10 Years of Experimental Art:
Jorn and His Role in Theoretical Invention

In the foreword to his recently published book Pour la forme [On Form], Asger Jorn says that the texts assembled under this title "were written and published separately in diverse languages, between 1954 and 1957. They thus constitute the notebook for an experimental method the development of which corresponds to the historical transition between the activity organized around the journal Cobra (1948-1951) and the positions currently defined by the Situationist International. This work can be considered to be the summary of the theoretical conclusions of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (1953-1957), which was justly given the task of preparing a more advanced assemblage."

For the last ten years, the mosty interesting part of Jorn's activities have consisted of his research into the means that permit him to advance in contemporary art. He has thus played a fundamental role in the temporary groupings of modern artists from diverse horizons who, in their work, share similiar perspectives. But, whereas many others content themselves with the partial results of quite poor programmes, Jorn has aspired to a more and more rigorous and radical critique. Thus, he has succeeded in formulating, not only the requirement for a totally experimental action, but also the fundamental question for a new avant-garde: "where and how to find a place for artists" at the current stage of development of the world? (Programme of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus at the Alba Congress, 1956).

During this cultural period, Jorn was an agitator who particiapted in all the currents in the hope that it would be possible to bring into collaboration the best and the worst at the heart of a very broad union of experimental artists. But, for the majority of contemporary artists, it is naturally very difficult to face the contradiction between their real place in production -- the place to which they are assigned -- and concrete research into a completely new place, into a new craft in which the idea of total experiment is put into practice. These artists are thus more or less forced to mask this contradiction by a too easy reprise of the "experimental art" formula, which leads them to work at a level that they are not capable of superceding. This phenomenon appears in each attempt at organization.

Without making predictions on the road that Jorn will take, one can, all the same, say that the logic of his action has always urged him towards an extreme point of view, which has ended in the formation of the Situationist International, of which he was one of the prime movers. "The opposition to the neo-Bauhaus of Ulm," as he says in the foreword to On Form, "has over the years been extended to the cultural front as a whole." It isn't our purpose [here] to examine this new situation.

Taken from On Form, the following extracts, short and chosen from a very strong volume, obviously lack connections [liaisons]. But they concern the most confused cultural period ever, and even an attempt to transform this era can not proceed without [some] confusion.

(Published in Dutch, in the Museum Journaal, vol. IV, #4, October 1958. Translated by NOT BORED! June 2005 from the French version published in Archives Situationnistes: Volume 1: Documents traduits 1958-1970.)

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