Internationale Situationniste #2

Internationale Situationniste 2 cover - silver foil and black text

Issue two of the journal of the Situationist International, published December 1958.

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

central bulletin published by the sections of the situationist international
December 1958
Director: Debord
Mail: 32, rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris 5e
Editorial Committee: Mohamed Dahou, Asger Jorn, Maurice Wyckaert.

As a rule, this bulletin is edited collectively. The various articles written and signed individually must also be considered of interest to all of our comrades, and as particular points of their common research. We are opposed to the survival of such forms as the literary review or art journal.

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

Nostalgia Beneath Contempt

Benjamin Peret a photo of Benjamin Peret in a group of people. The photo is tinted purple except his face which is black and white.

The Situationist International responds to some criticism by surrealist poet Benjamin Péret in characteristically acerbic style.

From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1959)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 3, 2022

In a text entitled 'Poetry Above All,' Benjamin Péret opens the first number of the surrealist bulletin Bief with an attack on the situationists, to whom he attributes the idiotic project of placing poetry and art under the 'guidance' of science.

Motivated by the grotesque intention to propagandize against the situationists, Péret's confused declarations cruelly reveal a mode of thinking from another century: an incapacity to comprehend the problems of the present, an incapacity that renders even more laughable his pretense to combat those who pose them.

'Nuclear fission and its consequences,' he says, 'won't provide a new way of feeling, any more than they will generate an original poetry.' True. But who is it that wants to 'feel' passively? And who is it that expects 'an original poetry,' with or without a nuclear pretext? We smile at this rhetoric of the pre-eminence of scientism over poetic sensibility, and conversely, these polemics that remind us Sully-Prudhomme.1 We don't want to renew expression in itself, and certainly not the expression of science: we want to bring passion to everyday life. To this end, poetry can no longer be of any use. We're not about to patch up poetic language and artistic expression for them to end up being loved unconditionally by a generation of dadaist has-beens. As the song goes: your youth is dead and so are your loves.

What, then, is our goal? The creation of situations. Although there can be no doubt that people have attempted direct interventions into their surroundings at various times in their lives, such constructions did not possess the unified means for their qualitative and quantitative extension, remaining isolated and fragmentary.

The failure to realize these desires was for a long time palliated by the distractions of religion and, at a later stage, the spectacle of art. However, going hand in hand with the material development of the world — which must be understood in its broadest sense — the disappearance of these distractions is now easy to verify. The construction of situations is not directly dependent on atomic energy; nor even on automation or social revolution, since experiments can be carried out in the absence of certain conditions, conditions that will no doubt come to fruition in the near future. But while a number of sectors lag behind the total advance of our time, depriving us of means we would like to have at our disposal and leaving the present somewhat dull, a proper perspective of this order has been able to appear for the first time in history, and lesser pleasures thus seem unworthy of our attention.

Péret is the prisoner of a false richness of memory, of the vain task of preserving the emotions associated with the collector's items of others.

Péret and his friends are the conservators of an art world whose time is up. They are on the side of those who sell it condensed in Malraux's imaginary museums.2 They are on the side of those who want to prolong its "nobility" while decorating their refrigerators with modern paintings. But this nobility died with the anciens régime of culture, leaving them on the side of nothing but nostalgia. Dreams, which they praised so much, are only good for those who would rather to sleep forever.

We are the partisans of forgetting: forgetting the past, living in the present. Our contemporaries cannot be found among those satisfied with too little. In April 1958, the SI's Belgian section hurled at the International Assembly of Art Critics a slogan that summed up our little step forward perfectly: "the classless society has found its artists."

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/nostalgia.html

  • 1René-François-Armand (Sully) Prudhomme (1839-1907), French poet and leader of the traditionalist Parnassian movement, who studied science before turning to poetry.
  • 2A reference to Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale by André Malraux (1901-1976), the French novelist and art historian who served as de Gaulle's minister for culture from 1958 to 1968.

The Friends of Cobra and What They Represent

A painting by Asger Jorn from his time in the Cobra group

The Situationist International is unimpressed with the relaunch of the European avant garde group Cobra.

From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 3, 2022

In 1958, something of a conspiracy launched a new avant-garde movement that had the peculiar trait of having been defunct for seven years. Though never presented in clear terms, allusions are made to the continuing existence of none other than Cobra. In some cases an origin is fixed, implying its permanence.

Thus, on 18 September, France-Observateur wrote on the painter Corneille: "At this time (1950), he participated in the founding of the artistic group Reflex, which was slowly integrated into the avant-garde movement Cobra." In other cases, given the fact that Cobra is hardly ever mentioned, the illusion is created that its constitution is more recent, as in Le Monde of 31 October: "With his combination of abstract lyricism and African aesthetic influences, Holland's Rooskens is part of the avant-garde movements Reflex and Cobra..."

What is the reality? Between 1948 and 1951, there was an Experimental Artists International more often known as the Cobra movement, after the name of its journal (its title, short for Copenhagen - Brussels - Amsterdam, expressed its almost exclusively Northern European composition). The journal Reflex, which was the organ of the Dutch Experimental Group before international contact and the publication of Cobra, ran to only two numbers in 1948. The groups that made up the Cobra movement were united in the proclamation of experimental cultural research. But this positive aspect was paralyzed by an ideological confusion maintained by the strong participation of neo-surrealists. The only effective experiment that Cobra could carry out was that of a new style of painting. In 1951, the Experimental Artists International put an end to its own existence. The representatives of its advanced tendency pursued their research in different forms. On the other hand, a number of artists abandoned their preoccupation with experimental activity, putting their talent to use in making this particular pictorial style, which was the sole tangible result of the Cobra endeavor, and highly fashionable (for example [Karel] Appel in the UNESCO building).

It is the commercial success of old members of the Cobra movement that has recently led to other more mediocre artists, who were of very little importance to Cobra and its afterlife, to plot to various ends the mystification of an uninterrupted, eternally young Cobra movement, classically experimental in the style of 1948, where their wretched commodities can be marketed under the same prestigious label as those of Corneille and Appel. Cobra's old editor-in-chief [Christian] Dotremont is responsible for this charade, by trying to please everyone. Indeed, the artists linked to this scheme, whether or not they participated in the brief experiment of 1948-1951, attach a supposed "theoretical" value to their works by declaring themselves an organized movement. And the individuals who control the judgment and sale of the decomposed repetitions of modern art have a vested interest in making people believe the objects in question are expressions of a truly innovative movement. They therefore struggle against real changes, whose foreseeable extent must entail their practical disappearance from the posts they hold, and the ideological failure of their entire life (the taste, the practical consideration, and the dominant cultural elite of ebbing movements, whose strongest example remains that of the surrealists, but is discretely beginning to manifest itself even in regard to some lettrist recordings, in spite of the near complete opposition that they met at the time of lettrism and the difficulty of exploiting that movement).

It is most likely, however, that no matter how favorable conditions may be, the reactionary effort now being deployed under the Cobra flag will not last. At the beginning of 1958, Neo-Cobra was assured of a show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, once upon a time the site of a scandalous exhibition by the movement, and whose extremely overrated reputation in Paris should be attributed to a few hack journalist friends of the warmed up Cobra as much as the old cultural world of museums. Neo-Cobra intended to organize a highly eclectic major exhibition designed to travel to other capitals, and above all to make an impression on the American market. The situationists, who found themselves implicated in this little affair because two of them had played important roles in Cobra1 , made it known that they would only accept this exhibition in a rigorously historical form, whose appraisal would be undertaken by a delegate chosen by them, and that they would be limited to opposing as unimportant any sort of attempt to present Cobra as contemporary research. In the face of our opposition the Stedelijk Museum withdrew its agreement. It goes without saying that this is behind the present campaign to resurrect Cobra. And it is doubtful that this campaign can expect any worthwhile success if its promoters cannot find considerable enough support to allow the them to show the assembled bits and pieces of their pseudo-movement.

The despicable character of this attempt at a new beginning is familiar to anyone who knows the program adopted by Cobra ten years ago, as is demonstrated by the Manifesto of the Dutch Experimental Group2 , written by Constant and published in Reflex #1:

The historical influence of the upper classes has pushed art into more and more of a position of dependence, accessible only to exceptionally gifted spirits, capable only of pulling off a little formalist freedom.

An individualist culture is therefore constituted and is condemned alongside the society that produced it, its conventions no longer offering any possibility of imagination or desire, even preventing vital human expression.

At this stage, a popular art cannot correspond to the conceptions of the people, as the people do not participate in artistic creation but in historically imposed formalisms. What characterizes popular art is a vital, direct and collective expression...

A new freedom will come that allows humans to satisfy their creative desires. With this development the professional artist will lose his privileged position: this explains the current resistance in the arts.

In the transitional period creative art found itself in permanent conflict with existing culture, while at the same time announcing a new culture. With this double aspect, whose psychological effect would have a growing importance, art played a revolutionary role in society. The bourgeois spirit still dominates all of life, even to the point of bringing a prefabricated popular art to the masses.

The cultural void has never been more obvious than in the post-war era...

Any prolonging of this culture appears impossible, and therefore the task of artists cannot be constructive in the framework of such a culture. It is necessary first of all to rid ourselves of old cultural shreds which instead of permitting us an artistic expression prevent us from finding one. The problematic phase in the history of modern art is over, and it is about to be succeeded by an experimental phase. This is to say that the experience of a period of unlimited freedom must allow us to find the laws of a new creativity.

