Art Term

Situationist International

Revolutionary alliance of European avant-garde artists, writers and poets formed at a conference in Italy in 1957 (as Internationale Situationiste or IS)

Constant (Constant A. Nieuwenhuys), ‘[no title]’ 1975–6
Constant (Constant A. Nieuwenhuys)
[no title] 1975–6
Tate
© DACS, 2017
Ralph Rumney, ‘The Change’ 1957
Ralph Rumney
The Change 1957
Tate
© The estate of Ralph Rumney
Asger Jorn, ‘Letter to my Son’ 1956–7
Asger Jorn
Letter to my Son 1956–7
Tate
© DACS 2017

The IS developed a critique of capitalism based on a mixture of Marxism and surrealism. Leading figure of the movement Guy Debord identified consumer society as the Society of the Spectacle in his influential 1967 book of that title. In the field of culture situationists wanted to break down the division between artists and consumers and make cultural production a part of everyday life.

It combined two existing groupings, the Lettrist International and the International Union for a Pictorial Bauhaus. As well as writer and filmmaker Guy Debord, the group also prominently included the former CoBrA painter Asger Jorn, and the former CoBrA artist Constant. British artist Ralph Rumney was a co-founder of the movement.

Situationist ideas played an important role in the revolutionary Paris events of 1968. The IS was dissolved in 1972.