Message from the Situationist International

Serge:[1] A message from the Situationist International.

Guy:[2] Those who want to surpass the old established order in all of its aspects cannot attach themselves to the disorder of the present, even in the sphere of culture. It is necessary to struggle without waiting, even in culture, for the concrete appearance of the marching orders of the future. It is their possibility, already present among us, that devalues all expression in known cultural forms. It is necessary to lead all forms of pseudo-communication to their extreme destruction so as to one day arrive at a real and direct communication (in our hypothesis concerning the use of superior cultural means: the constructed situation). Victory will be attained by those who know how to make disorder without liking it.

Claude:[3] A revolutionary action in culture cannot have as its goal the translation or explication of life, but its enlargement. It is necessary to make unhappiness retreat everywhere.

Serge: The passions, compensations and habits that are produced by the exploitation of man must die along with it. It is necessary to define new desires in keeping with the possibilities of today. It is already necessary, at the highest points of the struggle between current society and the forces that will destroy it, to find the first elements of a superior construction of life and new conditions of behavior. This by virtue of experimentation and propaganda. The rest belongs to the past and serves it.

Claude: The situationists will execute the judgment that the diversions of today pronounce against themselves.

Guy: The situationists envision cultural activity, from the point of view of the totality, as a method of experimentally constructing everyday life, capable of being developed at every moment with the extension of diversions and the disappearance of the division of labor (beginning with the division of artistic labor).

Serge: The conception that we have of a "constructed situation" is not limited to a unitary use of artistic means that converge upon an ambiance, grand though the spatio-temporal extension and power of that ambiance might be. The "situation" is, at the same time, a unity of behavior in time. It is made of gestures contained in the setting of a moment. These gestures are the product of the setting and themselves. They produce other forms of settings and other gestures. How can one orient these forces?

Guy: The construction of situations begins beyond the modern collapse of the notion of spectacle. It is easy to see the point at which they very principal of the spectacle is attached to the alienations of the old world: non-intervention. Inversely, one sees that the most valuable revolutionary investigations in culture are those that, by provoking the capacity of the individual to revolutionize [bouleverser] his or her own life, seek to break the psychological identification of the spectator with heroes so as to entrain the spectator in inactivity. The situation is thus made to be lived by its constructors. The role of the "public" -- if not passive, then at least merely supernumerary -- must always diminish in it, whereas the part of those who cannot be called authors, but livers (in a new meaning of the term) must increase.

Claude: Naturally, the relation between the director and the "livers" of the situation cannot become a relation of specializations. It is only a momentary subordination of a team of situationists to the one[s] responsible for an isolated experiment. Its perspectives, or their provisional vocabulary, must not allow anyone to believe that the situation is a continuation of the theatre.

Serge: One can say that the construction of situations will replace the theatre only in the sense in which the real construction of life will have replaced religion. The principal domain that we will replace and accomplish is clearly poetry, which burned itself out in the avant-garde of our time, which has completely disappeared.

Guy: The real accomplishment of the individual, just like the artistic experiments that the situationists will discover, inevitably pass through the collective domination of the world: before such a thing takes place, there are no individuals, just shadows haunting the things that are anarchically given by others. In occasional situations, we will encounter individuals who arrive by chance. Their divergent emotions neutralize themselves and maintain their solid environment of boredom. We will ruin these conditions by making the incendiary signal of a superior game appear at several points.

Serge: Art can cease to be a report on sensations to become a direct organization of superior sensations. It is a question of producing ourselves, not things that enslave us.

Claude: One has already interpreted the passions: it is now a question of finding others.

Serge: We say that it is necessary to multiply poetic objects and subjects, which are unfortunately so rare at present that the most minimal take on an exaggerated affective importance; and to organize games of such subjects among such objects. This is our entire programme, which is essentially transitory. Our situations will be without a future; they will be passageways. The unchanging character of art, or anything else, will not enter into our considerations, which are serious. The idea of eternity is the crudest that a person can conceive with respect to his or her actions.

