Living Spectacle

"issue": 072

this piece will be a scattered feeling of what i’m seeing through the lens of Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. every quote will be pulled from this text

we all live in the spectacle. the spectacle is fused with our technological projections, with our referential objects, with our measured mimetic desire

no one is free, it is its own metagame,,, maybe we can break the loop maybe it’s a human truth that’ll never be broken. i don’t know


The Spectacle Image

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

— Society of the Spectacle

A post shared by @sidetalknyc

Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.

— Society of the Spectacle

A post shared by @sidetalknyc

My favorite Instagram account as of late has been Side Talk NYC. The concept is incredibly simple, pick a topic and an energy, and let the city do the rest of the work. In the beginning, the staging felt tongue-in-cheek obvious. But the buy in continued.

“HERE'S THE IDEA WHY YOU'RE IN A SIMULATION. LET'S START WITH ACTING, FIRST OF ALL. A 2-YEAR-OLD SCREAMS AT A RESTAURANT, THE ENTIRE RESTAURANT SCREAMS, TEACH THAT KID HOW TO ACT. WE'RE ALL UNPAID ACTORS IN SOME GIANT SCRIPT THAT WE DIDN'T WRITE.” — Kanye West

The problem is, we did write the script. We wrote it for each other, and displayed it for the rest of us. The spectacle used to be reserved for the few, the Kennedy’s in the White House giving the tour. But network a billion people each equipped with cameras tied to the same device, and now it’s a luxury to not play in the spectacle. To truly be a producer-consumer. Not a writer-dp-actor-consumer…

Cuomo’s scandal gets compressed as an image to gather, in order to produce a new image of collective humorous grievance around the scandal. What is actually felt among these actors is unclear, beyond the sensation of ephemeral community in the creation of the new image. Their legitimate politics, desires, actions… continue to be unknown. But the production creates the new social relation they desired, while still distributing a consumable, orchestrated message.


The Spectacle As Organizing Force

The spectacle is a social relation between people that is mediated by an accumulation of images that serve to alienate us from a genuinely lived life. The image is thus an historical mutation of the form of commodity fetishism.

— Society of the Spectacle

... just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having, post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing.

— Society of the Spectacle

Recently Eternal has been partnering with our homies Junior Varsity on their “A F*$KING WEEKEND”.

What’s been so interesting to me, is the effect of the first night (in both NYC & LA) -> into the following two nights.

There’s a clear collective acclimation to the environment, dance and commitment to participation. But then the same night, all of this meticulously cut content both from the audience and performers gets sent out… with no instruction or coordination. Capturing the exact energy we all reached.

And then the second and third night will be a line, hours before the event.

It’s a mythos building, and desiring to be in the ecstasy they saw captured. At the time, with no music formally out. The only way to experience them, was live. A beautiful storm of desire after we’ve been expelled from live music for so long due to covid.

Consume the mythos, distributed through TikTok and IG. Dressed exactly the part and ready to turn fantasy into reality.

The collective psychology of previous consumption became almost roleplay in the arena. So immediately when it hit a certain mass in front of the DJ booth, early early early in the night, they rode an insane high all the way through until the closer a few hours later.

Thus the mythos grows as a culmination of the lived experience. You had to live it. You had to be there to capture the furthering of the appearance…

The top of this metagame have the access to every one of these experiences. Turning it into image commodity, not being lived but perpetuating its existence for others to desire to capture themselves in that environment.

I could keep dissecting these events, but that’s a good stopping point. It’s important to point out, there’s no real formula for this. I’m examining through the rearview mirror… and it was incredible to live and help facilitate. But don’t view this as a playbook, if you’re reading this as a marketer or product person, everyone would see through it.


The Spectacle As Abstraction

Spectacle is the sun that never sets over the empire of modern passivity

— Society of the Spectacle

We are continually being abstracted away from lived reality. Our images are images of images. Where the belief of industrial systems are only as deep as the consumption of the final form.

My favorite recordings of this are the threads that pop-up on Twitter every so often with the prompt “what would your role be in the future communist commune.” We find that the image of the idealized political system lives far closer to the forefront of the responders mind, than the functional reality…

What happens as we abstract ourselves from productive reality, is frustration. In Finite & Infinite Games James P. Carse talks about in dealing with machine we ourselves must act machine like. This same thing is true when living within systems… we are forced to act “like a system”. At times this relieves unneeded psychological burden, decision making, frees us up to human wonder. But at other times, in our abstraction, frustration born out of an unconscious lack of visualizing the fullness of that system. Not seeing the inputs or outputs on either side, not knowing where to even look, makes Jack a frustrated boy.

So we surrender, to the abstraction in favor of the absurdity. Embracing, economic and productive irony.

Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.

— Society of the Spectacle


Spectacle As The Digital Womb

Separation is itself an integral part of the unity of this world, of a global social practice split into reality and image. The social practice confronted by an autonomous spectacle is at the same time the real totality which contains that spectacle. But the split within this totality mutilates it to the point that the spectacle seems to be its goal.

— Society of the Spectacle

The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender “lonely crowds.”

— Society of the Spectacle

The spectacle is nothing more than the common language of this separation. What binds the spectators together is no more than an irreversible relation at the very center which maintains their isolation. The spectacle reunites the separate, but reunites it as separate.

— Society of the Spectacle

There are certain objects only has to work once, as long as it is captured. It then is relying on a loop of the desire of re-creation based on that first set of lived experience… if we can even call that first experience “lived”. I think about the Parade Girl, the $100 cheese-steak in Philly, these singular objects when put just right, self-perpetuate into the meme of the very thing itself.

It makes me think about my writing about the phone camera as destroying the very thing it is capturing.

I have such a love hate with modern social photography. This breaking of scene for a sense of disposable permanence. In which the core purpose is rarely the previous heightened understanding of tactile-sight to hand down to the next generation…. but instead the distortion of imagery in widening the perception of consumable identity. The constant “putting on”.

At the center of this stands me, putting into the spectacle a token representing that which I want to be associated with, it is achieved in furthering that collage of many selves, and I return after that touch back to where I already was.

Alone, in bed, tweeting “gm”.


I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light