fawny.org: Situationist Histories

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Updated 2000.08.07

Situationist Histories

Quick pick: Yello | "Little Fluffy Clouds" | [List of diaries]

In a memoir, you trace your life and what happened in it. In this memoir, I turn the beat around: I trace a few things that happened, over and over again, and how they influenced my life.

Defining our terms

Situationism has a long history.

  1. Situationism is a philosophy maintaining that events and outside forces have greater bearing on personality and development than intrinsic characteristics.
  2. In ethics, it can also refer to a doctrine that only one absolute good exists, namely love, and its exact interpretation must be left up to the particular situation, with no prima facie right or wrong actions.
  3. The Situationists were an agitprop activist-cum-terrorist group in the early 20th century. Anti-establishment artists in Europe in the ’60s also called themselves Situationists.
  4. The philosophy that real lives are sold back to us through media is now so broadly accepted as to be unquestioned truth and can be found in mediated works themselves, like pop songs.

My own definition

I’m adapting the term here. A situationist history is a recounting of events united by a common theme that emphasizes unseen patterns in life. The same things keep coming up, and those things aren’t all quintessential "big issues" of the sort that are supposed to typify our lives, like career or loved ones or sickness.

Instead, it’s the details that count. What did the film After Life (Japan, 1998) teach us? That small moments are what we remember best? That our fondest memories may derive from simple, brief, and possibly unanticipated experiences, the kind that might be dismissed as mundane by someone else?

But it’s not someone else’s life. It’s ours. What’s important to us is what’s important to us. When it comes to influences, input can be small but output large.

That is the philosophy I espouse here. Something as small as a pop song can united disparate experiences across the years of my life.

Think about your own life: Can’t you remember seemingly trivial details, particularly those that recur over the years, more clearly than soap-opera-scale mega-events in your life?

Situationist histories available here

This is an ongoing project, and I’ve finished two so far:

  1. Yello
  2. Little Fluffy Clouds

Both instances are musical in nature, and two more in that vein are upcoming: The Smithereens and Bad Religion. (And yes, electronic music and rock both have influence on my life. How ecumenical.)

There is, however, a very grand situationist history after which this entire site is named: Redheads. The Redhead Cluster Phenomenon is the strongest example yet of the deterministic influence of situationism over my life. Start with the History section.

Stretching the concept a bit further

A former journalist, I tend to take notes wherever I go, and that includes parties, lectures, and the local leather bar. I’m including my diaristic entries on this page because I consider the documentation of specific events a necessary part of documenting situationist histories over time.

I don’t know if these diaries will actually predict what I will later decide was a trend. I am not entirely convinced there is a huge link between my new situationist approach and simple diarism. I grant such objections in advance.



Graphic design

  • Advertising & Design Club of Canada awards reviews: 1994, 1995, 1996
  • Typo Expo, held in Toronto in 1996, with three articles: 1, 2, 3

A similar concept

This approach of using events as a narrative device to elucidate patterns in one’s life may find expression at Matt Haughey’s nascent site, Ticketstubs.org. A brilliant idea, the site invites people to upload scans of ticket stubs along with a written reminiscence of what happened on the night of the show.

Ticketstubs.org isn’t up and running yet, but Haughey is definitely on to something. I’m open to some kind of collaboration. Maybe we could put together some kind of Webring of sites in similar conceptual categories.