EYES FOR BLOWING UP BRIDGES: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren

From Situationism to Beat to Punk, Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges unites a group of remarkable radical artists, poets, writers and activists who initiated, perpetrated and influenced a range of seminal post-war alternative movements.

Presenting rarely exhibited material – including cut-ups, film, video, sound and slide, as well as self-published books, pamphlets, anarchist propaganda, punk ephemera and graphics – the exhibition examines the creative interplay between William Burroughs, Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, Alexander Trocchi and King Mob, and their collective influence on Malcolm McLaren in his endeavours to disrupt the cultural and social status quo from the 1960s to his premature death in 2010.

Malcolm McLaren co-opted the intellectual vigour of this powerful and difficult group of individuals to make insurrectionary statements during his days as a Situationist art student in the 1960s, to the end of his life in groundbreaking artistic forays expressed through pop culture (fashion, music, environment, performance, film).

Having repudiated painting as a bourgeois form of expression like Asger Jorn before him, McLaren’s lifelong work was inspired by such Situationist techniques as détournement (the juxtaposition of pre-existing elements), Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’, and Debord’s emphasis on the staging of situations “that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics and art”. Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges will present representations of the “defiguration” paintings exhibited by Jorn in the early 1960s, alongside the detourned comic strips of the Situationist International’s literature and Debord’s cinematic masterpiece, The Society Of The Spectacle.

McLaren resurrected slogans associated with radical group King Mob, and their commentary on the banalisation of everyday life by the consumer society in the late 1960s. He also lifted text from the porn novels Alexander Trocchi wrote for the Olympia Press in the preceding decade. Original volumes of the revolutionary group’s King Mob Echo will be on display in the exhibition, which will also highlight the links between Trocchi’s book Helen And Desire and McLaren’s t-shirts design entitled ‘I Groaned With Pain’.

Original volumes of the revolutionary group King Mob’s Echo will be on display, along with McLaren’s tribute to Debord et al with the film installations Shallow 1-21 and Paris, Capital of the XXIst Century. The exhibition features the first UK public display of representations of McLaren’s student work from Goldsmiths College, along with material from the Malcolm McLaren Estate archive, including notes, sketches, and personal items.

The title of the exhibition is derived from the phrase, “de beaux yeux pour faire sauter des ponts”, taken from correspondence between Guy Debord and his friend Hervé Falcou, 1949-53.

Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges is a John Hansard Gallery exhibition curated by David Thorp and Paul Gorman. With special thanks to the Malcolm McLaren Estate.

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