Definitions

Detournement

Detournement

In détournement, an artist reuses elements of well-known media to create a new work with a different message, often one opposed to the original. The term "détournement", borrowed from the French, originated with the Situationist International; a similar term more familiar to English speakers would be "turnabout" or "derailment", although these terms are not used in academia and the arts world as they are inherently 'anti-art,' often involving the blatant theft and sabotage of existing elements. Détournement is similar to satirical parody, but employs more direct reuse or faithful mimicry of the original works rather than constructing a new work which merely alludes strongly to the original. It may be contrasted with recuperation, in which originally subversive works and ideas are themselves appropriated by mainstream media.

In the United States, Frank Discussion is widely known for his use of detournement in his works dating from the late 70s through the present, particularly with the Feederz. Détournement's use by Barbara Kruger familiarised many with the technique, and it was extensively and effectively used as part of the early HIV/AIDS activism of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Examples of contemporary detournement include Adbusters' "subvertisements" and other instances of culture jamming, as well as poems composed collaboratively by Marlene Mountain, Paul Conneally, and others, in which quotations from such famous sources as the Ten Commandments and quotations by United States President George W. Bush are combined with haiku-like phrases to produce a larger work intended to subvert the original source.

The Neue Slowenische Kunst has a long history of aggressive détournement of extreme political ideologies, as do several industrial music groups, such as Die Krupps, Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM, and Front 242.

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