Internationale Situationniste #3

Cover of Internationale Situationiste #3

Issue three of the journal of the Situationist International, published December 1959.

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

The Meaning of Decay in Art

From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on December 28, 2022

Bourgeois civilization, now spread all over the planet, and which has yet to be successfully overcome anywhere, is haunted by a shadow: its culture, which appears in the modern dissolution of all its artistic means, is being called into question. This dissolution, first manifested at the starting point for the productive forces of modern society, i.e., Europe and later in America, has long been the prime truth of Western modernism. Everywhere the liberation of artistic forms has signified their reduction to nothing. One can apply to the whole of modern expression that W. Weildé, in 1947, wrote in the second issue of Cahiers de la Pléiade about Finnegans Wake: "This enormous Summa of the most enticing verbal contortions, this Ars poetica in ten thousand lessons, is not an artistic creation: it is the autopsy of its corpse."

Reactionary critics, to support their stupid dream of a return to the stylistic beauties of the past, never fail to point out that behind the inflationary flowering of novelties that can serve only once, the road of this liberation leads only to the void. For example, Emile Henriot (Le Monde, February 11, 1959) notes "The turn, many times signaled, that a certain literature of today has taken in the direction of the 'language of forms' for the use of literati specializing in the exercise of a 'literature for literati,' an object unto itself, just as there are experiments by painters for experimental painters and a music for musicians." Or Mauriac (L'Express, March 5, 1959): "The very philosophers whose lesson is that the end of a poem should be silence write articles to persuade us of it, and publish novels to prove to us that one shouldn't tell stories."

In the face of these jeers, those critics who have chosen to be modernists extol the beauties of dissolution, while hoping that it doesn't proceed too quickly. They are embarrassed, like Geneviève Bonnefoi taking not under the title "Death or Transfiguration?" of the ill-starred Paris Biennale (Lettres Nouvelles, no.25). She concludes sadly: "Only the future will tell if this 'annihilation' of pictorial language, fairly similar to the one attempted on the literary plane by Beckett, Ionesco, and the best of the current young novelists, foreshadows a renewal of painting or its disappearance as a major art of our time. I have no space here to speak of sculpture, which seems to be in total disintegration." Or else, renouncing any sense of the comical, they loudly take the side of quasi nothingness in formulas worthy to pass into history as the summing-up of the poverty of an era, like Françoise Choay, who eulogistically entitles an article on Tapiès: "Tapiès, Mystic of Almost Nothing" (France-Observateur, April 30, 1959).

The embarrassment of modernist critics is completed by the embarrassment of modern artists, on whom the accelerated decomposition in all sectors constantly imposes the need to examine and explain their working hypotheses. They bustle about in the same confusion and often in a comparable imbecility. Everywhere one can see the traces, among modern creators, of a consciousness traumatized by the shipwreck of expression as an autonomous sphere and absolute goal; and by the slow emergence of other dimensions of activity.

The fundamental work of a present avant-garde should be an attempt at general criticism of this moment, and a first attempt to respond to new requirements.

If the artist has passed, by a slow process, from the state of entertainer — pleasantly occupying people's spare time — to the ambition of a prophet, who raises questions and claims to impart the meaning of life, it is because, more and more, the question of how to spend our lives looms at the edge of the expanding freedom we have achieved by our appropriation of nature.

Thus the pretensions of the artist in bourgeois society go hand in hand with the practical reduction of his or her realm of real action to zero, and denial. All modern art is the revolutionary claim to other professions, once the current specialization is one-sided, canned expression has been relinquished.

The delays and distortions of the revolutionary project in our time are well known. The regression that has therein manifested itself has nowhere been so obvious as in art. This has been made easier by the fact that classical Marxism had not developed a real body of criticism in this area. In a famous letter to Mehring, written at the end of his life, Engels noted: "we all laid, and were bound to lay, the main emphasis, in the first place, on the derivation of political, juridical and other ideological notions, and of actions arising through the medium of these notions, from basic economic facts. But in doing so we neglected the formal side — the ways and means by which these notions, etc., come about — for the sake of the content." Moreover, at the time when Marxist thought was coming into its own, the formal movement in the dissolution of art was not yet apparent. Likewise, it can be said that it is solely in the presence of fascism that the workers' movement encountered in practical terms the problem of the formal "mode of appearance" of a political idea. It found itself poorly equipped to deal with it.

Independent revolutionary thinkers themselves show a certain reluctance to become involved in today's cultural problems. When we look at the endeavors, from more than one angle, of such intellectuals as Henri Lefebvre — in recent years — and Lucien Goldmann, we find in them the common trait of having amassed a number of positive contributions, important appeals to progressive truth at a moment when the ideology of the left is lost in a sense of confusion, to whose advantage it is all too clear, while at the same time being absent or insufficient when two kinds of questions come up: the organization of a political force, and the discovery of cultural means of action. These questions are indeed two essential and inseparable elements of the transitory action that would be needed from now on to lead to that enriched praxis usually offered to us as an external image, entirely separate from ourselves, instead of being linked to us by the slow movement of the future.

In an unpublished article of 1947 ("Le matérialisme dialectique, est-il une philosophie?"), included in his book Recherches dialectiques, Goldmann gives a good analysis of the future result of the cultural movement that lies before his eyes. "Like law, economics, or religion," he writes, "art as an independent phenomenon separated from other realms of social life will be led to disappear in a classless society. There will probably no longer be art separated from life because life will itself be a style, a form in which it will find its adequate expression." But Goldmann, who traces this very long-term perspective on the basis of the overall forecasts of dialectical materialism, does not recognize its verification in the expression of his time. He judges the style or art of his time in terms of the classical/romantic alternative, and in romanticism he sees only the expression of reification. Now, it is true that the destruction of language, after a century of poetry, has come about as a consequence of a deep-seated romantic, reified, petit-bourgeois tendency, and also — as Paulhan had shown in Les Fleurs de Tarbes — by postulating that the inexpressible thought was worth more than the word. But the progressive aspect of this destruction, in poetry, fiction, or all the plastic arts, is that of being at the same time the testimony of a whole epoch on the insufficiency of artistic expression, of pseudocommunication. It is the practical destruction of the instruments of this pseudocommunication that brings to the fore the question of inventing superior instruments.

Henri Lefebvre (La Somme et le Reste) wonders "if the crisis of philosophy does not mean its decline and end, as philosophy," while forgetting that this has been the basis of revolutionary thought since the eleventh of the Theses on Feuerbach. He has offered a more radical criticism in Arguments, no. 15, considering human history as the successive traversal and abandoning of various spheres: the cosmic, the maternal, the divine, as well as philosophy, economics, and politics, and finally "art, which defines man by dazzling flashes and the human by exceptional moments, thus still external, alienating in the attempt at deliverance." But here we are back with the science fiction of revolutionary thought that is preached in Arguments, as daring in engaging thousands of years of history as it is incapable of proposing a single new element from now to the end of the century, and naturally bewitched in the present by the worst fumes of neo-reformism. Lefebvre is well aware that each realm collapses in explicating itself, when it has reached the end of its possibilities and its imperialism, "when it has proclaimed itself a totality on the human scale (thus complete). In the course of this development, and only after this illusory and extreme proclamation, the negativity already long contained in this world asserts itself, disowns it, corrodes it, dismantles it, casts it down. Only a finished totality can reveal that it is not a totality." This scheme, which applies rather to philosophy after Hegel, perfectly defines the crisis of modern art, as can be easily verified by examining an extreme trend: for example, poetry from Mallarmé to Surrealism. These conditions, already dominant beginning with Baudelaire, constitute what Paulhan calls the Terror, which he takes to be an accidental crisis of language, without considering the fact that they apply equally to all the other artistic means of expression. But the breadth of Lefebvre's views is of no avail to him when he writes about poems that are, as far as their date is concerned, on the historical model of 1925, and as for the effective level attained by this formula, at the lowest. And when he proposes a conception of modern art (revolutionary-romantic), he advises artists to come back to this style of expression — or to others still older — to express the profound feeling of life, and the contradictions of men ahead of their time, i.e., both of their public and of themselves. Lefebvre would prefer not to see that this feeling and these contradictions have already been expressed by all modern art, and indeed up to and including the destruction of expression itself.

For revolutionaries, there can be no turning back. The world of artistic expression, whatever its content, has already lapsed. It repeats itself scandalously in order to keep going as long as the dominant society succeeds in preserving the privation and scarcity that are the anachronistic conditions of its reign. But the preservation and subversion of this society is not a utopian question: it is the most burning question of today, the one governing all others. Lefebvre should pursue the thought on the basis of a question he raised in the same article: "Has not every great period of art been a funeral rite in honor of a vanished moment?" This is also true on the individual scale, where every work is a funeral and memorial celebration of a vanished moment in one's life. The creations of the future should shape life directly, creating "exceptional moments" and making them ordinary. Goldmann weighs the difficulty of this leap when he remarks (in a note in Recherches dialectiques, page 144): "We have no means of direct action on affects." It will be the task of the creators of a new culture to invent such means.

We need to find operative instruments midway between the global praxis in which every aspect of the total life of a classless society will one day dissolve and the present individual practice of "private" life with its poor artistic and other resources. What we mean by situations to be constructed is the search for a dialectical organization of partial and transitory realities, what André Frankin, in his Critique du Non-Avenir, has called a "planning of existence" on the individual level, not excluding chance but, on the contrary, "rediscovering" it.

Situations are conceived as the opposite of works of art, which are attempts at absolute valorization and preservation of the present moment. That is the fancy aesthetic grocery of a Malraux, of whom it might be remarked that the same "intellectuals of the left" who are indignant to day at seeing him at the head of the most contemptible and imbecile political swindle once took him seriously — an admission that countersigns their bankruptcy. Every situation, as consciously constructed as can be, contains its own negation and moves inevitably toward its own reversal. In the conduct of an individual life, a situationist action is not based on the abstract idea of rationalist progress (which, according to Descartes, "makes us masters and possessors of nature"), but on the practice of arranging the environment that conditions us. Whoever constructs situations, to apply a statement by Marx, "by bringing his movements to bear on external nature and transforming it... transforms his own nature at the same time."

