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text archives > presituationist texts > cobra >

Forms Conceived as Language

Asger Jorn

Cobra #2 (1949)

Translated by Sarah Wilson

To state and attempt to resolve the problem for its part, a materialist art must put art back on a foundation of the senses. We say 'put back' with reason, for we believe that the origins of art are instinctive and thus materialist. It is the metaphysical aspects of classicism which have managed to spiritualise and intellectualise art. And it's miserable today to see the materialists in all good faith marching along on their heads – with a realism and a naturalism which are opposed to reality and to nature, which are based on 'illusion'. True realism, materialist realism, lies in the search for the expression of forms faithful to their content.

But there's no content detached from human interest. True realism, materialist realism, renouncing the idealist equation of subjectivity with individualism as described by Marx, seeks the forms of reality that are 'common to the senses of all men.'


Thus, the red flag is an expression of revolution which immediately strikes the senses, the senses of 'all men,' a synthesis of reality and the vested needs of revolution, a common link and not an allegory, outside the range of the senses or a symbol for 'flag manufacturers.' We can identify ourselves only accidentally with a poor woman buying fish.

[NB: The 'poor woman buying fish' is a reference to Parisiennes au marché by the then-prominent socialist realist painter Fougeron.]