from Guy Debord

To [Willem] Sandberg
25 January 1958
Dear Mr Sandberg:

We thank you for your letter, bijlage[1] #7214, dated 23 January [1958]. Without delay, we will send you copies of the first manifesto of the German section [of the Situationist International].[2]

Concerning the idea of a "COBRA"[3] exposition in Amsterdam, an idea that has been debated for a long time, the current situation is as follows, to our knowledge:

1) Dotremont[4] doesn't seem to understand that the profound interest of COBRA isn't local or limited to questions of style, but lies in the historical development of modern art, in its repercussions, which resonate in the extreme and innovative experiments of today, which we believe we now represent.

2) We are absolutely opposed to a curdled veneration of "Saint COBRA." The interest of COBRA is that it created a climate of experimental research, a perpetual renewal, not a formalism (neo-primitivism, for example).

The COBRA artists whom one can consider to be the most important are fully conscious of the necessity of a broader and more current exposition that would be today's equivalent of what COBRA was in its own time (great progress has been accomplished since then) and that would involve you in taking analogous risks. We are perfectly aware of the importance of the turning point that you made possible ten years ago,[5] when the general opposition to critique was more ferocious than it would be for our enterprise. (In speaking of the most important painters, we are explicitly thinking of Appel,[6] Constant and [Asger] Jorn: the first two are, in any case, partisans of the idea of a broader exposition, and Jorn is a signatory to this letter.)

3) Before the developments that we reveal to you here, Dotremont announced in Belgium and Paris that he would abandon the organization of the exposition, so that he could concentrate on the production of a proper history of COBRA. So that the exposition can take place in a certain manner, we make the propositions that are expounded in paragraph 4.

4) Two distinct expositions are presented at the same time.

a -- an historical part that reunites around COBRA ([19]49-51) the most important documents and works of the precursors of COBRA, COBRA itself and the research conducted parallel to and after the dissolution of COBRA. We propose that Walter Korun, who has our absolute confidence due to the actions in Belgium over the course of the last few years and the accord obtained with him at the heart of the Situationist International, be the secretary of this historical part.

b -- a part devoted to present conditions, centered around current, organized situationist research, including a limited exposition of assorted documents from conferences and a demonstration of the construction of ambiances in everyday life in Amsterdam during the duration of the exposition. We propose that Guy Debord be the secretary for this part.

We strongly desire to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these propositions and particularly to bring you up to date concerning the constructive program to which we allude in paragraph [4] b.

Please accept, dear sir, the completely special expression of our feelings of esteem and confidence.

For the Situationist International,
[Guy] Debord, [Asger] Jorn, [Walter] Korun, [Guiseppe] Pinot Gallizio

[1] Reference [in Dutch].

[2] Nervenuh! Keine Experimente! [Translator: Keep calm! No experiments! signed by Asger Jorn and Hans Platschek, 1 January 1958, Munich.]

[3] Translator: An international art group founded in 1948 that took its name from the cities in which its members lived: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam.

[4] Christian Dotremont, a Belgian poet, co-founder of COBRA, editor in chief of the journal of the same name (1948-1951).

[5] The "First International Exposition of Experimental Art: COBRA," which created a scandal, was organized by Sandberg at the Stedelijik Museum of Amsterdam 3-28 November 1949.

[6] Karel Appel, a Dutch painter, co-founder of COBRA.

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

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