from Guy Debord

To Asger Jorn
13 January 1964
Dear Asger:

Michele [Bernstein] has told me of your unexpected visit on Tuesday evening, and I have your letter of 7 January.[1]

In this letter, there are certain things that are quite agreeable to me. I thank you. And also [there are] other points that I understand poorly.

We are quite in agreement on the judgment of Attila Kotanyi. But it seems to me that you attribute to me too much naivete. I believe that you forget that, in a conversation with you two years ago, I already agreed that Kotanyi was basically incapable of working creatively. Since then, he hasn't had hardly any importance in the S[ituationist] I[nternational] (which quite confirms my judgment). But, so as to exclude him, it was necessary to wait until he "did something," in order that this break was well understood by the other comrades, and in all the intellectual sectors that refer to the SI, sectors that have increased a lot in the last year (and even in Japan, where we are translated). You know that I maintain that this style of break is the situationists' best weapon and thus I don't want to use it arbitrarily. All of our weapons must be used seriously. Because, like you, I am firmly opposed to being portrayed as "cursed artists." I will try to prevent this by all means. However, if, from the start, there is only a choice between cursed artists and spectacular compromise, I prefer dangerous relations with the "cursed ones."

In summarizing Kotanyi, who is nothing, he has all it takes to be a Nashist. Unfortunately, he was just cunning enough to think that there were more possibilities for him in the SI (even if several aspects of it frightened him). He tried to remain in it at any cost. This great prudence on his part made the process of the break go slowly, at least in his case.

I still don't admit that the "split" with the Nashists was fundamentally an opposition between a "Latin spirit" and a "Nordic spirit." I have no reason (because of all that I have learned from you) to scorn the Nordic spirit! For me, it was a split between those who are occupied with the rules of a new game (which isn't so much Latin, because the Latin order appears to me to be rather conservative), on the one hand, and upstarts and merchants, not even clever ones, on the other.

I think that this is already confirmed "for history" after less than two years, later on for the SI (with the exception of Kotanyi), and, from the other side, by the astonishing (creative as well as theoretical) impotence of all the varieties of Nashism, which have naturally been constrained to form teams with people already used-up and pitiful -- and thus haven't even preserved a [single] team, nor drawn anything from the passing of ghosts. It suffices to see the Nordic thought of The Situationist Times recuperate the Catholic parish-priest Simondo!

Thus, I believe that you must bear in mind that my positional analyses have also been judgments on the future movements of these positions; and that the passage of time has confirmed these judgments. Whereas the SI has been very much reinforced by new and solid people. Corollarily, the extension of the passionate hate that surrounds us is in contrast with the amusing little complicities that the Nashists have found everywhere.

With the publication of I[nternationale] S[ituationniste] #9, which will take place in about two months, I think everyone will understand the importance of what we have done this past year (I don't believe that the very beautiful illustrations of labyrinths [in The Situationist Times] mean more than the rich diffusion of documents that have been based upon a single short paragraph in the I.S. journal).

In the book that I'm currently preparing [The Society of the Spectacle], I hope that one will see, more clearly than in our preceding efforts, that the SI has worked at the center of the problems that are posed by modern society. After reading this book, I believe that one will admit that several general goals of the SI are well traced in concrete, as you demand.

It must now appear obvious for us all that the break with the upstarts and merchants almost immediately involves a great reduction in practical aid --already slight -- that is given to the SI. However, I think that this break has been very favorable to those who really understand something of situationist thought; and, finally, this break has been useful even on the practical plane, where the temporary reduction of the means at our disposal can accompany the establishment of means elsewhere, on a more healthy basis: I want to say protected from the pressures of the holders or prospective buyers of money, which have already begun with the Van de Loo incident.

On the other hand, the upstarts haven't gained anything from this break -- which they began -- other than the freedom to do their bullshit under their own responsibility; and the freedom to make visible to all, without any masking, their artistic and intellectual worhtlessness. They have used these freedoms to the maximum! You understand that I greet their dismissals of Kotanyi with pleasure. . . .

On the other hand, after your own long absence [from the SI] during 1963, your letter didn't permit me to understand your current position with any certainty.

I will gladly meet you for all the reciprocally desirable explanations. This on the condition, naturally, that this is still in the spirit in which we dialogued in 1956, and every year since then.

For this to happen, it appears to me that the preliminary condition would be a meeting between you and I only. I will be at Lipp's place on Thursday at 11:30 AM, in case the discussion (in these conditions) suits you.


[1] Extract (in its original spelling) from the 7 January 1964 letter from Jorn [to Guy Debord]:

After having spoken for a half-hour with Kotany [sic], I consider him to be a false token and all that follows only confirms this attitude. It has taken you nearly four years to arrive at the same conclusion on the base cultivated on a reasonable experience. My judgment was intuitive, but just the same based upon long experience. The first time that I had to deal with this type was among the escapees from Nazi Germany in 1933. I have had to deal with it even in the resistance during the war. It is the type who hides his own impotence with pretty words. You know that I consider you to be the strongest thinking and critical head to appear after the [second world] war, and this is my pain, what I have said about the era of scism [sic] between the Nordic tendency and the Latin tendency of the situationist movement: I have complete confidence in your positional judgements, on the question of the attitude to take, but exactly this precision proves to prevent you from judging the movement of things, from judging the coherence between actions and attitudes, which means that there is a series of people who you have deceived by making it seem that you rally the purest and most intransigent attitudes[,] meanwhile their main affairs were occupied and completely elsewhere.

You know well that it is this continuing consequence that has disgusted me with all avant-garde initiatives. One ages with these experiences. I have always said that the vogue for painting is only fleeting. What it makes in this domain are the projects for the next day. In combatting the blossoming of these arts in their sensational era[,] my intention was always to try to draw the consequences which follow beyond this domain to the moment when this era has decanted and established reserves for this fermentation[,] even for the projects that surpass them and are realized in other domains. I am persuaded that the future will see the activity of the situationist movement as the establishment of such a foundation[,] to which one must hold in being situationnist [sic] or not.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 2, 1960-1964. Footnote by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2005.)

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