Internationale Situationniste #5

Cover of Internationale Situationiste #5

English translations of the central bulletin published by the sections of the situationist international

December 1960

Director: G.-E. Debord

Mail: 32, rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris 5e

This bulletin is edited by the Central Council of the SI: Debord, Jorn, Kotányi, Nash, Sturm, Wyckaert.

All texts published in Internationale Situationniste may be freely reproduced, translated or adapted, even without indication of origin.

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

The Adventure

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

The conditions of the SI’s activity explain both its discipline and the forms of hostility it encounters. The SI is not interested in finding a niche within the present artistic establishment, but in undermining it. The situationists are in the catacombs of visible culture.

Anyone who is at all familiar with the social milieu of those with special status in cultural affairs is well aware of how everyone there despises and is bored by almost everyone else. This fact is not even hidden, they are all quite aware of it; it is even the first thing they talk about whenever they get together. What is the cause of their resignation? Clearly the fact that they are incapable of being bearers of a collective project. Each one recognizes in the others his own insignificance and his own conditioning — the resignation he has had to accept in order to participate in this separate milieu and its established aims.

Within such a community people have neither the need nor the objective possibility for any sort of collective discipline. Everyone always politely agrees about the same things and nothing ever changes. Personal or ideological disagreements remain secondary in comparison with what they have in common. But for the SI and the struggle it sets for itself, exclusion is a possible and necessary weapon.

It is the only weapon of any group based on complete freedom of individuals. None of us likes to control or judge; if we do so it is for a practical purpose, not as a moral punishment. The “terrorism” of the SI’s exclusions can in no way be compared to the same practices in political movements by power-wielding bureaucracies. It is, on the contrary, the extreme ambiguity of the situation of artists, who are constantly tempted to integrate themselves into the modest sphere of social power reserved for them, that makes some discipline necessary in order to clearly define an incorruptible platform. Otherwise there would be a rapid and irremediable osmosis between this platform and the dominant cultural milieu because of the number of people going back and forth. It seems to us that the question of a present-day cultural avant-garde can only be posed at an integral level, a level not only of collective works but of collectively interacting problems.

This is why certain people have been excluded from the SI. Some of them have rejoined the world they previously fought; others merely console themselves in a pathetic community with each other, although they have nothing in common but the fact that we broke with them — often for opposite reasons. Others retain a certain dignity in isolation, and we have been in a good position to recognize their talents. Do we think that in leaving the SI they have ceased being avant-garde? Yes, we do. There is, for the moment, no other organization constituted for a task of this scope.

The sentimental objections to these breaks seem to us to reflect the greatest mystification. The entire socioeconomic structure tends to make the past dominate the present, to freeze living persons, to reify them as commodities. A sentimental world in which the same sorts of tastes and relations are constantly repeated is the direct product of the economic and social world in which gestures must be repeated every day in the slavery of capitalist production. The taste for false novelty reflects its unhappy nostalgia.

The violent reactions against the SI, especially those coming from people who were previously excluded from its collective activity, are first of all a measure of the personal passion that this enterprise has been able to bring into play. Reversed into a boundless hostility, this passion has spread it about that we are loafers, Stalinists, imposters and a hundred other clever characterizations. One person claimed that the SI was a cunningly organized economic association for dealing in modern art. Others have suggested that it was rather for the purpose of dealing in drugs. Still others have declared that we have never sold any drugs since we have too great a propensity for taking them ourselves. Others go into detail about our sexual vices. Others have gotten so carried away as to denounce us as social climbers.

These attacks have long been whispered around us by the same people who publicly pretend to be unaware of our existence. But this silence is now beginning to be broken more and more frequently by sharp public critiques. The recent special issue of Poésie Nouvelle, for example, mixes several accusations of the above sort with two or three possibly sincere misunderstandings. These people characterize us as “vitalists,” despite the fact that we have made the most radical critique of the poverty of all presently permitted life; and they are so completely caught up in the world of the spectacle that when they try to relate our notion of a “situation” to something they are familiar with, they can only imagine that it must refer to some form of theatrical presentation. Last June these same neo-lettrists put on an exhibition of “supertemporal” art calling for audience participation, and wanted to include in it the SI’s antiart, particularly some of Asger Jorn’s détourned paintings. This would have amounted to putting our antiart in the context of their metaphysical system of permanent, signed spectacles, thereby attributing the ridiculous ambitions of the official art of the last century to a total attack on art itself.

Certain expressions of critical art now being used by the situationist current could be considered part of the general cultural disintegration. Not only détourned painting, but a film like Critique of Separation, for example, or the “scenic unity” evoked elsewhere in the present issue of Internationale Situationniste. The difference is that our actions within culture are all linked to the project of overthrowing this culture itself, and to the formation and development of a new organized situationist instrumentation.

Strange emissaries journey across Europe and beyond, meeting each other, bearing incredible instructions.

To the question, Why have we promoted such an impassioned regrouping in this cultural sphere whose present reality we reject? the answer is: Because culture is the center of meaning of a society without meaning. This empty culture is at the heart of an empty existence, and the reinvention of a project of transforming the world as a whole must also and first of all be posed on this terrain. To give up demanding power in culture would be to leave that power to those who now possess it.

We are quite aware that the culture to be overthrown will really fall only with the totality of the socioeconomic structure that supports it. But without waiting any longer, the Situationist International intends to confront it in its entirety, on every front, to the point of imposing an autonomous situationist control and instrumentation against those held by existing cultural authorities; that is, to the point of a state of dual power in culture.

Translated by Ken Knabb. Text from:


The Minute of Truth

Manifesto signed in by French intellectuals writers and artists concerning the right to civil disobedience...

The SI on the "Declaration on the Right to Insubordination in the Algerian War". From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 25, 2023

"The undersigned, considering that each person must take a position concerning the acts that are henceforth impossible to present as the diverse deeds of individual adventures; considering that they themselves, in their places and according to their means, have the duty to intervene, not to give advice to the men who have personally decided to face such serious problems, but to ask those who judge them to not let themselves be equivocal in their words and values, declare:

"-- We respect and judge to be justified the refusal to take up arms against the Algerian people.

"-- We respect and judge to be justified the conduct of the French people who estimate it to be their duty to bring aid and protection to the oppressed Algerians in the name of the French people.

"-- The cause of the Algerian people, which contributes in a decisive fashion to the ruin of the colonial system, is the cause of all free people."

Such are the conclusions of a Declaration on the Right to Insubordination in the Algerian War, signed by 121 artists and intellectuals, which was published at the beginning of September [1960]. Due to actions soon thereafter taken and the first indictments made, during the course of September, 60 or 70 people1 added their names to the first list; some of these people were known to be quite far from any political radicalism. To break the movement, the government did not hesitate to resort to exceptional sanctions, announced on 28 September. While civil servants (generally in education) were suspended, all of the signatories were banned from [French] radio-television, their very names could no longer be mentioned on it, and rejected from the subsidized theaters and films normally registered by the National Center for Cinema. In addition, at this date, the maximum penalties relative to the offense recognized in this text were raised from several months to several years in prison. By taking these measures, the government admitted that it could only contain the extension of the scandal through the means of an open war against all cultural freedoms in the country. These extreme actions, moreover, appeared to have little pay-off, since more than 60 [more] names were added to the prohibited declaration after the 28th -- which adds up to at least 254 signatures -- [and] since the indictments were only handed down with great slowness.

The effect of the "Declaration of the 121," thanks to the publicity that the repression assured it in France and abroad, has been far from negligible. One saw the sheltered French intelligentsia count on a noble manifesto that summoned power to strike quickly and strongly2 against the anti-France; the sacred newspaper of the intellectual Poujade3 stigmatized (eight columns to one) "the manifesto of the pederasts"; and some old specialists of the total questioning of several "perspectives" promptly questioned themselves about their own participation in this excess and immediately did their best to divert the signatories towards a respectful petition, through which the Federation of National Education made it known that it desires that the way be ended through negotiation (one thinks here particularly of E. Morin and C. Lefort).4

In the cultural stratum, the merit of this declaration is having drawn a very clear line of separation. The signatories did not at all represent a political avant-garde, nor a coherent programme, nor even an assembly in which -- beyond this gesture -- one could approve of the majority of the individuals. But all those who, in these circumstances, have not wanted to take sides concerning the joint cause of the Algerians' liberty and [that of] the indicted intellectuals have, on the contrary, counter-signed the confession that all of their pretenses to prowl around the vicinity of any "avant-gardism" must now be greeted with laughter and scorn. Thus one is hardly surprised at having hardly seen involved in such drudgery the cretins who, several months ago, organized an anti-trial, in which their sole idea -- so as to compensate for their hideous artistic, social and intellectual deficiencies -- was that one must reject any judgment so that liberty is truly defended. Faithful to themselves, they have not judged that there was some liberty to defend in the case of the 121.

Politically, this declaration was not without use in the relative awakening of French public opinion over the last three months. The evening of 27 October, despite the dazzling sabotage by the Communists5 and the brakes applied by all of the bureaucratic unions, the youth -- college students, especially -- led the first street demonstration against the war. After years of mystifications and resignation, a certain awakening is taking place.

On 11 December, the Algerian Revolution6 -- with the intervention of the masses in the streets of Algers and Oran -- made the people who are the most resolved to be deaf hear that it was indeed "the cause of the Algerian people" as a whole. The scandal is no longer expressed by a tract written by intellectuals, but by the blood of the unarmed crowds, which still addresses itself, finally to the proletariat of France, the intervention of which can only end the war quickly and properly.

Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator.

  • 1Including Guy Debord and Michele Bernstein.
  • 2Rather than be "equivocal."
  • 3Pierre Poujade (1920-2003), a right-wing publisher and politician.
  • 4Edgar Morin and Claude Lefort, former members of Socialisme ou Barbarie.
  • 5The French Communist Party.
  • 6Not just Algerian independence from France, but Algeria's independence from the global capitalist order.


The Situationist Frontier

A black and white photo of Situationists sitting and standing in front of a cinema projection

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 19, 2023

One knows what the SI isn't; what terrain it elects not to occupy any longer (or only in a marginal way, in its struggles against all existing conditions). It is more difficult to say where the SI is headed, to positively characterize the situationist project. Nevertheless, one can delineate, albeit fragmentarily, certain provisional positions along its way.

Unlike the hierarchical bodies of specialists that increasingly make up the bureaucracies, the armies and even the political parties of the modern world, the SI, it will one day be seen, evinces itself as the purest form of an anti-hierarchical body of anti-specialists.

Situationist critique and construction concerns, at every level, the use value of life. Just as our conception of urbanism is a critique of urbanism; just as our experience of leisure is in fact a refusal of leisure (in the dominant sense of separation and passivity); our designation of everyday life as our field of action means a critique of everyday life, one that will have to be "radical critique accomplished, and no longer advocated or indicated" (Frankin, Programmatic Sketches), since this practical critique of everyday life must veer toward its sublation into the "everyday that has become impossible."

We do not claim to have invented extraordinary ideas within modern culture, but rather to have begun to draw attention to how extraordinary the nothingness of modern culture is. Specialists in cultural production are the ones who resign themselves most easily to their separation, and thus to their deficiency. But it is the whole of present society that cannot avoid the problem of the recuperation of its countless alienated, uncontrolled capabilities.

Abundance, as human becoming, could not be abundance of objects, even of "cultural" objects of the past or created on that model, but abundance of situations (of life, of the dimensions of life). Within the current framework of consumerist propaganda, the fundamental mystification of advertising is to associate ideas of fulfillment with objects (televisions, or garden furniture, or automobiles, etc.) and furthermore by destroying the natural link these objects may have with other objects, so as to have them above all become a material environment with "status." This imposed image of fulfillment also constitutes the explicitly terrorist nature of advertizing. Nevertheless, "fulfillment" (the moment of happiness) depends upon a global reality that involves nothing less than people in a given situation: living persons and the moment that gives them light and direction (their margin of possibility). In advertizing, objects are treated as embodying passion in a passionate way ("how changed your life will be when you own a marvelous car like this"). But anything that would be worthier of interest cannot be treated without endangering the condition of the whole: when advertizing busies itself with a real passion, this means only the advertizing of a spectacle.

The architecture still to be made must keep its distance from preoccupations with the spectacular beauty of the old monumental architecture, and must privilege topological organizations that command general participation. We will play on topophobia and create a topophilia. The situationist considers his environment and himself as plastic entities.

The new architecture shall undertake its first practical exercises with the detournment of once well-defined affective blocks of ambiance (the castle, for example). The use of detournement, in architecture as in the constructing of situations, signifies the reinvestment of products abstracted from the ends contemporary socio-economic organization gives them, and a break with the formalist wish to abstractly create the unknown. This means liberating existing desires at once, and deploying them within the new dimensions of an unknown actualization.

