Serious Play in the Arcades

One of the theoretical bases for Brad Pitt’s Dog is the philosophy and artistic practice of the Situationists.  Johan peppers his text with a sprinkle of theory to spice things up as if Johan’s hot and salty writing style did not provide enough flavor.  Johan favors Asger Jorn and Raoul Vaneigem to Guy Debord.  I would suspect that Johan sees Debord as the Brian Jones of the Situationists.  Undoubtedly, a talented, even brilliant thinker whose thought was ultimately made fuzzy and blunted by alcohol abuse. Johan privileges Jorn and Vaneigem because of their artistic and poetic sensibilities as much as any philosophical chops.  The philosophy of everyday life is powerful stuff for Johan but the fact that Vaneigem’s slogans appeared frequently on the walls of Paris blurring the lines between graffiti, poetry, advertising, and philosophy does not hurt either.  Johan is hip to such things as his book on the visual aspects of 1968 Paris shows.  See 

Yet Beauty Is in the Street:  A Visual Record of the May ’68 Paris Uprising suggests another, and, ultimately I think more thought provoking, philosophical influence:  Walter Benjamin.  Nowhere is Benjamin mentioned within the pages of Brad Pitt’s Dog but his archival practice infuses and drives the entire book, not detournment or derive.  What makes Johan’s various endeavors interesting is the spirit of the Arcades Project not The Theory of the Spectacle.  Let’s set aside Benjamin on photography or art in the age of mechanical reproduction, which also threads throughout Brad Pitt’s Dog, and focus on the building of archives and collections to preserve lost, forgotten or dying subcultures.  This is Johan’s bread and butter; it is the collecting impulse behind his writing that makes his literary licks so tasty.

So why has the writing of Benjamin been scrubbed of the wall in Brad Pitt’s Dog.  I think it gets back to Johan viewing himself as fannish over sercon.  As I mentioned before, Johan is pure sercon, but that it not as cool, fun, or irresponsible as being fannish.  It is pure good times riffing on how great your latest garage rock find sounds; it is hard work finding out the history of these forgotten bands and labels.  To his credit, Johan can do both equally well.  I would suggest that a work like The Velvet Underground and New York Art sounds better than Brad Pitt’s Dog.  As it should, it is a more ambitious and important work.  Furthermore, the philosophy of the fannish Situationists is much more punk rock than that of the sercon and classical Benjamin.  Benjamin can make even the taking of hashish an intellectual exercise.  Debord on alcohol is more of derangement of the senses.  Yet Debord’s philosophical take on alcohol cannot be separated from his prodigious intake of the sauce.  In this case, putting philosophy into practice worked against Debord and, when you get right down to it, turns Johan off.
Johan might talk about taking it to the streets, but it his desire to storm the library, the archive, the museum and the gallery and infect them with the virus of various subcultures (punk, garage, mimeo revolution, outsiders and madmen, commune and alternative living) that really gets his motor running and makes him truly wild.



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