In conversations that lead to the formation of the SI, Asger Jorn put forth a plan for ending the separation that had arisen around 1930 between avant-garde artists and the revolutionary left, who had once been allies. The root of the problem is that, since 1930, there has been neither a revolutionary movement nor an artistic avant-garde to respond to the possibilities of the time. A new departure, on both sides, will certainly have to be made to bring together problems and responses.

The obvious obstacles of the present have produced a certain ambiguity in the Situationist movement as a magnet for artists ready to embark on a new course. Like the proletarians, theoretically, before the nation, the Situationists are encamped at the gates of culture. They do not want to establish themselves inside, they decline to inscribe themselves in modern art, they are the organizers of the absence of that aesthetic avant-garde that bourgeois critics and which, forever disappointed, they are prepared to greet on the first occasion. This does not go without the risk of various retrograde interpretations, even within the S.I. Decadent artists, for example at the last fair held in Venice, are already talking about "situations." Those who understand everything in terms of old-hat artistic ideas, as tame verbal formulas destined to assure the sale of tamer little paintings, may see the S.I. as having already achieved a certain success, a certain recognition: that is because they have not understood that we have gathered at a great turning point still to be taken.

Of course, the decay of artistic forms, while indicated by the impossibility of their creative renewal, does not immediately involve their actual disappearance in practice. They can go on repeating themselves with various nuances. But everything shows "the upheaval of this world," as Hegel says in the preface to the Phenomenology of Mind: "The frivolity and boredom that are invading what still exists, and the vague presentiment of something unknown, are the preliminary signs of something else that is on its way."
We must keep moving ahead, without attaching ourselves to anything either in modern culture or its negation. We do not want to work toward the spectacle of the end of the world, but toward the end of the world of spectacle.

Translated by John Shepley. From


Cinema After Alain Resnais

Hiroshima mon amour film poster

The situationists on Alain Resnais and his film Hiroshima mon amour. From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on December 29, 2022

The so-called "New Wave" of directors currently attempting to revitalize French cinema can be defined first of all by its complete and notorious lack of artistic innovation, quite simply at the stage of intention. To speak in less negative terms, it is characterized by a number of specific economic conditions whose dominant trait is without a doubt the importance in France of a certain school of cinema criticism that represents a sort of moral support — by no means insignificant — in the use of film. These critics have learnt to employ this support to their direct advantage as cinematic auteurs. This is the only thing that unifies them. The praise they heap on a production that otherwise completely escapes them is only for the benefit of their own works, which consequently become cheaper to make precisely because, for a wide section of the public, this game of praise can replace the painfully expensive attractions of the star system. Thus, this "new wave" expresses little more than the vested interests of this particular group of film critics.

In the confusion that has always surrounded them, as critics and as filmmakers, Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour is carried along with the rest of this famous wave, and is met by the same sort of admiration. The superiority of Resnais' film is easy to recognize, but it seems that very few people are concerned with defining its exact nature.

A talented director, Resnais has already made several impressive short films (Nuit et Brouillard), but it is Hiroshima that represents a qualitative leap in the development both of his work and of the worldwide cinematic spectacle. If we are to put aside those cinematic experiments that remain marginal at best (for example, in terms of content, some of Jean Rouch's films; or in terms of formal investigation, those of the lettrist group circa 1950: Isou, Wolman, Marco — interestingly enough, the resemblance of Resnais' work to that of Isou in particular has never been mentioned), Hiroshima seems like the most original, most innovative film since the invention of talkies. Not discounting a mastery of the power of the image, Hiroshima relies on the pre-eminence of sound: the importance of the dialogue proceeds not only from an unusual quantity or even quality, but from the fact that the development of the film is determined far less what its characters do than by what they say (to the extent that they provide the images with the bulk of their meaning, as is the case with the lengthy journey through the streets that concludes the first sequence).

The conformist public knows that Resnais is okay to like, and thus likes him just as much as it does someone like Chabrol. Through a variety of declarations, Resnais has made it clear that he is traveling a well worn road through the investigation of cinema based on the autonomy of sound (by defining Hiroshima as a "long short film" with a commentary; by acknowledging his interest a few of Guitry's films; and by speaking of his tendency toward cinematic opera). Nevertheless, Resnais' modesty and personal discretion have helped obscure the problem of the meaning of the evolution that he represents, in such a way that critics are torn between equally inadequate reservation and praise.

The most typical and deluded objection involves dissociating Resnais from Marguerite Duras by hailing the director's talent while lamenting the pretentiousness of the script. But the film is what it is precisely because of this use of language, which is precisely what Resnais wanted, and which is precisely where his scriptwriter has succeeded. Denouncing rather accurately the "retrospective revolution" led by the pseudo-modernism of the literary and cinematic "new waves" in Arts magazine (26-8-59), Jean-François Revel makes the mistake of lumping Resnais in with this lot because of his commentary, "a pastiche of Claudel." Revel, who has long been appreciated for the intelligence of his attacks without ever having to point out what he was aiming at, demonstrates a sudden weakness when it comes to distinguishing what is really new about such fashionable trash. According to his article in Arts, he prefers the pathetically conventional cinema of Bernard-Auberts' Tripes au soleil, simply because of its sympathetic content.

Resnais' apologists speak so freely of genius because of the prestigious mystery of the term, which spares them from having to explain Hiroshima's objective importance: the appearance in "commercial" cinema of the self-destruction that dominates all modern art.

The film's admirers do their best to find admirable little details wherever they can. Everyone ends up going on about Faulkner and his sense of timing (on that point, we might add that Agnes Varda, who has absolutely no good points, owes everything to Faulkner). In fact, the reason they insist on the fragmented rhythm of Resnais' film is so that they don't have to see any of its destructive aspects. In the same way, they talk of Faulkner as a specialist — an accidental specialist — of the dissipation of time, accidentally encountered by Resnais, so that they can forget the time that has already passed, and more generally the literary works of Proust and Joyce. The timing — the confusion — of Hiroshima is not the annexation of cinema by literature: it is the continuation in cinema of the movement of all writing, and first of all poetry, toward its own dissolution.
There is also a tendency to explain Resnais as much by his personal psychological motivations as by his exceptional talents — both of course having roles that we won't go into here — thereby leading to talk that the theme of all his films is memory, just as that of every Hawks film, for example, is male bonding. But at the same time there is a blissful ignorance of the fact that memory is the most significant theme of the appearance of the phase of immanent criticism in art, of its bringing itself into question, of its dissolving contestation. The question of the meaning of memory is always linked to the question of the meaning of a permanence transmitted by art.

The most simple access of cinema to the method of free expression is at the same time already within the perspective of the demolition of this method. As soon as cinema enriched itself with the powers of modern art, it found itself encompassed by the total crisis of modern art. At the same time that this step brought cinema closer to its freedom, it also brought it closer to its death, to the proof of its inadequacy.
In cinema, the claim of a freedom of expression equal to that of other arts masks the general failure of expression at the end of all modern arts. Artistic expression is in no way an actual self-expression, a realization of its life. The proclamation of "auteur film" is already past its use-by-date before really having gone beyond pretension and pipedream. Cinema, whose potential is far greater than that of other traditional arts, is too heavily bound up in moral and economic chains to ever have the capacity to be free under present social conditions. And when the coming overthrow of social and cultural conditions allows the possibility of a free cinema, many other theaters of operation will necessarily have been introduced. It is probable that at that time the freedom of cinema will largely be superseded, forgotten in the general development of a world where the spectacle is longer be dominant. The fundamental trait of the spectacle is the mise en scène of its own ruin. The importance of Resnais' film — conceived, of course, outside of this historical perspective — is to add a new confirmation to this.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from here:


Détournement as Negation and Prelude

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

Détournement, the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble, has been a constantly present tendency of the contemporary avant-garde, both before and since the formation of the SI. The two fundamental laws of détournement are the loss of importance of each detourned autonomous element -- which may go so far as to completely lose its original sense -- and at the same time the organization of another meaningful ensemble that confers on each element its new scope and effect.

Détournement has a peculiar power which obviously stems from the double meaning, from the enrichment of most of the terms by the coexistence within them of their old and new senses. Détournement is practical because it is so easy to use and because of its inexhaustible potential for reuse. Concerning the negligible effort required for détournement, we have already noted that "the cheapness of its products is the heavy artillery that breaks through all the Chinese walls of understanding" (A User's Guide to Détournement, May 1956). But these points would not by themselves justify recourse to this method, which the same text describes as "clashing head-on against all social and legal conventions." Détournement has a historical significance. What is it?

"Détournement is a game made possible by the capacity of devaluation," writes Jorn in his study Detourned Painting (May 1959), and he goes on to say that all the elements of the cultural past must be "reinvested" or disappear. Détournement is thus first of all a negation of the value of the previous organization of expression. It arises and grows increasingly stronger in the historical period of the decomposition of artistic expression. But at the same time, the attempts to reuse the "detournable bloc" as material for other ensembles express the search for a vaster construction, a new genre of creation at a higher level.

The SI is a very special kind of movement, different in nature from preceding artistic avant-gardes. Within culture, the SI can be likened to a research laboratory, for example, or to a party in which we are situationists but nothing that we do can yet be situationist. This is not a disavowal for anyone. We are partisans of a certain future of culture and of life. Situationist activity is a particular craft that we are not yet practicing.

Thus the signature of the situationist movement, the sign of its presence and contestation in contemporary cultural reality (since we cannot represent any common style whatsoever), is first of all the use of détournement. Examples of our use of detourned expression include Jorn's altered paintings; Debord and Jorn's book Mémoires, "composed entirely of prefabricated elements," in which the writing on each page runs in all directions and the reciprocal relations of the phrases are invariably uncompleted; Constant's projects for detourned sculptures; and Debord's detourned documentary film, On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Period of Time. At the stage of what the "User's Guide to Détournement" calls "ultradétournement, that is, the tendencies for détournement to operate in everyday social life" (e.g. passwords or the wearing of disguises, belonging to the sphere of play), we might mention, at different levels, Gallizio's industrial painting; Wyckaert's "orchestral" project for assembly-line painting with a division of labor based on color; and numerous détournements of buildings that were at the origin of unitary urbanism. But we should also mention in this context the SI's very forms of "organization" and propaganda.