This is how researches toward a direct art of situations have recently and, no doubt, considerably advanced with the first outline of a basic notation of the lines of force of events within a projected situation. It is a matter of schemas, of equations in which the participants can choose which unknowns they are going to play, seriously, without spectators, and with no other goal than this game. Here, assuredly, is a prototype weapon that is effective in the struggle against alienation, useful in any event for breaking with the sad convention of libertinage; here is a first step forward along the Fourierist path of the "routes to fulfillment." It must be added that we do not affirm any desirable form or give any guarantee of fulfillment, and that these more or less precise and complete schemas can only serve as starting points, opened up by a calculated arrangement of events, for making a leap into the unknown. These schemas are, morover, an application of the situationist principle of the catapult, observed during the course of the derive of 29-31 May in Brussels and Amsterdam.

In this case, the experiment revealed that an extreme acceleration of the traversal of social space, organized temporarily and under utilitarian pretexts, has the effect of suddenly launching the subjects, at the moment the acceleration ceases, into a derive that can proceed at faster, newly-acquired speeds. Obviously the fact should not be overlooked that any experiment that may be set up on a restricted basis, despite its informational and propagandanist value — being only at the laboratory stage, at an infinitesimal point of social totality — will exhibit not only a difference in scale but also a difference in kind in relation to the future construction of life. But this laboratory is heir to all the creations of an exhausted cultural sphere, and it opens the way to their practical supersession.

Here, then, are the latest advance-posts of culture. Beyond them begins the conquest of everyday life.

Translated by Paul Hammond. From:


Situationist News – December 1960

The usual updates, including the resignation of Constant and exclusions of Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Giors Melanotte (pseudonym of Giorgio Gallizio - son of Giuseppe). From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 25, 2023

The first issue of the magazine Spur (the trail), organ of the German section of the S.I., was published in Munich in August 1960, opening with a translation of the Situationist manifesto of the 17th of May [1960]. The second issue, published in November, is mostly devoted to rendering an account of the Conference in London.

Pinot-Gallizio and G. Melanotte were excluded from the S.I. in June [1960]. Through naivety or opportunism [arrivisme], they made contacts, then developed collaborations, in Italy, with unacceptable ideological milieus. An initial criticism (cf. Situationist News in our 4th issue in regards to the critique of Guasco, notoriously tied to the Jesuit Tapié) had not corrected their politics. The decision to exclude them has thus been taken without hearing more [from] them.

Constant, however, who had rightly denounced their conduct, was not happy with this break. He deplored, moreover, that we had to resort to the same measure some months before against the architects of the Dutch section, who had had no fear of undertaking the construction of a church. More profoundly, Constant found himself in opposition to the S.I. because he has been primarily concerned, almost exclusively, with structural questions of certain assemblies [architectural models] of unitary urbanism, so that other situationists had to recall that at the present stage of the project it was necessary to put the accent on its content (play, free creation of everyday life). Thus Constant’s theses promoted the technicians of architectural forms over any search for a global culture. And the simple equality of treatment, regarding the minimum required behaviour toward each other, appeared to him already disproportionate and severe. Thus Constant declared, in the same month of June, that because he disagreed with the discipline of the S.I., he wanted to regain his freedom in this regard, for a period that the course of the events would determine.

We replied, without any idea of hostility or demerit, that for a long time we have assured that breaks recorded by the S.I. have the meaning of a practical weapon, [and] allowed only the immediate choice between a definitive resignation or the renunciation of this form of pressure. Constant chose to quit the S.I.

In June, the first issue of the journal Cahier pour un paysage à inventer1 was published in Montréal. This first issue brings together around ten articles reproduced from the Internationale situationniste with texts by Patrick Straram, who is the editor, and some of his Canadian comrades. This is the first publication which openly manifests the extension of situationist propaganda onto the American continent.

Christian Christensen, to whom Jorn dedicated his Critique of Political Economy, died on the 10th of June 1960, in Denmark.

On the 20th of July a document drawn up by P. Canjuers2 and Debord on capitalism and culture was published, in France: Preliminaries Toward Defining a Unitary Revolutionary Program. It is a platform for discussion in the S.I.; and for linking with the revolutionary militants of the workers’ movement.

The museum of Silkeborg in Jutland [in Demark], which has found itself already to be the principal museum of modern art in all the Scandinavian countries, has just founded a Situationist Library. This library is itself subdivided into a pre-situationist section, bringing together all the supporting materials on the avant-garde movements since 1945, which held some role in the preparation of the situationist movement; a situationist section—properly so called—composing all the publications of the S.I.; a historical section destined to receive works on the S.I. and which, in fact, for now, accommodates only anti-situationist propaganda which has started to appear here and there. Finally—and this is probably its most interesting initiative—this library opened a section of imitations where will be kept all works imitating the achievements of any of our friends whose strange role in contemporary art is clearly not readily acknowledged, precisely because of membership in the S.I. The available diagrams indicate with scientific certainty the release dates of the [original] model and of its after-effects, which have often been almost immediate. Thus very far from the miserable discussions between “avant-gardists”, in which the situationists have never wanted to participate, the library of Silkeborg will objectively supply a yardstick of the cultural avant-garde. We do not doubt that, in the coming years, many specialist historians from Europe and America, and ultimately from Asia and Africa, will make the journey to Silkeborg with the sole end of completing and checking their research at this “Pavilion of Breteuil” of a new genre.

And we hope that the intelligent plan, elaborated by the museum of Silkeborg, to complete this library with a cinematographic annex, in which copies of any relevant film will be deposited, soon finds all the material means for its realisation.

At the beginning of September [1960], the S.I. received the request from the German group Radama to collectively join us by sending one or more representatives to the Conference in London, which was to meet on the 24th of this month. After hearing a report on this question, asked for from the German section, the S.I. concluded that it was not acceptable to recognise in Germany a second situationist formation independent from its first section, with a program more or less different and unknown; and this group unilaterally decided that these differences were small enough in order to join the S.I., but great enough to remain organised as a distinct group on the national level. This group was thus told that it would not be invited to the conference; and that its members could eventually join the S.I. only by means of individual membership to our German section. With the exception of one of them, who in no way may be considered because of his previous personal positions.3

Informed of the arrest of Alexander Trocchi in New York—considered a gangster simply because the police found him carrying three kinds of narcotics—the London Conference immediately adopted on the 27th September [1960] a resolution in his favour, which was read the following day before a public meeting at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

In execution of the mandate given to them by the Conference, three situationists signed a tract distributed on the 7th October: Hands of Alexander Trocchi.4 This text, moderate enough to be signed by those people capable of defending the freedom of artists—in the absence of more—is indeed deliberately placed on merely artistic grounds, in order to serve in this specific legal case. And it notes that this artistic status cannot be denied Alexander Trocchi “for the sole reason that he represents a new type of artist,” like all the Situationists. Besides them, this appeal has already brought together 81 names of artists, writers or critics of many countries (Great Britain, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Israel, Denmark, Canada and the Unites States). So far only two individuals have dared to say they judge him as too compromised. Many people, who have still not communicated their response, will certainly have the opportunity of making it known before too long. We will publish here shortly the results of this affair, as well as all the details and useful commentaries on the positions taken by all sorts.

Interrogated on the 21st of November, in Paris, by the judicial police, for his participation in the “Declaration of the 121”, Debord responded that he immediately signed [as soon as] it had been given to him, which it turns out was not before the 29th of September, therefore on the day following the publication of the ordnances by which the Gaullist government, excessively increasing the legal sanctions incurred, challenged those who condemned it to dare to speak. Because no one had furnished him with the opportunity, he had not participated in the publication or distribution of this text. However, as the current statement seemed to be trying to isolate a small number of signatories more responsible than the others, he was obliged to add to his testimony that, due to the sole fact of having signed the aforementioned Declaration, he assumed complete responsibility for its publication and distribution, “equal to that of any one of its signatories, regardless of the personal responsibility that he wants to acknowledge”.5

The Central Council of the S.I., whose form and composition was decided by the London Conference, held its first session in Belgium, near Brussels, between the 4th and 6th of November.6 The Council deliberated on the undertaking of a campaign in favour of Alexander Trocchi; the conditions of the activity of Situationists in Germany (the beginning of a repression in favour of moral order which had already succeeded in condemning the student Döhl for blasphemous writing) and France; our relations with revolutionary political tendencies; the preparations for our intervention against U.N.E.S.C.O. (the publication of a questionnaire to serve in the recruitment of new members); and the publication in 1961 of a Situationist journal in English: The Situationist Times.

The Council made several important decisions concerning the organization, legal and practical, of our projected construction in urbanism. It also studied some forms of control, by the Situationists, of the atmosphere and events in isolated micro-societies.

Finally, the Council has decided to take advantage, without delay, of progress made by the S.I. and the support that it has begun to gain, to make an example of the most representative tendencies of the pseudo-leftist and conformist intelligentsia who have painstakingly organised so far the silence around us; and whose resignation in all fields begins to appear before the eyes of informed people: [i.e.,] the French journal Arguments. The Council has decided that all people who collaborate with the journal Arguments starting from January 1st, 1961, cannot be admitted under any circumstances, now or in the future, among the Situationists. The announcement of this boycott draws its force from the importance that we know the S.I. secures at least in the culture of the years ahead. Interested parties can bet, on the contrary, on the dubious company it will attract.

Specifically, this Edgar Morin, director of Arguments, begins to perceive that he is the butt of public contempt (which the Situationists come to officially affirm has been expressed spontaneously by many people solicited to participate in the current issue of Arguments; but discretely, which risks harming the soundness of the boycott which we imposed). After trying to meet with several Situationists—who refused without comment, or responded that he was much too late—[Morin] works to spread a smoke screen over his case. While he is obviously completely condemned for the pitiful evolution of the ex-revolutionary journal which he directs; for his complicity with the Royalist and anti-Semite Georges Mathieu (see the stupid issue no. 19 on “Art in question”); and for his crude sabotage of the movement of signatures which concerns the “Declaration of the 121” fought at this time with the great resources of the Gaullist power (cf. his article in the Observateur on the 29th September); the Morin in question spreads the rumour—always by word of mouth—that Situationists everywhere have accused him of having plagiarised an experimental film made by one of them in 1959, and only shown in France, in another film which he worked on this year.7 This rumour is absolutely false; and all the more so as anyone in the S.I., where one is habituated enough to being copied on a number of available details, has never found [it] useful to make declarations about it, even on the most striking of occasions. A Situationist (Asger Jorn) simply formulated one time the suspicion of imitation in this instance, speaking to a third person who had inaccurately warned him of the cinematographic occupations of the shady Morin. The hypothesis of Jorn’s is amply explained by what he knows of the bad faith and the impoverished hostility of this character. Besides, if Morin had to make a film, given his artistic imbecility, it would have been necessary that he copied someone, consciously or not. But this year, no problem: it was Jean Rouch who made the film.[8] 8 And Morin, obviously a specialist of distraction, has only spoken of this [in order] to use the only talent that everyone is forced to recognize in him.

Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, with help from NOT BORED!, October 2012. A section of this Situationist News, specifically the section on the exclusion of Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Giors Melanotte and the resignation of Constant Nieuwenhuis, was previously translated by Tom McDonough and published in the situationists and the city, Verso 2009, pp. 137-38. Text from

  • 1Notebook for a Journey to be Invented.
  • 2Pierre Canjuers was the pseudonym of Daniel Blanchard, member of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group.
  • 3It is clear that the person referred to here, the ‘one of them, who in no way may be considered because of his previous personal positions’, is Erwin Eisch. Erwin Eisch, along with Gretel Stadler and Max Strack set up the Radama group in Germany in 1960. Eisch had been a founding member of the SPUR group in 1957. According to Raspaud’s and Voyer’s 1972 book, l’internationale situationniste: chronologie, bibliographie, protagonistes (avec un index des noms insultés), Eisch was excluded from the SI in February 1962 along with other members of SPUR. However this is false. In a letter to Heimred Prem of the SPUR group, Guy Debord wrote: ‘I understand that [Erwin] Eisch is no longer with the Spur group. At this moment, you are the only representatives of the SI in Germany and, if Eisch has been separated from you, he can no longer be counted as a situationist; and the SI is no longer interested in him.’ (Letter from Guy Debord to Heimrad Prem, 26 July 1960). Just over two weeks later, in a letter to the SPUR group, Guy Debord wrote further on Eisch: ‘It is good that [Erwin] Eisch is no longer with you because, if he is now a slightly modernist version of old monuments to dead heroes, he doesn’t deal a blow to cultural conformism: conformism deals a blow to the avant-garde that takes Eisch into its camp. The dominant conformism of today no longer believes in the Hitlerian style of art. It annexes Eisch, who immediately sells off the subversive reputation that he has obtained by participating in our scandals’ (Letter from Guy Debord to Hans-Peter Zimmer and the Spur Group, 8 August 1960). Debord’s criticism of Eisch was elaborated further in an article against so-called ‘neo’ avant-gardists in the August 1961 issue of the SI’s journal. The article, Once Again, on Decomposition, briefly described a stunt carried out by the Radama group without mentioning either the group’s name or its central figure (i.e. Eisch): ‘In Munich, in January [1961], a group of painters inspired by Max Strack arranged simultaneously for the biography, as sentimental as could be wished, and the exhibition of the complete oeuvre of Bolus Krim, a young Abstract Expressionist painter prematurely deceased — and just as imaginary. Television and the press, including almost all the German weeklies, expressed their enthusiasm for so representative a genius, until the hoax was proclaimed, leading some to call for legal proceedings against the tricksters.’ Clearly Eisch is beyond the pale. However the article is far more interesting for its elaboration of the theory of ‘cultural decomposition.’ The Radama group’s stunt is used to illustrate the SI’s criticism of the pseudo nature of the so-called ‘neo’ Dadaists and avant-gardists of the 1950s and 60s: ‘The truth is that even when they exhibit a certain sense of humour, all these inventors get quite excited, with an air of discovering the destruction of art, the reduction of a whole culture to onomatopoeia and silence like an unknown phenomenon, a new idea, and which was only waiting for them to come along. They all dig up corpses to kill them again, in a cultural no-man’s-land beyond which they can imagine nothing. Yet they are precisely the artists of today, though without seeing how. They truly express our time of obsolete ideas solemnly proclaimed to be new, the time of planned incoherence, isolation and deafness assured by the means of mass communication, higher forms of illiteracy taught in the university, scientifically guaranteed lies, and overwhelming technical power at the disposal of ruling mental incompetence.’
  • 4This title is in English in the original.
  • 5For more on the SI’s relations with the “Declaration of the 121,” see also the article The Minute of Truth in the same issue.
  • 6For more on the new Central Council see the SI’s The Fourth SI Conference in London in the same issue.
  • 7The reference to the film made by a Situationist in 1959 is Debord’s Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, first shown on the 31st of December, 1959.
  • 8The film is Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a summer), filmed by Morin, Rouch and others in the summer of 1960, first shown in October 1961.



1 year 5 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on January 25, 2023

exclusions of Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Giors Melanotte (pseudonym of Giorgio Gallizio - son of Giuseppe).

Being in the Situationist International with your Dad is pretty wild.


1 year 5 months ago

Submitted by Steven. on January 26, 2023

Ha so I guess even the SI had its nepo babies

The common view on the S.I., this year (press review) 1960

situationist cartoon

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 26, 2023

Translator's note: This translation is a first draft, and has not been independently proofread. However, to the best of my knowledge this text has never been translated into English. Therefore I am making it available in this form with the caveat that there are likely to be mistakes in it. PLEASE APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION! Draft 0.2 (revised 5 August 2013)


“The members of the Munich group (“Spur”) follow the current of the Situationist International (leader: A. Jorn) … While Courageous in words, their progress is slowed, handicapped by their cumbersome mentality. Desires; ability : what a contrast! ”

Vernissage, October 1960.

“But what do these young Samsons intend to take the place of the corrupt order they wish to tear down? Here they look to the Situationists, a movement to which they belong. They cite the manifesto of May 17, 1960 … This is evidently some form of international group, which held a Congress (naturally an international one) in 1959. So, what is it?

“Artists,” the manifesto says, “have been completely separated from society, just as they are separated from each other by competition.” Well said! And here, our Situationists have discovered the origin of the greatest ills. In it’s place, Guy Debord and his friends imagine the creation of a “situationist culture,” which would require a “general participation” of everyone. In place of preserved objects, art would be “in community with the directly lived moment” – a universal and anonymous creation. This would imply, we suspect, “a revolution of behaviour” … There are actually many signs of growing dissatisfaction, a “crisis of culture”.

But the goals of these rebels are not so different from those of others. Before declaring the monochrome to be an unproductive polemic – are they not themselves polemicists? – the partisans of “Spur” should study the theatre of Gelsenkirchen, and the manifestos of Yves Klein. The “gouvernement de la sensibilité” is not as far away as they think from their own “situationist culture.” Only it was devised with much more precision. ”

John Anthony Thwaites, “Furious Pioneers”
(Deutsche Zeitung, 23-9-60).

“To break the impasse, this young group sees only one alternative: to renounce painting as an individualist art in favour of it’s use in a new “situationist” setting. What a monstrous word! Such manifestos are interesting as symptoms of anxiety and discomfort, they can also contain elements of the truth, but the authors are so attached to their ideas and slogans that the truth escapes them. ”

Fritz Nemitz
(Die Kultur, October 1960).


“In addition to the achievements of their “critical” aesthetic, the protagonists of this movement have considered in their theory a third horizon, in which painting seeks to transcend itself – where it acknowledges that it is outdated and and should be replaced by a universal, more concrete art. Doesn’t the development of technology, in effect, create new structural possibilities, not simply imaged, but practically realisable in the form of new situations? Their direct relationship with action shows that the old, seemingly lost, sense of immediacy is still there in spirit.”

François Choay.
(Arguments, No. 19, October 1960).

“Cultural research (into material and artistic forms, philosophical mechanisms and scientific truths about man and nature) involves a long and patient effort, and any break with this concept can only signal a return to barbarism …

“However, some intellectuals who are unable to integrate their vague and distorted vision – contradicted by experience – into culture, prefer to reject the culture itself rather than review their concepts or review themselves … The Situationists, who claim (in the name of working towards the society of the future) to break with the elements of culture, go so far as to reject them in order to substitute brutally “vitalist” values. Values which are sub-cultural, not even Marxist, but worse, troglodyte.

“I say worse, because here we go beyond the basest Marxism to approach outright fascism – the reaction (repeated under various pretexts) that we have known ever since Caliph Omar and the total destruction of the Library of Alexandria, right up to cultural destuction of Goering. Intending to increase its power in society, the Situationist International, like other “neo” proletarian or nationalist groups can try at times to stifle (from the outside) the natural growth of the culture, but in the end the research of those who respect knowledge will reject and punish these ignorant reactionaries, as it has rejected and punished others in the past.

“And when I consider how many offences there have been over the years as striking as Nazism, Communism or, on a smaller scale, the expression of the Situationists – which have unnecessarily destroyed so much energy – I understand why some want me to commit myself to applying some of my resources to reveal these deceptions. ”

Poésie Nouvelle, Special Issue on the SI (N° 13, October 1960).
Found in Paris, 13, rue de Mulhouse.

“Megalomaniac egotism, in the relationships between artists. leads to a thirst to overtake all others while taking care not to push yourself too hard.

As I have written and said.”

Robert Estivals, “Letter to Debord on the consequences
of megalomania …” (Grammes, No. 5).


“Well, No! I refuse to assume that there is deep thinking behind hollow words and the use of expressions without knowledge of their exact meaning … It is really necessary [to stand up when someone] kills the French language as blithely and with such assurance.

It will nevertheless one day end, with these pseudo-intellectuals of a false avant-garde who are still to show ”their wee-wee”. When one embarks on a Critique for a Construction of Situation, one is in danger of going too far, especially with a helmsman like Patrick Straram who publishes texts rejected elsewhere without asking if his little writings were rejected not because of their courage, but simply because they are insignificant and pitiful.”

Jean-Guy Pilon (Liberté 60, n° 9-10, été 1960).

“I stumble over a vocabulary at the same time scatty and already sclerotic, which still fails in any renewal of the commonplace. I note, once again, this more or less conscious desire for the intellectual safety of another scholastic system – which has the same freshness and spontaneity of terminology and context as medieval thought. ”

Clément Lockquell (Le Devoir de Montréal, 16-7-60).

“I cannot say how disappointed I was. The tone of it, the words used, call for an entire scenario to be reinvented. And this Situationist International, which calls itself an “International”… Life is too cruel for us to take it seriously. Surrealism was true, Situationism remains a construction of some cultivated minds … But we must speak clearly. Henault, Miron, Portugais, Lapointe, Dubé speak clearly. But they don’t seem to be Situationists and are in appendices to Patrick Straram’s book. We learn to separate our own personal and sexual problems from those of other people. To prefer the people … say it all, but speak clearly. Only then will we invent the scenario in which others are able to live. Our children for example.”

Jacques Godbout (Liberté 60, n° 9-10).

Translated by Ian Thompson (July 2013). From


Resolution of the Fourth Conference of the Situationist International Concerning the Imprisonment of Alexander Trocchi

A black and white photo of Trocchi and the text of the resolution

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 19, 2023

The delegates to the fourth conference of the Situationist International, being informed of the arrest in the United States of their friend Alexander Trocchi, and of his charge of use of, and traffic in drugs, declare that the Situationist International retains full confidence in Alexander Trocchi.

The conference DECLARES that Trocchi could not have, in any case, traffic in drugs; this is clearly a police provocation by which the situationists will not allow themselves to be intimidated;

AFFIRMS that drug taking is without importance;

APPOINTS Asger Jorn, Jacqueline de Jong and Guy Debord to take immediate action on behalf of Alexander Trocchi and to report upon such action to the Situationist International at the earliest moment;

CALLS in particular upon the cultural authorities of Britain and on all British intellectuals who value liberty to demand the setting free of Alexander Trocchi, who is beyond all doubt England's most intelligent creative artist today.

London, 27th September 1960

Libcom note: This appeared in English in the original.


The Fourth SI Conference in London

The SI outside the British Sailors Society in 1960

From International Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

The 4th conference of the Situationist International was held in London, at a secret address in the East End, 24-28 September 1960, seventeen months after the Munich Conference (April 1959). The situationists assembled in London were: Debord, Jacqueline de Jong, Jorn, Kotányi, Katja Lindell, Jörgen Nash, Prem, Sturm, Maurice Wyckaert and H.P. Zimmer. In fact, to ensure that the proceedings were kept well away from any contact with London journalists or artistic circles, the conference took place at the British Sailors Society hall in Limehouse, "an area famous for its criminals" (Spur #2).

The first session began on 25 September with a debate on the adoption of an order of the day on seventeen integral points, the discussion of three of which was postponed and rescheduled for a later SI debate. Asger Jorn acts as this session's chairman, a function he performs for the remainder of the conference.

The conference then hears a report by Attila Kotányi; it lasts a only few minutes but is followed by two days of discussion. For Kotányi, the SI is characterized primarily by the appropriation of resources for contructing fields of encounter. Commenting on the definitions he has proposed, he shows that the philosophical concept of dialogue and the encounter as alienation and tragedy, as attempted communication filtered negatively through its means, is an insufficient critique because "we know that, for very different reasons, these encounters don't produce themselves." The role of the void, of lost time, in possible displacements can be calculated statistically.

The lack of encounters is expressible by a concrete figure, which could characterize the historical state of the world . . . Following this analysis, our activity must undertake a practical critique of the reasons why there are no encounters (independent of any "progress" of the means of communication, for example); create bases (situationist "castles") representing an accumulation of the elements of the encounter and the dérive: more concretely, buildings of our own; and facilitate communication — permanent or otherwise — between these bases. This is the minimum requirement for the construction of situations.

Kotànyi proposes that this plan be considered within definite limits, and thus the limits of time: a planning of the time necessary for the installation of this basic network that subordinates other situationist instruments, including the devices of its propaganda and its publications.

"We are in on the greatest secret of all. We should give word to Professor Oglianof to avoid any panic."

The discussion of these perspectives leads to posing the question: “To what extent is the SI a political movement?” Various responses state that the SI is political, but not in the ordinary sense. The discussion becomes somewhat confused. Debord proposes, in order to clearly bring out the opinion of the Conference, that each person respond in writing to a questionnaire asking if he considers that there are “forces in the society that the SI can count on? What forces? In what conditions?” This questionnaire is agreed upon and filled out. The first responses express the view that the purpose of the SI is to establish a program of overall liberation and to act in accord with other forces on a social scale. (Kotányi: “To rely on what we call free.” Jorn: “We are against specialization and rationalization, but not against them as means. . . . Movements of social groups are determined by the character of their desires. We can accept other social movements only to the extent that they are moving in our direction. We are the new revolution . . . we should act with other organizations that seek the same path.”) The session is then adjourned.

At the beginning of the second session, on September 26, Heimrad Prem reads a declaration of the German section in response to the questionnaire. This very long declaration attacks the tendency in the responses read the day before to count on the existence of a revolutionary proletariat, for the signers strongly doubt the revolutionary capacities of the workers against the bureaucratic institutions that have dominated their movement. The German section considers that the SI should prepare to realize its program on its own by mobilizing the avant-garde artists, who are placed by the present society in intolerable conditions and can count only on themselves to take over the weapons of conditioning. Debord responds with a sharp critique of these positions.

