjort medvetet bruk av det genom att själv tillfoga en vederläggning: "Men som du vänder och vrider dig! Precis som Saft alltid till sist hamnar i skafferiet lyckas du alltid få in några små ord som inte är dina egna, vilket är störande på så vis att det påminner en om någonting." (Filosofiska smulor). Det är förpliktelsen till distans inför det som blivit förfalskat till officiell sanning som bestämmer denna användning av detournement, som Kierkegaard vidgår sålunda i samma bok: "Jag skall bara göra ytterligare en kommentar beträffande dina många anspelningar, som alla riktade in sig på att jag flätade in lånade fraser i det jag sade. Att så är fallet förnekar jag inte, och jag tänker inte heller dölja att jag gjorde det med avsikt samt att jag i nästa del av denna ströskrift, om jag någonsin skriver någon sådan, planerar att nämna saken vid dess riktiga namn och klä problemet i historisk dräkt."
Idéerna förbättras. Ordens mening tar del däri. Det är nödvändigt att plagiera. Det är en förutsättning för framsteg. Plagiatet följer tätt i spåren på en författares formulering, betjänar sig av dennes uttryck, stryker en felaktig idé och ersätter den med en korrekt.
Detournement är motsatsen till citat, motsatsen till den teoretiska auktoritet som alltid är förfalskad av det faktum att den blivit till ett citat; fragment som lösgjorts från sitt sammanhang, från sin utveckling, och slutligen från sin epok som global referens och från det bestämda val som det utgjorde inuti denna referens, vare sig det uppfattades som precist eller felaktigt. Detournement är anti-ideologins flytande språk. Det uppstår i den kommunikation som vet att den inte kan utge sig för att i sig själv definitivt hysa någon garanti. I sitt högsta stadium är det ett språk som ingen tidigare och superkritisk referens kan bekräfta. Det utgör tvärtom sitt eget sammanhang, i sig själv och med de möjliga handlingar som kan bekräfta den gamla kärna av sanning som det återställer. Detournementet bygger inte sin sak på någonting utanför sin egen sanning som föreliggande kritik.
Det som i sin teoretiska formulering öppet framställer sig som detournerat genom att förkasta varje varaktig autonomi för det teoretiska uttryckets område, och som genom detta våld släpper lös handlingar som stör och rycker undan varje rådande ordning, påminner om att teorins existens inte är något i sig själv och inte kan känna igen sig annat än i historisk handling och i den historiska korrektion som utgör beviset på dess trovärdighet.
Endast kulturens verkliga negation bevarar dess mening. Den kan inte längre vara kulturell. Den är således vad som på något sätt förblir på kulturens nivå fastän i en helt annan betydelse.
På motsättningarnas språk framställer sig kritiken av kulturen som något förenat: i den meningen att den behärskar hela kulturen - dess kunskap såväl som dess poesi - och i den meningen att den inte längre skiljer sig från kritiken av samhället i dess helhet. Det är bara denna teoretiskt förenade kritik som går den förenade samhälleliga praktiken till mötes.