Recuperation is the process by which the spectacle takes a radical or revolutionary idea and repackages it as a saleable commodity. An ironic example of recuperation, it could be argued, was the 1989 Situationist exhibition staged in Paris, Boston, and at the ICA gallery in London’s Mall, wherein both original situationist manifestos, and contemporary Pro-Situ influenced works (records, fanzines, samizdat-style leaflets and propaganda) were presented as museum artifacts for the mass consumption of the art establishment. This event of course contrasts sharply to the occasion when the Situationist International gave a presentation at the ICA themselves, which famously ended when an audience member asked the group “what is situationism?” to which one of them answered “we are not here to answer cuntish questions” before marching off to the bar. Although all would agree that a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1989 with regard to the image of the SI in the media, another example that might be cited would be the exhibition and other events on “The SI and After” that were staged by the Aquarium art gallery in London in 2003.
A longer-lasting example, it could be argued, would be the “Hacienda” nightclub in Manchester (1982-1997). Highly commercially successful, this was named by its owner, British music-industry businessman Tony Wilson, after a reference in the 1953 work “Formulary for a New Urbanism” by Ivan Chtcheglov. Millionaire Wilson’s company Factory Records was one of the sponsors of the 1989 ICA exhibition (along with Beck’s beer). Later, in 1996, he allowed a conference on the SI to be staged at the Hacienda night-club. Veteran Situationist-influenced critics of recuperation were not surprised to learn that Wilson had invested funds in collecting Situationist-linked artworks, including Debord’s “Psychogeographical Map of Paris” (1953), some of which he allowed to be shown in public at the Aquarium event in 2003. An index of the financial astuteness of such speculation is the fact that there are now dealers in artworks and fine books who count Situationist-linked works among their specialisms.