An evening session returns to the examination of the German declaration. Nash speaks against it by affirming the SI's capacity to act immediately when it comes to social and political organizations. He recommends systematically organizing infiltration by clandestine situationist elements into such groups wherever it would be useful. Nash's proposal is approved in principle by everyone, with a few circumstantial reservations. The debate on the German positions, however, does not end there, returning to its nucleus: the hypothesis of the satisfied worker. Kotányi reminds the German delegates that even if since 1945 they have seen apparently passive and satisfied workers in Germany and legal strikes organized with music to divert union members, in other advanced capitalist countries “wildcat” strikes have multiplied. He adds that in his opinion they vastly underestimate the German workers themselves. Jorn responds to Prem, who has made a distinction between spiritual and material questions, that this distinction to be done away with, that it is necessary "for material values to regain a 'spiritual' importance, and for the value of spiritual capacities to be increased only through their materialization; in other words, it is necessary for the world to become artistic in the sense defined by the SI." In order to simplify the discussion, which is becoming obscure, and complicated further by certain translations (the dominant language at the conference is German), Jacqueline de Jong requests that every participant declare whether or not they approve of Jorn's statement. All are in favor of it. Debord proposes that the majority openly declare that it rejects the German theses. It is agreed that the two tendencies separately decide on their positions. The German minority withdraws to an adjoining room to deliberate. When they return Zimmer announces, in the name of his group, that they retract the preceding declaration, not because they think it unimportant, but in order not to impede present situationist activity. He concludes:

We declare that we are in complete agreement with all the acts already done by the SI, with or without us, and with those that will be done in the foreseeable future. We are also in agreement with all the ideas published by the SI. We consider the question debated today as secondary in relation to the SI’s overall development, and propose to reserve further discussion of it for the future.

Everyone agrees to this. Kotányi and Debord, however, ask that it be noted in the minutes that they do not consider that the question discussed today is secondary. The German situationists agree to delete their reference to it as such. The session is adjourned, very late at night.

While the conference proceeds... "Come in 3-12, do you read me? Come in 3-12" ... "Hey! Pay Attention!"

The fourth session, on the 27th, adopts a resolution on the imprisonment of Alexander Trocchi; and decides on what attitude to take the following night toward the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where Wyckaert is to make a public declaration in the Conference's name. Everyone is of the opinion that this circle of modernist aesthetes should be treated with contempt. With regard to the Manifesto of 17 May, approved by all, Jorn stresses that for us, "the liquidation of the world of privation, in all its forms" means that the end of privation also involves the freedom to deprive oneself, to refuse every obligatory comfort, no matter what; failing which, the disappearance of privation will introduce a new alienation.

The Conference decides to re-organize the SI by instituting a Central Council that will meet in different European cities at six to eight week intervals. Any member of the SI can participate in the affairs of this Council, which must communicate related information and decisions made to everyone immediately after each meeting; but the essential feature of this institution is that a majority of its members — named by each Conference — may make decisions on behalf of the entire organization. The federative concept of an SI founded on national autonomy, established by the influence of the Italian section at the time of the group's founding in Cosio d'Arroscia, is thus abandoned. The clarity of discussions on the SI's direction within such an organism seems preferable to the arbitrariness of an unchecked de facto centralism — inevitable in such a geographically widespread movement — as it leads to real collective action. Every year, the SI Conference, which remains the movement's highest authority, must gather all situationists together and, insofar as this is not realizable in practice, it is decided that, as soon as possible, those absent should either submit a precise mandate to the conference in writing, or nominate another situationist to represent them by proxy. Theoretical debates will usually be dealt with at the Conference, while the Council's primary role should be to ensure the development of the SI's powers. Between Conferences, however, the Central Council does have the right to admit a new section into the SI, and in this case, can invite a delegate of this section to become a Council member.

The first Council, chosen by the London Conference, is composed of members of the old Editorial Committee of the SI bulletin, plus Nash, unanimously named to represent the Scandinavian countries, and Kotányi, invited to occupy the place left vacant by the resignation of Constant.

The session concludes with the choice of where to hold the next conference. Several proposals are turned down, with the vote settled as between Berlin and Gotëborg, in Sweden. Gotëborg is the favorite.
On 28 September, the fifth session adopts a Declaration on Insanity, presented by the German section, which asserts:

As long as society as a whole is insane . . . we will by all means oppose the definition of insanity and the consequences that it may entail for members of the SI. With modern psychiatry's criteria for reason and madness being based, in the final analysis, on social success, we refuse absolutely the definition of insanity when it comes to any modern artist.

The conference adopts a resolution transferring the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism to Brussels, with Attila Kotányi named as director.

Kotányi then declares that he will concern himself with the legislative control of urbanism: "All that is currently built is built not on the ground, but on the law," and failing that, never progresses beyond the stage of maquettes. Jorn talks about establishing a new geometry, for there is an obvious relationship between Euclidian geometry and current legislation. The session ends with a few practical decisions, notably concerning the takeover of UNESCO.

At the Institute of Contemporary Arts the same evening, Maurice Wyckaert closed the conference by reading an official declaration which was, in this instance, not followed by a discussion. As Jorn pointed out to the audience, "the discussion lasted four days; everything is now clear and we are all agreed." Furthermore, the first translation made by the ICA for the evening was found to be so bad, its meaning altered so much that the situationists refused to take the floor until a completely satisfactory translation had been provided. As the SI occupied the place with enough force, and as time was visibly on their side, the ICA's officials immediately set about the task, taking around two hours. The audience began to lose its patience, especially during the last hour, but very few people left in the course of this long wait; far more walked out during Wyckaert's excellent discourse. This was because the text had finally been very well translated.

Edited from translations by Ken Knabb and Reuben Keehan. From:



1 year 5 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on January 19, 2023

“Instead of beginning with the usual compliments, Wyckaert scolded the ICA for using the word ‘Situationism’ in its Bulletin. ‘Situationism’, Wyckaert explained, ‘doesn’t exist. There is no doctrine of this name.’ He went on to tell the audience, ‘If you’ve now understood that there is no such thing as ‘Situationism’ you’ve not wasted your evening.’

“After a tribute to Alexander Trocchi, who had recently been arrested for drug trafficking in the United States, Wyckaert launched into a criticism of UNESCO. We were told that UNESCO had failed in its cultural mission. Therefore the Situationist International would seize the UNESCO building by ‘the hammer blow of a putsch’. This remark was greeted with a few polite murmurs of approval.

“Wyckaert ended as he had begun, with a gibe at the ICA. ‘The Situationists, whose judges you perhaps imagine yourselves to be, will one day judge you. We are waiting for you at the turning.’ There was a moment’s silence before people realized that the speaker had finished.

The first and only question came from a man who asked ‘Can you explain what exactly Situationism is all about?’

Wyckaert gave the questioner a severe look. Guy Debord stood up and said in French ‘We’re not here to answer cuntish questions’. At this he and the other Situationists walked out.”


1 year 5 months ago

Submitted by Steven. on January 20, 2023

Where is that account from Fozzie? I had heard of that comment by Debord but wasn't sure of the context.
I'm trying to get my head around the sequence of events. So did they have a conference in East London, but close it out with a public meeting at the ICA?
Or did they crash an event being hosted at the ICA already?


1 year 5 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on January 20, 2023

It's apparently from "Asger Jorn - The Crucial Years 1954-1964" (Lund Humphries, 1977). Stewart Home quotes from it in The Assault on Culture.

Yeah I think the Conference was followed by an ICA event - which must have been preplanned because there was a programme and an audience?

Report on the SI's Theater of Operations - Attila Kotányi

A very short text from Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 20, 2023

I should point out that what I'm about to read has already largely been discussed within the SI, and therefore that it has lost a good deal of its interest. Please excuse me for this. I'll confine myself to three proposals for "situating" the Situationist International itself within all other artistic and political problems.

Fundamentally, I ask that we consider:

a) the SI as a materially equipped encounter (which is also a passion and a denunciation), with the accent on "materially equipped";

b) that the preparatory stage for basic equipment (a stage that could be described as pre-situationist or pre-artistic, etc.) is controlled by capitalist automatism;

c) that this basic equipment is the implementation of situationist possibility.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From:


Contribution to the London Conference - Jørgen Nash

A short text from Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 20, 2023

From what I've heard so far, I get the impression that a certain pessimism exists in the SI, and this pessimism is expressed quite strongly in the German section's declaration. Nevertheless, our Scandinavian expriments show that with an explosive force and a genuine theory of action, small groups can do far more than could be imagined in England, Germany or France. I've been collaborating with workers' cultural organizations for several years. The working class in the Scandinavian countries has achieved a notable degree of economic well-being. But they obviously don't know what cultural goal this economic well-being might serve, as this raises the question of the very meaning of life. Meanwhile, the workers consume the culture cooked up by capitalism, because it is the only culture around. Despite an awareness that this is only the product of cultural capitalism, the Left in modern democracy has a great deal of interest in organizing the distribution of this product; and naturally, has nothing to gain from real creation.

Just as the communists have organized shock troops simply to develop the possibilities of cultural consumption, it would be possible for the SI to form groups small in size but equipped with great force of penetration, to bring about possibilities for creation.

I myself was an executive in the metallurgists' union for three years. Two years ago, I assisted in a major congress of all Scandinavian union organizations. Someone at this congress pointed out that the strike fund had not been touched for ten years due to permanent full employment and a lack of strikes. Sweden had even imported 60,000 foreign workers. This fund was worth three million deutschmarks, and no-one had any idea what to do with the money. This was assembly's biggest problem.

The SI is the first organization with whom the groups I mentioned are able to collaborate in order to subvert all this. The good old system of infiltration needs to be put to use: there is no better means. I propose that we have secret members, ready to work illegally in various kinds of organizations: in cultural ministries, in UNESCO, governments, unions, newspapers, radio, television, and wherever else it's necessary.

Secrecy would rapidly give these agents far greater freedom of action than if they were to be known as official members of the SI. These methods, which, among other things, are adapted from certain anarcho-syndicalist experiments, would be very effective.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From:


Resolution on the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism

A brief resolution handing control of the Bureau to Attila Kotányi after the exclusion of most of the Dutch Section of the SI.

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 20, 2023

The 4th Conference notes that the "bureau for investigation for a unitary urbanism," opened in 1959 by the SI in Amsterdam, can no longer be maintained, the situationists who were in charge of it having had to be dismissed for engaging in reactionary activities radically opposed to the SI;

agrees to nominate other situationists to ensure the development of the research work and application of UU.

The Conference decides that the SI delegates A. Kotányi to the direction of his bureau of unitary urbanism, taking responsibility for it;

settles on Brussels as the location of the bureau's headquarters.

London, 28 September 1960.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From:


Declaration Made in the Name of the Fourth SI Conference to the Institute of Contemporary Arts

Text of an address given by Maurice Wyckaert to an audience at the ICA in London. From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 20, 2023

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In an error relating to the terms of acceptance that we had communicated to them, the ICA has announced a declaration by the "International Situationism" movement.

There is no such thing as situationism. No doctrine by that name. It is a practical experiment that we call situationist — a practical experiment organized within a disciplined international movement. If you have now understood that there is no such thing as situationism, then already you have not wasted your evening. And in that case, if you understand something more, then you will leave here with a little extra.

First of all, consider that none of the works we are presently capable of producing have reached a situationist stage. We propose only that we will soon realize — collectively — the first pre-situationist ensembles. You could consider the situationist movement as a new passion with material means at its disposal. We are the new revolution. With every revolutionary of the past abandoned or led astray [détourned] by others; to whom can the task belong, if not us?

We are not interested in an artistic use for language when there are more profound artistic problems. We are interested, above all, in actions. If the chatter were to cease, the result would be at the very least the construction of cities of passion. We are capable of creating ambiances, of liberating human behaviour from boredom.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From 24 September until today, the Fourth Conference of the Situationist International has gathered the representatives of our Belgian, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian and Swedish sections to Limehouse, in the room of the British Sailors Society. We regret that the British section has been prevented from being represented by the scandalous arrest of Alexander Trocchi in the United States.

I now come to the reading of the manifesto submitted to the Conference of the Situationist International, which was adopted unanimously.

(The manifesto that follows appeared in the preceding number of this bulletin.)

See also, in Situationist News, the Resolution of the London Conference on the imprisonment of Alexander Trocchi.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From:


Open Creation and its Enemies - Asger Jorn

A photo of Jorn in woodland is obscured by "Lettrism is dead long live Lettrism" printed repeatedly in blue and red lettering

Originally published in Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 21, 2023

Translated by Fabian Tompsett and then published by the London Psychogeographical Association, 1993. PDF version below published by Unpopular Books, 1994.



