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Although I wrote "The Assault On Culture" more than 20 years ago and it was my first book, it remains a work to which I frequently return. This is because more than anything else it is a source book, a compendium of the things that have long constituted the basis of my activities. At the time I wrote the book much of the information it contains was scattered and I assembled it from diverse sources which were rarely linked. A year or so after the book was published Guy Debord and his version of the Situationist International started to become fashionable in the Anglo-American world, and they remain so to this day, but still separated from any extensive knowledge of the currents to which they may have been antagonistic but were nonetheless related.

In London the 40th anniversary of May 1968 was a cause for much celebration and many cultural events. The focus was very much on France, with odd nods to events elsewhere such as the Prague Spring and its brutal suppression. The situationists were treated as an accepted part of this heritage and there seemed little understanding that had we been celebrating the anniversaries of the same events in 1978 or even 1988, it is extremely unlikely the situationists would have been mentioned. Histories are constantly rewritten and they don't necessarily become more accurate as a result of this. The situationists are well worth knowing about, but the relatively minor role they played in the French struggles of 1968 have in recent years been overstated. Meanwhile other collectives of the same period, such as the Zanzibar film group, have only recently been rediscovered.

Fluxus became fashionable in the Anglo-American art world around the same time the situationists were causing a stir not only on the gallery circuit but also in cultural studies and even politically. However, in the rush to revive Fluxus it has been depoliticised, and the far-left leanings of its founder George Maciunas and its more interesting fellow travellers such as Henry Flynt are too often overlooked. For this reason it is remains worth raising today a question that has been in the forefront of my mind since the beginning of the 1980s; viz, how can we most effectively combine the best and most radical elements of both the situationists and Fluxus?

From what I’ve said above it should be clear that I do not view this as a book to be passively contemplated, it is to be used, its contents cannibalised and regurgitated in new forms and combinations. Although we now live in a very different world to the one inhabited by the groups and individuals this book describes, some of their tactics can be deployed just as effectively today as they were 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years ago. In the sixties Black Mask disrupted reified cultural events in New York by making up flyers giving the dates, times and location of art events and giving these out to the homeless with the lure of the free drink that was on offer to the bourgeoisie rather than the lumpen proletariat; I reused the ruse just as effectively in London in the 1990s to disrupt literary events. The tactics outlined here are just as effective today as they were in the past, what we need to create for our own times are new strategies to attack the ongoing march of commodification.

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Start: Preface to the UK edition

Assault On Culture contents page

Most translated editions of "Assault" have also included the following text: Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde

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