from Guy Debord

To Asger Jorn
23 August 1962
Dear Asger:

I am distressed to hear about the illness of your son.[1]

But the failure of "Defigurations"[2] is obviously honorable: you haven't ceased to shock and displease. I still think that a strong fall in the market value of your paintings liberates you from certain cares, and would keep away many of the people and problems that are a little too artificially mixed up in your action in modern art.

Like you, I think that it is necessary to publically respond to [Robert] Estivals.[3] And to also manifest as clearly as possible the choices that can't be avoided or dissimulated.

I have never wanted to personally play the game of unified and hierarchical organization (and, if I had wanted to do so, it seems to me that I am intelligent enough to do it more effectively). It is frightening enough to see Estivals, with his "sociological" clumsiness (and with his insistence on taking his references, except for 3 trifling details, from before July 1957 and the formation of the S[ituationist] I[nternational], the experiment that has so much supplied me in theory and in practice), to attribute to me Isou's goals -- or those of Breton -- only with a greater realism or more modernism. But this is entirely false.

One can superficially pick out many traits of "authority" on my part (by forgetting that, all the same, I have been hard on the exterior world and only sometimes hard on the interior of the movement). But I believe, in almost all periods, that I have the means of using a much larger authority (and certainly of drawing several advantages from it). The practice of exclusion appears to me absolutely contrary to the utilization of people: it is, rather, to oblige them to be free individuals -- to remain oneself -- if they can't work within a communal liberty. And, straight away, I have refused a good number of "loyal disciples" without leaving to them the possibility of entering the SI, nor being excluded from it later.

I have already said/written it: I only want to work on a "moving order," never constructing a doctrine or an institution. Or, to take up the terms of [George] Keller,[4] cited in I[nternationale] S[ituationniste] #7 (p. 30), it is a question of "creating veritable disequilibria, departure points for all [future] games."

From Simondo to the Spurists, all the situationist fractions [sic] have appealed to liberty, but, in reality, it is clearly their position that is a restriction, excluding the mass of possibilities of our research, whereas the position that I have defended doesn't even exclude their position. But it only excludes the people who are specialists of a single goal. (Without wanting to distinguish here between those for whom the unique goal is "noble," and those for whom it is obviously more petty.)

I sincerely hope that I will show the future that my role really holds to this. And not to attribute to me "the glory" of a label -- which, moreover, thanks to the best of our efforts, has for a long time remained very little known. Estivals is misled the more he plays the censor in public and then tries to deny his public judgments in private: in fact he wants to integrate himself into what he believes to be "my" feudality, but only after he's received so much in wages that I must offer him a good place in it! As he lacks the capacity to comprehend our project -- even after I've made certain specific responses to him -- I believe that he is sincere when he writes about my Machiavelianism, and not when he makes excuses in spoken words or a personal letter. Then he doesn't admit my possible sincerity in using this tactic: basically, he is sure that, clandestinely, I aim to elevate my statue (following the profound goal of Isou and Estivals himself). If he moves toward Planete,[5] as you've said that he will, it is certainly unconsciously. He prefers the SI, but by "Planete-izing" us first. . . .

This summer, I have also had great personal difficulties.

Whereas, for the SI, this summer gets better and better: we now have clandestine contacts in Spain, Hungary and East Germany. Plus a quite echo in France where issue #7 [of I.S.] has sold 25% [of its press run], without any publicity nor an article written about us. If need be, this adds to the necessity of clearly and immediately deciding upon our objectives: this is exactly the moment at which the SI can become a frightening weapon, and then it would no longer be necessary to equivocate on its use. But I assure you that the prognosis of Estivals will be foiled.

I remain in Paris. Come to see me as soon as possible at the end of the [summer] vacation.

In friendship,

P.S. Do you know the ethnological theory presented by Claude Levi-Strauss in Tristes Tropiques? It is very interesting with respect to the origins of the derive; also to "the culture of forgetfulness" and our intuition of the relationship between Denmark and Asia:

"While the West lived closed upon itself, it seems to me that all the northern populations, from Scandanavia to Labrador, passing through Siberia and Canada, maintained the most close contacts. If the Celts borrowed certain of their myths from the sub-artic civilization of which we know hardly anything, one understands how it is that the Grail Cycle is present in the myths of the Indians of the forests of North America, which are closer to those of the Celts than to any other mythological system."

And further on: ". . . specialists have for along time drawn attention to the resemblances between archaeological documents from Southeast Asia and those that belong to the proto-history of Scandanavia. There are thus three regions: Indonesia, Northeast America and the Scandanavian countries, which [together] form, in some way, the trigonometrical points of the pre-Columbian history of the New World."

[1] On 11 August [1962], Jorn wrote: "My oldest son has been declared crazy-schizophrenic and you know what this implies."

[2] "My exposition of Defigurations was practically a disaster" (Ibid.).

[3] Concerning his book The Parisian Cultural Avant-Garde since 1945, which was about to appear.

[4] Jorn's alias.

[5] Journal founded by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in 1961.

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

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