Open Creation and Its Enemies part one - Asger Jorn

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 23, 2023

Some people would never be considered, were it not that some excellent adversaries had mentioned them. There is no greater vengeance than oblivion, as it buries such people in the dust of their nothingness.
— Baltazar Gracian, L'homme de cour

I have never considered the Situationist International as one of those intellectual errors that only needs to be left to crumble to dust, scattering its corpses. I have always had a horror of those exploiters of other people's discoveries, whose only justification is the synthesis they achieve. I have reason to consider the situationists as sub-Marxists from the twentieth zone, full of troglodyte anti-cultural formulations. There is an ex-painter of the Cobra-movement, who has principles which have come to nothing [It's me, Asger Jorn, that he's talking about].

He only produces abstract lyricism of the fourth zone or the fifth order. It was only in 1948, after Bjerke Petersen inspired the formation of Cobra with the support of Richard Mortensen, Ejler Bille and Egill Jacobsen following the war, that he showed himself in a coherent fashion. Even his support in his own country remains without real importance (there are some artists who, if they aren't noticed at the international level, go off and knock out some forged creations in the national framework). I advise him to stick to painting, not because I value his pictures, but because I have read his 'philosophical' works. Abstract art, above all that of a manufacturer prefaced by Jacques Prévert, the Paul Géraldy of surrealism, must be sold well and impassion all the dressmakers. My cultural conception and my creation make me rigorous in my writings. I already have enough difficulties from being solely responsible for my own writings, whence there are no false phrases or judgments to be retracted.

For all the reasons which he so exposes, I understand perfectly why the lettrist Lemaître has left it to a scribe to take the trouble to fill 136 pages of his review Poésie Nouvelle #13 with closely set little characters in a study on the Situationist International.

The enormous extent of the work is its only exceptional character, which is easily explained. As I think I have shown in my study on value, an endeavor of invention and understanding cannot be paid by the hour, and in consequence cannot be objectively measured with money. The habits of industrial production have clearly penetrated certain strata across the frontier of intellectual life, and for example, journalism is routinely paid by the line. But it is obvious that the interest of these types of workers is to increase the speed and the quantity of production to the detriment of the quality. Above all this can be seen in the poverty of reportage, as this must be assembled off the clock. And such a way of carrying out work implies an easily overstretched inferior intelligence of the financial backers, who are satisfied with such standards. Lemaître has been forced to commit such rashness thanks to his stated 'strategic reasons' which nevertheless remain obscure. If he says he 'avoided the idea of expounding in the SI' himself, he had better squarely let the matter drop or give the work over to a man of culture. Because Lemaître, as an entrepreneur, is completely responsible for the work of his pieceworkers.

In Internationale Situationniste #4 1 , I unveiled the system, the ideological grammar of Lemaître, by clarifying that it was a subjective outlook of positions established in relation to Lemaître himself, rather than an objective system. Lemaître admits his ignorance and his lack of scientific creativity (p. 74). How could he then take my statement as an insult? It is indisputable that my critique of the Marxist concept of value is strictly scientific, and it is, moreover, the first complete critique which has been made of it. Lemaître calls it 'sub-sub-sub-marxism'. And why not? It is nevertheless necessary to note that Lemaître has recognized and evaluated the scientific characteristics in the experimental work of the SI, as he has been able to deal with this subject for 136 pages without mentioning a single name of any of the participants of this experiment. This is pure objectivity. Lemaître has played on the law of large numbers. He attributes many quotes without distinction to someone he calls 'the situationist.' These were taken from the writings of ten of our comrades (the collective declarations of the SI are not an issue here: this figure applies only to those texts which are found to be signed individually by their authors).

Lemaître has fallen into the trap between the absolute and the measurement system of classical Euclidean geometry, as Marxism has done. He pushes it only as far as unintentional jokes, such as wanting to distinguish the graduations of eternity. He pretends (p. 56) to be capable of ensuring a 'more eternal' victory than anyone else.

Elsewhere, it is very funny to read Lemaître. The post-Marxist character inspired by the organization of the workers struggling to improve their economic situation is clearly visible as the basis of the erotological practice that Lemaître has pointed out in many large books. The effort so presented to organize a union of gigolos, systematizing their struggle for an increase in their wages and markedly improving their technique in satisfying even the most dramatic passions of their clients, is an honest reformist enterprise, the day to day defense of actual employees within the existing economic framework. Lemaître has recently admitted that this education would be impotent at the situationist stage of miracle-working, but doesn't know what to conclude from this intuition. If he made the effort, man could be naturally seen as the producer, and woman as the consumer in the erotic process as long as their relationship had no consequences. And if the number of boys born dropped considerably in relation to the number of girls, this could open perspectives which would merit economic considerations. But it is impossible to consider youth as being more a producer than a consumer, and completely against the interest of youth to diminish their consumption at the cultural level, by means of the reduction of school leaving age proposed by Lemaître, by which they would be thrown into production more quickly, even if this would be in the interest of the industry. Marx's struggle in this realm will always have a passionate value, and our goal is to confirm the right, not merely for youth, but for every individual, to realize themselves according to their free desires in autonomous creation and consumption. The focus of such a development could right away be UNESCO, from the moment when the SI takes command of it; new types of popular university, broken away from the passive consumption of the old culture; lastly, utopian educational centers which through the relation of leisure to certain arrangements of social spaces, they must come to be more completely free of the dominant daily life, and at the same time functioning as bridgeheads for an invasion of this daily life, instead of pretending to be separated from it.

An excellent book could be made out of Lemaître's economic theory seen as a literary work like a Rabelaisian farce, with the revolt of youth taken as a caricature of the revolutionary and socialist thought of the nineteenth century. But from the moment when Lemaître shows that he takes it seriously, he is a demagogue. One of the classic gimmicks of demagogues is to mobilize the people against dangers which have become inoffensive. It has been the fashion to shout wrongly about fascism since the war, when new socio-cultural conditions are being prepared, and when the new ideological dangers appear inoffensive: and leading to moral rearmament by all the variants of neo-religious fanaticism. Far from 'misrecognizing the power of his method', as Lemaître says, I have recognized them, I denounce them, and I declare war on them.

I prefer a contrary method. And the sole consideration I can give to Lemaître, to his scribbler, to those who could adhere to their system of thought, or just as likely to take it up and use it without them, it is to quote the phrases to which I am absolutely opposed. In Poésie Nouvelle #13:

My level of merit based on the works or actions which improve the human condition place in their lower ranks the current provisional practices. I believe that at the daily level the 'non-being' formulated by certain existentialist philosophers is true: we are only a mass of waste material having some possibility of acquired and limited choices. But what distinguishes my system is that, for me, the only liberty, which is minimal, resides in the minuscule invention or discovery of that rare being which is known as the 'innovator', in the wake of whose revelations that the other human beings can only follow, as they have until then followed the 'lesser good', the inferior. (p.116).

Rightly or wrongly, I have always believed afresh in the power to sometimes use the energies of my fellows better then they themselves. (p. 44).

They must trust and follow me, instead of always staying behind. (p. 29).

The religious Jews can pretend that no-one has gone further than them, as the Messiah has not arrived. The Christians have reason to state that they have not been outclassed as their fellows have not been saved from their misery, and as they have been helped to the resurrection of the dead... At this general level, I give reason to these groups, who defend certain essential values and that I hope to honestly supersede by offering them what they want: the messiah, human safety, the resurrection of the dead, gnosis. (p. 28).

The situationists, like the sub-troglodytes that they are, no longer want to conserve anything... they not only reject the future of cultural disciplines, but also the past and the present, in the name of a pseudo-utopian, outdated, spineless, infantile bluff... Finally our ignorant reactionaries will be rejected and punished by the research of disciplines of knowledge, just as they have rejected and punished others in the past. (p. 63).

I believe that these extracts from Lemaître's Mein Kampf suffice to show his main tendency towards 'degenerate art.' As for the threats, those that go so far as to make use of them are not always equipped with the capacity of the most extensive sanctions. And we are not in any way frightened by constructing the 'provisional' life, because Lemaître has let us know (p. 123) that he has "a great horror of his living person". Well, that's his problem! He also said that he preferred Malraux to the situationists (but will this complement be paid back?) Anyway, I would let him get on with Malraux. For nothing.

Translated by Fabian Tompsett. Text from:


Open Creation and Its Enemies part two - Asger Jorn

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 23, 2023

I am sad, but in spite of all my efforts, M. Mesens doesn't want to publish PIN. Even when I said to him that we didn't want any money, he laughed and said that if he wanted to publish it, we would have to give him money, but that he had no intentions of doing so. He had read it attentively but he didn't like it. He said that it would have been more topical twenty five years ago, but that now we would not be greeted with comprehension...
There is another thing: there are some imitators, for example, the lettrists in Paris who copy the Ursonate that Hausmann and I did, and we weren't even mentioned, we who had done it twenty five years before them, and with better reasons.
— Kurt Schwitters, Letter of 29-3-47 quoted in Courrier Dada.

What weapons does Lemaître want to use? Here, he falls for the psychiatric theory of a little Swiss man called Karl Jaspers, who from his perspective attains a 'stature' equal to that of Moses and of Plato (p. 66 & p. 80). From Lemaître's perspective, this Jaspers has become enormous, because he is closer to him in time and ideas. The enormity of Jaspers, who has the merit of being considered as one of the most famous imbeciles of our century, is to have postulated with all the authority of a non-scientific psychiatrist, that all individuals who are not an imbecile like him are mentally ill, and by this fact a public danger that society should be able to allow to be locked up and nursed. Lemaître has amplified this idea to a world dimension; and according to him the therapy would be (quote: "...only to have proposed an integral therapy capable of curing the permanent illness of youth and world history." p. 55).

What is this permanent illness of the history of the world? During the phase of youth, each individual or group possesses a fantastic will, in relation to minimum capacities and non-existent consciousness. The adult age possesses a real power stronger than their will, which is subject to the routine of actions. The fatigue of old age is compensated for by experience, the consciousness which dominates power and will. By proposing Gnosis for the salvation of youth, Lemaître only proposes a process of rapid aging, he even proposes that the youth should engage their wills as quickly as possible in social power, prisoner of existing establishment.

Lemaître precisely reproaches the situationists for not following the rules of his game: "So many mythic and mystifying formulas, which confound their classification and their integration into the domain of knowledge, also hinder the establishment of necessary historic relations between superseded-superseding and the superseding-superseded." In effect, unswervingly convinced of his linear succession, of his little hierarchy etc., blind to everything else, Lemaître cries that the situationists have not superseded him, and are to be placed much lower down than him. Well then? My friend the Danish poet Jens August Schade told me one day: "You can fall so low that the fall becomes uplifting." There is nothing mystifying in our behavior. I have never had any desire to supersede you, Lemaître and company. We are coming across each other: that's all. And we are not going to continue with the same trajectory that we approached by, without this encounter having had the slightest importance.

The Leninist example of the troglodytes was equally badly chosen. The conflict between Lenin and the Russian futurists is only one example in a general crisis and a subversion of the revolution to which Lenin had contributed with his very compact and superficial attack against leftism considered as 'an infantile disease' rather than as an illness of infancy, of hope. Anyhow, I am old enough to remember the epoch when Lenin himself was considered as a troglodyte by the whole world. One day, I shall probably be used, when I am dead as an anti-troglodyte against someone.

Lemaître is infatuated with the idea that time could abolish unfashionable cultural references which he has found, or had his specialist scribe pick up in the public libraries. But as anyone knows, like living reality, culture is what is left when all that has been understood has been forgotten. Nothing is worse than stupidity combined with a never failing memory. This is without wanting to discuss the weak quality, the holes and the bluffs in the digest of encyclopedism of Lemaître's brain trust.

Lemaître seems to disdain the experimental value that we have recognized in the lettrist movement around 1950, in two or three sectors of culture. He says that the experimental aspect of lettrism had been real but negligible in comparison to its essential value: a system of creation. Thus he impudently spits on his only asset, because we consider, as history will consider with us, that all that he calls his 'creation' is absolutely empty and has no future. Because Lemaître believes that it is his solipsistic dream of creation, which must be recognized as the sole historic value, he is astonished that, for example we don't recognize the importance of lettrist poetry. This poetry has no importance as an artistic creation, even as a function of the 'creative', arbitrary and untransferable systematization of Lemaître. As much as the whole of the lettrist movement has for a time played a role in the real avant-garde of a given epoch, onomatopoeic poetry, which was its first manifestation, came twenty five years after Schwitters, and clearly was in no way experimental.

