Decor and the Spectators of Suicide
Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966)
SUICIDE HAS NOW practically reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In 1965, it took tenth place among the causes of death in the country, and third place among those of young people. Setting up "anti-suicide centers," one of them operating on a nationwide level, is now being seriously considered.
Recently, in France, a certain Bernard Durin killed himself apparently for no reason. He was 37 years old and had been a model employee for the last fifteen of them. Everyone who knew him agreed that "he had everything one needs to be happy." He had "a ten-year-old daughter, Agnes, who got on well at school. A charming wife. A good job at IBM. A salary of 2,500 francs a month. An attractively furnished modern apartment. An automobile. A television, a washing machine, a refrigerator and even an aquarium. . . .
In an article in France-Soir, 24 December 1964, Charles Coron wrote:
The shop where Durin worked was situated in a multi-story glass-fronted building. His section largely consisted of small metal offices. Shelves stretched out of sight. Metal shelves. Metal filing cabinets. It was there that the spare parts Durin sorted out and packaged up were kept. No windows. Neon light. His timetable was irregular. The shop was open from seven in the morning until twelve at night. His shift was changed every two weeks. Sometimes he got up at five-thirty in the morning and finished work at four in the afternoon. Sometimes he started work at four-thirty in the afternoon and got home at one o'clock in the morning. Durin was a model employee. No one worked harder. Someone suggested he take a correspondence course in English. He did so. He studied in the evening. He studied on Saturday and Sunday. . . . When he left the shop in Vincennes, Durin drove back to his home in Bondy in his 404. He drove in the lines of traffic you all know. He waited in the traffic jams. He saw the lights of the Bondy skyscraper housing estate. The straight lines. The concrete. The shopping center in the middle. He lived in apartment number 1153, 13, rue Leon Blum, FG 3. That was his life: electronics, skyscraper housing estates, cars, refrigerators and televisions. It was also his death.
For several years now, at least in the United States, it hasn't been uncommon to see excited crowds watching someone who has been driven desperate threaten to hurl themselves down from a window ledge or a roof. Whether the public has become blasé, or whether it is attracted by more professional spectacles, it doesn't intend to pay any further attention to these "unofficial stars" unless they get on with it, and jump. So far as we know, it was on 16 April 1964, in Albany, New York State, that for the first time this new attitude came out into the open. While Richard Reinemann, aged 19, prevaricated for the better part of two hours on a twelfth-story ledge, a crowd of some four thousand people watching him chanted "Jump!" A female passersby explained: "I don't want to wait all night. I've already missed my favorite TV show."