At this point in the world's development, all forms of expression are losing their grip on reality and being reduced to self-parody. As the readers of this journal can frequently verify, present-day writing invariably has an element of parody. As the "User's Guide" notes: "It is necessary to conceive of a parodic-serious stage where the accumulation of detourned elements, far from aiming to arouse indignation or laughter by alluding to some original work, will express our indifference toward a meaningless and forgotten original, and concern itself with rendering a certain sublimity."

This combination of parody and seriousness reflects the contradictions of an era in which we find ourselves confronted with both the urgent necessity and the near impossibility of initiating and carrying out a totally innovative collective action -- an era in which the most serious ventures are masked in the ambiguous interplay between art and its necessary negation, and in which the essential voyages of discovery have been undertaken by such astonishingly incapable people.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).


Unitary Urbanism at the End of the 1950s

An experimental zone for the dérive. The center of Amsterdam, which will be systematically explored by situationist teams in April-May 1960.

The situationist case for Unitary Urbanism. From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 3, 2023

Site for a house for situationist use. At the mid-point of the Allée des Cygnes in Paris, the base of the building would be the remodeled bridge of the railway which bisects the island, currently out of use. The width of the house is the same as that of the island. The thoroughfare, already restricted to pedestrians by the stairs commanding the north of the island, continues under the house, which can communicate directly with both banks (the 15th and 16th arrondissements) via the bridge connecting with its side elevations. This project for establishing a permanent residence aims at nothing less than populating, after the example of Antarctic ice-stations, the third island of Paris, deserted to this day.

In August 1956, a tract signed by the groups preparing the founding of the SI called for the boycott of a would-be "Festival of Avant-Garde Art" being held in Marseille at the time, an event that the tract called the most complete, official selection of "what in twenty years will represent the idiocy of the 1950s." 1

And, indeed, the modern art of this period turns out to have been dominated by, and almost exclusively composed of, camouflaged repetitions — a stagnation that bespeaks of both the definitive exhaustion of the entire old cultural theater of operations as well as the incapacity to discover a new one. At the same time, however, underground movements have come into existence. Such is the case with the origins of unitary urbanism (UU), intuited as early as 1953 and first named as such at the end of 1956 in a tract distributed on the occasion of a demonstration by our Italian comrades in Turin. ("Obscure statements," wrote La Nouva Stampa on 11 December, on the subject of the following warning: "Your children's future depends on it: demonstrate in favor of unitary urbanism!"). Unitary urbanism is one of the central concerns of the SI and, despite any delays and difficulties that might arise in its application, it is entirely correct (as the opening report of the Munich conference confirms) that unitary urbanism has already begun at the moment that it appears as a program of research and development.

The 1950s are about to come to a close. Without trying to predict whether the idiocy of this decade in the art and practice of life — itself a function of more general causes — will diminish or intensify in the short run, it is time to examine the current state of UU following the first stage of its development. A number of points need to be clarified.

First all of, UU is not a doctrine of urbanism but a critique of urbanism. By the same token, our participation in experimental art is a critique of art, and sociological research ought to be a critique of sociology. No isolated discipline whatsoever can be tolerated in itself; we are moving toward a global creation of existence.

UU is distinct from problems of housing and yet is bound to engulf them; it is all the more distinct from current commercial exchange. At present, UU envisages a terrain of experience for the social space of the cities of the future. It is not a reaction to functionalism, but rather a move past it; UU is a matter of reaching — beyond the immediately useful — an enthralling functional environment. Functionalism, which still has avant-garde pretensions because it continues to encounter outdated resistance, has already triumphed to a large extent. Its positive contributions — the adaptation to practical functions, technical innovation, comfort, the banishment of superimposed ornament — are today banalities. Yet, although its field of application is (when all is said an done) a narrow one, this has not led functionalism to adopt a relative theoretical modesty. In order to justify philosophically the extension of its principles of renovation to the entire organization of social life, functionalism has fused, seemingly without a thought, with the most static conservative doctrines (and, simultaneously, has itself congealed into an inert doctrine). One must construct uninhabitable ambiances; construct the streets of real life, the scenery of daydreams.

The issue of church construction provides a particularly illuminating instance. Functionalist architects tend to agree to construct churches, thinking — if they are not stupid deists — that the church, the edifice without function within a functional urbanism, can be treated as a free exercise in plastic form. Their error is that they fail to consider the psycho-functional reality of the church. The functionalists, who are the expression of the technological utilitarianism of the era, cannot successfully build a single church if one considers that the cathedral was once the unitary accomplishment of a society that one has to call primitive, given that it was much further embedded than we are in the miserable prehistory of humanity. In the very era of the technologies that give rise to functionalism, the Situationist architects, for their part, are searching to create new frames of behavior free of banality as well as of all the old taboos. The Situationist architects are thus absolutely opposed to the construction and even the conservation of religious buildings with which they find themselves in direct competition. UU merges objectively with the interests of a comprehensive subversion.

Just as UU cannot be reduced to questions of housing, it is also distinct from aesthetic problems. It opposes the passive spectacle, the principle of our culture (where the organization of the spectacle extends all the more scandalously the more the means of human intervention increase). In light of the fact that today cities themselves are presented as lamentable spectacles, a supplement to the museums for tourists driven around in glass-in buses, UU envisages the urban environment as the terrain of participatory games.

UU is not ideally separated from the current terrain of cities. UU is developed out of the experience of this terrain and based on existing constructions. As a result, it is just as important that we exploit the existing decors — through the affirmation of a playful urban space such as is revealed by the derive — as it is that we construct completely unknown ones. This interpenetration (employment of the present city and construction of the future city) entails the deployment of architectural détournement.

UU is opposed to the temporal fixation of cities. It leads instead to the advocacy of a permanent transformation, an accelerated movement of the abandonment and reconstruction of the city in temporal and at times spatial terms. We are thus able to envisage making use of the climatic conditions in which two major architectural civilizations arose — in Cambodia and in southwest Mexico — in order to construct moving cities in the jungle. The new neighborhoods of such a city could be constructed increasingly toward the west (which would be gradually reclaimed as one goes along), while to the same extent the east would be abandoned to the overgrowth of topical vegetation, thereby creating, on its own, zones of gradual transition between the modern city and wild nature. This city, pursued by the forest, would offer not only unsurpassable zones of derive that would take shape behind it; it would also be a marriage with nature more audacious than anything attempted by Frank Lloyd Wright. Furthermore, it would advantageously provide a mise-en-scène of time passing over a social space condemned to creative renovation.

UU is opposed to the fixation of people at certain points of a city. It is the foundation for a civilization of leisure and play. One should note that in the shackles of the current economic system, technology has been used to further multiply the pseudo-games of passivity and social disintegration (television), while the new forms of playful participation that are made possible by this same technology are regulated and policed. Amateur radio operators, for example, are reduced to technological boy scouts.

Since the situationist experience of the derive is simultaneously a means of study of and a game in the urban milieu, it is already on the track of UU. If UU refuses to separate theory from practice, this is not only in order to promote construction (or research on construction by means of models) along with theoretical ideas. The point of a such a refusal is above all not to separate the direct, collectively experienced, playful use of the city from the aspect of urbanism that involves construction. The real games and emotions in today's cities are inseparable from the projects of UU just as, when they have been realized, the projects of UU will not be isolated from games and emotions that will arise within these accomplishments. The derives that the Situationist International is committed to undertake in the spring of 1960 in Amsterdam — using quite powerful means of transportation and telecommunication — are envisaged as both an objective study of the city and as a game of communication. In fact, beyond its essential lessons, the derive furnishes only knowledge that is very precisely dated. In a few years, the construction or demolition of houses, the relocation of micro-societies, and the changes in fashion will suffice to change a city's network of superficial attractions — which is a very encouraging phenomenon for the moment when we will able to establish an active link between the derive and situationist urban construction. Until then, the urban milieu will certainly change on its own, anarchically, ultimately rendering obsolete the derives whose conclusions could not be translated into conscious transformations of their milieus. But the first lesson of the derive is its own status as a game.

We are only at the beginning of urban civilization; it is up to us to bring it about ourselves, using the pre-existing conditions as our point of departure. All the stories that we live — the drive(s) of our life — are characterized by the search for, or the lack of, an over-arching construction. The transformation of the environment calls forth new emotional states that are first experienced passively and then, with heightened consciousness, lead to constructive reactions. London was the first urban result of the industrial revolution, and the English literature of the nineteenth century bears witness to an increasing awareness of the problems of the atmosphere and of the qualitatively different possibilities of a large urban area.

The love between Thomas de Quincey and poor Ann, separated by chance and searching for one another, yet never finding themselves, "through the mighty labyrinths of London; perhaps even within a few feet of each other," marks a turning point in the slow historical evolution of the passions. In fact, Thomas de Quincey's real life from 1804 to 1812 makes him a precursor of the dérive: "Seeking ambitiously for a northwest passage, instead of circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys . . . I could almost have believed, at times, that I must be the first discoverer of some of these terrae incognitae, and doubted whether they had yet been laid down in the modern charts of London." Toward the end of the century, this sensation is so frequently expressed in novelistic writing that [Robert Louis] Stevenson presents a character who, in London at night, is astonished "to walk for such a long time in such a complex decor without encountering even the slightest shadow of adventure" (New Arabian Nights). The urbanists of the twentieth century will have to construct adventures.

The simplest situationist act would consist in abolishing all the memories of the employment of time in our epoch. It is an epoch that, up until now, has lived far below its means.

Map of the Land of Feeling, 1656

An experimental zone for the dérive. The center of Amsterdam, which will be systematically explored by situationist teams in April-May 1960.

Translated by Paul Hammond. Text from:


Situationist News - December 1959

The usual updates, mudslinging and exclusions from Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 3, 2023

The Dutch Section of the SI (address: Polaklaan 25, Amsterdam C) organized two events featuring conferences conducted — in the customary situationist manner — by tape recorder, as well as some rather animated debates: one in April at the Académie d'Architecture; the other in June at the Stedelijk Museum. In March, it adopted a resolution against the restoration of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, demanded from every artistic point of view, instead proposing

"the demolition of the Stock Exchange and the redevelopment of the land as a playground for the population of the district," and pointing out that "the conservation of antiquities, like the fear of new constructions, is the proof of the current impotence . . . the center of Amsterdam is not a museum, but the habitat of living beings."