In other respects there was nothing unique about the lettrists except in Paris. However, Lemaître is so geographically bound that, without smiling, he measures the comparative influences of the SI and groupuscules which appeared for six months on the Left Bank, and which are still only known about by him; he judges them according to articles whose dedication has generally been solicited by the groups themselves or "posters plastered all round Paris in their name" (p. 41). This Lemaître allows concessions to everyone for making known the discoveries which, as has been seen, all the mystifiers, Christian or not, have on sale. He pretends that he had plenty of time to understand, and does not ask about the reason for this total incomprehension, for this refusal of the whole world in relation to his wonderful creations. It is fifteen years since lettrism arose, it has chosen no enemies, but wants to convert the whole world. And without slackening, it has presented the (sub-Cartesian) demonstration of its dogmas throughout twenty books. However it has remained very poorly known about. And, to take his examples, Lemaître doesn't want it recognized that fifteen years after their appearance, surrealism or symbolism had already been largely imposed on culture. In epochs much less greedy than our own, these movements appeared, a novelty in all domains, and then the cultural ideologies, much less decomposed than those of today, fought them in the name of the conservation of the order of the past. Hence Max Bense, the German equivalent of this anecdote of systematic, paradialectic, and deadly boring 'lettrist thought'. They are equally typical of this epoch. What do you want? They are of great use as classifiers of values. But of values without actuality. In terms of Americanized culture, these are the gadgets of the Ideal Home exhibition of the spirit.

Translated by Fabian Tompsett. Text from


Open Creation and Its Enemies part three - Asger Jorn

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 23, 2023

It takes less time to create a material which is deficient, much longer to form a personality. And if a single error has been made in the production of the material, it can be repaired, if necessary by destroying the useless machine and so going through profits and losses. A man, once formed, is not destroyed; for forty years he is ready to perform the activity for which he has been trained...
— Alfred Sauvy, From Malthus to Mao Tse-Tung

The Chinese perspective is not Chinese culture. But it is a valuable and important outlook. At any moment, real living humanity covers a little less than two centuries. The oldest are about a hundred years old, and some among the new born will be destined to live as long in the future. There is a perpetual tension between these two temporal extremes of humanity. The cycle of this wheel of life, this eternal return is a permanent revolution upon which thousands of reflections have been made since the Sumerians, the Buddhists, Plato, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and so on. Zoroastrianism is the outcome of this train of thought, with the idea of a single oriented rotation of history from a unique beginning up to a definitive and irreversible end. This dualist outlook and unilateral orientation was transmitted to Judaism, Christianity and Islam; at the same time it passed to Mithraism, manicheeism and gnosticism. Following Lemaître's Gnostic confession, it is clear that he is not capable of understanding the dialectic dynamism of Buddhism, but that he follows dualism; and that his appeal to youth is simply the classical and traditional subversion of minors. Regretfully, I believe that I have detected the possibility of an unpublished system which is relatively creative in the sense that the application of Chinese perspective to the dimension of time in the west would produce results which could not be predicted. This makes Lemaître's system even simpler. It is no more than neo-Sorelianism. I have looked all over the place. Through the frequent use of Lenin as a witness to his arguments, and the loan of the origin of these perspectives from Fichte, instead acknowledging Sorel as the inventor of them, it is shown that Lemaître has drawn deeply from Sorel — elsewhere he admits to having read him — but with no intention of publicly acknowledging this. The Chinese perspective of Lemaître is just as impoverished as Sorelian ideology, whose fate is well known.

Sorel's artfulness lay in having studied the formula of ascendant Christianity, and having transported the belief in the zero point of the future (the end of the world and the opening towards an unknown paradise) to a purely technical system. Thus the Christian end of the world can be replaced by anything: the general strike, the socialist revolution, or to be more up-to-date, the man who presses the button of atomic missiles. All those who don't fit in with this perspective are equally assured of punishment, by using the key formula of all the historic events of our century: the accusation of treachery (to what? the system). In La Roue de la Fortune, I set myself against the mythological exactitude of Benjamin Péret, who is shown so high in Lemaître's estimation. This was because for me all art is an infinite multitude of mythic creations, and because I oppose free creativity to a return to the belief in a single imposed myth, or systems of myths. Here, I oppose the idea of multiple paradises to that cherished by Lemaître: a unique paradise, and ideological carcass once more exhumed. I don't think that Péret's attitude on this subject has ever approached such stupidity as that of Lemaître, but I saw the peril to come; and Péret can no longer protest when Lemaître, who stupidly insulted him in 1952 for 'lack of creation', now depends on him.

In any case, no-one can pay a greater compliment to the situationist movement than this confirmation by Lemaître: "I don't know anyone who believes in the 'situationist group'. The situationists themselves are not situationists as they have written many times. To speak as a whole which doesn't exist is to invite the accusation of having invented it." But our sole goal is precisely to invent it. We have invented everything so far, and there is still nearly everything left for us to invent: our terrain is so rich that it scarcely exists.

What we are going to invent is situationist activity itself. And also its definition. Having awkwardly let slip a number of propositions, proposals and appeals in his pamphlet on perfectly unreal footing, Lemaître pretends: "The situationists and my group could perhaps reach a spiritual understanding on the terrain of the 'situation', however much my critics adhere to my ethical conception of the Creator of elements — superior to the productive constructor of moments of life — and to the vision of integral cultural situations, the outcome of the Creative — and not simply ludic." I have already shown that we have goals completely opposed to his. All of Lemaître's options are rejected.

In a note (p. 80) where he points out to us the importance of Einstein, Lemaître has the audacity to add that "time is a notion intrinsic to the situation". We, however, to the extent that we have advanced in the study of given situationists, we find that the question is posed of inventing a situology, a situography and perhaps even a situometry beyond existing topological knowledge.

Lemaître is amazed that there is a Scandinavian culture distinct from the classical west. Scandinavian culture is above all the culture of the forgotten, the forgotten culture and without history, uninterrupted since the stone age, older and more immobile even than Chinese culture. With such a weighty heritage of oblivion, what could I cite from my ancestors.

I am a man without merit. At the same time, I am wicked enough. Journalists and other professional thugs at the service of existing order call us a 'beat generation'. They are astonished to discover that their knockbacks, their distrust, their absolute refusal to allow us even the chance to eat as badly as an unemployed unskilled worker, that all this has hardened us to the point that we refuse to give these bruisers big kisses the moment when they find us interesting. I remember the time of the Cobra movement, when C.O. Götz stated that our German comrades had to live on a tenth the keep of any prisoner of the Federal Republic. I know the more than shameful conditions in which the lettrists had to live in order to realize the remarkable works of their creative period. And so it continues. A German artist, whose country will not hesitate to claim the highest glory, has for two years had no other home than the empty railway cars at the station. When I discovered the systematic structures of the situationist tendency, I myself had understood that here was a method which exploited in secret by us could give us a great direct social power, and which would allow us the luxury of truly avenging the insults. I did not hesitate to explain this view to Guy Debord, who completely refused to take it into consideration, which obliged me to make my remarks public. He then told me that it was necessary to leave such methods to people like Pauwels or Bergier, and the mystical old women who are encaptured by minor occult insights. Everyone dreams of marketing its echoes, as Gurdijieff did to his well-to-do disciples. After some reflection, I knew that I would arrive at exactly the same attitude, which is the same vein as all my behavior up till now; anyway it is the reason for our collaboration in the SI.

But, "my hesitation could be conceived as the idea of surrendering the secret of secrets, the creation of creation, to the incoherent mob" Lemaître writes (p. 7), which all the more defends his right to the secret, that his 'creative' nothingness is a matter of a secret of organization. He justifies himself by the examples of atomic and other secrets. In fact, secret methods transform art into craftsmanship, by the exclusive techniques to reproduce to standards which come latter on. Lemaître is conscious partisan of this survival of the artisan confraternity. One is accepted by producing an acceptable masterpiece. Thus Lemaître retains a weakness for Debord's first film, simply because he has not understood it. He simply places it icily "amongst the ten best works in the history of cinema". The italics are his (p. 25).

Lemaître also reproaches me for having declared that he is finished. He claims that he is alive. That's true; and I didn't say he was dead. I said that he was in a coma (of his system). Which will probably only last as long as he does. The patient appropriation of the secrets of the master - particularly when dealing with a mastership arbitrarily decreed by an individual - clearly guarantees that a very particular commodity can be produced to these standards. But there is no guarantee that this production will be valorized by some desire.

Like Lemaître, I think that Wassily Kandinsky is the man "who produced and defined the abstract" (p. 111). But I don't agree with him that he was an "artistic innovator", nor that I am an abstract painter. I have never made any but anti-abstract paintings following the current of Hans Arp and Max Ernst, followed by Mondrian and Marcel Duchamp. Kandinsky, in Von Punkt über Linie zur Fleche, had aligned modern art according to the perspective of Euclidean geometry, whereas the innovators mentioned above moved towards an inverse geometry, aiming towards a polydimensional cosmos at the surface, just as the line and the point. The technique of dripping painting showed the absurdity of Kandinsky's attitude. If you work very close to the canvas, the flow of colors makes surfaces, blotches. But if you arrange things once again at a distance, the color is divided into little splashes, which only make points. This is exactly like elements in perspective. They start as masses and disappear over the horizon as points. Kandinsky started at the horizon, in the abstract to arrive where? Me, I started in the immediate present, to arrive where?

Translated by Fabian Tompsett. From


Open Creation and Its Enemies part four - Asger Jorn

From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 23, 2023

The thoughts and observations about it are entirely new; the citations have not been made before; the subject is of extreme importance and has been treated with infinite arrangement and clarity. It has cost me a great deal of time, and I pray that you will accept it and consider it as the greatest effort of my genius.
— Jonathan Swift, Irrefutable Essay on the Faculties of the Soul

If, as Lemaître says, time was an extraneous notion to the situation, situology will be as much a study of the unique identical form, as morphology. But it could rightly be said that situology is a morphology of time, since everyone is agreed that topology is defined as the continuity which is the non-division in extension (space) and non-interruption in duration. The morphological side of situology is included in this definition: that which concerns the intrinsic properties of figures without any relation to their environment.

The exclusion of singularities and interruptions, the constancy of intensity and the unique feeling of the propagation of the processes, which defines a situation, also excludes the division in several times, which Lemaître pretends are possible. But the confusion of ideas by an unlettered person like Lemaître is much more pardonable than that which prevails amongst professional topologists; and which obliges us to distance ourselves from the purely topological terrain to invent a more elementary situology. This confusion is introduced precisely in the formula of orientability which, in reality, is only adaptation to the dimension of time. E.M. Patterson explains that

"the idea of orientability derives from the physical idea that a surface could have one or two sides. Let us suppose that around each point of a surface — with the exception of the points at the edge (boundary), if there are any — a little closed curve is drawn in a defined sense, having been attached to this point. At this moment, the surface is called orientable if it is possible to choose the sense of the curves, of the manner to which it would be the same for all the points sufficiently close to each other. If not the surface is called non-orientable. All surfaces with only one side are non-orientable."

This mixture of geometry and physics is quite out of order. It is easy to prove that a sphere only has one surface, and likewise a ring. That a cone possesses two surfaces and a cylinder three, etc. But logically a surface can only have one side.

Anyway, a surface with two sides is not topological, because there is a rupture in continuity. But the reason for which we are put on the false scent of the double surface with two sides is clear: it's because that's what allows the linkage of topology with the general tendency of geometry: the search for equalities, or equivalencies. Two figures are explained as being topologically equivalent, or homeomorphs, if each can be transformed into the other by a continuous deformation. This is to say that there is a single figure in transformation: situology is the transformative morphology of the unique.

The gravest error which was introduced by adapting the classic perspective of geometry to topology, is the adaptation to classic distinctions of topology of surfaces and the topology of volumes. This is impossible and ridiculous if elementaries of situology are understood, because in topology there is a precise equivalence between a point, a line, a surface and a volume whereas in geometry there is an absolute distinction. This confession is clearly reflected in the Moebius strip, which is said to possess "two surfaces without homeomorphy" or to represent "surfaces with a single side" without a back or front, without an inside or outside. This phenomenon can even lead people to imagine that the Moebius strip only possesses a single dimension, which is completely absurd, because a Moebius strip cannot be made with a piece of string, even less with a line. What is most interesting about the Moebius strip is exactly the relationship between the two lines of the parallel edges.

It is possible to study geometric equivalencies, congruencies and likenesses of a Moebius strip, if a particular fact is taken into account: the length of a Moebius could be infinite compared to this width. It's up to the mathematicians to construct and calculate the Moebius strip at its minimal limit. Once constructed, it would be found that we are dealing with an object where the line which marks the width of the strip at a point taken by chance, makes a perfect right angle with same line drawn on the opposite part of the strip, however these two lines are parallel, if the strip is smoothed into a cylinder. The same line which at one point represents the horizontal at another point represents a vertical. There are thus three spatial dimensions, apart from the space if the strip is flattened. Hence the strangeness of the Moebius strip. Two Moebius strips of this type can thus always be put into likeness, and with the same width of strip, put into congruence.

