Address by the Lettrist International Delegate to the Alba Conference of September 1956
Gil J. Wolman
Translated by Reuben Keehan
The parallel crises currently affecting all modes of communication are determined by a single, integrated movement, and a resolution to these crises can only be reached within a general perspective.
The process of negation and destruction overtaking the traditional conditions of artistic activity with increasing speed is irreversible: it is the result of the appearance of superior possibilities for action all over the world.
The existence of these possibilities is reflected, in a number of ways, in the political struggles and technological organization of everyday life of the last hundred years. As these possibilities are themselves rapidly developing in all intellectual disciplines, they are definitively condemned to being mere flashbacks or continuations of the old order. But as a result of economic and social resistance, their development presents great unevenness from one area to another. For example, it is easy to understand that because its applications are currently being utilized by the ruling class, the discoveries of nuclear physics are more important than those of the investigation into an idea or way of life at the level of all current possibilities because such an investigation presents a danger to the ruling class and openly opposes its decaying ideologies.
In spite of the credit today's bourgeoisie accords fragmentary or deliberately backward artistic exercises, contemporary creation can be nothing less than a synthesis aimed at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life.
With these considerations as our point of departure, our actions are directed toward a truly modern urbanism one whose precursors are few, and, in any case, accidental.
We know that as the material form of societies, the structure of cities is the expression of their particular orders of preoccupation. And if, even more than the written laws, temples were means of expressing the representation of the world, capable of forming an historically definite collectivity, then our atheism will construct monuments that experiment with the new values of a new way of life in which victory is certain.
We must experiment as much as possible with the scope and behavior of the new era. The nothingness of so-called "proletarian" literature no longer provides any doubt to the dangerous consequences of the distinction itself even more suspect between an art engaged in immediate propaganda and an art directed towards the not-so-immediate renewal of the fundamentals of life. In truth, these two aspects are necessarily complementary, and any exaltation that excludes either should be regarded as reactionary.
A unitary urbanism the synthesis of art and technology that we call for must be constructed according to certain new values of life, values which now need to be distinguished and disseminated.
It should be noted that all this can begin right away, in urbanism, architecture and elsewhere, on the condition that we respond to this question of a way of life, and that we respond correctly.
There isn't much point to going any further in the search for the condemnation of the architecture of Firmin Le Corbusier, who wanted to found a definitive harmony on a Christian and capitalist way of life that he wrongly considered immutable.
If, following a general and demystified analysis of the movement of social relations, it comes to light that the family as we know it is fortunately destined to vanish, then it must be concluded that it would be pathetic for an architecture with its eyes on the future to stake its fate on the preservation of this form of domestic life.
It is because Le Corbusier made his work an illustration and a powerful means of action for the worst forces of oppression, that this work certain elements of which must nevertheless be incorporated into the next phase promises complete bankruptcy.
Even without any particular accuracy, one can say that in contrast to the current situation, this coming way of life whose conditions we must foresee in order to find a suitable direction for the present will be determined principally by freedom and leisure.
The experimental urbanism that we have to undertake must already be directed toward this goal. It is necessary, as Asger Jorn writes at the end of his essay Image and Form, "to discover new chaotic jungles by way of useless and extravagant experiences." And in issue 8 of Les Lèvres nues, Marcel Mariën declares: "Where reinforced concrete once stood, there will be winding lanes, crossroads, dead-ends. A vague terrain will be the object of all exceptional studies, and can be instituted to aid in the designation of better projects."
We should not be opposed to what this urbanism describes as the baroque, at least in its early stages, because it will be directed entirely toward life and opposed to functionalist classicism. But it will not be limited to the baroque; it will overcome the old distinction between the classical and the baroque. By all means, unitary urbanism must become both the opportunity and the context for passionate games.
The Lettrist International believes that with the help of other progressive tendencies, it is possible to commit to a precise program of united action in architecture and urbanism; and that this understanding can currently be established in the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, where the lettrists have been represented since May 1956.
However, the Lettrist International underlines the necessity of concrete agreement on a minimum of positive contestations; of unequivocally denouncing traditional artistic and literature aims; of radically excluding backward tendencies.
Failing that, no united action can be sustained.