– Spring/Summer 2002

The Decline of the Circus and the Marching Band Is Permanent and Final

Will Bradley

The Situationists believed that everyday life should be studied and critiqued. But it is too late for that now. Everyday life as a real subject is over - it lasted a century or so but that was all. Today 'everyday life' is another fantasy that we consume. Of course, for the fantasy of everyday life to be consumable, someone somewhere must be producing it, but that is different to living it. And even that trick is wearing thin.

For all of you who are not going to read past the second paragraph of this article, the argument proceeds in reverse, starting from the unsubstantiated general conclusion and ending with the specific example that suggested it. Here is the conclusion: meaningful community life in the West is disappearing; the everyday remains mostly as something constructed by advertising and the media; privatised individuals consume the fantasy of everyday life; everyday life is theatricalised and performed; and the everyday in art has become a historical genre.

The 'everyday' needs an 'everyone' to live it or it makes no sense at all. More or less the only widespread common experience in the West these days is, for obvious reasons, shopping. But, as a communal pursuit, shopping is hopeless because our commodity selection defines us only by our individuality. Retailers carefully target their markets so that different social groups are served by different outlets. Even when it comes to necessities like food, the haggard-looking single mums and pensioners who haunt the aisles of the Euro-discount shedmarket, Lidl, are never going to cross the threshold of Sainsbury's Central. Of course, shopping for luxuries is a more or less explicitly competitive activity.

Example: pretty

  1. Vogue, Autumn 2001