Naturally, those who marched in line with such a program can today be found among the ranks of the Situationist International.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From here: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/cobra.html

Absence and its Costumers

a black and white photograph of John Cage facing away from the camera in a garden

SI critique of several contemporary avant garde artists including John Cage. From International Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 5, 2022

Any creative effort that is not henceforth carried out in view of a new cultural theater of operations, of a direct creation of life's surroundings, is in one way or another a hoax. Within the context of the exhaustion of traditional aesthetic categories, some reach the point of making themselves known simply by signing a blank, which is the perfect result of the Dadaist "readymade." A few years ago, the American composer John Cage obliged his audience to listen to a moment of silence. During the lettriste experiment of 1952, a twenty-four-minute dark sequence, with no soundtrack, was introduced into the film Hurlements en faveur de Sade. Yves Klein's recent monochrome paintings, inspired by Tinguely's machines, take the form of rapidly revolving blue disks, causing the critic for Le Monde (November 21, 1958) to remark:

You might think that all this effort and so many detours do not lead very far. Even the protagonists do not take themselves very seriously. But their enterprise falls symptomatically within the present disarray. "They've run out of ideas" is heard on all sides. Is art, and especially painting, once and for all "at the end of its rope"? This has been said of all periods, but it may after all have devolved on ours to coincide with the final impasse. This time the old surface of the canvas, where Impressionism and Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism, pointillism and Abstract Expressionism, geometric and lyrical abstraction have all been superimposed, is beginning to show its threads.

Actually, the artists' seriousness does not pose any sort of problem. The real question opposes any isolated artistic means with the unified use of several of these means. Immediately after the formation of the Situationist International, Potlatch, no. 29, warned the Situationists ("The S.I. in and against Decomposition"1 ):

Just as there is no "situationism" as doctrine, one must not let certain former experiments be called Situationist achievements — or everything to which our ideological and practical weakness now limits us. But, on the other hand, we cannot concede even a temporary value to mystification. The abstract empirical fact that constitutes this or that manifestation of today's decayed culture only takes on concrete meaning by its connection with the overall vision of an end or a beginning of civilization. Which is to say that in the long run our seriousness can integrate and surpass mystification, as well as whatever promotes it as evidence of an actual historical state of decayed thought.

Indeed, these empty exercises seldom escape the temptation to rely on some kind of external justification, thereby to illustrate and serve a reactionary conception of the world. Klein's purpose, as we are told by the same article in Le Monde, "seems to be to transpose this purely plastic theme of color saturation into a sort of incantatory pictorial mystique. It involves being swallowed up in spellbinding blue uniformity like a Buddhist in Buddha." We know, alas, that John Cage participates in that Californian thought where the mental infirmity of American capitalist culture has enrolled in the school of Zen Buddhism. It is not by chance that Michel Tapié, the secret agent of the Vatican, pretends to believe in the existence of an American school of the Pacific Coast, and in its decisive importance: all kinds of spiritualists are closing ranks these days. Tapié's slimy procedure also aims, in parallel fashion, at destroying the theoretical vocabulary (in which he plays an artist's role, unacknowledged as such, but as a true contemporary of Cage and Klein). In a catalogue for the Galerie Stadler, on November 25, he thus decomposes language, using as a pretext a painter, naturally Japanese, named Imaï: "In recent months, Imaï has reached a new stage in a fruitful three-year pictorial development, which had progressed from a 'signifying Pacific' climate to a dramatic totalist graphism."

There is no need to point out how Klein and Tapié are spontaneously in the forefront of a fascist wave that is making headway in France. Others have been so more explicitly, if not perhaps more consciously — first of all, the putrid Hantaï, who proceeded directly from surrealist fanaticism to the royalism of Georges Mathieu. The simplicity of the recipe for Dadaism in reverse, as well as Hantaï's obvious moral rot, have not stopped the worthy imbeciles of the Swiss orthodox neo-Dadaist journal Panderma from giving him massive publicity, nor from admitting that they have not been able "to understand the slightest thing" about discussions of the show at the Galerie Kléber, in March 1957, though it was clearly denounced — in the same way — by the Surrealists, and by us in Potlatch, no. 28. It is true that the same journal, speaking for some reason of the S.I., also reveals its perplexity: "What's it all about? No one knows." We would probably be amazed to be a current subject of conversation in Basel. Nevertheless, Laszlo, the editor of Panderma, has been making several vain attempts to meet Situationists in Paris. It all goes to show that even Laszlo has read us. Except that his calling lies elsewhere: he is the mainspring of one of those vast gatherings where people who have no connection with each other put their signatures for a day to a manifesto that in itself has no content. Laszlo's great work, his simple but proud contribution to the sovereign nothingness of his time, is a "manifesto against avant-gardism," which, after some thirty lines of critical remarks, utterly acceptable because unfortunately quite trite, about the tiredness of modern art and the repetitions of what is called avant-gardism, suddenly turns into a profession of faith in a future of interest only to the signers. Since their chosen future is not otherwise defined, and is therefore probably awaited and accepted in its entirety and with enthusiasm — as by Hantaï — one of the signers, Edouard Roditi, has been careful to hold back, reserving for himself "the right to judge the future as uninteresting as the present." Roditi aside, all these thinkers (of whom the best known is the singer and composer Charles Estienne, a former art critic) are probably, for the moment, interested in, and perhaps gratified by, the future that has necessarily followed the publication of their manifesto.

One can bet that a good number of these lovers of the future met again at the "rendezvous of the international avant-garde" held in September at the Palais des Expositions in Charleroi, of which nothing is known except the title "Art of the Twenty-first Century" displayed on a modest advertising poster. One can also bet that the formula, which fell flat, will be repeated, and that all those who were so thoroughly incapable of discovering an art of 1958 will subscribe to that if the twenty-first century, nagged only by extremists trying to sell the same repetitions under a twenty-second century label. The flight to the future, in its boastfulness, is thus the consolation of those who turn around and around in front of the wall that separates them from present-day culture.

Translated by John Shepley. From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/absence.html

Collapse of the Revolutionary Intellectuals

Critique of French intellectuals in the aftermath of the May 1958 crisis, including Edgar Morin and Socialisme ou Barberie.

From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 6, 2022

When the French bourgeois parliamentary republic was swept away without a fight, the revolutionary intellectuals came together to denounce the collapse of the workers' parties, the unions, somnambulistic ideologies and the myths of the Left. The only thing that didn't seem worthy of mention was their own collapse.

As it happened, they weren't that brilliant a generation of intellectuals. The philosophical discussions, lifestyle and artistic fashions that they loved were completely laughable. They probably even suspected this themselves. It was only in political thought that they appeared in a good light. Here they were sure of themselves, shining brightly in contrast to a communist party whose absence gave them the monopoly on free thinking.

But this freedom was not put to good use. They never reached a general conception of revolutionary thought. Symptomatically, in issue 7 of Arguments (April 1958), Morin was obliged to conclude an article full of very accurate remarks ("La dialectique et l'action") with a sudden discovery: "the greatest art, the only art" was politics, for "today, all other arts are worn out, dried up, transmuted into science or converted into infantile magic." But while Morin was completely content to have seen in passing an artistic future he had previously neglected, he forgot to add that the goal of revolutionaries is the suppression of politics (government by the people taking the place of the administration of things).

As soon as the May crisis began, the majority of revolutionary intellectuals, along with the workers' parties, were stranded in a bourgeois republican ideology which could not correspond to any real force, neither from the bourgeoisie or from among the workers. The Socialisme ou Barberie group, on the other hand, for whom the proletariat is a sort of Hidden God of History, has closed its eyes and congratulates itself on its own disarmament, corresponding only to a pinnacle of class consciousness in the liberation from the nefarious influence of parties and trade unions, a liberation that comes too late.

But the absence of a revolutionary response in May has led to the complete derailing of the parliamentary Left that "wouldn't speak of civil war." The only forces that retain a presence in France are those which made the most of the struggle against the colonial revolution in order to accomplish their programs: the capitalist reaction, which wanted to control a State better adapted to the new economic structures in the most direct manner possible; and the fascist reaction of the army and the settlers, who wanted to win the Algerian war at any cost (the contradictions between these two tendencies did not prevent their relative solidarity, and on account of the dispersal of worker opposition to Gaullism and the weakening of the armed struggle of the Algerians, there was nothing to push them into an immediate show of strength: the colonists and de Gaulle could settle into a few more years of war in Algeria, as long as they could strike a suitable balance).

With its lack of revolutionary organization and the absence of links with the struggle of the colonized, the proletariat was incapable of taking advantage of the colonial crisis of the bourgeois republic in order to accomplish its own program. But it had no more of a program than it did a leadership capable of launching an insurrectional strike on the day after 13 May. The full extent of this defeat has yet to be seen.

The principle lesson that should be drawn from all this is that revolutionary thought must undertake the critique of everyday life in bourgeois society, propagating a new idea of happiness. Left and Right seem to agree on the antiquated idea of poverty as basic privation, which is the root of the mystification that has led to the defeat of the workers' movement all over the industrialized world.