In a special issue of the journal Forum (no 6) in August, the Dutch situationists explained our positions on the unification of the arts and their integration into everyday life. Dispelling a number of misunderstandings on this theme, Constant's presentation immediately declared: "A total modification of social structures and artistic creativity must precede this integration."

The German Section of the SI can now be contacted at the following address: Deutsche Sektion der Situationistischen Internationale, Kaulbachstrasse 2, Munich. In order to contribute to preparatory discussions in the lead-up to the Third Conference, they have translated and published two documents under the titles: Erklärung von Amsterdam and Thesen über die Kulturelle Revolution.

A note concerning the average age of the situationists, appearing in issue 2 of this journal1 was intended to be both completed by the evolution recorded since that time, and rectified for the interpretation of the statistics — in themselves correct — that were employed. This note indicated that the average age of twenty nine and a half at the founding of the SI was raised in a single year to a little more than thirty two. To throw some light on the accelerated aging process, and considering that the SI is largely presented as the continuation of the "lettrist" avant-garde movement of the early 50's, we will compare the same figure of twenty nine and a half with the average of less than twenty one years, which, only four years earlier, was that of the Lettrist International "in the summer of 1953."

Here the oscillations of figures should be closely examined, and their relationship with the variations in the recruitment of the movement understood. The average age of the entire lettrist movement, in 1952, rose to 24.4. On the day of the rupture — the lettrist left was generally composed of younger members — it fell to 23 in the Lettrist International. This last movement was inclined toward an extremism much further away from the cultural economy and was thus joined by very young elements, the average age in effect descending to 20.8 in summer of 1953 (basic figures evaluated in our second issue).

Therefore, in taking as point of departure the figure of 24.4 in 1952, the normal aging process would lead to an average age of 29.4 in 1957. In fact, by the time of the Conference in Cosio d'Arroscia it equalled 29.53. This analogy shows that the old elements expelled were replaced by another group coming from various avant-garde tendencies of the same generation. The adolescents of 1953 were almost completely replaced by these new professionals. After one year of the SI's existence, the age rose to 32.08 (instead of 30.4 from 1952, or of 32.53 from Cosio d'Arroscia, according to the normal aging rate). This is certainly rather notable, expressing the rallying of elements previously engaged in experimental postwar art. Looking back over a period of six years, however, this aging is far from the catastrophic rate that appeared in our last analysis. But one can certainly worry about the absence of renewal by younger factions.

The signs of such a renewal presented themselves for the first time in 1959. Indeed, after the Munich Conference, the average age of the SI was established at 30.8, a very important reduction on the figure of the previous year (32.08) and a reduction even in terms of the figure of normal aging rate calculated from summer 1952 (31.4).

It remains to be said, however, that besides the fact that most of its causes are confined to Germany, this reduction in age only presents a comparatively weak rejuvenation when considered over a period of several years; and that one cannot yet talk of a younger generation having totally replaced that of 1952 in the most advanced cultural research.

A note in the first issue (15-7-59) of the new series of Potlatch ("Taking Out the Intellectual Trash") declaring that Hans Platschek was excluded in February due to his collusion with the "dadaist-royalist" journal Panderma, underlines the fact that "Platschek is only the sixth case of exclusion since the formation of the SI."
We would like to point out in comparison that the Lettrist International, in the first two years of its existence, had already excluded a dozen members.

Between June and October 1959, the editors of Internationale Situationniste received 127 anonymous letters. All appeared to come from the same people, who were excluded a long time previously, and who remain about as capable of comprehending the indifference toward their rather tired misadventure as they are likely to have any chance of reinstatement, now or ever.

The survivors of classical lettrism, of whom Isou is the most notorious, have failed to rid themselves of several old followers, who are as faithful as they can be to the method, but have now developed the ambition of starting all over again on their own "creative" account: Isou gives some idea of extremities suffered in the conflict surrounding this split, arguing (in issue 8 of Nouvelle Poésie) with a most mysterious follower, known as X:

  • X then treats me as if I were self-taught. Now, I have almost as many qualifications as he does and a bit more than his little friends, most of whom don't even have a high school certificate.
  • While I was preparing to complete several courses, X went off to get one last supplementary diploma before I could: nevertheless, I'm sure I'll soon have more diplomas than him. . . .
  • But already, some among us have taken to using knives to settle their cultural differences. Some of my followers think that buying themselves revolvers can silence their adversaries. Here, I must stand up and show my opposition. . . . Even if this line of blood had to be crossed, I don't believe that, in a world where racism and fascism are on the return — and where Buffet, Françoise Sagan, Elle, the nouveau roman represent "modern culture" — we should cross this line among ourselves, creators of the avant-garde and, on many levels, revolutionaries.

In a tract distributed in November by the Experimental Laboratory in Alba [In Defense of Freedom], the situationists Eisch, Fischer, Nele, Pinot-Gallizio, Prem, Sturm and Zimmer publicly exposed the Spanish painter Modesto Cuixard, who, in order to increases his chances of securing the Sao-Paulo Grand Prize for Painting, was not afraid of denouncing the communism of his compatriots Antonio Saura and Antoni Tàpies, at the risk of putting them "in a position of great difficulty with the police in their country."

The extra information expected from the series of dérives to be carried out in Amsterdam in April and May 1960, as well as the complimentary construction of a labyrinth, has led us to postpone the continuation of the study of the dérive that began in our preceding issue 2 , and also the plan for a situation announced at the same time.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from:


The Third SI Conference in Munich

A black and white photo of situationists sitting around a large table with papers in front of them

A report from Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959)

Submitted by Fozzie on January 4, 2023

The third Conference of the Situationist International was held in Munich, 17-20 April 1959, fifteen months after the Second Conference in Paris (January 1958). The situationists of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland and Italy were represented by: Armando, Constant, G.-E. Debord, Ervin Eisch, Heinz Höfl, Asger Jorn, Giors Melanotte, Har Oudejans, Pinot-Gallizio, Heimrad Prem, Gretel Stadler, Helmut Sturm, Maurice Wyckaert, Hans-Peter Zimmer.

The first session of work, 18 April, begins with a report by Constant on unitary urbanism [Inaugural Report to the Munich Conference]. He announces the foundation in Holland of a bureau of investigation for a unitary urbanism. The discussion which continues along this line extends to all aspects of the situationists' common activity. Prem poses various questions on the subordination of individual investigations to the discipline of the movement; then, on the very definition of a constructed situation, and its relationship to reality as a whole. In response, Jorn presents three initial possibilities for envisaging the construction of a situation "as a utopian place; as an isolated ambiance through which one may pass; or as a series of multiple ambiances combined in life." All the participants immediately dismiss the first option and show their preference for the third. Armando poses the question of the revolutionary role of the proletariat at the present time.

Next, the Italian delegation asks for details of the concrete program of the "bureau of investigation for a unitary urbanism"; worrying about the autonomy that it could attain within the movement, and (supported on this point by Jorn) of the dangerous specialization that it risks acquiring. Melanotte asks, "How will the importance of a work be evaluated? And can one still be situationist if one develops a work which does not concern unitary urbanism?" It should be pointed out that the notion of unitary urbanism also covers behavior, and that some behavior can be situationist without anything having been created. Constant responds that the responsibility of giving directives for unitary urbanism belongs to the whole of the SI and that no situationist can be disinterested. The activity of the "bureau of investigation for UU," like that of the Experimental Laboratory in Alba, depends on the situationist movement — neither of these particular organisms must engage the SI; but the inverse.

The second session opens with a report by Zimmer on the conditions of our action in Germany, and the history of the formation, since 1957, of the new tendency of the German avant-garde (the "Spur" group) that has now joined the Situationist International. Zimmer and his comrades, beginning with a simply pictorial opposition to modernist uniformity (comprised mainly by recently introduced tachism) wanted to move toward a total work of art — here referring to the architecture of King Louis II of Bavaria related to Wagnerian opera — including its social and political aspects. They therefore realized that "they had other still inexpressible goals, different from all those of German art." In this investigation into a total art, they have been encouraged by their involvement with the situationists and by the huge scandal caused here by their attack on the philosopher Bense at the beginning of the year. They targeted Bense because he is a disciple of what they characterize as "a typical post-war philosophy: a philosophy in ruins." The collective action that they support is opposed to the anti-creative collectivism of Bense, who aims "to make a meal of constructivism." The journals representing these dominant reactionary positions in Germany are principally Kunstwerk, Zero and Kunst Schönehaus.
Jorn responds by evoking the relationship between the single and the multiple. Debord appreciates favorably the decisive extremism demonstrated by Zimmer's report. He insists on the necessity and the difficulties of making it concrete; and warns our German comrades of importing into their country artificial novelties already used elsewhere. In an era when culture can no longer be considered in any terms but those of global unity, the task of an international avant-garde organization is precisely to thwart this regulating mechanism of pseudo-modernism.

Oudejans intervenes, on behalf of the Dutch delegation, to point out that rationalization can and must be utilized, as it is the basis of superior constructions. To refuse it would be to choose the impotent dreams of the past. Sturm contructs a lively critique of what he considers the pragmatism of Oudejans' positions. To the contrary, Constant underlines their dialectical sense. Pinot-Gallizio and Jorn comment on the next few points.

After an adjournment, the session recommences with a discussion on the eleven points of the Amsterdam declaration1 , presented to the conference as a proposal for a minimum program of the SI. After a long enough debate, the declaration is unanimously adopted by the participants, with amendments slightly modifying the first, third, ninth and eleventh points (see the Documents published below this report [Corrections to Adopting the Eleven Points of Amsterdam]).

The 20 April session is devoted to practical organizational decisions. The Conference approves the movement's activities since the Paris Conference, particularly the Italian section's action during the Guglielmi affair, an action which provoked the aesthetic indignation of the only enemies of freedom. The quasi-dissolution of the activities of the French SI group is explained by the conditions of overwhelming conformism inspired by the military and the police, currently dominating the new regime in that country, and the length of the colonial war in Algerian, which has conditioned and broken the youth of France: from now on, Paris can no longer be considered as the center of modern cultural experimentation. On the other hand, the Conference congratulates the SI's progress in Germany and Holland. A Fourth Conference is considered for England, in order to develop situationist possibilities that appear there.

