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What is Détournement? - A Response to the Essay "Détournement as Negation and Prelude"

Updated on January 15, 2014

What is Détournement?

Having gone through four years of art in high school and now one in college, I expected to have heard nearly everything about different art forms. Then, this one came about. I had never heard of Détournement before, so going into this article, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what it meant, so they put a nice definition of the word right there in the first paragraph.

In the essay, they defined Détournement as"the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble".

This picture is easily identified as Ronald McDonald, but the artist changed a few things to get his message across.
This picture is easily identified as Ronald McDonald, but the artist changed a few things to get his message across. | Source

The Reasoning Behind Détournement

I thought Détournement of art itself was an interesting concept since it is often so close to the original. While some artists simply use a piece of art or design as an inspiration, Détournement artists use the actual piece, then change it to what they want it to be.

In the essay it mentioned that Détournement was a way for art to last through the ages. It said that different art pieces and forms would fade with history if not for Détournement to keep it strong. It also mentioned that artistic expression was decomposing, going from realism to modernism, and that Détournement helped this movement stay afloat.

What is your opinion on this style of art?

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The Evolution of Détournement

From reading the essay and looking at pictures of Détournement, I noticed that there were some significant changes in the movement from then and now. In the past, Détournement was using an artist’s work and replicating it as his or her own, but nowadays Détournement is used to sway the viewer’s opinions about something or someone. I’ve seen it many times in advertising, whether it be a fast food chain or a large corporation.

Even working with Graphic Design I know how these things work; I just never knew that this movement had a name to it. Later on in the essay it mentions that Détournement became more of a “self-parody”, which I agree with. The movement is becoming less about the art and more about the shock value of making fun of other things.

I have nothing against Détournement at all; I find it fun to look at and to see other’s viewpoints through pictures instead of words. However, as an art form, I see it as something that isn’t all that hard to do. The art piece is already there, the only ingredient needed is an idea or an opinion to slap on top of it.

A Notable Quote and an Honest Opinion

The essay mentions towards the end that the “Combination of parody and seriousness reflects the contradictions of an era in which we find ourselves confronted with both the urgent necessity and the near impossibility of initiating and carrying out a totally innovative collective action,” or as I like to interpret it, “So many different things have been done before and we can either try to be different and take forever doing so, or we can base our ideas on our predecessors.”


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    • Fateslayer99 profile image

      Fateslayer99 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you! :)

    • Adityapullagurla profile image

      Aditya Pullagurla 4 years ago from Sydney

      Very Useful hub