The role of revolutionary propaganda is to present everyone with the possibility of a complete and immediate personal change. This richness that the demands of this task take on in Europe is intended to make the masses aware of the intolerable poverty of scooters and televisions. The revolutionary intellectuals have to abandon the debris of their decomposed culture and find for themselves a revolutionary way to live. In doing this, they can finally confront the problems of a popular avant-garde. The masses' right to live will no longer be symbolized by steak alone. The revolutionary intellectuals will eventually learn about politics. But it is beginning to look more and more like this will take an unpleasantly long time.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/collapse.html

The Dark Turn Ahead

From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958).

Submitted by Fozzie on December 7, 2022

At the center of our present collective action, there is the urgent obligation to provide a better understanding of the exact nature of our specific task: a qualitative leap in culture and everyday life. We must examine everything that such an intention entails, but also the outdated attitudes that it definitively rejects, or whose only preservation should be as temporary and residual tactics. First of all, this consciousness should be brought, in every sense of the word, to those comrades so impressed by their adherence to a new program that they are not sufficiently concerned with the new practical activity that corresponds to it.

Could the situationist organization, which pushes problems as far as possible in order to clarify them and verify their data in the light of experience, be useless after all? This is what we must conclude if the SI proves to have arrived prematurely, if sooner or later it cannot utilize whatever means are necessary for the constructions it has in mind.

But in spite of the general economic and political aspect of the question, the possession of these means depends largely on us, on our theoretical lucidity, and on our propaganda for new desires. If our ideas themselves have a vague, utopian side, this is due less to the impossibility, at such a primitive stage, of verifying the bulk of our hypotheses in practice, than from our incapacity to think rigorously enough in common.

This or that detail of our undertaking can hold no interest whatsoever if all the elements that pass through the SI fail to complete situationist operations on their own ground. If, despite the necessity of the leap into a higher sphere of action, the difficulty of understanding this leap cannot be overcome, artistic traditions will seize control of the SI and no moral or organizational severity will be able to prevent their triumph. Such a retreat in the necessary cultural revolution would have an enormous impact.

With modern conditions as its point of departure, ours is the first systematic effort to discover new possibilities, new needs, higher forms of play. We are the first to experience a new kind of passion, linked to the present and to the near future of urban civilization, that should not be interpreted (taking traditional artistic expression as a new theme), but whose transformative energy should instead be embraced and directly lived.

We stand for the day that the power of freedom gains infinite earthly means, for those who will obtain such leisure. We therefore have a duty not to devalue, in polite opposition to dominant culture, whatever precursory slogans we might find. If situationist action cannot be achieved, we should not allow any deceptive behavior to be publicized. More modest, more clandestine forms of action should therefore be adopted. Everyone has made up their mind on this point: is a large enough number of situationists — not formally rallied artists, but professionals of this new activity — going to answer our call?

The absolute priority of the problem of our reinforcement by this virtual mass must take precedence over every aspect of the SI, in particular leading us to reject proposed alliances. The call to order of a "revolutionary front in culture" adopted by our groups from the Alba Congress was positive to the degree that it contributed to our unification in the SI; but disappointing with regard to our relationship with the Czechoslovakian group, or with others publishing small journals in Italy and Belgium. The pressure from these external elements, incapable of conceiving of the turn before which we find ourselves, can only add to the confusion in the SI, reinforcing its "right wing."

We must quickly extend our truly situationist base and develop its program. This question will dominate our next international conference. The majority and minority will be defined along these lines.

From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/darkturn.html

Situationist News - December 1958

General updates including the exclusions of W. Korun and Ralph Rumney. From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 8, 2022

The average age of the SI, which was at the time of its foundation a little over 29 and a half (whereas only four years before, in the summer of 1953, the average age of the Lettrist International was established at slightly below 21), rose in only one year to the current figure of over 32 years.

The reshuffle that occurred on the editorial board of this bulletin (the replacement of Pinot-Gallizio with Jorn) corresponds only to the fact that Gallizio, who continues to personally direct the production of industrial painting, must temporarily devote all his energy to this immense task.

W. Korun, however, who was not in a position to carry out the complete program of publications for Belgium adopted last May, is discharged until further notice from the responsibilities that he had assumed for the SI in that country.

The fight against gaullism should not detach us from revolutionary combat in forms other than the economic and political. . . . The situationist enterprise appeals to the function which perhaps best expresses the freedom of man, and which is even the source of artistic creation: play. Such an experiment, placed in the perspective of integral revolution (to transform, indissolubly, all structures, material and spiritual, of collective life), cannot leave us indifferent.
— René Fugler, Le Monde Libertaire, no.41-42 (August-September 1958)

. . . a self-styled "Situationist International," which imagines it is making a new contribution when in fact it is merely creating ambiguity and confusion. But is it not in such troubled waters that one fishes for a situation?
— Benjamin Péret, Bief, no.1 (November 15, 1958)1

. . . our ambitions are clearly megalomaniac, but perhaps not measurable with the prevailing criteria of success. I believe all my friends would be content to work anonymously at the Ministry of Leisure in a government that would finally undertake to change life, for a salary commensurate with that of skilled workers.
— G.-E. Debord, Potlatch, no. 29 (November 5, 1957) [One More Try if You Want to be Situationists]

The SI will study the development, for the purpose of constructing a series of situations there, of the group of buildings designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux at Saline-de-Chaux (see the short film by Pierre Kast devoted to the work of this architect).

A plan for the transformation of these buildings, which remain in a state of abandonment, will be developed and carried out as soon as circumstances permit. If the prospect of a ludic transformation of Saline-de-Chaux remains closed, the observations and conclusions of the plan could be adapted for the détournement of other European architecture.

The refusal of the English ex-situationist Rumney to comprehend the definitive character of his exclusion, as announced in our previous number 2 , obliges us to restate that we have no interest in him whatsoever, neither for his ideas nor for his life. Anything he chooses to publish, on psychogeography or any other matter, in the review Ark or elsewhere, or whatever use to which he wishes to put the names of certain of our members, bears absolutely no relation to the SI.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/news.html

Attempt at a Psychogeographical Description of Les Halles - Abdelhafid Khatib

PLAN #2: LES HALLES INTERNAL CURRENTS AND EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958). Les Halles was Paris' central fresh food market.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 12, 2022

In actual fact, to achieve the simplest of improvements in social relations requires the mobilization of such extraordinary collective energy that if the real importance of this disproportion were to appear to public consciousness in its true light, it would act as a discouraging factor . . . This frightful disproportion has to be considerably attenuated for consciousness through an artificial and substantial mythological amplification of the anticipated results, taken to lengths more in keeping with the aim of exerted effort and whose importance it is already impossible to hide, since it is directly experienced. These deformations which, seen from the outside, have a fantastic aspect, are precisely the work of ideologies which, for that reason, constitute the indispensable condition of social progress.
— Leszek Kolakowski, Responsabilité et Histoire

The world we live in, and beginning with its material décor, is discovered to be narrower by the day. It stifles us. We yield profoundly to its influence; we react to it according to our instincts instead of according to our aspirations. In a word, this world governs our way of being, and it grinds us down. It is only from its rearrangement, or more precisely its sundering, that any possibility of organizing a superior way of life will emerge.

The Situationists believe themselves capable, due to their current methods and to the foreseeable development of these methods, not only of rearranging the urban environment, but of changing it almost at will. Up till now the dearth of backing and the lack of help accorded us by people who largely claim to be interested in all that relates to urbanism, to culture and to their reaction to life, has, by default, only permitted us to undertake a minimum of experimentation, remaining almost at the level of personal play. But what we seek is nothing less than direct, effective intervention, taking us from those preliminary studies that suggest themselves — and here psychogeography will be of great import — to the instituting of new Situationist ambiances, whose essential traits are of short duration and permanent change.

Psychogeography, the study of the laws and precise effects of a consciously or unconsciously elaborated geographical environment acting directly on affective behavior, subsumes itself, according to Asger Jorn's definition, as the science fiction of urbanism.

The means specific to psychogeography are many and varied. The first, and most solid, is the experimental dérive. The dérive is a form of experimental behavior in an urban society. At the same time as being a from of action, it is a means of knowledge, particular to the notions of psychogeography and the theory of unitary urbanism. Other means, such as the reading of aerial views and plans, the study of statistics, graphs or the results of sociological investigations, are theoretical and do not possess the active and direct side which belongs to the experimental dérive. Nevertheless, thanks to them we can arrive at a first representation of the environment under study. In return, the results of our study will permit imbuing these cartographic and intellectual representations with greater complexity and richness.


Plan #1: The Les Halles Unity of Ambiance

We have chosen as the subject of a psychogeographical study the Les Halles quarter which, unlike other areas which have been the object of certain psychogeographical descriptions till now (Continent Contrescarpe, the Missions Étrangères area), is extremely animated and well known, both to the Parisian population and to those foreigners who have spent some time in France.

To begin with, we will define the limits of the quarter as we conceive of it; the characteristic divisions from the viewpoint of its ambiances; the directions one is led to take inside and outside this terrain; then we will make some constructive suggestions.

In terms of its administrative definition, the Les Halles quarter is the second quarter of the first arrondissement. Placed at the center of Paris, it is in contact with areas which are wholly different from one another. Considered from the viewpoint of the unity of ambiance, the quarter differs only slightly from its official limits, and principally from an extremely large encroachment on the second arrondissement to the north. We observe the following boundaries: the Rue Saint-Denis to the east; the Rues Saint-Sauveur and Bellan to the north; the Rues Hérold and d'Argout to the north-west; the Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs to the west; and finally to the south the Rue de Rivoli, which must be extended, beginning with the Rue de l'Arbre-Sec, to include the Rue Sainte-Honoré.

