Mémoires – Ghislain de Marbaix’s copy [1958]

Debord, Guy and Jorn, Asger. Mémoires: Structures Portantes d’Asger Jorn. Copenhagen: Internationale Situationniste, 1959 [but really Dec. 1959]. n.p. [64 p.]; ill.; 28 x 21 cm. Sandpaper wrappers (“papier verré 3M”).

Mémoires is the product of a collaboration between Guy Debord and Asger Jorn in the early years of the Situationist International. Printed in vivid colors – the work of Danish masterprinters Permild & Rosengreen – it is viewed by some as the most important art book of the twentieth century. Debord and Jorn had “worked” together two years earlier – after stealing a large stock of magazines and newspapers, they spent a drunken afternoon collaging elements together. After transferring these collages to lithographic plates, Jorn poured ink over them and the resulting plates were etched and printed. Thus, Fin de Copenhague was born (1957), printed in 200 copies. Mémoires constitutes a continuation of this unique collaboration.

This copy of Mémoires comes with an outstanding dedication from Guy Debord to Ghislain de Marbaix: “”Exemplaire factice pour le véritable comte de Marbaix en attendant mieux. Guy”. But why “exemplaire factice” (in English: imperfect, worn. or dummy copy)? An obvious interpretation is that the copy is of poor quality, with water damage affecting the sandpaper cover and the lower edge of the first and last pages. But there’s more than meets this eye here: as we’ll explain below, this copy is unique in two respects and likely predates the “final” version that was printed in 500 copies.

First, Mémoires is perhaps best known for its unique cover: a single sheet of Viks no.2 grade sandpaper. In this copy, the sandpaper is a papier verré 3M (“abrasif 3M, Made in France by Minesota de France, 9036  6-36”), Because this is an early version of the book, it is likely Debord and Jorn were still experimenting with different types of sandpaper covers. The 3M sandpaper (made in France) is heavier and more abrasive, but also more damage-prone than the Viks no.2 (made in Denmark). One may speculate that the artists ultimately settled on the latter to balance coarseness with durability. Or perhaps, certain copies were taken from Copenhagen to Paris, where a separate sandpaper wrapper was added.

Second, in this copy, the sandpaper is glued to the card wrappers, which has caused the inner cover to detach from those wrappers. Debord & Jorn likely realized their mistake, as in the latter version of book, the sandpaper cover is wrapped around the book’s inner cover but otherwise unattached to the white card wrappers.

In sharing this “exemplaire factice” with de Marbaix, Debord does not shortchange his old friend – quite the opposite, in fact. What may seem like a ragged copy at first glance is instead a unique artifact that hints to the iterative artistic process Debord & Jorn went through in creating this revolutionary artist book.

About Ghislain de Marbaix. An early member of the Lettrist movement, De Marbaix was one of the participants in the “Scandal of Notre Dame”. On Easter Sunday, 1950, De Marbaix was among a small group of young people that burst into the the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during High Mass. One of them, Michel Mourre, seized the microphone and proclaimed a blasphemous homily proclaiming “the death of Christ-God, so that Man may live at last” in front of cameras. Ten years later, De Marbaix was a pimp and bar owner: he co-owned the bar “L’Homme de Main”, a favorite of the Situationist crew, from 1960 to 1962. In 1968, along with Randal Lemoine, he penned Monsieur Gontran, giving a glimpse into a life of ill repute . De Marbaix also served as an Assistant Director on Debord’s experimental film Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, released in 1959 (see Guy Debord’s letter to Chantal Delattre dated 4 August 1959 in Correspondance Volume 1). All in all, De Marbaix stood was a man who lived on the fringes of society, the kind of radical figures who fascinated Debord.

About Memoires. For more information, see the following resources:

Wolman – Vivre loin [1973 / 2023]

WOLMAN, Gil Joseph. Vivre loin. Paris: Loeve&Co, 2023. n.p. [56 p.]; ill.; 22.5 x 29.5 cm.; black wrappers with text in grey, housed inside 23 x 30 cm. card covers.

Facsimile of a previously unpublished photonovel, created by Wolman in 1973. Leveraging the techniques of collage and detournement, the 56-page work is reminiscent of Situationist detourned comics, as well as Ralph Rumney’s Leaning Tower of Venice.