It seems that no-one has yet remarked on the strange behavior of all topological forms and figures in their relationship with the system of spatial co-ordinates (vertical, horizontal, depth) in which they play, making them be born and disappear, and transforming one into the other. For Euclidean geometry, the system of co-ordinates is a given basis. For situology, no, as it creates and disposes of the co-ordinates at will. Thus Euclidean geometry has a duty to go beyond all situological considerations to take as a point of reference the system of co-ordinates at right angles which is the schema of the law of least effort. René Huygues shows, in his work Art and Man, that it is with the development of metallurgy, after the agrarian epoch, that the division is produced between the two styles of Hallstadt and La Tene, which is none other than the division between geometric and situlogic thought. Through the Dorians geometric thought was implanted in Greece, giving birth to rationalist thought. The contrary tendency wound up in Ireland and Scandinavia.

Walter Lietzman notes, in his work Anschauliche Topology:

"In art, for example in the age of the Vikings, knotwork was used as ornamentation with pleasure. I have before me a photo of the knot gardens of Shakespeare at Stratford, in which the arrangement of flowers in the form of knots is shown… What does Shakespeare see in these knots? I'm not able to say. Perhaps it's a matter of some error or more a deliberate confusion with the theme of the labyrinth. The question is raised twice with him: In Midsummer Night's Dream (act II, scene 1), and in The Tempest (act III, scene 3)."

There is no possible mistake. James Joyce in Finnegans Wake, by pronouncing the absurd phrase "No sturm, no drang", had overcome the ancient conflict between classicism and romanticism and opened a ski-slope towards the reconciliation of passion and logic. What is needed today is a thought, a philosophy and an art which conforms to what is projected by topology, but this is only realizable on condition that this branch of modern science is returned to its original course: that of "the situ analysis" or situology. Hans Findeisen, in his Shamanentum, indicated that the origins of shamanism, which still survives amongst the Lapps, are to be found in the cave paintings of the ice age, and it is enough that the ornamentation which characterizes the Lapp presence is simple knotwork. The knowledge of secret topologies has always been indicated by the presence of signs of knots, strings, knotwork, mazes etc. And in a curious way since antiquity the weavers has transmitted a revolutionary teaching in forms which are more or less bizarre, mystifying and subverted. A history too well known to have been studied seriously. The perversion in that should be noticed rather than the reverse.

The relation that the writings of Max Brod established between Kafka and the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is as profound as the relationship between Shakespeare and Hamlet: and their presence at Prague which, since the time of La Tene radiated topological thought, is as natural as the astonishing results that Kepler could extract from the calculations of Brahe, by adapting them to the methods of geometry and classical mathematics, which was impossible for Tycho Brahe himself. This shows once more that topology remains the source of geometry, and that the contrary process is impossible. This indicates the impossibility of explaining the philosophy of Kierkegaard as a consequence of the philosophy of Hegel. The influence of Scandinavian thought in a European culture is incoherent and without permanent results, like a true thought of the absurd. That there has always been a Scandinavian philosophical tradition, which structures the tendency of Ole Roemer, H.C. Oersted, Carl von Linné etc., completely distinct from English pragmatism, German idealism and French rationalism is a fact which can only be astonishing in that it has always been kept secret. With the Scandinavians themselves ignoring the base logic of this profound and hidden coherence, it is as much ignored by others. I have the greatest mistrust of all the ideas on the benefits of learning. However in the actual situation in Europe it seems to me that an ignorance of this subject presents a danger. Thus I consider that the fact that Swedenborg and Novalis has been mine engineers is more important than the chance postulates of such as Jaspers which allowed the label of mad schizophrenics to be stuck on their backs. This is not because this is a fact which could be established in a scientific manner, but because it is a basic skill of topological thought, like that of weavers, and this fact could lead us to the precious observations for the founding of situology.

But all this is only presented as a possible technique subordinated to the work of the SI, the allies and enemies of which can easily be seen. The situationists reject with the greatest of hostility the proposal arising in Bergier and Pauwel's book, The Dawn of Magic, which asks for help in setting up a proposed institute to research occult techniques; and the formation of controlling secret society reserved for those today who are in a position to manipulate the various conditions of their contemporaries. We should not in any case collaborate with such a project, and we have no desire to help it financially.

"From all evidence, equality is the basis of geometric measurement" as Gaston Bachelard said in Le Nouvel Esprit Scientifique. And he informs us:

When Poincaré had shown the logical equivalence of various geometries, he stated that the geometry of Euclid would always be the most useful, and that in case of conflict between this geometry and physical experience, it was always preferable to change physical theory than change the elementary geometry. Thus Gauss had pretended to experiment astronomically with a theorem of non-Euclidean geometry: He wondered if a triangle located in the stars, and hence of enormous surface, would show the shrinking of surface indicated by the geometry of Lobatchowski. Poincaré did not recognize the crucial character of such an experience.

The point of departure of situography, or of plastic geometry, must be Situ analysis developed by Poincaré, and pushed in an egalitarian direction under the name topology. But all talk of equalities is openly excluded, if there aren't at least two elements to equalize. Thus the equivalence teaches us nothing about the unique or the polyvalence of the unique, which is in reality the essential domain of situ analysis, or topology. Our goal is to set a plastic and elementary geometry against egalitarian and Euclidean geometry, and with the help of both to go towards a geometry of variables, playful and differential geometry. The first situationist contact with this problem is seen in Galton's apparatus that experimentally produced Gauss's curve (see the figure in the first issue of Internationale Situationniste [in The Situationists and Automation]). And even if my intuitive fashion of dealing with geometry is completely anti-orthodox, I believe that a road has been opened, a bridge thrown across the abyss which separates Poincaré and Gauss as far as the possibility of combining geometry with physics without renouncing the autonomy of the one from the other.

All the axioms are cut offs against the non-desired possibilities, and by this fact contains a voluntary illogical decision. The illogic which interests us at the base of Euclidean geometry is played between the following axes: things which are superimposed upon each other are equal; the sum is greater than the part. This absurdity is seen, for example, the moment we start to apply the definition of a line as length without breadth.

If two lines are superimposed, one equals the other. This must result in either two parallel lines (which shows that the equality is not perfect and absolute, or that the superimposition is neither) or the union of the lines in a single line. But if this line is longer than a single line, or if it has acquired width, the lines would not be equal. But if the lines are absolutely equal, the whole is not bigger than the part. This is an indisputable logic, but if it is true, we are in an absurdity because geometric measurement is precisely based on the axiom that the whole is greater than the part. The idea that two equal lengths are identical is found in geometric measurement. But two things can never be identical, because then we would say they were the same thing. If a murderer must be identified to a judge, it isn't enough that this is an individual who looks exactly like the person who committed the crime. The identical will not do in these circumstances. It is certain that there are no equalities, no repetitions, as in the case of the Konigsberg bridges. In geometry, an identity of length and position excludes all quantitative consideration. But how is it possible through superimposition to reduce the infinite number of lines of equal length to one line, which is no bigger than any single line of these; in such a case where it is unthinkable to divide a line in two, are both equal to the divided line?

If a line is moved from its position, at the same time it remains in its position, a surface has been created rather than two lines. The superimposition, which shows that the two lines are equal, cannot be practiced without the duality disappearing: otherwise they could not be equalized. A single line is equal to nothing. This proves that there is no reality in the absolute idealism of Euclid's formula that a line has no thickness. The proof by superimposition is impossible, even if the process is modernized by employing the formula of congruence, or an identity of form, but still excepting spatial position.

We can reduce a thousand points to a single point by superimposition, and this point is equal to one of the thousand points. But a point cannot be multiplied and left at the same place, and displaced at the same time. This would be a line. As for volume, these can only be superimposed in the imagination. It could only be achieved with two phantom volumes without real volumes. This abstract character is at once the strength and weakness of Euclidean geometry. The slightest abstraction in topology is only a weakness.

A thousand times zero is only zero, and nothing can be abstracted from zero. Euclidean geometry is used in this irreversible and unilateral sense: it's oriented. And all the geometries, apart from situography, are the same as it. Orientation is a linear concept, and a vector is also called a half-vector, because it also signifies the distance covered, and the sense in which this has been chosen, is called its positive sense. The zero point, chosen at some point on the line is fixed as a point of commencement. An oriented straight line is thus not a line in itself, but the combination of a line and a point. An oriented plane is a plane in which is chosen a sense of rotation called direction, and this plane is also linked to a point, the center of rotation, which could allow the establishment of an axis of rotation at right angles to the plane of rotation.

Space is oriented as there is a sense of rotation associated around each axis of space, called the direct sense of space. This installation allows everything that can be called measurement. But of what does measure consist? This is the most curious thing about this business. All the measures of equal units whether of length, of size, height, mass time or whatever unit derived from these basic notions, consists of their indication by on a half-line, spatial demi-dimension divided into equal intervals oriented from a point of origin towards infinity. This half-line does not need to be straight, but could be inscribe on the circumference of a circle. If the extension makes several revolutions these become the distances of a greater linear or circular extension. Here is the principle to which all possible measure arrives in the final analysis. Any measure cannot explain whatever may be outside of this limit of a development along a demi-line.

Euclidean and analytical geometry were developed within its classical discourse, itself following the orientation of a demi-line. Starting with a point without spatial dimension, this is moved forward and so traces a line. The line is moved forward in a direction perpendicular to its extension to produce a surface, with which the same process is used to create a volume. But this oriented movement, which from a point produces a line, a surface, a volume, this movement in itself does not enter into geometric considerations in its relations with spatial dimension. The inconsistency is evident. The act of superimposition is also impossible without movement, but from the moment when all the necessary movements to establish classical geometry are put on trial, purely spatial phenomena can no longer be spoken of, and nevertheless movement is there from the beginning. We can wonder whether time has only a single dimension, or whether in the future we might not be obliged to apply to time at least three dimensions to be able to arrive at more homogenous explanations of what has happened. That remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: time cannot be reduced to a demi-dimension or to an oriented length with a measuring instrument. We thus also reach another question as to whether what we know as 'time' in its scientific definition, as a measure of duration, and the form under which time enters relativity theory, isn't simply the notion of orientation or a demi-line.

Oriented geometry can, thanks to its orientation, ignore the notions of time inherent to its system. But, in order to take consciousness of the role of time and of its real role in relation to the three spatial dimensions, we are obliged to abandon the path of orientation to demi-line, and to found a unitary homeomorphism.

When we want to use the expression dimension, we are immediately faced with the problem of its exact interpretation and definition. A dimension can be defined in a logical fashion as an extension without beginning or end, neither sense nor orientation, an infinity, and it's just the same with the infinity in the dimension of time. This is eternity. The extension of one of the three spatial dimensions represents a surface, an extension without beginning or end. If the system of linear measurement can only measure the demi-line, the system of measurement from two co-ordinates at right angles can only give a measure of space for figures drawn in a quarter of a surface, and the information of 3D measurements are even poorer as they are drawn within an eighth of a sphere from the angle of measure of 90° of three oriented co-ordinates in the same direction. To avoid this perpetual reduction of knowledge, we shall proceed in the inverse sense.

For the witness of a crime, identification is to define the suspect as the possible unique. But homeomorphism poses us various problems. It could easily be viewed as follows: now it is no longer a matter of identifying the assassin, but the poor victim that the brute has voluntarily ridden over several times with their motor car. They have an aspect, which differs in a tragic way from the fellow that was known during their life. Everything is there, but crudely rearranged. They are not the same, yet it is still them. Even in their decomposition they can be identified. Without doubt. It is the field of homeomorphism, the variability within unity.

Here the field of situological experience is divided into two opposed tendencies, the ludic tendency and the analytical tendency. The tendency of art, spinn and the game, and that of science and its techniques. The creation of variables within a unity, and the search for unity amongst the variations. It can be clearly seen that our assassin has chosen the first way, and that the identifiers must take up the second, which limits the domain to the analysis of sites, or topology. Situology, in its development, gives a decisive push to the two tendencies. For example, take the network represented by Galton's apparatus. As a pinball machine, it can be found in most of Paris bistros; and as the possibility of calculated variability, it is the model of all the telephone networks.

But this is the creative side, which precedes the analytic side in general and elementary situology: the situationists are the crushers of all existing conditions. Thus we are going to start our demonstration by returning to the method of our criminal. But to avoid making this affair a bloody drama, we shall dive head long into a perfectly imaginary and abstract world, like Euclid.