The architecture of the streets, and the changing décor which enriches them every night, can give the impression that Les Halles is a quarter that is difficult to penetrate. It is true that during the period of nocturnal activity the logjam of lorries, the barricades of panniers, the movement of workers with their mechanical or hand barrows, prevents access to cars and almost constantly obliges the pedestrian to alter his route (thus enormously favoring the circular anti-dérive). But despite appearances the quarter of Les Halles is one of the easiest to cross, via the access routes which border or cross it in every direction.

Four great thoroughfares cross Les Halles from end to end and thus help to break them down into areas of different, but absolutely interconnected, ambiance: the most important of these thoroughfares, running east-west, is formed by the Rue Rambuteau, whose various extensions finish up in the Banque de France area; the Rue du Louvre, running north-south; the Rue des Halles, running south-east to north-west. There are numerous secondary entry routes, for example the continuation of the Rues du Pont-Neuf-Baltard, in contact with the Left Bank via the Pont-Neuf and various sectors to the north via the Rues Montmatre, de Montorgueil and, to a lesser extent, de Turbigo. This route must nevertheless be considered as secondary due to the two relative breaks made by the crossing of the Rue de Rivoli and the large buildings of the Halles Centrales.

The essential feature of the urbanism of Les Halles is the mobile aspect of pattern of lines of communication, having to do with the different barriers and the temporary constructions which intervene by the hour on the public thoroughfare. The separated zones of ambiances, which remain strongly connected, converge in the one place: the Place des Deux-Ecus and the Bourse du Commerce (Rue de Viarme) complex.

To the east the first area is enclosed by Rues Saint-Denis, de Turbigo, Pierre-Lescot and the Place Sainte-Opportune. This is the prostitution area, with its multitude of small cafés. At the weekend a masculine and miserable horde from other quarters seeks amusement there. A population of down-and-outs holds sway around the Square des Innocents. The whole area is depressing. [...]

The Rue Saint-Denis marks a very sudden break between this area and the Saint-Merri and Saint-Avoye quarters towards the east, but this break still plays its part in the ambiance of Les Halles. The break being immediately aggravated by the Boulevard de Sévastapol, the area known as the Place Saint-Merri finds itself under the diminished influence of Les Halles, while its participation in the quarter's economic activity (the parking of lorries) would, rather, tend to integrate it there.

To the south, the second area extends between the Rues de Rivoli, Arbre-Sec, Saint-Honoré and the Rue Berger. In contact, by day, with the feverish commercialism of the Rue de Rivoli and the flower-market occupying the Halles Centrales, this area is, by night, hard-working and lively. It is here that there are the greatest number of restaurants and cafés frequented by the workers of Les Halles. [...]

The third area, which is in the west (between the Rue du Louvre and the Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs), is calm by day and by night. An extreme order reigns there, and the activity, together with the ambiance, of Les Halles goes on diminishing from east to west, before petering out in front of the Banque de France and the Place de Valois. This bordering territory already announces the rich quarters which are to be found nearby (Palais-Royal, l'Opera). Almost everything encourages the idea that one is in some residential quarter rather than in a part of Les Halles. However, passages like the Galerie Véro-Dodat or the Cour des Fermes reveal this mobile ambiance, and confer a bizarre and nebulous character to the area. [...]

The Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs forms a line tangential to the unity of ambiance of Les Halles. Its interest resides in the possibilities of contact that it furthers, above all when it passes alongside the turntable of the Place-Deux-Écus and the Rue de Viarme. As for the Place des Victoires, onto which it gives in the north, this is a frontier foreign to Les Halles and manages not to accede to them. The Place des Victoires is a bastion defending the bourgeois quarters (the class struggle freighted in town planning also informs, it must be said, the overbearing Palais de Justice in Brussels, right on the edge of the poorest quarters).

With the fourth area, which constitutes the northern flank of Les Halles, we arrive at the most extensive, and above all most-celebrated, part of this vast urban complex. Let us trace its limits. To begin with, the Rue Rambuteau, prolonged west of the Église Saint-Eustache by the Rue Coquillère, constitutes in principle frontage (the opposite side of this thoroughfare being none other than the alignment of pavilions of the Halles Centrales). The eastern frontier follows the Rue Pierre-Lescot then slides up the Rue Turbigo to reach the Rue Saint-Denis. To the west the area comes to a halt in the Rues Hérold and d'Argout. In the northern part, beyond the Rue Étienne Marcel, one discovers a territorial border where the influence of Les Halles, which gets progressively weaker the further one progresses towards the north, is exerted along various secondary routes, generally oriented south-west to north-east, such as the Rues Rousseau and Tiquetonne, the Rue du Jour continued in the passage de la Reine de Hongrie, the Rues Mauconseil and Française. The area includes both a particularly miserable residential part and those renowned restaurants which form the pole of attraction for the rich tourism of Les Halles; an intense activity in food retailing and an important administrative center (Hôtel des Postes, the Centre de l'E.D.F., on the Rue Mauconeil, many schools). These elements entail a considerable difference between the diurnal and nocturnal ambiance. At night it is in this area that almost all the different entertainments of Les Halles are concentrated, in the traditional, bourgeois sense of this term. [...]


Plan #2: Les Halles Internal Currents and External Communications

The zone of central interference, the turntable of the different ambient directions of Les Halles is, as we have pointed out, the Bourse du Commerce-Place des Deux-Écus complex. This area is found at the western extremity of the block constituted by the juxtaposition of the large pavilions of the Halles Centrales. But since these edifices do not act as a link, but on the contrary as a break, the Rue Carême which traverses them longitudinally does not participate in this relation.

The different directions which intersect at this turntable strongly affect the path any individual or group will, with apparent spontaneity, follow inside as well as outside Les Halles.

According to the theory of concentric urban zones, Les Halles belongs to the transitional zone of Paris (social deterioration, acculturation and the intermixing of population making the environment propitious to cultural exchanges). One knows that in the case of Paris this concentric division is complicated by an east-west opposition between the predominantly popular and bourgeois quarters, business or residential. South of the Seine the line of rupture is formed by the Boulevard Saint-Michel. North of the Seine it deviates slightly towards the west and then passes along the Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs, the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires and their prolongations. It is at the western limit of Les Halles that the Ministère des Finances, the Bourse and the Bourse du Commerce form the three points of a triangle whose center is occupied by the Banque de France. The institutions concentrated in this restricted space turn it, practically and symbolically, into the defensive perimeter of capitalism's smartest neighborhoods. The projected displacement of Les Halles to the outskirts of the city will entail a new blow to popular Paris, which has for a century now been constantly exiled, as we know, to the suburbs.

As opposed to this, any solution aimed at creating a new society requires that this space at the center of Paris be preserved for the manifestations of a liberated collective life. One must profit from the blow to practical-alimentary activity and must encourage large-scale development of those tendencies towards constructional play and mobile urbanism which have emerged 'in the icy water of egotistical calculation.' The first step, architecturally, would obviously be to replace the current pavilions with an autonomous series of small Situationist architectural complexes. Among these new architectures and on their peripheries, corresponding to the four zones we have envisaged here, ought to be built perpetually changing labyrinths, and this with the aid of more adequate objects than the fruit and vegetable panniers which make up the sole barricades of tod.
Given the brutalizing effect maintained by today's radio, television, cinema and the rest, the extension of leisure under another regime will call for a much doughtier response. Should the Paris Halles have survived until such time as these problems will be posed by everyone, it would be fitting to try to turn them into a theme park for the ludic education of workers.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This study is incomplete on several fundamental points, principally those concerning the ambiant characteristics of certain barely defined zones. This is because our collaborator was subject to police harrassment in light of the fact that since September, North Africans have been banned from the streets after half past nine in the evening. And of course, the bulk of Abdelhafid Khatib's work concerned the Halles at night. After being arrested twice and spending two nights in a holding cell, he relinquished his efforts. Therefore the present — the political future, no less — may be abstracted due to considerations carried out on psychogeography itself.

Translated by Paul Hammond. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/leshalles.html

Questionnaire on the Psychogeography of Les Halles - Abdelhafid Khatib

A photographi of a market, a child looks at the camera

Internationale SItuationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 12, 2022
  1. Do you have any theoretical knowledge of human ecology? Of psychogeography? Which?
  2. Have you conducted one or more dérive experiments? What did you think?
  3. What exactly is your experience of the Les Halles district (short visits, regular frequenting, ongoing habitation)?
  4. Do you agree with the limits of this unity of ambiance as they are proposed in our plan? What adjustments would you see fit to make to it?
  5. Does the division of Les Halles into distinct zones conform to your experience of the terrain? What other potential divisions would you judge to be closer to reality?
  6. Do you believe in the existence of psychogeographical hubs in the urban environment in general? Particularly in Les Halles? If this is case, where would you locate them?
  7. Could you recognize a center in the unity of ambiance studied? At what point?
  8. How do you enter Les Halles? How do you leave it? (Draw the axes of your main progression, excluding all usage of mechanized transport).
  9. What route do you follow within Les Halles?
  10. What emotions does Les Halles provoke (sector by sector)? Why?
  11. What changes in ambience do you notice during that time?
  12. What sort of encounters have you had in Les Halles? And elsewhere?
  13. What changes to the architecture of Les Halles seem desirable to you? In what area, and in what direction, would you like to see an extension of this unity of ambiance? Or, conversely, a destruction?
  14. If the economic activity of Les Halles is moved elsewhere, to what should the area be devoted next?
  15. Do you feel that you have what it takes to be a psychogeographer?
  16. If you are not a situationist, briefly explain what's stopping you from becoming one?