The political dimension is immediately obvious: on page 1, one can read, “les trois usines d’assemblage de Renault sont fermées” (“Renault’s three assembly plants have been shut down”). This is a reference to the massive work stoppage at the French automaker on April 18, 1973, just as Wolman was putting together this photonovel. Two pages later, one comic bubble reads “LE FREINAGE DES HAUSSES DES PRIX n’est-il pas payé d’un prix trop élevé ?” (“Isn’t it the price of slowing down price inflation too high to bear?”) , a headline from the April 19, 1973 issue of the French daily Le Monde. While we very much hope some enterprising scholar will carry a more thorough analysis of the detournement at play here, the influence of the Situationist aesthetic and discourse are manifest.

We locate no copies on OCLC. Individual copies can be purchased from Galerie Loeve&Co in Paris.

Wolman – Plan of Lisbon [1974]

WOLMAN, Gil J. Plan of Lisbon. Mixed media on paper. 47 x 27 cm. Framed.

Our latest addition to the archive is this unique work by Gil J. Wolman.

Blend together a plan of Lisbon (1974) and the third issue of Internationale Lettriste (1953), Wolman draws a parallel between the Spanish Civil war (the article “Il faut recommencer la Guerre en Espagne” features prominently in Internationale Lettriste 3) and Portugal’s Carnation Revolution, which ended a half-century of authoritarian rule in the country. The choice of map is a clear allusion to psychogeography and derive, two concepts who find their roots in the Internationale Lettriste.

At the Wolman/Debord exhibition, this work is juxtaposed with two other versions of Internationale Lettriste 3 – the original mock-up and the published version. More details can be found at Studio International here

La plate-forme d’Alba [1956]

INTERNATIONALE LETTRISTE. La plate-forme d’Alba. n.p. [Paris]: n.p. [Internationale Lettriste], n.d. [1956]. Single-sided leaflet; 21 x 31 cm; black ink on cream stock.

Important leaflet regarding the gathering of Free Artists at Alba, which would ultimately lead to the Cosio di Arroscia conference and the foundation of the Situationist International in 1957. The concept of unitary urbanism plays a prominent role in the announcement (“Whatever prestige the bourgeoisie may today be willing to grant to fragmentary or deliberately retrograde artistic tentatives, creation can now be nothing less than a synthesis aiming at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life. … A unitary urbanism—the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies—must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate.”) The text was later published (in a slightly revised version) in Potlatch 27 (November 1956). Translated into English here: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/alba.htm

We locate a single OCLC copy at Yale.

La Société du Spectacle [FILM POSTER] [1974]

DEBORD, Guy. La Société du Spectacle. n.p. [Paris]: n.p., n.d. [1974]. 1 p.; 33.5 x 43.5 cm.; White ink on black stock.

Poster for the cinematic adaptation of Debord’s seminal theoretical treatise, which was published in 1967. The film opened on May 1, 1974 at the Studio Gît-le-Cœur, located at 12 rue Gît-le-Cœur in Paris (for the story of this important art house theater, see https://salles-cinema.com/paris/studio-git-le-coeur), in an exclusive showing.

La Société du Spectacle was screened daily, 6 times a day, for over 5 weeks, was ultimately pulled due to lackluster ticket sales. Debord was seemingly unhappy about the situation. In a letter to Jacques Le Glou, dated June 25, 1974, he writes: “To interrupt the exclusive showing [in Paris], the old whores of the Git-le-Coeur have taken into account a very bizarre fall [off] of ticket-sales in the fifth week (real or falsified?), which placed them below the minimum customarily anticipated by contract (and imprudently accepted by Lebo[vici]), which had accounted for each period from Wednesday to Sunday (1,800 tickets) but without reporting the “excess” of the previous ticket sales. In any case, it was no doubt better to finish with such a hostile environment, which had, on the first day, produced two threats to withdraw the film: on the part of the house [the Git-le-Coeur studio] and on the part of the production [Simar Films]! I wonder if the absence of the title for two weeks from Le Monde had not been provoked by the house itself (perhaps you can see if was also absent, during the same period — starting 22 May — , from France-Soir and other newspapers? If so, the house signaled the coup).” (See Correspondance, Vol. 5: Janvier-Decembre 1978; translation into English available here: https://www.notbored.org/debord-25June1974.html

A few years later, in February 1976, the film would be screened again at Olympic Cinema in Paris (https://situationnisteblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/a-partir-du-mercredi-25-fevrier-1976-a-lolympic-deux-films-de-guy-debord-1976/). That screening was disrupted when a commando unit seized the film reel.

