2.12 The Situationists in America


Translated by Ian Thompson, October 2014. Proofread and Edited by Mehdi el H.

  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.”