from Guy Debord

To Constant
Thursday 8 October [1959]
Dear Constant:

We agree to publish the action [mise au point] on COBRA in the journal.[1] But I think that it was good to have it appear in Potlatch and then be reprinted in I.S. with a note that aggravates the matter still further.

In any case, it is necessary to publish Potlatch [#2] as soon as possible. I think that you have enough texts. Make the edits that you want and, if necessary, reduce the bulletin to a single sheet front and back. I believe that Potlatch can be a useful weapon (not expensive; and marking our continuity since 1954) during the crises and divisions that will very soon arise in the SI.

We need not lose this periodic publication -- and it's already been three months since the first issue appeared!

I believe that everyone among us agrees about COBRA; there has certainly been a misunderstanding: where did you see that [Asger] Jorn denied his role in COBRA? I know nothing about it. It is necessary that you re-read (in #2 of I.S.) the editorial note entitled: "What the friends of COBRA are . . . ." This will allow you, in the attack that you want to make, to avoid re-stating certain arguments that have already been employed. And also to verify that your role is presented as essential: this article was entirely approved by Jorn (who is even considered to be a co-signatory because he figured in the journal's editorial committee).

It is necessary to be done with these eternal problems concerning the heritage of COBRA. It is we ourselves who will end up underestimating this movement and its meaning. If [Karel] Appel now travesties a certain situationist formulation (I do not accurately designate this "gentle self-installation in our positions"), it could be Michel Tapie,[2] or others. And no one needed to ask for Jorn's authorization. . . .

I would have been very happy with Forum (at least I think so, despite my surprise) -- the summary of your exposition on the first page quite nicely dispenses with the platitudes of the diverse other opinions on this question -- if I had not found in it your article, page 184, which is illustrated by two negatives of a model of a church by Har [Oudejans] and Alberts! I imagine that one might have thought that this was a parody, a derisory remark about churches as modern building (just as we once proposed to name one of your little models "new Stedelijk Museum"). But it turns out to be very equivocal and suspect.

It is impossible to construct a church in the perspective of a slightly coherent modern urbanism. Not only morally, politically, but also for directly architectural, urbanist reasons. On the terrain of unitary urbanism, one sees clearly how all the positions come together: ethics and construction form an inseparable unity. One can say that dogmatism or ideological phantasms prevent certain solutions and experiments.[3] The perspective of unitary urbanism perfectly explains the total failure of all constructions of this type. A failure that is already obvious and comic in the photographed model. This comical character probably escapes Har and Alberts. But it would be necessary for them to declare it clearly.

Where would we be, if the decomposed forces of the Church in its modernist tendency took Har and Alberts at their word and proposed that they construct a real church? One's duty is to only approach such questions with a clear attitude of insult and scorn.

The equivocation here could be a great disserice to us. The worst anarchist, pictural confusion will reinforce itself and dominate durably if we see forgerers claim that they have arrived at an era of new construction and begin by founding their projects on the oldest corruptions of alienated existence. I believe that Har and Alberts are likable and interesting. They are obviously intelligent. They can follow this reasoning, I hope. Do the best you can, but don't forget that it is a question that could, in its development, necessitate a complete break.

I expect the photo and the texts as soon as possible. I am now working exclusively on the journal.


[1] Translator: "What the friends of COBRA are" was published in Internationale Situationniste #3, December 1959.

[2] Translator: A French art critic.

[3] Translator: note well that in Mark Wigley's Constant's New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire (1998), these last two sentences are rendered very differently: "Within this terrain of unitary urbanism, one can see clearly how all these positions are reuniting: moral and construction form an inseparable unity. One could not say that a dogmatic or ideological fanaticism prevented certain resolutions or experiences."

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 1, 1957-1960. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2005.)

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