We do not locate a copy on the trade or on OCLC of this rare poster.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Guy Ernest Debord & Gil Joseph Wolman : L’un n’exclut pas l’autre (27 April – 17 June 2023)

For those fortunate enough to be in Paris, Loeve & Co Gallery is hosting an exhibition that explores the deep, complex relationship between Guy Debord and Gil Wolman. The two men were founding members of the Internationale Lettriste in 1952, co-wrote the seminal Mode d’emploi du detournement, and maintained strong intellectual and personal affinities until their split in 1957. But even after their friendship and formal collaboration ended, Debord and Wolman went on to influence each others’ oeuvre — and this is precisely what this exhibition does a wonderful job showcasing.

More information can be found here: https://www.loeveandco.com/events/le-jeudi-des-beaux-arts

D’une révolution à l’autre. Correspondance Debord-Straram suivi de Cahier pour un paysage à inventer et autres textes [2023]

DEBORD, Guy; STRARAM, Patrick. (Ed. Sylvano Santini). D’une révolution à l’autre. Correspondance Debord-Straram suivi de Cahier pour un paysage à inventer et autres textes. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal (PUM), 27 March 2023. 416 p.; ill.; 21.5 x 15 cm.; white wrappers with text in blue.

With the exception of perhaps two dozen publications in academic journals, a couple of dissertations, a biography by Marc Vachon (L’arpenteur de la ville : l’utopie urbaine situationniste et Patrick Straram, 2003), Patrick Straram has remained an unjustly neglected figure of the twentieth century avant-garde. Further, and with the exception of Lettre à Guy Debord de Patrick Straram and La veuve blanche et noire un peu détournée (Sens & Tonka, 2006, for both) many of Straram’s writings remain either out-of-print or unpublished.

D’une révolution à l’autre. Correspondance Debord-Straram suivi de Cahier pour un paysage à inventer et autres textes, released last month by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal, attempts to remedy this gap. The book focuses on Straram’s intellectual development in the years following his immigration to Canada (1954) through the publication of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer (1960).

D’une révolution à l’autre is structured in five sections:

  1. A critical text by Sylvano Santini
  2. A reproduction of the letters between Guy Debord and Patrick Straram (1954-1963)
  3. A reproduction of the full text of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer
  4. A reproduction of a select number of other texts by Straram from the 1953-1963 period
  5. A postface by Guillaume Bellehumeur

Santini’s text is a comparative study of Debord and Straram’s friendship and intellectual development from 1953 to 1963, and contextualizes the two men’s relationship within their respective milieu. Having accessed Straram’s letters to the actor Jacques Blot (1951-1960), Santini sheds a new light on a very poorly understood part of the man’s life: his 4 years working at a lumberjack in British Columbia, prior to his arrival in Montreal in June 1958. For instance, one is surprised to learn about Straram’s interest in Ayn Rand, and the strong influence the character of  Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (1943) had on him at the time. For this reason, and many others, Santini’s article is an innovative and welcome contribution to Situationist scholarship.

The reproduction of the letters between Debord and Straram is useful, though with one exception, those had already appeared in either Guy Debord’s Correspondance or Lettre à Guy Debord de Patrick Straram. It may have been judicious to include the yet-unpublished letters between Straram and Blot instead.

The reproduction of the full text of the Cahier pour un paysage à inventer, should be celebrated. The first and only issue of the Situationist-influenced, Quebec-based periodical has remained extremely scarce, with only three copies on OCLC, all in Canada (Sherbrooke, Montreal, UQAM). This publication includes articles, poems and critical texts by Quebec writers (Gaston Miron, Marie-France O’Leary, Paul-Marie Lapointe, Gilles Hénault, Serge Garant, Marcel Dubé…) and members of the Internationale Situationniste (Asger Jorn, Gilles Ivain, Guy-Ernest Debord…).

The penultimate section of the book includes several hard-to-find texts by Straram. The reprint of Straram’s mythical article in Tremplin, the bulletin of the patients of the psychiatric hospital of Ville-Evrard (where the author was briefly interned), is very worthwhile. Likewise, Quelque part Salt Spring had never been published before, and appears here for the first time. These are important milestones in Straram’s intellectual journey, and help us better understand his personal trajectory.

Finally, a postface by Guillaume Bellehumeur with the tongue-and-cheek title of “De la diffusion de la pensée de l’IS en milieu québécois, considérée sous ses aspects culturel, cinématographique et notamment littéraire, et de quelques figures qui y ont contribué” (a reference to Mustapha Khayat’s pamphlet), demonstrates the ways in which the Situationist International influenced Quebecois intellectual culture, and how a second issue of the Cahier had been well underway.