The editorial committee of International Situationniste, the central bulletin of the SI, is enlarged. The old committee, still in place, is completed by Constant (Holland) and Helmut Sturm (Germany). Wyckaert proposes the revival of the publication of Potlatch as the interior periodical of the SI. The conference approves this project, whose execution is entrusted to the Dutch section. A German edition of Internationale Situationniste is decided in principle for before the end of the year, under the direction of Heinz Höfl.

The conference adopts the transitional resolution of a "situationist presence in the arts today," which must unleash the most extreme experimental growth, which would be linked to whatever constructive perspectives emerge in the future. It will lead an effective action in culture from its present reality. Accompanying the above arrangements, the Conference allows SI members to support our ideas in newspapers and journals not controlled by us, under the sole condition that these publications are not considered reactionary in their field; and that the situationists do not allow any ambiguity as to their taking no part in the editorship responsible for these publications.

One last discussion on the present state of properly situationist projects is concluded with a clarification by Melanotte: "None of what we do is situationist. Only unitary urbanism, when it is realized, will start to be situationist."

As soon as speeches by Pinot-Gallizio, Jorn, Constant and Oudejans mark the end of the Conference, an experimental alcohol made especially for the occasion by Pinot-Gallizio is distributed around the room. It is well into the night before it is succeeded by more classical drinks.

On the morning of 21 April, the tract "Ein kultureller Putsch während Ihr schlaft!" (A Cultural Putsch While You Sleep!) is distributed in Munich, by which time the situationists have already begun leaving the city.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from:


Discussion on an Appeal to Revolutionary Artists and Intellectuals

From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 4, 2023

Among the preparatory work for the Munich conference, the project of an "Inaugural Declaration of the Third SI Conference to Revolutionary Intellectuals and Artists" had been examined in Copenhagen and Paris, and submitted for the approval of other participants present in Munich. The text, intended to be published in German, English and French on the same day as the situationist conference gathered, read as follows:


The defeats of the revolution and the prolonging of a formally decomposing dominant culture are reciprocally explanatory, and the revolutionary supersession of existing conditions depends first of all on the appearance of perspectives concerning the totality.

The question of culture, that is to say, in the final analysis, of the organization of life, is contingent upon a qualitative rupture inseparable from the overthrow of contemporary society. The material forces of our era and the free play that must be obtained entail the transformation of isolated and durable expressions into momentary collective actions that directly construct our surroundings and the events of our everyday lives.

A new advance of the revolution is linked to the constitution of a passionate solution to replace the immediate use of life; linked to propaganda in favour of these possibilities and against present-day boredom and its exaggeration in the mystified idea of bourgeois happiness.

Revolutionaries in culture must not discover new doctrines but new skills. This can be accomplished through unitary urbanism, experimental behavior, and the construction of real situations as prime terrain for experience. A vast common labor must be undertaken, from the disillusioned critique of the entire field of action where traditional culture is silenced at the end of its self-destruction; and from the consciousness of the profound unity of all revolutionary tasks.

The social basis for the cultural revolution already exists among artists who, in arriving at the most extreme modernism possible in the old society, are still not content; and its development interests the entire world, in which cultural unification has already been accomplished, for the most part, by capitalism.
At this time, we think that desiring this leap into another practice of life is not particularly advanced; it is to seek sadly to live in a present encumbered by intellectual and moral cadavers.

It must be understood that social revolution cannot exist in the poetry of the past, but only of the future.

However, at the beginning of April, the Bureau of Investigation for a Unitary Urbanism in Amsterdam made its opposition to this text known:

Our objections are as follows: cultural perspectives remain insufficient. We insist on the central position of unitary urbanism as point of departure; and on a direct and practical activity in this domain, as an alternative to the current artistic activity, which we refuse.

In our view, these perspectives do not depend on a "revolutionary overthrow of contemporary society" when these conditions are absent. Rather, for the working class, the suppression of a painful material poverty seems to announce a slow evolution. . . These are the intellectuals who rebel against cultural poverty: in unity with a non-existent and utopian social revolution. . . We reject any romanticized notion of a past reality. The current avant-garde is united by the revolt against existing cultural conditions.

On April 4th, Debord, addressing the members of the Bureau of Investigation in defense of the text of the appeal, which had been modified by Frankin (see the two theses reproduced below [Platform for a Cultural Revolution]), recognized firstly the insufficient elaboration of the project, which "must designate more clearly our practical originality instead of remaining in well-worn positions"; but remarked:

The position that you maintain in the second point is purely reformist. Without wanting to start a debate on reformism, I would remind you in passing that in my estimation, capitalism is incapable of abolishing the fundamental reality of exploitation, and therefore incapable of allowing its peaceful replacement by the superior forms of life that its own material development necessitates. . . The perspective of social revolution is profoundly altered in relation to all these classical schemas, but it is real. On the other hand, when you found the progressive forces only in the "intellectuals who rebel against cultural poverty," you were yourselves utopian. . . Should we not question the relationship of such a moderate optimistic ideology to the practical of architects working in a country with a high standard of living, where a bourgeois democratic State takes part in urbanism, and exercises in its natural anarchy a reformist authority?

You naturally have reason to conclude by pointing out that "the current avant-garde is united by the revolt against existing cultural conditions" . . . the revolt against existing cultural conditions cannot be stopped in any of the artificial divisions of bourgeois culture within culture or between culture and life (for in that case we have no real need for a revolt). Unitary urbanism is not a conception of the totality, and must not become one. It is a mere instrument. . . UU is "central" in so far as it is the center of a construction of a whole environment. One cannot think, by this theoretical vision or even by its application, that it could determine and dominate a lifestyle. This would be something of an idealist dogmatism. Reality, richer and more complex, is comprised of all the relations of these lifestyles and of their surroundings. This is the terrain of our present desires, an it is into this terrain that we must intervene.

One last clarification by Constant insisted that he acted from a perspective of realism and practical labor; not from a choice between reform and revolution:

We have no need for a dogmatic conception of revolution because is it "profoundly altered in relation to all these classical schemas."

If André Frankin states that "the proletariat risks disappearing without having made its revolution," I ask why would anyone want to link our activities to a revolution that risks never being made? Why "the interaction" at all costs with a social action that does not exist? The situation in the world, it is true, is revolutionary from any perspective — politically, scientifically and artistically. . . Just as Frankin sees "the essential task of the century" in cultural revolution, I have stated that the current revolution is made by intellectuals and artists. . . The collective creation of a unitary urbanism is based, naturally, on a conception of totality. But if one confuses this with an activity that understands the totality, one supersedes these real powers, and one is condemned to complete inactivity. Unitary urbanism will be at the center of our preoccupations, or it will not exist.

The importance of the divergence — principally on the question of a dialectical relationship between culture and politics or of a subordination of one to the other — and the imminence of the Munich conference, entailed the abandonment of the preliminary publication of the Appeal in this form. This discussion remains significant for judging the problems posed from the outset in situationist action, and the direction of its eventual progress.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from:


Platform for a Cultural Revolution - André Frankin

A brief statement on culture, from Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959)

Submitted by Fozzie on January 5, 2023


The question of culture, that is to say, in the final analysis, of its integration into everyday life, is integral to the necessity of the overthrow of contemporary society. Making a social and political revolution is not sufficient unless such a transformation is accompanied by a qualitative disruption in culture of the same magnitude as that brought about by the revolutionary creation of socialist society, at a superior stage of a society which is no longer simply the antithesis of capitalist society, but the expression of socialism in its totality.


All cultural revolutions of the past were inseparable from the social conditions imposed on artists. Today, capitalism has separated them from culture, substituting what should be the real practice of life with false modes of life and leisure. To this false dichotomy of technology and culture is born a false unitary vision of civilization. The future and the present of every political and social revolution depend above all on the consciousness of this second alienation, more profound and more intractable than economic alienation.

Just as the proletariat risks disappearing without having made its revolution, without having assumed the historical role that Marx had assigned it, the cultural revolution risks becoming more and more dependent on what is conveniently known as "public relations" if it is not assigned above all to the essential revolutionary task of the century: the dissolution of the technological milieu by technology itself.

Frankin's first thesis modifies the second paragraph of the Appeal printed above1 . The second replaces the fifth and sixth paragraphs.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from:


Inaugural Report to the Munich Conference - Constant


Constant Nieuwenhuys on unitary urbanism, from Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959)

Submitted by Fozzie on January 5, 2023

Since the lettrist experiment of 1953 into the behavioral games permitted by the urban environment of the time, the notion of the conscious construction of ambient surroundings in relation to life and its changing habits has given rise to the idea of unitary urbanism. We speak of urbanism only to the extent that with the concept of conscious creation and its relationship to a superior life, we advocate a definitive break with current notions of urbanism.

If we are going to commit ourselves to the study and practice of a creative change in the urban environment linked to a qualitative change in behavior and way of life, then it is necessary for truly collective creation to be put into place at an artistic level.

Current cultural conditions, the decomposition of the individual arts, and the impossibility of the renewal or the perpetuation of these arts have produced a creative vacuum that can only be favorable to our undertaking. The disappearance of traditional artistic forms and the progressive organization of social life has brought about a increasing lack of ludic possibilities in everyday life. Not only does our refusal of this state of things drive us to seek out new conditions of play, but it obliges us to reconsider every cultural problem in order to finally arrive at a unified theory of the practice of consciously constructing ludic environments.

We are willing to bet that even the most advanced contemporary artists possess nowhere near the creativity required for such ideas, which our collective labor alone is capable of realizing. Only in our perspectives does creation exist.

The idea of a unitary urbanism was generated on the one hand by the experiments into the dérive and psychogeography, invented and practiced by the lettrists; and on the other by the building research undertaken by a few modern architects and sculptors. In both cases, the need to arrive at the organization of complete decors and the integral unity of behavior and surroundings has led to a common action.

