This translation is a first draft, and has not been independently proofread. However, to the best of my knowledge this text has never been translated into English. Therefore I am making it available in this form with the caveat that there are likely to be mistakes in it. PLEASE APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION!
Draft 0.2 (revised 5 August 2013)
Translated comic included.
THE COMMON VIEW ON THE SI, THIS YEAR
“The members of the Munich group (“Spur”) follow the current of the Situationist International (leader: A. Jorn) … While Courageous in words, their progress is slowed, handicapped by their cumbersome mentality. Desires; ability : what a contrast! ”
Vernissage, October 1960.
“But what do these young Samsons intend to take the place of the corrupt order they wish to tear down? Here they look to the Situationists, a movement to which they belong. They cite the manifesto of May 17, 1960 … This is evidently some form of international group, which held a Congress (naturally an international one) in 1959. So, what is it?
“Artists,” the manifesto says, “have been completely separated from society, just as they are separated from each other by competition.” Well said! And here, our Situationists have discovered the origin of the greatest ills. In it’s place, Guy Debord and his friends imagine the creation of a “situationist culture,” which would require a “general participation” of everyone. In place of preserved objects, art would be “in community with the directly lived moment” – a universal and anonymous creation. This would imply, we suspect, “a revolution of behaviour” … There are actually many signs of growing dissatisfaction, a “crisis of culture”.
But the goals of these rebels are not so different from those of others. Before declaring the monochrome to be an unproductive polemic – are they not themselves polemicists? – the partisans of “Spur” should study the theatre of Gelsenkirchen, and the manifestos of Yves Klein. The “gouvernement de la sensibilité” is not as far away as they think from their own “situationist culture.” Only it was devised with much more precision. ”
John Anthony Thwaites, “Furious Pioneers”
(Deutsche Zeitung, 23-9-60).
“To break the impasse, this young group sees only one alternative: to renounce painting as an individualist art in favour of it’s use in a new “situationist” setting. What a monstrous word! Such manifestos are interesting as symptoms of anxiety and discomfort, they can also contain elements of the truth, but the authors are so attached to their ideas and slogans that the truth escapes them. ”
(Die Kultur, October 1960).
“In addition to the achievements of their “critical” aesthetic, the protagonists of this movement have considered in their theory a third horizon, in which painting seeks to transcend itself – where it acknowledges that it is outdated and and should be replaced by a universal, more concrete art. Doesn’t the development of technology, in effect, create new structural possibilities, not simply imaged, but practically realisable in the form of new situations? Their direct relationship with action shows that the old, seemingly lost, sense of immediacy is still there in spirit.”
(Arguments, No. 19, October 1960).
“Cultural research (into material and artistic forms, philosophical mechanisms and scientific truths about man and nature) involves a long and patient effort, and any break with this concept can only signal a return to barbarism …
“However, some intellectuals who are unable to integrate their vague and distorted vision – contradicted by experience – into culture, prefer to reject the culture itself rather than review their concepts or review themselves … The Situationists, who claim (in the name of working towards the society of the future) to break with the elements of culture, go so far as to reject them in order to substitute brutally “vitalist” values. Values which are sub-cultural, not even Marxist, but worse, troglodyte.
“I say worse, because here we go beyond the basest Marxism to approach outright fascism – the reaction (repeated under various pretexts) that we have known ever since Caliph Omar and the total destruction of the Library of Alexandria, right up to cultural destuction of Goering. Intending to increase its power in society, the Situationist International, like other “neo” proletarian or nationalist groups can try at times to stifle (from the outside) the natural growth of the culture, but in the end the research of those who respect knowledge will reject and punish these ignorant reactionaries, as it has rejected and punished others in the past.
“And when I consider how many offences there have been over the years as striking as Nazism, Communism or, on a smaller scale, the expression of the Situationists – which have unnecessarily destroyed so much energy – I understand why some want me to commit myself to applying some of my resources to reveal these deceptions. ”
Poésie Nouvelle, Special Issue on the SI (N° 13, October 1960).
Found in Paris, 13, rue de Mulhouse.
“Megalomaniac egotism, in the relationships between artists. leads to a thirst to overtake all others while taking care not to push yourself too hard.
As I have written and said.”
Robert Estivals, “Letter to Debord on the consequences
of megalomania …” (Grammes, No. 5).
“Well, No! I refuse to assume that there is deep thinking behind hollow words and the use of expressions without knowledge of their exact meaning … It is really necessary [to stand up when someone] kills the French language as blithely and with such assurance.
It will nevertheless one day end, with these pseudo-intellectuals of a false avant-garde who are still to show ”their wee-wee”. When one embarks on a Critique for a Construction of Situation, one is in danger of going too far, especially with a helmsman like Patrick Straram who publishes texts rejected elsewhere without asking if his little writings were rejected not because of their courage, but simply because they are insignificant and pitiful.”
Jean-Guy Pilon (Liberté 60, n° 9-10, été 1960).
“I stumble over a vocabulary at the same time scatty and already sclerotic, which still fails in any renewal of the commonplace. I note, once again, this more or less conscious desire for the intellectual safety of another scholastic system – which has the same freshness and spontaneity of terminology and context as medieval thought. ”
Clément Lockquell (Le Devoir de Montréal, 16-7-60).
“I cannot say how disappointed I was. The tone of it, the words used, call for an entire scenario to be reinvented. And this Situationist International, which calls itself an “International”… Life is too cruel for us to take it seriously. Surrealism was true, Situationism remains a construction of some cultivated minds … But we must speak clearly. Henault, Miron, Portugais, Lapointe, Dubé speak clearly. But they don’t seem to be Situationists and are in appendices to Patrick Straram’s book. We learn to separate our own personal and sexual problems from those of other people. To prefer the people … say it all, but speak clearly. Only then will we invent the scenario in which others are able to live. Our children for example.”
Jacques Godbout (Liberté 60, n° 9-10).
From Internationale Situationniste no. 5, December 1960 (pp. 15-18). Translated by Ian Thompson (July 2013).
Text in original French here.
Full pdf of Internationale Situationniste no. 5 (in original French) can be downloaded from UbuWeb.