We start by lending an object a perfect homeomorphism, an absolute and practically nonexistent quality, like the absence of spatial extension that Euclid gives to his point. We give absolute plasticity to a perfectly spherical ball with a precise diameter. It can be deformed in any way without being broken or punctured. Our goal is clear before this object of perfect three-dimensional symmetry. We are going to completely flatten it to transform it into a surface with two dimensions and to find the key to their homeomorphic equivalence. We are going to reduce the height of this sphere to zero in ten equal stages, and calculate the level of increase of the two corresponding dimensions to the registered reductions of the third progressively as the ball is transformed more and more into a surface. The last number can be deduced from the preceding nine. It is evident that we don't end up at infinity, as the same process with a ball five times as large must give a surface at least five times as big, and two infinities with a difference of measurable dimensions is beyond logic (except for Lemaître when he speaks of eternity). The practical work of calculation linked to this experiment, we shall leave to the mathematicians - if they have nothing better to do.

We haven't finished. We choose a diagonal in this immense pancake without thickness, and start to lengthen the surface in exactly the same way as in the previous experiment, to end up with a line without thickness, making the calculations in a similar fashion. Thus we have the homeomorphic equivalence expressed as numbers between an object in three, two and one dimension, and the whole world can start to protest. The most intelligent will be patient, saying that Euclid started with a point. How is this immense line reduced to a single point? I can only return to the sphere. If the situology was a uniquely spatial and positional phenomenon this will be true.

Einstein has explained that if a line can reach the speed of light, it will contract until it disappears completely as regards the length along the direction of the trip. However a clock would stop all together at that speed. This is what we are going to do. The whole matter is settled in this way. The only minor inconvenience of this spectacular process is invisible: I cannot regain possession of my point, which flies off across the universe. If I could transform this movement across space into rotation in place, I would have more or less mastered my point.

Einstein declared the "space and time conceived separately have become empty shadows, and only the combination of both expresses reality". It is from this observation that I'm going to clarify the Euclidean point, which possesses no dimensions and, as it is within space, before however representing any other dimension, at least represents the dimension of time introduced into space. And it is all the more impossible to fix a point without duration in space. Without duration there is no position.

But in order that this point can possess the quality of time, it must possess the quality of movement, and as the geometric point cannot be displaced in space without making a line, this movement must be rotational, or spinning around itself. Although this movement must be continued, it does not however have an axis nor spatial direction; and what's more vortex cannot occupy the least space. If this definition of the point is richer and more positive than that of Euclid, it does not seem to be less abstract. But since I have learnt that there is a Greek geometer, Héron, who inspired Gauss with a definition of the straight line as a line which turns around itself as an axis without the displacement of any points which compose it; and that plenty of people agree that this is the only positive thing which has ever been said on the subject of the straight line, I feel I'm on the right track.

But an axis can only have a rotation in a sense. It is necessary to stop it to spin it in the contrary sense. However a point in rotation, by a continuous change of its axis of rotation, could be led to a rotation in the contrary sense, whatever the sense. In this way the straight line can be explained thus: If two points rotating at random are connected, they are obliged to spin in the same sense and with the same speed, the faster being braked and the slower accelerated.

All the points of a line acquire a presence in the spatial dimension equivalent to their loss of freedom of movement, which has become oriented in space.

If we want to stay with this oriented and positive definition of the line on our backs, a plastic definition is needed. To understand this, it is necessary to remind ourselves that plastic geometry does not place the accent on the infinite character of dimensions, but on their character of a presence in general space and time, which could be finite or infinite, but which are primarily in relation with all the objects whose extension is wanted to be studied. Each volume, each surface, each segment of line or piece of time makes a part, or is extracted from the general mass of universal space and time. In the analysis, for example, of a linear segment in the egalitarian geometry of Euclid, abstractions of an 'infinite' character are made of the line. A piece is cut away by forgetting the rest. In unitary geometry, this is not possible. A line is not an interrupted series of points, because the points have lost something in order to be able to establish a line. In a segment of a line, there are only two points which could be observed, the two points at each end of the line. But how is it explained that on a line segment there are two rather than a single zero point? The only possible explanation is that a line segment with two zero points is composed of two demi-lines superimposed, with the zero points crossed, going in opposite directions. A line segment is thus a line to double distances, there and back, and of a length double the distance between the two polarized ends or in counterpoint. This is a basis for plastic or dialectic geometry. From this outlook, each determined volume is a volume within general volume, or universal space, fragmented by a surface: just as each surface is a fragment of a surface distinguished by some lines; and each linear section is a linear segment determined by its duration.

The specific surface which determines a volume, the voluminous surface is termed the vessel, form etc. And as a function of separation between two volumes it possesses the character of an opposition between the inside and outside; similarly the separation of a surface by a line opposes before and after, and so also the point on a line distinguishes the positive and negative sense of distance. These signs thus only make sense as the relation between two-dimensional systems, in the same combination of co-ordinates. The problem becomes more complex when we start to play with several co-ordinate systems in relation with each other such that it could be termed projective geometry, of which the best known example is central perspective.

In order better to understand not only the system of projections, but also the system of objectification in general it is necessary to see how the co-ordinate systems unfold and which is the initial primary system. The primary system of all observation is the system of co-ordinates inherent to the observer themselves, their subjective co-ordinates. Ordinarily this elementary requisite for observation is ignored. The co-ordinates of the individual are known as front, behind, above, below, left and right; and they play an enormous role for orientation, not only in science, but of a primordial way in ethics, the social orientation where the individual is drawn to the left and then the right, toppling forwards, always forward thanks to progress, pushed from behind and pressed towards the ascent and the higher pathways, to finally be carried underground. The direction to the right is the direction of least resistance, of the right line, the direction said to be just or rational; and opposed to it, the left is by nature the anarchic direction of the game, of the spinn or of the greatest effort. But each time that the political left becomes the direction of a development of justice, following the path of least resistance, this opposition lacks tension. The trajectory of descent is delineated by the path of least resistance. So, from our outlook of oppositions, the left direction of the left, that of games, must represent the ascent. This is what I have tried to prove with the reversal of dialectics. In the Scandinavian languages the word droite (German recht, English right) mean ascension (högre) towards the heights, which symbolizes the left elsewhere. The confusion in social orientation in Europe and in its vocabulary gains from being so rich and contradictory in this respect. These are purely objective observations, without any pragmatic consequence, but which have had an influence even on the most elementary religious conceptions (heaven - fire).

In reality the metric graduations of a co-ordinate system allow the establishment of a network of parallel lines of co-ordination at equal intervals. The zero point and the positive directions can be chosen and changed in the system as it is desired thanks to this squaring up. It is the same thing for the line and for the system of three co-ordinates.

When the system of co-ordinates of an observed object is displaced in relation to the basic system of co-ordination for observation and measure, this sometimes necessitates projection. The projective geometry thus shows the rules of the relations between two or several systems of co-ordination, as if there were two or several spaces. In this way, the same space can be multiplied into several by projection. But this is only justified through the time dimension.

However, positive geometry, which works with the demi-line, the quarter surface and the eighth of volume, allows another purely spatial game. The right angle formed by two negative demi-lines of a co-ordination in two dimensions can be displaced and put in opposition to the positive angle, thus establishing, for example, a square. This operation explains how the square could find its explanation in the relationship between the circumference and the diagonal of a circle, even though the circle cannot be defined as a derivative of the square. This definition of the square by juxtaposition joins our dialectic definition of the line, and shows how situology is more immediate than geometry, which always runs into the problem of squaring the circle.

Here we have roughly sketched out some consequences of the disorder, which situology could introduce to geometric thought, but it is evident to those who know this material, that the consequences will not be any the less as regards our physical and mechanical conceptions. It has already been understood by Einstein's definition that the notion we have of light doesn't lend itself to any spatial dimension. However it would be wrong to consider light as being immaterial. Even the old mystical notion of the four elements could be reconsidered. We know that they don't exist as absolute phenomena, but it is however strange that modern science has refused to consider a distinction of matter as pronounced as that between solid, liquid, gaseous objects and light. When an ice cube suddenly melts and stretches on the surface of a table, it can be concluded that the liquid state represents the loss of one of the spatial dimensions, replaced by the liberation of discharge; that the liquid is a matter of two spatial dimensions. And the constant of tensions of surface tension seems to be as important in physics as the constant of the speed of light. The logical conclusion this gives rise to, is that gases have only one dimension, compensated for by the play of their movement. And for an example of something, which has even less dimensions, think of Maurice Lemaître and his friends.

Translated by Fabian Tompsett. From


Response to Schweicher

art is dead book cover

Comments on Curt Schweicher's book "Art Is Dead, Long Live Art". From Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 26, 2023

The bankruptcy of the art in power becomes more evident day by day, even in the eyes of those who are its most notable connoisseurs. And, in their despair, they confound the bankruptcy of this art, in which they participate, with the metaphysical bankruptcy of all artistic practice. Thus they distort the meaning of modern experiments, which are still to be made; or which have barely begun in secret. Moreover, these connoisseurs patently bear most of the responsibility for this forced secrecy.

For example, Charles Estienne,1 when he abandoned all of the bluff of his modern art, tried to save some things from the shipwreck by laying hands on “Tachism”.2 Naturally, he was familiar with all the full-time scholars of distorted modernisation. But all of them have hidden the fact that true Tachism had already been done to death, and [even] before the invention of that label. Those who had founded the Tachist practice were already dead, and their imitators were already in the display cases. And, of course—even before one admits Wols and Pollock there—in all the museums of modern art.3

The recent critique of Curt Schweicher is fortunately more radical: he abandons even Tachism.4 There are many good things in his book Art is Dead, Long Live Art (in particular, see the 4th point of his theses), which approach Situationist positions.5 Unfortunately, all the rest is very confused. Curt Schweicher does not understand the role of the negative, which he repudiates in modern art. He does not understand the profound simplicity of all the problems that he falsely considers complex and he does not understand any better the new totality, the superior complexity which develops itself from the awareness of this simplicity—[that is to say] of the crisis of modern art. When Schweicher unilaterally condemns the illustrations that he presents to us, which are the images accidentally obtained in the wastes produced by the work of the machinist [du travail machinist], he neglects the evident fact that such objects only become artistic at the conclusion of the actual experience realised beforehand by the artists who engage in the destruction of the image. And the choice that he makes among the objects is first of all determined by his personal taste, his particular way of understanding a certain stage achieved artistically—in this case, his taste goes as far as the caricature of the average informal painting.6

The fundamental error of Schweicher resides in his belief that too many means have been invested in modern art—when in fact there are far too few.

An enormous number of pseudo-modern artists artificially invest—in order to build-up speed as artists—the resources that they draw from their bourgeois occupations (they are firstly, lawyers, publicity agents, police officers). This process forms a special economic milieu, which finds expression in a new conformism: precisely the non-aesthetic academicism that Schweicher rightly denounces. The confusion of Curt Schweicher’s ideas only reflects the real confusion of his milieu. One believes here, in a spirit of competitive free enterprise, that it is better to help a great number of “avant-garde currents”, [that are] different in their objectives—exactly like the idiots who buy-up the maximum [number] of tickets to be sure of winning the lottery. And yet, in a given moment, there exists only one possible direction for creating other artistic conditions. Moreover there are good, simple criteria for recognising, among them all, the tendency that goes in this direction: it is sole one that cannot be bought.

People sufficiently informed—even if they do not readily speak of it—already know very well that it is at present the Situationist International.

Lothar FISCHER, Heimrad PREM,

Helmut STURM, Hans-Peter ZIMMER.

This article was published as the editorial in the 2nd number of the German Situationist journal Spur, in response to the book by Curt Schweicher, Die Kunst ist tot, es lebe die Kunst [Art is dead, long live Art].7

Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, July 2013. Thanks to NOT BORED! for help with the translation. From

  • 1Charles Estienne was an art critic who was associated with Tachism and Art Informel—see footnote 2.
  • 2Tachism: Also known as ‘Lyrical Abstraction’, is considered by contemporary art criticism as a European variant or version of ‘Abstract Expressionism’ in the late 1940s and 50s. In essence an art movement that formally deployed mostly painterly methods of abstraction already developed by earlier avant-garde artists. The term was coined in the early 1950s and popularized by Michel Tapié in his 1952 book Un Art autre (note that Tapié was particularly loathed by the Situationist International as an advocate of the merely formal modernist style that had come to dominate so-called artistic avant-gardism in the 1950s). The term is derived from the French word for stain, splot or blot (tache). Tachism is often considered as a subset of ‘Art Informel’ by art critics, but also confusedly as an equivalent descriptive term.
  • 3Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, better known as ‘Wols’, was a photographer and painter associated with what would become known as Tachism before his death in 1951. Jackson Pollock was perhaps the most well-known painter to be associated with ‘abstract expressionism’ in the United States.
  • 4Curt Schweicher, German art critic and historian.
  • 5Curt Schweicher, Die Kunst ist tot, es lebe die Kunst [Art is dead, long live Art]; published 1960. Possibly an earlier edition was published in 1953.
  • 6‘Art informel’ is one of the terms used for those associated with mostly painterly abstraction in Europe in the late 1940s and 50s. Also see footnote 2.
  • 7Presumably the original was in German. It is unclear who translated it into French.