In 1958, in a declaration made in Amsterdam, we established a few points in the attempt to define unitary urbanism and our present task in the face of this perspective. This declaration proposed the experimentation with complete decors that should be extended to a unitary urbanism and the investigation into new behavior in relation to these decors as the minimum program of the Situationist International. Thus, according to the Amsterdam Declaration1 , if we have no idea how to realize any practical activity in this area then we should consider the situationist program lacking.

A situationist praxis from the perspective of a unitary urbanism must be our main task and the principal goal of this conference. We cannot give up without collectively examining existing possibilities for practical experiments.

Unitary urbanism, as the Amsterdam Declaration states, can be defined as a complex and permanent activity that consciously recreates the human environment according to the most evolved concepts of all disciplines. This permanent activity must not be carried out in a future more favorable than the present, but should immediately be put in motion by the efficient execution of our program. At present, it is possible distinguish three tasks that we can undertake or that we have already begun:

  • Firstly: The creation of environments favorable to the propagation of unitary urbanism. We must rigorously denounce the disappearance of the individual arts and force artists to choose to change their profession;
  • Secondly: We must realize a collective creative labor by forming teams and proposing real projects;
  • Thirdly: This collective creation must be sustained by the permanent study of the problems that we foresee and the solutions at which we arrive.

The architect, as with other workers in our enterprise, finds himself faced with the necessity of changing his profession: he will no longer construct mere forms but complete environments. What makes the architecture of today so infuriating is its primarily formal preoccupations. Architecture's problem is no longer the opposition between function and expression; this question has been superseded. In all use of existing forms, in the creation of new forms, the architect's principle concern should be the effect that all this has on the behavior and existence of inhabitants. All architecture will therefore be part of a more extended and more complete activity, and finally, like all other arts, architecture will move toward its own disappearance, beneficial to this unitary activity.

The new urbanism will find its first facilitators in the domains of poetry and theater, among plastic artists and architects, in the ranks of urbanists and advanced sociologists. Even in perfect collaboration, however, all these will not be capable of fully realizing our vision. In the end it must be a total effort of everyone alive, for we consider life to be the very material of future creation.

If we propose perspectives as ambitious as these, this is not to say that we limit ourselves to predictions and prophecies. This attitude is the gravest danger we face at the moment, entailing as it does the loss of the practical passage indispensable to our progress.

The life we currently lead should already organize every possible condition for the development and realization of our ideas. Unitary urbanism is not a cultural work but a permanent activity, and this activity began at the very moment that the notion of unitary urbanism was born. Unitary urbanism has been on a course of realization for years. All the thoughts that we have had about it, the dérive experiments and the environmental models have contributed to this from the start. We are going to take the appropriate measures to quicken its pace.

To this end, we have come to an agreement on the founding in Amsterdam of a Bureau of Investigation for a Unitary Urbanism, with the task of the realization of teamwork and the study of practical solutions. This work must be severely distinguished from teamwork as it exists today between individual architects; for us, collective creation is not a simple unity, but an infinite quantity of variable elements. The Bureau of Investigation for a Unitary Urbanism must be the first real step in our elaborate projects, which, at the same time as completely illustrating our ideas, should constitute the micro-elements of what unitary urbanism will become.

The activity of the Bureau can succeed to the degree that it can attract qualified collaborators who understand the spirit of our investigations, and to the degree that it can realize the projects that will be the criteria of the efficiency of our step.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Text from:


Corrections to Adopting the Eleven Points of Amsterdam

Some brief amendments to a previous SI document, from International Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 6, 2023

The Amsterdam Declaration published in our previous number1 has been adopted by the Munich Conference with the following modifications:

The first point should read: 'The Situationists must take every opportunity to oppose ideological systems and retrograde practices, in culture and wherever the question of the meaning of life arises.' (Instead of: 'every opportunity to oppose retrograde ideologies and forces, etc.')

In the third point replace: 'The S.I. cannot justify any attempt to renovate these arts' (individual) with 'The S.I. cannot justify any attempt to practice these arts.' And add the following: 'Unitary creation will entail the authentic accomplishment of the creative individual.'

At the end of the ninth point ('The coordination of artistic and scientific means must lead to their total fusion') add 'Artistic and scientific research must attain total freedom.'

Complete the last sentence of the eleventh point ('...the construction of situations, as play and as seriousness in a freer society') like this: '... the construction of situations as at once play and as seriousness in a freer society.'

Translated by Paul Hammond. Text from:


First Proclamation of the Dutch Section of the SI - A. Alberts, Armando, Constant, Har Oudejans

From left to right: Har Oudejans, Constant, Guy Debord, Armando. Not present: A. Alberts

From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

There is no longer any meaning in the search to develop this or that cultural activity if one does not start from a general view extended to the whole of society. This idea, which forms the basis of all theories of the post-War avant-garde, is the characteristic that distinguishes it from the avant-garde of the previous period. Since the war, purely formal researches have ground to a halt and new developments in the style of a given art are no longer produced.

On the contrary, the interest of the individual arts has diminished considerably, the work of art has become degraded into a banal commercial product, and truly all creative activity concentrates on the synthesis and liaison of forces.

The collapse of the dominant culture has become a fact that can be observed everywhere. There is no longer a single thought, gesture or product of existing culture that demonstrates an understanding of our epoch. Culture is reduced to naught! The principles of the COBRA movement have not led to anything either, and the heritage COBRA bequeathed to us at its inglorious death consisted merely in formal variations on individual techniques in decomposition: neo-expressionism in painting and poetry.

Yet memories of the misery of the war, from which this expressionism drew its inspiration, were growing weaker and weaker. A new generation came to the fore. In France the Lettrist International was taking the initiative. In 1955, in Number 22 of Potlatch, it said: "It must be understood that a literary school, a renewal of expression, or modernism, was not what we were about. It's a matter of a way of living that comes through exploration and provisional formulae; that itself only tends to occur in the provisional. The nature of this enterprise means that we work in a group, and that we rarely show ourselves: we expect much of the people and the events to come. We also possess that other great strength of no longer expecting anything of the host of known activities, individuals and institutions. We have to experiment with forms of architecture as well as rules of conduct." ["Why Lettrism?"]

The people from whom the Lettrists expected something began to arrive after 1956. The International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, founded by Jorn and Gallizio to oppose the functionalist Bauhaus in Ulm, organized a congress in Alba. Constant's intervention showed us the way: "For the first time in history, architecture shall become an authentic art of construction. . . . It is in poetry that life will be housed." And the Lettrists' delegate formulated that Congress's conclusion: "The parallel crises that currently affect all modes of creation are determined by a general process, and one can only arrive at the resolution of these crises from within a general perspective. The movement of negation and destruction that has manifested itself with increasing swiftness against all antiquated conditions of artistic activity is irreversible: it is a consequence of the appearance of superior possibilities for action in the world."

A year later the Situationist International was founded at the Cosio d'Arroscia Conference.

The new forces orient themselves toward a complex of human activities that extend beyond utility: leisure, superior games. Contrary to what the functionalists think, culture is situated at the point where usefulness ends. Isn't the absence of culture today felt most distressingly in the misery of televisions and motor scooters? A revolution in life precedes a revolution in art. Unitary urbanism is only realizable using situationist means.

The need is finally seen, in the realization of unitary urbanism, for entirely new methods and techniques to replace existing artistic techniques.

Culture is already so old-fashioned, so backward when compared to the reality of life, that it is not even capable of using the technical inventions man already has at his disposal. Before any advance is possible, the whole arsenal of cultural conventions has to be renewed. One will only accede to this through teamwork.

But above all it is the construction of new situations that is required, the framework of new activities. The construction of situations is the prior condition for the creation of new forms; it is here that today's creators encounter their task.

The primitive conception of current urbanism as the organization of buildings and spaces according to aesthetic and utilitarian principles will of necessity be superseded by a conception of the habitat as a decor for life as a whole, as a collective creative at the level of an authentic art, a complex art of extremely varied means.

The artist today confronts an absolute cultural void: the absence of aesthetics, morality, lifestyle. Everything is to be invented.

Caught in this difficult position, he has one great strength: his acceptance of the transitory, his conception of life founded on the speeding by of time. Our essential need to create will only be satisfied through this new attitude. By renouncing fixed form, we arrive at all forms, which we invent and afterwards reject. It is abundance that will make a culture. This new attitude also implies that we renounce the work of art. It is uninterrupted invention that interests us: invention as a way of life.

The individual arts were tied to an idealist conception, to a seeking after the eternal.

Only urbanism will be able to become that unitary art that responds to the exigencies of dynamic creativity, the creativity of life.

Unitary urbanism will be the ever variable, ever alive, ever actual, ever creative activity of the man of tomorrow.

Everything we do today must be considered in relation to this perspective, and to prepare the path.

Translated by Paul Hammond. Text from:


Discourse on Industrial Painting and a Unitary Applicable Art - Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio

Two men examines rolls of painted canvas generated by the industrial painting method

A manifesto on industrial (or automated) painting, from Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 10, 2023

Last Thursday, the day of the preview of the Paris Biennale, on the little esplanade that separates the two buildings of the Museum of Modern Art, below Avenue de Président-Wilson, a curious machine – a painting machine – shuddered into motion. Set on a tripod with casters, from afar its silhouette appeared strikingly similar to that of a Calder mobile. On closer inspection, however, it consisted of a tangled series of pullies that driving a small motor at top speed. As long roll of paper unravelled itself, convulsing pipes covered it with automatic drips and slashes of ink. The finished product was then sliced into sections by a blade that whirred and sputtered in a chaotic circular movement.
– Jean-François Chabrun (L'Express, 8-10-59)

Colloidal Macromolecules have already made their appearance in the field of art, and although their poet has not yet been found, thousands of artists are busying themselves with the effort to master them.

The great era of resin is inaugurated and with it has commenced the use of matter in motion; the colloidal macromolecule will etch itself profoundly onto the concept of relativity, and the constants of matter will suffer a definitive collapse. Concepts of eternity and immortality will disintegrate, and the woes of eternalization of matter will be reduced ever more to nothing, leaving to the artists of chaos the infinite joy of the "always new."

The novel — conceived amidst the risks of infinite imagination and invention: drawn from the liberated energy that man will harness toward the deconstruction of the gold standard, understood as the congealed energy of the infernal banking system already decomposing.

