Expect anything Fear Nothing
Texts about the Scandinavian Situationists:
Former member of the SI poet Peter Laugesen talking at the CFU
The Rise and Fall of the Situationists
"But the new frontier of mankind is not only in Outer Space; it is in the radical transformation of life on this planet."
In September 2003 we begin a new project at the CFU with the title The Rise and Fall of The Situationists. This project is launched with the opening of a website containing Situationists texts in Danish translation - Situationistisk Arkiv. (For non-Danish speakers a parallel archive of English texts can be found at the 'Scandinavian Situationism' page at www.infopool.org.uk).
Over the past years we have been (more or less) systematically engaged in mapping the many branches of the Situationist movement. In both a geographical and historical sense our expedition has taken place from a Scandinavian point of departure. On the way we have collected much documentation, including printed matter, paintings, films, and interviews, which will be presented at the Free Uni over the autumn. Info on the reading room, exhibition, publications, film screenings, and talks will follow.
When the Situationist International was founded in Italy in 1957 the two main protagonists were the painter Asger Jorn and the filmmaker and writer Guy Debord. In many ways Jorn and Debord represent two central tendencies within the Situationist movement; tendencies, which over the years mutually spurred and inspired each other but eventually began to exclude each other. What divided them was the role of art in the cultural revolution.
The schism, initially more a question of means than of ends, can roughly be summed up in the following antagonisms: analysis vs. action, iconoclasm vs. image production, and revolutionary politics vs. revolutionary art. Both tendencies developed through the 1960s as parts of the Situationist movement, even though Debord and the Parisian theoreticians early in the 1960s excluded the German/Scandinavian artists from the Situationist International. As a countermove the excludees founded the 2nd Situationist International/ Bauhaus Situationiste at Drakabygget in Southern Sweden.
The liberation from a repressive capitalist society through experimental play was meant to be the aim of both the 1st SI and the 2nd SI, but after the defeat of the May '68 insurrection the Situationist project disintegrated in the 1970s and eventually ended up as pure farce (with the rejection of society brought to its extreme with Debord's pathetic suicide in 1994 and with Jørgen Nash and Drakabygget's maundering creativism still undiminished).
As the Situationists took much inspiration from the failed projects preceding their own - DADA, Surrealism and Lettrism - we look at the material collected and sift through what the Situationists did and wrote in their critique of the city, art, daily life, the fetishism of commodities, politics, reification, and the spectacle. But, this time, the aim is not to make anyone think that the Situationist project was successful.
It is our own task to produce a critique relevant for today!
Thanks to Jacqueline de Jong, Gordon Fazakerley, Peter Laugesen, Howard Slater, Mikkel Bolt, Fabian Tomsett, Reuben Keehan, Simon Ford and Stewart Home.