Address your responses to A.Khatib, 32 Rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris-5e.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/halles.html

Theory of the Dérive - Guy Debord

Debord on drifting, psychogeography etc.

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

Author
Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive1 , a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science -- despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself -- provides psychogeography with abundant data.

The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction, must be utilized and completed by psychogeographical methods. The objective passional terrain of the dérive must be defined in accordance both with its own logic and with its relations with social morphology.

In his study Paris et l'agglomération parisienne (Bibliothèque de Sociologie Contemporaine, P.U.F., 1952) Chombart de Lauwe notes that "an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it." In the same work, in order to illustrate "the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives . . . within a geographical area whose radius is extremely small," he diagrams all the movements made in the space of one year by a student living in the 16th Arrondissement. Her itinerary forms a small triangle with no significant deviations, the three apexes of which are the School of Political Sciences, her residence and that of her piano teacher.

Such data -- examples of a modern poetry capable of provoking sharp emotional reactions (in this particular case, outrage at the fact that anyone's life can be so pathetically limited) -- or even Burgess's theory of Chicago's social activities as being distributed in distinct concentric zones, will undoubtedly prove useful in developing dérives.

If chance plays an important role in dérives this is because the methodology of psychogeographical observation is still in its infancy. But the action of chance is naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants. Progress means breaking through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions more favorable to our purposes. We can say, then, that the randomness of a dérive is fundamentally different from that of the stroll, but also that the first psychogeographical attractions discovered by dérivers may tend to fixate them around new habitual axes, to which they will constantly be drawn back.

An insufficient awareness of the limitations of chance, and of its inevitably reactionary effects, condemned to a dismal failure the famous aimless wandering attempted in 1923 by four surrealists, beginning from a town chosen by lot: Wandering in open country is naturally depressing, and the interventions of chance are poorer there than anywhere else. But this mindlessness is pushed much further by a certain Pierre Vendryes (in Médium, May 1954), who thinks he can relate this anecdote to various probability experiments, on the ground that they all supposedly involve the same sort of antideterminist liberation. He gives as an example the random distribution of tadpoles in a circular aquarium, adding, significantly, "It is necessary, of course, that such a population be subject to no external guiding influence." From that perspective, the tadpoles could be considered more spontaneously liberated than the surrealists, since they have the advantage of being "as stripped as possible of intelligence, sociability and sexuality," and are thus "truly independent from one another."

At the opposite pole from such imbecilities, the primarily urban character of the dérive, in its element in the great industrially transformed cities -- those centers of possibilities and meanings -- could be expressed in Marx's phrase: "Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive."

One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups' impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions. It is preferable for the composition of these groups to change from one dérive to another. With more than four or five participants, the specifically dérive character rapidly diminishes, and in any case it is impossible for there to be more than ten or twelve people without the dérive fragmenting into several simultaneous dérives. The practice of such subdivision is in fact of great interest, but the difficulties it entails have so far prevented it from being organized on a sufficient scale.

The average duration of a dérive is one day, considered as the time between two periods of sleep. The starting and ending times have no necessary relation to the solar day, but it should be noted that the last hours of the night are generally unsuitable for dérives.

But this duration is merely a statistical average. For one thing, a dérive rarely occurs in its pure form: it is difficult for the participants to avoid setting aside an hour or two at the beginning or end of the day for taking care of banal tasks; and toward the end of the day fatigue tends to encourage such an abandonment. But more importantly, a dérive often takes place within a deliberately limited period of a few hours, or even fortuitously during fairly brief moments; or it may last for several days without interruption. In spite of the cessations imposed by the need for sleep, certain dérives of a sufficient intensity have been sustained for three or four days, or even longer. It is true that in the case of a series of dérives over a rather long period of time it is almost impossible to determine precisely when the state of mind peculiar to one dérive gives way to that of another. One sequence of dérives was pursued without notable interruption for around two months. Such an experience gives rise to new objective conditions of behavior that bring about the disappearance of a good number of the old ones.2

The influence of weather on dérives, although real, is a significant factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible. But storms or other types of precipitation are rather favorable for dérives.

The spatial field of a dérive may be precisely delimited or vague, depending on whether the goal is to study a terrain or to emotionally disorient oneself. It should not be forgotten that these two aspects of dérives overlap in so many ways that it is impossible to isolate one of them in a pure state. But the use of taxis, for example, can provide a clear enough dividing line: If in the course of a dérive one takes a taxi, either to get to a specific destination or simply to move, say, twenty minutes to the west, one is concerned primarily with a personal trip outside one's usual surroundings. If, on the other hand, one sticks to the direct exploration of a particular terrain, one is concentrating primarily on research for a psychogeographical urbanism.

In every case the spatial field depends first of all on the point of departure -- the residence of the solo dériver or the meeting place selected by a group. The maximum area of this spatial field does not extend beyond the entirety of a large city and its suburbs. At its minimum it can be limited to a small self-contained ambiance: a single neighborhood or even a single block of houses if it's interesting enough (the extreme case being a static-dérive of an entire day within the Saint-Lazare train station).

The exploration of a fixed spatial field entails establishing bases and calculating directions of penetration. It is here that the study of maps comes in -- ordinary ones as well as ecological and psychogeographical ones -- along with their correction and improvement. It should go without saying that we are not at all interested in any mere exoticism that may arise from the fact that one is exploring a neighborhood for the first time. Besides its unimportance, this aspect of the problem is completely subjective and soon fades away.

In the "possible rendezvous," on the other hand, the element of exploration is minimal in comparison with that of behavioral disorientation. The subject is invited to come alone to a certain place at a specified time. He is freed from the bothersome obligations of the ordinary rendezvous since there is no one to wait for. But since this "possible rendezvous" has brought him without warning to a place he may or may not know, he observes the surroundings. It may be that the same spot has been specified for a "possible rendezvous" for someone else whose identity he has no way of knowing. Since he may never even have seen the other person before, he will be encouraged to start up conversations with various passersby. He may meet no one, or he may even by chance meet the person who has arranged the "possible rendezvous." In any case, particularly if the time and place have been well chosen, his use of time will take an unexpected turn. He may even telephone someone else who doesn't know where the first "possible rendezvous" has taken him, in order to ask for another one to be specified. One can see the virtually unlimited resources of this pastime.

Our loose lifestyle and even certain amusements considered dubious that have always been enjoyed among our entourage -- slipping by night into houses undergoing demolition, hitchhiking nonstop and without destination through Paris during a transportation strike in the name of adding to the confusion, wandering in subterranean catacombs forbidden to the public, etc. -- are expressions of a more general sensibility which is no different from that of the dérive. Written descriptions can be no more than passwords to this great game.

The lessons drawn from dérives enable us to draw up the first surveys of the psychogeographical articulations of a modern city. Beyond the discovery of unities of ambiance, of their main components and their spatial localization, one comes to perceive their principal axes of passage, their exits and their defenses. One arrives at the central hypothesis of the existence of psychogeographical pivotal points. One measures the distances that actually separate two regions of a city, distances that may have little relation with the physical distance between them. With the aid of old maps, aerial photographs and experimental dérives, one can draw up hitherto lacking maps of influences, maps whose inevitable imprecision at this early stage is no worse than that of the first navigational charts. The only difference is that it is no longer a matter of precisely delineating stable continents, but of changing architecture and urbanism.

Today the different unities of atmosphere and of dwellings are not precisely marked off, but are surrounded by more or less extended and indistinct bordering regions. The most general change that dérive experience leads to proposing is the constant diminution of these border regions, up to the point of their complete suppression.

Within architecture itself, the taste for dériving tends to promote all sorts of new forms of labyrinths made possible by modern techniques of construction. Thus in March 1955 the press reported the construction in New York of a building in which one can see the first signs of an opportunity to dérive inside an apartment:

"The apartments of the helicoidal building will be shaped like slices of cake. One will be able to enlarge or reduce them by shifting movable partitions. The half-floor gradations avoid limiting the number of rooms, since the tenant can request the use of the adjacent section on either upper or lower levels. With this setup three four-room apartments can be transformed into one twelve-room apartment in less than six hours."

(To be continued.)

GUY DEBORD (1958)

“Théorie de la dérive” was published in Internationale Situationniste #2 (Paris, December 1958). A slightly different version was first published in the Belgian surrealist journal Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956) along with accounts of two dérives.

  • 1dérive: literally “drift” or “drifting.” Like détournement, this term has usually been anglicized as both a noun and a verb.
  • 2"The dérive (with its flow of acts, its gestures, its strolls, its encounters) was to the totality exactly what psychoanalysis (in the best sense) is to language. Let yourself go with the flow of words, says the psychoanalyst. He listens, until the moment when he rejects or modifies (one could say detourns) a word, an expression or a definition. The dérive is certainly a technique, almost a therapeutic one. But just as analysis unaccompanied with anything else is almost always contraindicated, so continual dériving is dangerous to the extent that the individual, having gone too far (not without bases, but...) without defenses, is threatened with explosion, dissolution, dissociation, disintegration. And thence the relapse into what is termed 'ordinary life,' that is to say, in reality, into 'petrified life.' In this regard I now repudiate the Formulary's propaganda for a continuous dérive. It could be continual like the poker game in Las Vegas, but only for a certain period, limited to a weekend for some people, to a week as a good average; a month is really pushing it. In 1953-1954 we dérived for three or four months straight. That's the extreme limit. It's a miracle it didn't kill us." (Ivan Chtcheglov, "Letter from Afar," Internationale Situationniste #9, p. 38.)