The patented society, conceived of and based on the simplistic notions, the elementary gestures of artists and scientists reduced in captivity from ants to lice, is about to end. Man is expressing a collective consciousness and wielding a tool adequate to the transformation to a potlatch system of gifts which cannot be purchased if not with other poetic experiences.

The machine may very well be the appropriate instrument for the creation of an industrial-inflationist art, based on the Anti-Patent; the new industrial culture will be strictly "Made Amongst People" or not at all! The time of the Scribes is over.

Only a continual and implacable creation and destruction will result in an anxious and pointless quest for object-things of transitory use, planting mines beneath the foundations of the Economy, destroying its values or impeding their formation; the ever-novel will destroy the boredom and anguish created by man's slavery to the infernal machine, queen of the all-equivalent; the new possibility will create a new world of the total-diverse.

Quantity and quality will be fused; the arising society of the luxury-standard will annihilate traditions.
Proverbs will no longer have meaning.

For example, the proverb, "He who leaves the old path for the new," etc., will be replaced by, "The proverbs of the old starve the young to death."

A new, ravenous force of domination will push men toward an unimaginable epic poetry.

Not even the habit of establishing time will be preserved.

From now on, time will be merely an emotive value, a newly minted coin of shock, and will be based on the sudden changes arising in moments of creative life, and upon rare instants of boredom.

Men without memories will be created; men in a continual violent ecstasy, forever starting at ground zero; a "critical ignorance" will come into being with extensive roots in the long prehistory of savage man, the magus of the caves.

The new magic will have the more recent spice of the sparks of the conflagration of the library of Alexandria which was the synthesis of the Neolithic revolution and which continues in our own times to burn the residue of the urban society of the Sumerians and the nomadism of the Phoenicians, flavoring like a narcotic incense the hopes of man.

So great will be the artistic productions that machines will produce, compliantly bending to our wills, that we will not even be able to fix it in memory; machines will remember for us.

Other machines will intervene to destroy, determining situations of non-value; there will be no more works of the art-champion, but open air ecstatic-artistic exchanges among the people.

The world will be the stage and the by-play of a continuous representation; the new earth will transform itself into an immense Luna Park, creating new emotions and new passions.

The cosmic spectacle offered by humanity will be effectively universal and visible in its total simultaneity at telescopic distance, obliging man to ascend in order to embrace the entire spectacle; the laziest will put their names down in Paradise.

Man is thus launched on the quest of myth.

In the past, the epic was able to create itself on earth; lack of communication, wars, great fears, and the confusion of languages and customs favored in time deformations and distortions of reality; they transformed actions, and synthesized into myth.

Today a myth can only be created with difficulty and when man manages to find himself in special conditions, or launches himself into macrocosm with immense instruments, or descends with minuscule ones into microcosm.

Because of this we must depict the roads of the future with unknowable materials, marking the long path of the Heavens with methods of signing adequate to the grandiosity of our undertakings.

Where today one makes signs with spokes in sodium, tomorrow we will use new rainbows, fatas morganas, aurora borealises that we will construct; the stripteases of the constellations, the rhythmic dances of asteroids and ultrasonic music of thousands of fragmented sounds will supply us with moments worthy of demigods.

For all those things and men already powerful: sooner or later you will give us machines to play with or we will fashion them ourselves to occupy that leisure time which you, with demented voracity, look forward to passing in Banality and in making minds progressively into mush. We will use these machines to draw the highways, to make the most fantastical and unique fabrics in which for a single instant the joyous throngs will dress themselves with an artistic sense.

Kilometers of printed paper, engraved, colored, will sing hymns to the strangest and most zealous follies.

Houses of painted leather, of pottery, lacquered, of metal, of alloys, of resin, of vibrantly colored cements will form on the earth an asymmetrical and continuous moment of shock.

We will fix images at our pleasure with cine-photographic and televisual machines, which the collective genius of the people has created, and which you have until now evilly employed in securing for yourselves an absolute reign of Boredom.

Each person will feel the joy of color, of music; architectonic airs of colored gasses, hot walls of infrareds that provide eternal springtime - we will make it so that man plays from the cradle to the grave, and even death will be nothing but a game.

Colored poetic signs will create emotional moments and give us the infinite joy of the magico-creative-collective moment, on the platform of the new myths and passions.

With automation there will no longer be work in the traditional sense, and there will be no more "after work" time, but a free time to liberate anti-economic energies.

We want to found the first establishment of industrial poetry and from this unimaginable and monstrous birth which machines will grant us, we will create establishments of immediate destruction, to obliterate at once the emotional products already created, so that our brains will be forever immune to plagiarism and will be able to find themselves immediately in the state of grace of ground zero.

A people of artists only can survive guided by its brilliant minority: the creators of belief.

The ancient cultures give us examples of this with their inflation; everything was unique and this immense production was impossible without the inclusion of popular elements dragged along in their works of immense poetry.

Once the poetic font dried up, it was a brief step to the ruin of the Maya, of the Cretans, of the Etruscians, etc.
Today man is a part of the machine he has created and which negates him and by which he is dominated.

We must invert this non-sense or there will be no more creation; we must dominate the machine, force it to make the unique gesture — useless, anti-economic, artistic — in order to create a new anti-economic society, one that is poetic, magical, artistic.

Powerful and symmetrical lords: asymmetry, at the heart of modern biology, is expanding in the artistic and scientific fields, undermining the foundations of your symmetrical world calculated upon the axioms of poetic moments of a long gone past that has arrived at an absolute immobility in the crystalline Boredom of Your devising.

The ultimate modern artistic creations actuated with a magico-prophetic sense have destroyed space; the long kilometric cloths can be translated and measure chronometrically, like films, like cinerama (twenty minutes of painting, thirty, an hour).

Time, the magic box with which men of ancient agrarian cultures would regulate their vital and poetic experiences, has halted and compelled you to change speed.

The instruments which are the basis of your dominion: space and time, will be useless toys in your childish, crooked, paralytic hands.

Useless your idealist constructs of the Superman and of genius; useless your proprieties, your immense urbanistic formations that bore the insomniac nights of aristocratic spirits capable only of limping about empty palaces, like bats and owls in search of the foul foods of artificial paradises.

Useless and vain your centuries of urbanism, because only to you and for you the people have vainly consecrated their best free creative energies, believing you to be the effective representatives of a poetic message. Today anti-matter, the physical anti-world has been discovered and your whole unwieldy dwelling trembles on the precipice.

The anti-man has already appeared in the dramatic scenario of physics. The people will have no use in the future for your purposeless proprieties, which are nothing but vast cemeteries in which you have entombed over the centuries all the pains and the poetry that man has created for you.

New proprieties are required; true nomadism requires scenes for camping, for gypsy caravans, for the weekends.

The return to nature with modern instrumentation will allow man, after thousands of centuries, to return to the places where Paleolithic hunters overcame great fear; modern man will seek to abandon his own, accumulated in the idiocy of progress, on contact with humble things, which nature in her wisdom has conserved as a check on the immense arrogance of the human mind.

Lords already powerful in the East and the West, you have built subterranean cities to protect yourself from the radiation which you have savagely: very well, the ingenious artists will transform your sewers into sanctuaries and into atomic cathedrals tracing with emotional magic the signs of the industrial culture that will swiftly transform into the symbols of the new zodiac, the new calendars of fleeting moments.

New energies gathered from the sensitive minority that the masses will express in extended lethargy will transform your termitai [trans: termites? terminals?] of armored cement into opulent, transmittable and exchangeable moments.

Artists will be the teddy-boys of the old culture: that which you have not already destroyed will be destroyed by them in order that nothing is remembered, since your dullness has come to such a point that it has destroyed the last possibility of rebirth left to you: war.

This was always your last resort, since destruction requires renovation: today your cowardice, your fear has exploded in your hands.

You are indefatigable fabricators of Boredom.

Your progress will sterilize the last of your sensibilities, and nothing, if not your civilization, will help you to gasp the last particles of an infected oxygen, prolonging your agony in the emissions of the machines which you yourselves have overworked and exhausted.

The new decorums, stretching from cloth to dwellings, from means of transport to glasses and plates and lighting fixtures to the experimental cities, will be unique, artistic and unrepeatable.

We will no longer use the term "fixed" but "shifting", seeing that they will be ephemeral instruments of joy and play; in a word, we will return to poverty, extreme poverty but possessed of wealth of spirit in a new way of acting and being.

Possessions will be collective and have a swiftness of self-destruction.

Poetry will no longer be about the senses which we already know, but those which we have yet to know; it will have no more architecture, nor painting, nor words, nor images, but will be without external surfaces and without volume. We are nearing the fourth dimension, nearing pure poetry, magic without a master, but it can only be if it is total, we are near the savage state with a modern sense, with modern instruments: the promised land, paradise, Eden, can be nothing other than to breathe the air, to eat, to touch, to penetrate. To purify one's self in the air in order to create with these new, impalpable proprieties the new passionate and free man, who no longer has time to satiate all his desires and create new ones.

All ideologies, all religions, follow the politics of desire, never satisfying them if not in the hereafter: the result is that today science and art find themselves facing an impenetrable wall of whys.

We want to wipe out the whys for good.

The new prophets have already breached this infinite and sweet wall of new poetry at its foundations.

The man of tomorrow will, guided by these pioneers, tap into the indestructible nectar which flows from it.

The entire new human way of being and acting will be a game, and man will live all his life for play, preoccupying himself with nothing but the indulgence of emotions arising from the play of his desires.

The first rudimentary tools of this revolution are, in our opinion, artistic-industrial and devaluating, simply because these are above all instruments of joy: and so this is why in proposing our minor results, like industrial painting, we feel arrogantly certain that our hopes are good, judging from the spreading enthusiasm with which they have been received.

Industrial painting is the first attempted success in playing with machines, and the result has been the devaluing of the work of art.

When thousands of painters who today labor at the non-sense of detail will have the possibilities which machines offer, there will be no more giant stamps, called paintings to satisfy the investment of value, but thousands of kilometers of fabric offered in the streets, in markets, for barter, allowing millions of people to enjoy them and exciting the experience of arrangement.

It will be the triumph of great numbers moved by quality, which will establish unknown values, and the speed of exchange will determine a new identity: Value will become identical to Exchange.

