Art History Division Announces Guest Lecturer


Stephen Eskilson of Eastern Illinois University will join the NIU Art History Division to provide his lecture entitled "Détournement—Subversive Visual Communication." The lecture takes place on Wednesday, November 16, at 6:15 p.m. in Gabel Hall room 126.

Professor Eskilson’s lecture springs from an exhibition he curated this autumn at Eastern Illinois University. The exhibition takes as its starting point the visual and conceptual strategies of the Situationist Internationale (SI), the French avant-garde group that “officially” existed between 1957 and 1972. Led by Guy Debord after 1962, members of the SI produced theoretical tracts along with ironic examples of what they termed détournement, the subversion of elements of the mass media. Détournement literally means “to deflect or redirect” and suggests a strategy of turning known ideas or images into something new and different with the intent to communicate subversive ideas in a familiar guise. Debord and Gil J. Wolman observed, “Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite.” Today, détournement as a visual strategy continues to be employed in graphic communication, but it is no longer exclusively a means for communicating a political ideology that resists mainstream culture. In his lecture, Professor Eskilson will explain the history of détournement and seek to problematize the standard narrative whereby radical politics are co-opted by corporate capitalist interests.

This lecture is sponsored by the Elizabeth Allen Visiting Lectures in Art History, School of Art, Northern Illinois University. Please contact the NIU Art History Division for details at 815-753-1474.

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