On Our Means and Our Perspectives - Constant

A 1958 sculpture by Constant. A black wire sprial / spiders web effect.

Constant Nieuwenhuys critiques some texts by Asger Jorn on art and machines. From Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on December 13, 2022

The following three documents are the notes of a debate begun by Constant in the SI in September. The second text sets out, in response, the position of the editorial committee of this review, following a discussion with Asger Jorn.

1

Re-reading Jorn's writings ("Against Functionalism," "Structure and Change," etc.), it's obvious to me that some of the ideas expressed therein must be attacked directly. To me, these ideas as well as his pictorial activity seem indefensible vis-à-vis the conception of what unitary urbanism can become. As for the history of modern art, Jorn underestimates the positive importance of Dadaism and overestimates the role of the romantics (Klee) played in the first Bauhaus. His attitude towards industrial culture is naive, and according to him imagination is the prerogative of the isolated individual.

I have as little taste for individual primitivism in painting as for so-called cold abstraction in architecture, even though one likes to stress an antagonism between these two tendencies that is both false and artificial.
Industrial and machine culture is an indisputable fact and artisanal techniques, including the painting of both tendencies (the idea of a 'free' art is an error), are finished.

The machine is an indispensable model for all of us, even artists, and industry is the sole means of providing today for the needs, even aesthetic ones, of humanity on a worldwide scale.

These are no longer 'problems' for artists, this is a reality they cannot afford to ignore.

Those who scorn the machine and those who glorify it display the same inability to utilize it.

Machine work and mass production offer unheard-of possibilities for creation, and those who know how to put these possibilities at the service of an audacious imagination will be the creators of tomorrow.

The artist's task is to invent new techniques and to utilize light, sound, movement, and any invention whatsoever that might influence ambiance.

Without this, the integration of art in the construction of the human habitat remains as chimerical as the proposals of Gilles Ivain 1 .

Ten years separate us from COBRA and the subsequent history of so-called experimental art shows us its errors.

I drew the inference from this six years ago in abandoning painting and launching myself into more effective experimentation, and this in relation to the idea of a unitary habitat.

I believe discussion should go in this direction, which seems decisive to me for the development of the SI.

2

No painting is defensible from the Situationist point of view. This kind of problem no longer poses itself, i.e., applicable to a particular construction. We must look beyond divisive expressions, beyond, even, the whole spectacle (as complex as the latter may become).

Only being able to proceed from the reality of present culture, we obviously run the risk of confusion, compromise and failure. If current artistic practice managed to impose certain of its values on the SI, then the authentic cultural experiments of our time would be undertaken elsewhere.

All art that seeks to cling to a bygone artisanal freedom is lost in advance. (Jorn has underlined somewhere this reactionary aspect of the Bauhaus.) A free art of the future is an art that would master and use all the new conditioning techniques. Beyond this perspective, there is only enslavement to the past, kept alive artificially, and commerce.

We are all, it seems, in agreement on the positive role of industry. It is the material development of the epoch that has created both the general crisis of culture and the possibility of its overthrow in a unitary construction of everyday life.

We approve of the formula: 'those who scorn the machine and those who glorify it display the same inability to utilize it.' But we would add: 'and to transform it.' Account must be taken of the dialectical relation. The construction of ambiances is not only the application to everyday existence of an artistic standard permitted by technical progress. It is also a qualitative changing of life, susceptible to producing a permanent reconversion of technical means.

Gilles Ivain's proposals are not opposed on any point to these considerations on modern industrial production. On the contrary, they are built upon this historical base. If they are chimerical it is to the extent that, concretely, we do not have at our disposal the technical means of today (or put another way, to the extent that no form of social organization is yet capable of making 'artistic' experimental use of these means); not because these means do not exist or that we are unaware of them. In this sense, we believe in the revolutionary value of such monetarily utopian demands.

The failure of the COBRA movement, as well as the posthumous favour it has found among a certain public, can be explained by the term 'so-called experimental art.' COBRA believed that it sufficed to have good intentions, the slogan of experimental art. But in fact it is the moment when such slogans are coined that the difficulties begin: what can be the experimental art of our time be, and how is it made?

The most effective experiments will lead in the direction of a unitary habitat, not isolated and static, but linked to transitory unities of behavior.

Delegates from the groups that would make up the SI meeting at the Alba Congress

No matter how much they scribble, praise one another, wax enthusiastic, enlist women and fops to their cause, they will never be anything but insolent mediocrities.

Fréron (Letter to Malesherbes, regarding the Encyclopedists)

3

The culminating point in our discussion seems to me to rest on the use being proposed for present culture.

For my part, I consider that the shocking character called for by the construction of ambiances excludes traditional arts like painting and literature, which are threadbare and incapable of any revelation. These arts, which are linked to a mystical and individualist attitude, are useless to us.

We must, then, invent new techniques in every domain, visual, oral, psychological, in order to unite them later in the complex activity unitary urbanism will engender.

The idea of replacing the traditional arts by a larger and freer activity has marked all the artistic movements of this century. Since Duchamp's 'readymades' (beginning in 1913), a succession of gratuitous objects, whose creation was directly linked to an experimental attitude, has intersected the history of artistic schools. Dada, Surrealism, de Stijl, Constructivism, COBRA, the Lettrist International -- all have searched for techniques that go beyond the artwork. Over and above the apparent opposition of the diverse movements of this century, it is that which they have in common. And that is the true development of present culture, suffocated by the noise of pseudo-successes in the domains of painting and literature, which drag out their agony down to our own day.

The history of modern art has been falsified to an incredible degree, out of commercial interest. We can no longer be tolerant. As for present culture, even if we must reject it in its entirety, one must distinguish strictly between the true and the false, between what is usable for the moment, and what is compromising.

I believe that purely formal researches, if they are appropriated and transformed to our own ends, are highly usable.

Let us leave to the official gravediggers the sad task of burying the corpses of pictorial and literary expression. The devalorization of what no longer serves us is not our affair; let others take care of it.

Translated by Paul Hammond. From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/means.html

News of the International

A painting produced on a roll of canvas by a machine.

Updates from Internationale Situationniste #2: "machine-painting" and art vandalism in Italy, Asger Jorn refused entry to America, The Amsterdam Declaration by Debord and Constant.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 13, 2022

Activity of the Italian Section

NOTICE

This translation is a first draft, and has not been independently proofread. However, to the best of my knowledge this text has never been translated into English. Therefore I am making it available in this form with the caveat that there are likely to be mistakes in it. PLEASE APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION!

An exhibition showing the the first rolls of industrial painting produced by Pinot Gallizio, (with the assistance of Giors Melanotte in our Experimental Laboratory in Alba) opened at a Turin gallery on May 30 last year. This exhibition, which almost immediately moved to Milan (July 8), marks in our eyes a decisive turning point in the movement to overcome the old forms of art, and at the same time signals the beginning of their transformation with new vigour. As the slogan of our Italian comrades goes: “Against art-for-art’s-sake, against applied art – the application of art in the construction of ambiances”

In a text published in Turin and subsequently reissued in Milan, Michèle Bernstein presents the theoretical justification for this experiment:

“It is difficult to grasp every one of the benefits of this amazing invention at the same time. In no particular order: no more problems with size – the canvas is cut before the eyes of the satisfied buyer; no more poor periods – the outcomes of industrial painting, due to the mix of chance and mechanical processes, are never ‘uninspired’; no more metaphysical themes – industrial painting does not support them; no more doubtful reproductions of eternal masterpieces; no more gallery openings. And of course, soon, no more painters, even in Italy …

“The progressive domination of nature is the history of the overcoming of certain problems, moved from ‘artistic’ practice – casual, unique – into mass distribution in the public domain, ultimately resulting in the loss of all economic value.

“Faced with such a process, the reaction is always to give currency to old problems: the real Henry II buffet vs. the fake Henry II buffet, the forged canvas that is not signed, the excess numbers of a limited edition of something or other by Salvador Dali, the primacy of the hand-made. Revolutionary creation attempts to define and disseminate new problems and new constructs, and they alone have any value.

“When faced with the profitable tom-foolery which has continuously propagated itself over the last twenty years – the industrialisation of painting appears to be a technical innovation which must be implemented without any further delay. The greatness of Gallizio is that he has boldly pursued his tireless research, and has reached the point where nothing is left of the old pictorial world. No-one can be unaware that the previous steps in trying to overcome and destroy the pictorial object – whether abstraction pushed to its limits (the way opened by Malevich), or painting deliberately subjected to extra-artistic concerns (eg the work of Magritte) – haven’t been able, after all these decades, to leave the current repetitive state of artistic negation, all within the framework imposed by pictorial means themselves: a negation of “the interior”.

“Posing the problem in this way, however, will always result in endless repetitive activity, which cannot provide any of the elements of a solution. Meanwhile, all around us, the world keeps on changing before our eyes.

