Perhaps the most familiar set of Situationist-inspired images created in the spirit of détournement are those that came out of the Punk music scene of the 1970s. Punk rockers of this era combined an anti-establishment stance with a harsh, spare sound that stood in direct contrast, even confrontation, with the virtuosic guitar solos and melodious lyricism of contemporary pop music. Often screaming their verses over raucous rhythm guitar and feedback, punk musicians came to embody the feelings of anger and rebellion of disaffected young people.
In terms of Punk graphics, the varied work of Jamie Reid—album covers, postcards, posters, and other promotional ephemera— for the Sex Pistols attained a level of unexpected prominence in the history of visual communication. While Reid was in not in any deep, theoretical manner attracted to or even aware of the complexities of Situationist thought, as a student he had absorbed enough of the general sense of youthful rebellion against the powers that be as well as the employment of the subversive and ironic that marks so much of détournement.
The question remains whether or not Reid’s work, and punk music graphics in general, represent a continuation or appropriation of Situationist thought. Do punk graphics entail an expansion and democratization of the SI away from its arguably elitist roots? Or are they the beginning of the end: a commercialized recuperation of oppositional politics into the hungry maw of the corporate music industry? The manner in which Reid’s imagery has become a clichéd part of visual culture in the West, while he himself has become accepted as a fine artist of sorts, suggests the latter.