Open Creation and Its Enemies
Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960)
Translated by Fabian Tompsett
It takes less time to create a material which is deficient, much longer to form a personality. And if a single error has been made in the production of the material, it can be repaired, if necessary by destroying the useless machine and so going through profits and losses. A man, once formed, is not destroyed; for forty years he is ready to perform the activity for which he has been trained...
Alfred Sauvy, From Malthus to Mao Tse-Tung
THE CHINESE PERSPECTIVE is not Chinese culture. But it is a valuable and important outlook. At any moment, real living humanity covers a little less than two centuries. The oldest are about a hundred years old, and some among the new born will be destined to live as long in the future. There is a perpetual tension between these two temporal extremes of humanity. The cycle of this wheel of life, this eternal return is a permanent revolution upon which thousands of reflections have been made since the Sumerians, the Buddhists, Plato, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and so on. Zoroastrianism is the outcome of this train of thought, with the idea of a single oriented rotation of history from a unique beginning up to a definitive and irreversible end. This dualist outlook and unilateral orientation was transmitted to Judaism, Christianity and Islam; at the same time it passed to Mithraism, manicheeism and gnosticism. Following Lemaître's Gnostic confession, it is clear that he is not capable of understanding the dialectic dynamism of Buddhism, but that he follows dualism; and that his appeal to youth is simply the classical and traditional subversion of minors. Regretfully, I believe that I have detected the possibility of an unpublished system which is relatively creative in the sense that the application of Chinese perspective to the dimension of time in the west would produce results which could not be predicted. This makes Lemaître's system even simpler. It is no more than neo-Sorelianism. I have looked all over the place. Through the frequent use of Lenin as a witness to his arguments, and the loan of the origin of these perspectives from Fichte, instead acknowledging Sorel as the inventor of them, it is shown that Lemaître has drawn deeply from Sorel elsewhere he admits to having read him but with no intention of publicly acknowledging this. The Chinese perspective of Lemaître is just as impoverished as Sorelian ideology, whose fate is well known.
Sorel's artfulness lay in having studied the formula of ascendant Christianity, and having transported the belief in the zero point of the future (the end of the world and the opening towards an unknown paradise) to a purely technical system. Thus the Christian end of the world can be replaced by anything: the general strike, the socialist revolution, or to be more up-to-date, the man who presses the button of atomic missiles. All those who don't fit in with this perspective are equally assured of punishment, by using the key formula of all the historic events of our century: the accusation of treachery (to what? the system). In La Roue de la Fortune, I set myself against the mythological exactitude of Benjamin Péret, who is shown so high in Lemaître's estimation. This was because for me all art is an infinite multitude of mythic creations, and because I oppose free creativity to a return to the belief in a single imposed myth, or systems of myths. Here, I oppose the idea of multiple paradises to that cherished by Lemaître: a unique paradise, and ideological carcass once more exhumed. I don't think that Péret's attitude on this subject has ever approached such stupidity as that of Lemaître, but I saw the peril to come; and Péret can no longer protest when Lemaître, who stupidly insulted him in 1952 for 'lack of creation', now depends on him.
In any case, no-one can pay a greater compliment to the situationist movement than this confirmation by Lemaître: "I don't know anyone who believes in the 'situationist group'. The situationists themselves are not situationists as they have written many times. To speak as a whole which doesn't exist is to invite the accusation of having invented it." But our sole goal is precisely to invent it. We have invented everything so far, and there is still nearly everything left for us to invent: our terrain is so rich that it scarcely exists.
What we are going to invent is situationist activity itself. And also its definition. Having awkwardly let slip a number of propositions, proposals and appeals in his pamphlet on perfectly unreal footing, Lemaître pretends: "The situationists and my group could perhaps reach a spiritual understanding on the terrain of the 'situation', however much my critics adhere to my ethical conception of the Creator of elements superior to the productive constructor of moments of life and to the vision of integral cultural situations, the outcome of the Creative and not simply ludic." I have already shown that we have goals completely opposed to his. All of Lemaître's options are rejected.