"At the stage we have now reached, that of experimenting with new collective constructions and new syntheses, there is no time to fight the values of the old world ​​with a neo-Dadaist refusal. It necessitates the unleashing of inflation everywhere – as these values ​​are ideological, artistic, even financial. Gallizio is at the forefront."

In his contribution, Asger Jorn declared at the end of the exhibition:

“It would be wrong to imagine that the industrial painting of Pinot Gallizio can be placed amongst the efforts of Industrial Design. There is no model to reproduce, instead it is the realisation of a unique creation, perfectly useless except in Situationist experiments with ambiances – it is painting to buy ‘by the yard’.

“Social success is measured by the appreciation of effort. It is obvious that this type of assessment is in direct conflict with Gallizio’s intention of devaluing painting.”

Commenting on the unexpected commercial success of industrial painting (“No one came to buy a piece of painting at an economical price, rather the production was sold in entire rolls to collectors who are amongst the most intelligent in Europe and America…”), Jorn emphasised that we should take into account this unexpected, additional economic experience. It is, in fact, the first defensive reaction of the art market which, hesitating to declare that this painting was not part of the real art world, has preferred at this point to simply integrate it into its own values, treating each roll as if it was a single huge painting, subject to the usual criteria of taste and talent.

The Situationists responsible for “Operation Industrial Painting” are now trying to counter this risk by two measures: increasing the price (quickly raised from 10,000 to 40,000 lire-per-meter at the end of August), and the production of longer individual rolls (until June the longest did not reach 70 meters). The use we can make of industrial painting depends, in the immediate present, on the opportunity for implementing a radical break with the presentation of art in galleries, and also in the development of work processes – which must get beyond the artisanal stage, to reach truly industrial efficiency.

On this technical question Giors Melanotte and Glauco Wuerich have completed a well-documented study which emphasises the following:

“It is especially important to answer the questions that arise around the term ‘industrial’. With this word we do not want to link artistic production to the criteria of industrial production (working time, cost of manufacture), or to the intrinsic qualities of the machine, rather we are establishing a quantitative idea of ​​production.

“Lack of space was one of the biggest difficulties we encountered during the execution of the first examples of industrial painting. In a suitable installation for this type of production, it is necessary to have ample premises, very large in the sense of a lot of air and light. For us, without an adequate space, it was necessary to use gas masks to avoid the harmful effects of the solvents’ fumes…

The main difficulty to get over in order to achieve a sufficient quantity of production is actually to get hold of paint that is fast drying.. This is what will give character to industrial painting, it will work well with it. ”

Just as they presented industrial painting to an astounded public and the stupid commentary of the newspapers (who were especially struck by the presence of two cover-girls dressed in industrial-paintings at the opening in Turin), the Italian Situationists found themselves driven to act on another front.

At the end of June, a young Milanese painter, Nunzio Van Guglielmi (who is otherwise completely insignificant), slightly damaged a painting by Raphael (“The Coronation of the Virgin”) in an attempt to attract attention to himself. On the protective glass of the painting he placed a sticker with a handwritten sign reading: “Long live the Italian Revolution! Down with the Clerical Government!” Arrested on the spot, he was immediately (without any possibility of contestation and for that act alone) declared insane and interned in an asylum in Milan.

The Italian section of the Situationist International issued a protest in the tract “Difendete la Libertà Ovunque”, published July 4 by themselves, having had several Italian printers prudently refuse to publish it.

“We certify”, said the leaflet, “that the content of the placard affixed to Raphael’s painting by Guglielmi… expresses the opinion of a large number of Italians, ourselves included.

“We would like to draw attention to the fact that it would be a crime against veritable psychiatric science to interpret this act of hostility towards the Church and the dead cultural values of the museum, with the help of the psychiatric police, as a sufficient proof of madness.

“We emphasise the peril that such a precedent poses to all free men and all cultural and artistic development to come.

“Freedom lies in the destruction of idols.

“Our appeal is addressed to all the artists and intellectuals of Italy, for whom the liberation of Nunzio Van Guglielmi from life-long internment is an immediate question. Guglielmi can only be condemned in terms of the law that foresees the alienation of public goods.”

In a second tract, “Help Van Guglielmi!”, published in French on July 7, Asger Jorn, on behalf of the SI, supported the action undertaken:

“The rationale of Guglielmi lies at the heart of modern art, from Futurism to the present day. No judge, no psychiatrist, no museum director is able to prove otherwise without falsification …”

“The photo of the Raphael which was sent to the world’s press is an official falsification. So little real damage was done to the canvas that it could not possibly be seen when reproduced in a newspaper. The lines which can be seen in the photo, which seem to indicate a massive destruction of the canvas, are actually only the broken glass in front of the picture. In the photo these lines have even been artificially enhanced with black and white to make the incident seem more serious. And somehow the text of the manifesto pasted on the glass has become, through a strange process, totally illegible in the Italian newspapers.”

That very same day was the Milan exhibition’s opening. Our Italian section, reinforced by other situationists who were in Italy (Maurice Wyckaert, of the Belgian section, Jorn), distributed the leaflets in Milan amidst general hostility. A magazine went as far as to publish a reproduction of the Raphael to be compared to a reproduction of a painting by the fools who wanted to destroy it. However on July 19, to the amazement of all, Guglielmi was declared perfectly sane by the director of the asylum in Milan, and released.

The conclusion of this incident is very instructive: Guglielmi (who was fearful) agreed, in order to obtain his pardon, to be photographed kneeling and praying before the Virgin by Raphael – at the same time worshiping both the art and the religion he had previously abused. And the wholly justified position of the Italian section in this affair, from beginning to end perfectly rational, nevertheless helped increase its isolation from the intellectual rabble of Italy – whose nauseating elements (such as the merchant Pistoi, director of the magazine Notizie), after having the fraudulence to turn against the Situationists, had clearly revealed where they had their true camp: with Michel Tapie, that export of French neo-fascism that the priests cannot forget.

From Internationale Situationniste no. 2, December 1958 (pp. 27-30). Translated by Ian Thompson (July 2013), except for quote from ‘Difendete la Libertà Ovunque’ translated by NOT BORED! From here: https://isinenglish.com/2013/07/13/activity-of-the-italian-section/

The Situationists in America

While in London in October, Jorn requested a visa from the U.S. embassy so that he could travel through New York on his way to Mexico. In the past, he had received several invitations from American cultural organisations. However when Jorn was required to swear that he had never been a member of the Communist Party or any related organisation, and that he had never been jailed for any crime, he obviously refused with indignation. With his entry to the United States forbidden, Jorn wrote to the Carnegie Foundation in Pittsburgh, forbidding any official showcase of his artistic work in America – as its creator is considered “undesirable” in that country.

Before leaving France, Jorn had (in his letter of 20 September to the Danish newspaper Politiken) exposed another form of hypocrisy which, posing as mindless praise, aims at the falsification of the recent history of the experimental avant-garde, and his own role in it:

“On September 10, Politiken published an article entitled ‘The Great Asger’. Let me correct certain mistakes. My encounter with Dotremont at the Silkeborg sanatorium in 1951 did not mark the beginning of Cobra (the Internationale of Experimental Artists), nor of our personal friendship. On the contrary, this period actually constitutes an end on two levels: first, the financial failure of of the Cobra experiment had driven each of us to physical exhaustion; further, the deep ideological differences that arose between Cobra’s various members had already led to the definitive end of their collaboration …

“The Cobra movement (which was strongly supported by artistic authorities in Holland and Belgium, but had never received recognition in Denmark) chose to dissolve itself in 1951 (see the notice in issue 10 of the journal Cobra).

"Between 1953 and 1957, I was involved with the Imaginist Bauhaus, primarily in Italy, France and Great Britain. As the movement’s experimentalist posture opposed any practical teaching of the arts, I could not have run the school of ceramics that you refer to.

“My recent book, “Pour la Forme” summarizes the theoretical work I undertook during this time, having moved beyond Cobra’s orientation. This period itself has ended … I am now involved with the research activities of the Situationist International, and I like to hope that such activities will be understood in my own country more quickly and more accurately than the earlier phases of my involvement with modern art. ”

Politiken’s editor replied a few days later with embarrassment, claiming to apologize by suggesting that the incriminating article, written by Dotremont, had suffered from cuts. This response had the audacity to suggest that Dotremont might have honestly believed to be a greater friend of ours than he in fact was, and, giving his current address, scandalously suggested making direct contact with him to clear up the misunderstanding. Meanwhile Politiken deemed it less than appropriate to publish the corrections, which amounted to less than a tenth of the confusionist article. The SI, in a letter signed by Khatib, clearly broke from the dishonest attempt at dialogue:

“Mr. Editor, the part played by the systematic false-witness of Christian Dotremont is in no way diminished because the editor of Politiken carried out various cuts in the assistance of his counter-truths.

“We maintain no ties with Dotremont, who knows perfectly the contempt in which we hold him.

"On the other hand, if Politiken, which took it upon itself to release such a text, now refuses to publish the corrections it requires, we will publish these elsewhere – including, obviously, in the next issue of our journal – making note of how right of reply is treated in your newspaper.”