Claude: Situationist techniques must still be invented. But we know that a task only presents itself where the necessary material conditions for its realization already exist, or at least are being formed.

Guy: There is no possible artistic freedom to be seized from the means accumulated by the 20th century, which are for us the true means of artistic production and which condemn those who are deprived of the opportunity to be artists of these times.

Claude: If the control of these new means is not totally revolutionary, we will be entrained towards the civilized ideal of a society of [worker] bees. The domination of nature can be revolutionary or it can become the absolute weapon of the forces of the past. The situationists place themselves at the service of the necessity of oblivion.

Guy: The only force from which they can expect something is the proletariat, which is theoretically without a past, obligated to reinvent itself at every moment, and "is revolutionary or nothing," as Marx said. Will it exist in our time, or not? The question is important for us: the proletariat must realize art.

Claude: There is no freedom in the use of time without possession of modern instruments for the construction of everyday life. The usage of such instruments will mark the leap from a utopian revolutionary art to an experimental revolutionary art.

Guy: In their final development, our perspectives on action upon the setting end up in the conception of unitary urbanism. Unitary urbanism is primarily defined by the use of the totality of the arts and techniques, as means converging upon an integral composition of life.

Serge: Secondarily, unitary urbanism is dynamic, that is to say, it is in close relation with styles of behavior.

Guy: Architecture must advance by taking moving situations more than moving forms as its material.

Serge: Our action upon behavior, in liaison with other desirable aspects of a revolution in morals, can be defined summarily as the invention of games of a new essence.

Claude: The new phase of the affirmation of the game seems to be characterized by the disappearance of all elements of competition. The question of winning or losing, until now nearly inseparable from ludic activity, appears tied to all the other manifestations of the tension between individuals concerning the appropriation of goods. The feeling for the importance of winning the game -- when it is a question of concrete or, more often, illusory satisfactions -- is the bad product of a bad society. Naturally, this feeling is exploited by all the conservative forces that serve to mask the monotony and atrocity of the conditions of life that they impose.

Guy: The element of competition must disappear in favor of a really collective conception of the game: the communal creation of chosen ludic ambiances. The central distinction that must be surpassed is the one established between the game and modern life, the game being held as an isolated and provisional exception. "In the imperfection of the world and the confusion of life," Johan Huizinga writes, "the game realizes a temporary and limited perfection."

Claude: Modern life, until now conditioned by the problem of subsistence, can now be dominated rationally -- this possibility is at the heart of all the conflicts of our times -- and the game, radically breaking with a limited ludic time and space, must invade all of life.

Serge: At least to the extent that it signifies a static construction that is opposed to life, perfection cannot find its end. But one can propose to push the beautiful confusion of life to its perfection. The baroque, which Eugenio d'Ors defined so as to definitively limit it -- the baroque and the organized beyond of the baroque will have a large place in the coming reign of diversions.

Claude: Even though the game cannot completely free itself due to its current co-existence with the residues of the phase of decline, its goal must at least be to provoke conditions that are favorable for living directly. In this sense, the game is still struggle and representation: struggle for a life of desire, and concrete representation of such a life.

Guy: The game is experienced as fictional due to its marginal existence with respect to the overwhelming reality of work, but the work of the situationists is precisely the preparation of the ludic possibilities to come. One can thus be tempted to neglect the Situationist International to the extent that one easily recognizes in it several aspects of a great game. "Nevertheless," Huizinga says, "we have already observed that the notion of 'only playing' does not exclude the possibility of realizing 'only playing' with an extreme gravity. . . ."

Claude: An international association of situationists can be considered a union of workers in an advanced sector of culture or, more exactly, as a union of all those who claim the right to a kind of work that social conditions now impede, and thus as an attempt at organizing professional revolutionaries in culture.

[1] Serge Korber.

[2] Guy Debord.

[3] Claude Frere.

(Published in Gerard Berreby, editor, Textes et documents situationnistes, 1957-1960, this message was recorded on audiotape. It consists of excerpts from the first issue of Internationale Situationniste. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2008.)

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