In a note (p. 80) where he points out to us the importance of Einstein, Lemaître has the audacity to add that "time is a notion intrinsic to the situation". We, however, to the extent that we have advanced in the study of given situationists, we find that the question is posed of inventing a situology, a situography and perhaps even a situometry beyond existing topological knowledge.
Lemaître is amazed that there is a Scandinavian culture distinct from the classical west. Scandinavian culture is above all the culture of the forgotten, the forgotten culture and without history, uninterrupted since the stone age, older and more immobile even than Chinese culture. With such a weighty heritage of oblivion, what could I cite from my ancestors.
I am a man without merit. At the same time, I am wicked enough. Journalists and other professional thugs at the service of existing order call us a 'beat generation'. They are astonished to discover that their knockbacks, their distrust, their absolute refusal to allow us even the chance to eat as badly as an unemployed unskilled worker, that all this has hardened us to the point that we refuse to give these bruisers big kisses the moment when they find us interesting. I remember the time of the Cobra movement, when C.O. Götz stated that our German comrades had to live on a tenth the keep of any prisoner of the Federal Republic. I know the more than shameful conditions in which the lettrists had to live in order to realize the remarkable works of their creative period. And so it continues. A German artist, whose country will not hesitate to claim the highest glory, has for two years had no other home than the empty railway cars at the station. When I discovered the systematic structures of the situationist tendency, I myself had understood that here was a method which exploited in secret by us could give us a great direct social power, and which would allow us the luxury of truly avenging the insults. I did not hesitate to explain this view to Guy Debord, who completely refused to take it into consideration, which obliged me to make my remarks public. He then told me that it was necessary to leave such methods to people like Pauwels or Bergier, and the mystical old women who are encaptured by minor occult insights. Everyone dreams of marketing its echoes, as Gurdijieff did to his well-to-do disciples. After some reflection, I knew that I would arrive at exactly the same attitude, which is the same vein as all my behavior up till now; anyway it is the reason for our collaboration in the SI.
But, "my hesitation could be conceived as the idea of surrendering the secret of secrets, the creation of creation, to the incoherent mob" Lemaître writes (p. 7), which all the more defends his right to the secret, that his 'creative' nothingness is a matter of a secret of organization. He justifies himself by the examples of atomic and other secrets. In fact, secret methods transform art into craftsmanship, by the exclusive techniques to reproduce to standards which come latter on. Lemaître is conscious partisan of this survival of the artisan confraternity. One is accepted by producing an acceptable masterpiece. Thus Lemaître retains a weakness for Debord's first film, simply because he has not understood it. He simply places it icily "amongst the ten best works in the history of cinema". The italics are his (p. 25).
Lemaître also reproaches me for having declared that he is finished. He claims that he is alive. That's true; and I didn't say he was dead. I said that he was in a coma (of his system). Which will probably only last as long as he does. The patient appropriation of the secrets of the master - particularly when dealing with a mastership arbitrarily decreed by an individual - clearly guarantees that a very particular commodity can be produced to these standards. But there is no guarantee that this production will be valorized by some desire.
Like Lemaître, I think that Wassily Kandinsky is the man "who produced and defined the abstract" (p. 111). But I don't agree with him that he was an "artistic innovator", nor that I am an abstract painter. I have never made any but anti-abstract paintings following the current of Hans Arp and Max Ernst, followed by Mondrian and Marcel Duchamp. Kandinsky, in Von Punkt über Linie zur Fleche, had aligned modern art according to the perspective of Euclidean geometry, whereas the innovators mentioned above moved towards an inverse geometry, aiming towards a polydimensional cosmos at the surface, just as the line and the point. The technique of dripping painting showed the absurdity of Kandinsky's attitude. If you work very close to the canvas, the flow of colors makes surfaces, blotches. But if you arrange things once again at a distance, the color is divided into little splashes, which only make points. This is exactly like elements in perspective. They start as masses and disappear over the horizon as points. Kandinsky started at the horizon, in the abstract to arrive where? Me, I started in the immediate present, to arrive where?
"The Adventures of Superman the Situationist" from Spur #2