Translated by Ian Thompson, October 2014. Proofread and Edited by Mehdi el H. From: https://isinenglish.com/2-12-the-situationists-in-america/

The Amsterdam Declaration - Constant & Guy Debord

Amsterdam, 10 November 1958 reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

  1. The Situationists must take every opportunity to oppose retrograde forces and ideologies, in culture and wherever the question of the meaning of life arises.
  2. Nobody shall consider their membership in the SI as a simple agreement of principle; the essential activity of all participants must relate to perspectives elaborated in common, to the necessity of disciplined action, in the practical as well as the public sphere.
  3. The possibility of unitary and collective creativity is already announced in the decomposition of the individual arts. The SI cannot justify any attempt to renovate them.
  4. The SI's minimum program is the development of complete environments, which must extend to a unitary urbanism, and research into new modes of behavior in relation to these environments.
  5. Unitary urbanism is defined as the complex, ongoing activity that consciously recreates man's environment according to the most advanced conceptions in every domain.
  6. The solution to problems of housing, traffic, and recreation can only be envisaged in relation to social, psychological and artistic perspectives that are combined in one synthetic hypothesis at the level of daily life.
  7. Unitary urbanism, independently of all aesthetic considerations, is the fruit of a new type of collective creativity; the development of this spirit of creation is the prior condition of unitary urbanism.
  8. The creation of ambiances favorable to this development is the immediate task of today's creators.
  9. All means are usable, on condition that they serve in a unitary action. The coordination of artistic and scientific means must lead to their total fusion.
  10. The construction of a situation is the edification of a transient micro-ambiance and of the play of events for a unique moment in the lives of several persons. Within unitary urbanism, it is inseparable from the construction of a general, relatively more lasting ambiance.
  11. A constructed situation is a means for unitary urbanism, just as unitary urbanism is the indispensable basis for the construction of situations, in both play and seriousness, in a freer society.

Translated by Paul Hammond. From: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/amsterdam.html

Supreme Height of the Defenders of Surrealism in Paris and the Revelation of their Real Value

An account of a confrontation between surrealists and situationists from Internationale Situationniste #2, December 1958.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 14, 2022

The question, "Is surrealism dead or alive?" was chosen for a theme of debate by the [journal] Open Circle on 18 November [1958]. The session was presided over by Noel Arnaud. Invited to represent themselves in the debate, the situationists accepted after having demanded and obtained the official invitation of a representative of surrealist orthodoxy to speak to this tribune. The surrealists took good care to not take the risk of a public discussion, but announced that they would sabotage the meeting, because they wrongly believe that the subject was their specialty.

On the evening of the debate, Henri Lefebvre was sick unfortunately. Arnaud and [Guy] Debord were present. But the three other participants announced on the posters slipped away at the last minute so as to not confront the frightful surrealists (Amadou[1] and [Jacques] Sternberg under poor pretexts, [Tristan] Tzara without any explanation).

From the first words of Noel Arnaud, more than 15 surrealists and auxilliaries, timidly concentrated at the back of the hall, tried their skill at indignant howling and were ridiculed. One discovered that the surrealists of the New Wave, burning to enter into the career in which their elders are no longer present, have a great lack of practical experience in "scandal," their sect having never been constrained to go to these extremes in the last 10 years. The trainer of these conscripts, the pitiful [Jean] Schuster -- the director of Medium, the editor-in-chief of Surrealism Even, and the co-director of 14 July, who has shown a hundred times that he does not know how to think, that he does not know how to write, that he does not know how to speak -- this time proved that he does not know how to cry out.

Their assault did not go beyond a disagreement on a single theme: the passionate opposition to the techniques of sound recording. Arnaud's voice, actually, was diffused by a tape recorder,[2] certainly taboo for the surrealist youths who wanted to see the orator speak, since he was present. The remaining surrealists keep a respectful silence for a single moment, during which one read a message from their friend Amadou, full of obscene declarations of mysticism and Christianity, but good and paternal to them.

Then they did their best against Debord, whose intervention was not only tape-recorded, but also accompanied on guitar.[3] Having stupidly summoned Debord to mount the podium, and as he was soon there alone, the 15 surrealists did not think of disputing anything with him, and nobly left, after throwing a symbolic flaming newspaper.

Surrealism [said the tape recorder] is obviously alive. Its creators are still not dead. The new people, more and more mediocre, it is true, claim kinship with it. Surrealism is known to the public as the extreme of modernism and, on the other hand, it has become an object for university studies. It is indeed one of the things that live at the same time that we do, like Catholicism and General de Gaulle.

The real question is thus: what is the role of surrealism today? . . .

From the beginning, there was in surrealism -- comparable in this regard to Romanticism -- an antagonism between the attempt to affirm a new use of life and a reactionary flight beyond the real.

At the beginning, the progressive side of surrealism was present in its demand for total freedom and in several attempts at intervening in everyday life. A supplement to the history of art, surrealism is -- in the field of culture -- like a shadow of the absent person in a painting by de Chirico: it reveals the lack of a necessary future.

The retrograde side of surrealism is easily seen in the over-estimation of the unconscious and its monotonous artistic exploitation; the dualistic idealism that tends to understand history as a simple opposition between the precursors of surrealist irrationality and the tyranny of Greco-Latin logical conceptions; [and] the participation in the bourgeois propaganda that presents love as the only possible adventure in modern conditions of existence. . . .

Surrealism today is perfectly boring and reactionary. . . .

Surrealist dreams correspond to bourgeois powerlessness, to artistic nostalgia, and to the refusal to envision the liberatory use of the superior technical means of our times. The seizure of such means, and the collective and concrete experimentation with new environments and behaviors, correspond to the beginning of a cultural revolution beyond which there is no authentic revolutionary culture.

It is in this line that my comrades in the Situationist International advance. (This last phrase is followed by several minutes of very lively applause, also pre-recorded. Then another voice announces: "You have been listening to Guy Debord, spokesperson for the Situationist International. This intervention was offered to you by the Open Circle." A female voice goes on speaking, to finish in the style of radio advertising: "But don't forget that your most urgent problem remains fighting the dictatorship in France.")

The confusion did not diminish after the departure en masse of the surrealists. One simultaneously heard from [Isidore] Isou and the Ultra-Lettrist Group,[4] re-grouped against him by former disciples who want to purify the initial programme of Isou (but which seems to place itself on the pure aesthetic plane, outside the totalizing intention that characterized the most ambitious phase of the action previously inspired by Isou; none of them had been in the Lettrist International.[5] A single one had been part of the Lettrist movement before 1952.[6]) There was even a representative of a "Popular Surrealist Tendency," who gave out many copies of a short tract finely entitled "Alive? I am still dead," so perfectly unintelligible that it could have been written by Michel Tapie.[7] The majority of these substitute polemics produced the quite comic and slightly touching impression that the gathering was a retrospective of the sessions of the Parisian avant-garde over the last 10 years, minutely reconstructed with their [respective] personnel and arguments. But everyone agreed that the youth of surrealism, its importance, passed away a long time ago.

Unsigned, perhaps written by Guy Debord. Published in Internationale Situationniste #2, December 1958. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator. From: http://www.notbored.org/surrealism.html

[1] We have been unable to identify this person.

[2] Note that this must have been one of the very first uses of tape recorders by avant-garde artists who were not primarily musicians in the field of musique concrete: it wasn't until 1961 that Robert Morris began his experiments with tape recorders; until 1962 that William S. Burroughs began his experiments; 1964 that Brian Eno began his; etc etc.

[3] Flamingo-style. A scratchy recording of a different version of this intervention has been uploaded by Ubu.

[4] This group existed between 1957 and 1961, and included Jean-Louis Brau, Gil J Wolman, Francois Dufrene, and Robert Estivals, among others.

[5] Wolman must not have been present at the event, because he was certainly a member of the Lettrist International.

[6] Jean-Louis Brau.

[7] An art critic and Jesuit.

The Amsterdam Declaration - Constant & Guy Debord

Amsterdam, 10 November 1958
reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)

Submitted by Fozzie on January 4, 2023
  1. The Situationists must take every opportunity to oppose retrograde forces and ideologies, in culture and wherever the question of the meaning of life arises.
  2. Nobody shall consider their membership in the SI as a simple agreement of principle; the essential activity of all participants must relate to perspectives elaborated in common, to the necessity of disciplined action, in the practical as well as the public sphere.
  3. The possibility of unitary and collective creativity is already announced in the decomposition of the individual arts. The SI cannot justify any attempt to renovate them.
  4. The SI's minimum program is the development of complete environments, which must extend to a unitary urbanism, and research into new modes of behavior in relation to these environments.
  5. Unitary urbanism is defined as the complex, ongoing activity that consciously recreates man's environment according to the most advanced conceptions in every domain.
  6. The solution to problems of housing, traffic, and recreation can only be envisaged in relation to social, psychological and artistic perspectives that are combined in one synthetic hypothesis at the level of daily life.
  7. Unitary urbanism, independently of all aesthetic considerations, is the fruit of a new type of collective creativity; the development of this spirit of creation is the prior condition of unitary urbanism.
  8. The creation of ambiances favorable to this development is the immediate task of today's creators.
  9. All means are usable, on condition that they serve in a unitary action. The coordination of artistic and scientific means must lead to their total fusion.
  10. The construction of a situation is the edification of a transient micro-ambiance and of the play of events for a unique moment in the lives of several persons. Within unitary urbanism, it is inseparable from the construction of a general, relatively more lasting ambiance.
  11. A constructed situation is a means for unitary urbanism, just as unitary urbanism is the indispensable basis for the construction of situations, in both play and seriousness, in a freer society.

Translated by Paul Hammond. Text from: https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/amsterdam.html