It will be the end of all speculation.

The great game began at Turin in 1958, continued in Milan and Venice, was reconfirmed in Monaco in 59 where the Congress of Situationists established that the ten points of the Amsterdam Declaration1 were the fruit of a silent but effective premise for a unitary-urbanism.

The subsequent Exhibition of Paris, where environmental construction was successfully demonstrated, the emotion of an instant, demonstrated how cultural unity is the only idea capable of dominating the machine.

We are poor and it doesn't matter, our poverty is our strength.

Its useless for us to stew in our own juices, they will be able to exclude us from their Exhibitions, they will be able to silence us, insult us, humiliate us.

The people have already understood our poetry and already the tribulation of the new poetic moment beats anxiously in the heart of the throngs bored with the exhausted idols fabricated by the hypocritical and self-interested fornication of phantom powers of the earth and their impoverished and miserable artists, snarlingly superintended by all the wheels of the human automatic mechanism of thought and of technology and of the most impotent race on the globe: the intellectuals.

Thus begin the long days of atomic creation.

Now it is the turn of we artists, scientists, poets to create the earth anew, the oceans, the animals, the sun and the other stars, the air, the water, and the things.

And it will be our turn to breathe life into clay to create the new man fit to rest on the seventh day.

Pinot-Gallizio's manifesto was published in Italy in November under the title Per un arte unitaria applicabile.

Translated by Molly Klein. Text from:


Situationist Theses on Traffic - Guy Debord

A colour photograph of cars and bicycles driving in front of the Arc de Triomphe

Debord on traffic.

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005


A mistake made by all the city planners is to consider the private automobile (and its by-products, such as the motorcycle) as essentially a means of transportation. In reality, it is the most notable material symbol of the notion of happiness that developed capitalism tends to spread throughout the society. The automobile is at the center of this general propaganda, both as supreme good of an alienated life and as essential product of the capitalist market: It is generally being said this year that American economic prosperity is soon going to depend on the success of the slogan "Two cars per family."


Commuting time, as Le Corbusier rightly noted, is a surplus labor which correspondingly reduces the amount of "free" time.


We must replace travel as an adjunct to work with travel as a pleasure.


To want to redesign architecture to accord with the needs of the present massive and parasitical existence of private automobiles reflects the most unrealistic misapprehension of where the real problems lie. Instead, architecture must be transformed to accord with the whole development of the society, criticizing all the transitory values linked to obsolete forms of social relationships (in the first rank of which is the family).


Even if, during a transitional period, we temporarily accept a rigid division between work zones and residence zones, we must at least envisage a third sphere: that of life itself (the sphere of freedom and leisure -- the essence of life). Unitary urbanism acknowledges no boundaries; it aims to form an integrated human milieu in which separations such as work/leisure or public/private will finally be dissolved. But before this is possible, the minimum action of unitary urbanism is to extend the terrain of play to all desirable constructions. This terrain will be at the level of complexity of an old city.


It is not a matter of opposing the automobile as an evil in itself. It is its extreme concentration in the cities that has led to the negation of its function. Urbanism should certainly not ignore the automobile, but even less should it accept it as its central theme. It should reckon on gradually phasing it out. In any case, we can envision the banning of auto traffic from the central areas of certain new complexes, as well as from a few old cities.


Those who believe that the automobile is eternal are not thinking, even from a strictly technological standpoint, of other future forms of transportation. For example, certain models of one-man helicopters currently being tested by the US Army will probably have spread to the general public within twenty years.


The breaking up of the dialectic of the human milieu in favor of automobiles (the projected freeways in Paris will entail the demolition of thousands of houses and apartments although the housing crisis is continually worsening) masks its irrationality under pseudopractical justifications. But it is practically necessary only in the context of a specific social set-up. Those who believe that the particulars of the problem are permanent want in fact to believe in the permanence of the present society.


Revolutionary urbanists will not limit their concern to the circulation of things, or to the circulation of human beings trapped in a world of things. They will try to break these topological chains, paving the way with their experiments for a human journey through authentic life.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).


Another City for Another Life - Constant

From Internationale Situationniste #3 (December 1959).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 10, 2023

The crisis in urbanism is worsening. The construction of neighborhoods, ancient and modern, is in obvious disagreement with established forms of behavior and even more so with the new forms of life that we are seeking. The result is a dismal and sterile ambiance in our surroundings.

In the older neighborhoods, the streets have degenerated into freeways, leisure activities are commercialized and denatured by tourism. Social relations become impossible there. The newly-constructed neighborhoods have but two motifs, which dominate everything: driving by car and comfort at home. They are the abject expression of bourgeois well-being, and all ludic preoccupations are absent from them.

Neighborhood in a traditional town. A quasi-social space: the street. Logically built for traffic, the streets are only marginally used as a meeting place.

Faced with the necessity of building whole towns quickly, cemeteries of reinforced concrete — in which great masses of the population are condemned to die of boredom — are being constructed. So what use are the extraordinary technical inventions the world now has at its disposal, if the conditions are lacking to profit from them, if they add nothing to leisure, if imagination is wanting?

We crave adventure. Not finding it on earth, some men have gone to seek it on the moon. We prefer to wager on a change on earth. We propose creating situations, new situations, here. We count on infringing the laws that hinder the development of effective activities in life and in culture. We are at the dawn of a new era and are already attempting to sketch out the image of a happier life, of unitary urbanism (the urbanism intended to bring pleasure).

Our domain, then, is the urban nexus, the natural expression of collective creativity, capable of subsuming the creative energies that are liberated with the decline of the culture based on individualism. We are of the opinion that the traditional arts will not be able to play a role in the creation of the new ambiance in which we want to live.

Green city. Isolated housing units, maximum social space: meetings only occur by chance and individually, in corridors or in the park. Traffic dominates everything.

We are in the process of inventing new techniques; we are examining the possibilities existing cities offer; we are making models and plans for future cities. We are conscious of the need to avail ourselves of all new inventions, and we know that the future constructions we envisage will need to be extremely supple in order to respond to a dynamic conception of life, which means creating our own surroundings in direct relation to incessantly changing ways of behavior.

Our conception of urbanism is therefore social. We are opposed to all the conceptions of a ville verte, a "green town" where well-spaced and isolated skyscrapers must necessarily reduce the direct relations and common action of men. Conurbation is indispensable for the direct relation of surroundings and behavior to be produced. Those who think that the rapidity of our movements and the possibilities of telecommunications are going to erode the shared life of the conurbations are ignorant of the real needs of man. To the idea of the ville verte, which most modern architects have adopted, we oppose the image of the covered town, in which the plan of roads and separate buildings has given way to a continuous spatial construction, disengaged from the ground, and included in which will be groups of dwellings as well as public spaces (permitting changes in use according to the needs of the moment). Since all traffic, in the functional sense of the term, will pass below or on the terraces above, the street is done away with. The large number of different traversable spaces of which the town is composed form a complex and enormous space. Far from a return to nature, to the idea of living in a park as individual aristocrats once did, we see in such immense constructions the possibility of overcoming nature and of submitting the climate, light and sounds in these different spaces to our control.

Principle of a covered city. Spatial "plan." Suspended collective housing, extended over the whole down and separate from traffic, which passes beneath or above.

Do we intend this to be a new functionalism, which will give greater prominence the idealized utilitarian life? It should not be forgotten that, once the functions are established, play will succeed them. For a long time now, architecture has been a playing with space and ambiance. The ville verte lacks ambiances. We, on the contrary, want to make more conscious use of ambiances; and so they correspond to all our needs.

The future cities we envisage will offer an original variety of sensations in this domain, and unforeseen games will become possible through the inventive use of material conditions, like the conditioning of air, sound and light. Urbanists are already studying the possibility of harmonizing the cacophony that reigns in contemporary cities. It will not take long to encounter there a new domain for creation, just as in many other problems that will present themselves. The space voyages that are being announced could influence this development, since the bases that will be established on other planets will immediately pose the problem of sheltered cities, and will perhaps provide the pattern for our study of a future urbanism.

The levels of the city

Above all, however, the reduction in the work necessary for production, through extended automation, will create a need for leisure, a diversity of behavior and a change in the nature of the latter, which will of necessity lead to a new conception of the collective habitat with a maximum of space, contrary to the conception of a ville verte where social space is reduced to a minimum. The city of the future must be conceived as a continuous construction on pillars, or, rather, as an extended system of different structures from which are suspended premises for housing, amusement, etc., and premises destined for production and distribution, leaving the ground free for the circulation of traffic and for public messages. The use of ultra-light and insulating materials, which are being experimented with today, will permit the construction to be light and its supports well-spaced. In this way, one will be able to create a town on many levels: lower level, ground level, different floors, terraces, of a size that can vary between an actual neighborhood and a metropolis. It should be noted that in such a city the built surface will be 100% of that available and the free surface will be 200% (parterre and terraces), while in traditional towns the figures are some 80% and 20%, respectively; and that in the ville verte this relation can even be reversed. The terraces form an open-air terrain that extends over the whole surface of the city, and which can be sports fields, airplane and helicopter landing-strips, and for the maintenance of vegetation. They will be accessible everywhere by stair and elevator. The different floors will be divided into neighboring and communicating spaces, artificially conditioned, which will offer the possibility of create an infinite variety of ambiances, facilitating the dérive of the inhabitants and their frequent chance encounters. The ambiances will be regularly and consciously changed, with the aid of every technical means, by teams of specialized creators who, hence, will be professional situationists.

An in-depth study of the means of creating ambiances, and the latter's psychological influence, is one of the tasks we are currently undertaking. Studies concerning the technical realization of the load-bearing structures and their aesthetic is the specific task of plastic artists and engineers. The contribution of the latter is an urgent necessity for making progress in the preparatory work we are undertaking.

If the project we have just traced out in bold strokes risks being taken for a fantastic dream, we insist on the fact that it is feasible from the technical point of view and that it is desirable from the human point of view. The increasing dissatisfaction that dominates the whole of humanity will arrive at a point at which we will all be forced to execute projects whose means we possess, and which will contribute to the realization of a richer and more fulfilled life.

Cross section of the covered city

Translated by Paul Hammond. Text from: