Twenty years ago, on 30 November 1994, Guy Debord put his affairs in order and shot himself through the heart, ending one of the most brilliant and original careers in modern European history. In his sixty-three years he had co-founded the Situationist International, the last of the historic avant-gardes. He had written some enduring revolutionary texts, including his best known, The Society of the Spectacle. And he had made several remarkable avant-garde films. For someone who managed to live up to his early slogan “Never Work!” he was remarkably busy.
He is now something of a canonical figure in literature, cinema and the art world. It has become commonplace to refer to the media sphere as a spectacle, and the cut and mix practices of today’s aesthetics appeals to the apparently similar Situationist practice of détournement for legitimation. He has been, as he might say, recuperated back in to spectacular commodity production. Such is the fate of all avant-gardes.
India's rapid economic growth since 1991 seems like one of contemporary capitalism's greatest success stories, equaled only by the meteoric rise of China. The world's largest democracy has produced people like Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, who built for himself the world's most expensive dwelling. Situated in the heart of Mumbai, it's a twenty-seven stories and contains three helipads, nine lifts, ballrooms, gyms, and six floors of parking, as well as employing six hundred (!) servants. India seems like it's flourishing with this new wealth. Yet, speaking to Evan Davis on Newsnight, Arundhati Roy argues that this success is built upon the misery of India's "ghosts" - those pushed increasingly into poverty, debt and misery.
In honour of the publication of Radio Benjamin, we bring you Esther Leslie's presentation from the event Radio Benjamin: Live Now held at Tate Modern on 5th November with Esther Leslie, Gareth Evans and Mark Aerial Waller.
Walter Benjamin involved himself, from the mid-1920s, in the practical business of making radio shows, usually lectures, radio-plays or experimental ‘listening models’, some of which were directed at children, others at the general radio-listening public. The themes were diverse, with topics such as liquor bootleggers, Berlin dialects, the petrification of Pompeii, counterfeit stamps, slum housing, manufacture, the legend of Caspar Hauser, the history of the Bastille prison, witch trials and the history of toys. Benjamin spoke about the history and curiosities of Berlin, about figures from the shadow side of life and about catastrophes. He also made radio plays and puzzle shows.