According to the Situationist theorist Guy Debord, a dérive is "a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances." Who would be a better companion for such an unplanned, quixotic metropolitan escapade than McKenzie Wark? In a long audio interview with Sean Gittins, originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM, the author of The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International roams around the area of Limehouse, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
McKenzie Wark's history of the Situationist International, The Beach Beneath the Street, gets more coverage. In an inspiring interview with David Winters for 3:AM, the author explains how his writing style aims "to give a sense of the immediacy of ideas to everyday life, and of the role that different forms of social interaction play in producing this self-critical everyday life." In fact, the Situationist idea of détournement is not just discussed, but also performed, in the book:
The Beach Beneath the Street applies the concept of détournement to the legacy of the Situationist International itself. For critical theory not to lapse into hypocritical theory, but to give rise to a critical practice, then it has to broach questions of how knowledge is practiced. There's probably a pdf of the book circulating out there by now. That too is détournement. That too is part of the practice of memory.
On his whirlwind tour through the UK, McKenzie Wark (author of The Beach Beneath The Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International) has given a number of fascinating interviews on the contemporary relevance of Situationist thought and practice. In an interview with STIR, over a game of Guy Debord's own Game of War no less, Wark suggests revisiting the Situationist canon in order to make sense of the commodity form (both virtual and real) and resist the institutionalization of knowledge:
So, why look at this stuff again? Well, if you are interested in how to think critically about everyday life, how to think and act outside of institutionalized forms of knowledge, in ways of inventing practices that are at least partially outside of the commodity system, then they are great precursors for dozens of things happening now such as Copy Left and Creative Commons on one side and forms of autonomous organizations in the media on the other.
The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark's historical account of The Situationist International, has been recently reviewed by David Winters for Bookslut. Describing the book, he writes:
[T]his is no ordinary history. Instead, "it's a question of retrieving a past specific to the demands of the present." The Beach Beneath the Street rereads that past in a way that prefers not to smooth out its messier edges, refuses to reify (to pick up the jargon) what made it radical, what still makes it relevant.
Wark's title has also been the subject of an editorial piece at Mute Magazine, a piece in which Christopher Collier describes The Beach Beneath the Streets as a "beautifully written, exciting and broad study," - and a "sexy book for a sexy movement."
Throughout the text Wark deftly weaves a sustained engagement with the themes of situation, potlatch, détournement and dérive across an array of semi-biographical accounts of the main actors[...] In this Wark achieves something not to be under-estimated, producing a coherent and yet inherently pluralist work on the legacy of the SI and particularly their less well-known predecessors the Letterist International.
In addition, Mackenzie Wark has spoken at length about The Beach... on the ABC Night Air radio show. Discussing his thougts on the Situationist movement, his conversation with presenter Brent Clough touches on the development of the movement, as well its relation to Marxism, existentialism, psychogeography, and utopian thinking.
Lastly, 3:AM Magazine has run a fascinating interview with Wark, in he discusses with David Winters some of the topics covered in the book, and how they informed the style utilised in its writing. Speaking about his approach to writing, Wark says:
I wanted something that would give a sense of the immediacy of ideas to everyday life, and of the role that different forms of social interaction play in producing this self-critical everyday life. This I think produces that effect of a ‘derailment' or detour away from received ideas about the whole thing. At the same time, I want it to be seductive, to be a playful, pleasurable read. Certain kinds of sentence can produce that effect. As to which, and how to write them, well, that's a trade secret!