Overall, D’une révolution à l’autre is an important for those interested in Guy Debord, Patrick Straram, the Quebecois counterculture of the early 1960s, and the intersection of all three.

Note: Our review copy was graciously provided by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal

[DEBORD, Guy] Proletarietet som subjekt och som representation (brochure) [1970]

[DEBORD, GUY]. [la Société du Spectacle] Proletarietet som subjekt och som representation. Stockholm: Gyllene Flottan, November 1970. 48 p.; 21 x 14.5 cm.; black ink on yellow stock.

Translation by the Swedish pro-Situationist group Gyllene Flottan (“The Golden Fleet”, a reference to J.V. Martin’s geopolitical paintings) of the fourth chapter of Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle (theses 73-125). The translation is preceded by a short preface by Gyllene Flottan.

More on Gyllene Flottan (from Wikipedia):

The Golden Fleet (SwedishGyllene Flottan) was a minor left-wing group in Sweden, existing during the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. It was ideologically aligned with the Situationist International, an avant-garde revolutionary movement. The Situationists, whose intellectual foundations were derived primarily from libertarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century (particularly Dada and Surrealism),[1] initially put its emphasis on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually the focus moved more towards revolutionary and political theory. Much like the main organ of that particular ideological current, the Situationist International, the Golden Fleet had its heyday around the protests of 1968, gradually disappearing by the first years of the 1970s.

Extremely little is known about the Golden Fleet, yet still it became notorious, this to such an extent that it has been labelled “legendary”.[2] Nothing is known about its establishment, composition, and disestablishment. The name was most likely taken from an art exhibit in Denmark by the Situationist Jeppesen Victor Martin, which consisted of geopolitical paintings featuring coastlines, strategic arrows and toy battleships sprayed over with metallic paint.[3] The group was centered in the capital Stockholm, although some members appear to have been from Gothenburg. It is primarily notable through the fact that its members were those that introduced situationist writings to Sweden by its brief but hectic work with publishing political texts. Among them were Instruktion i vapendragning in 1970 (a translation of “Instructions for an Insurrection”, originally published 1961), as well as longer translations of texts by Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem among others.[4]

The group also produced a number of works on its own, prominent among them the poster “Hang the Stalinists High” (SwedishHäng stalinisterna högt, on the subject of the contemporary left-wing) and the brochure “King Gustaf’s Sardines” (SwedishKung Gustafs sardiner) which discussed the “meaningful meaninglessness of the Swedish students”. Another Situationist group existed in Sweden, the Second Situationist International of Jørgen Nash, but there appears to have been no connection between the Golden Fleet and the Nashists.

We do not locate any reference to this leaflet in any know bibliographies or on OCLC. However, Monoskop refers to it.

[DEBORD, Guy] Proletarietet som subjekt och som representation (leaflet) [1970]

[DEBORD, GUY]. Proletarietet som subjekt och som representation. n.p. [Stockholm]: n.p. [Gyllene Flottan], n.d. [1970]. 1 p.; ill.; 21 x 29.5 cm.; black ink on white stock.

Translation by the Swedish pro-Situationist group Gyllene Flottan (“The Golden Fleet”, a reference to J.V. Martin’s geopolitical paintings) of a French-language detourned comic that announced the publication of Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle. The text in is from the fourth chapter, thesis no. 123 of the book. The détourned comic is from the American action-adventure comic strip Terry and the Pirates.

This leaflet was likely released alongside the first partial Swedish language translation of Debord’s book, specifically of Chapter 4 (also titled “Proletarietet som subjekt och som representation”). We do not locate any reference to this leaflet in any know bibliographies or on OCLC.

Up Against the Real: Black Mask from Art to Action [2023]

MILLNER-LARSEN, Nadja. Up Against the Real: Black Mask from Art to Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 7 March 2023. 288 p.; ill.; 23 x 15 cm.; ill. Cover with text in black and white.

Art Historian Nadja Millner-Larsen authors the first book-length scholarly study of Black Mask.

“”With Up Against the Real, Nadja Millner-Larsen offers the first comprehensive study of the group Black Mask and its acrimonious relationship to the New York art world of the 1960s. Cited as pioneers of now-common protest aesthetics, the group’s members employed incendiary modes of direct action against racism, colonialism, and the museum system. They shut down the Museum of Modern Art, fired blanks during a poetry reading, stormed the Pentagon in an antiwar protest, sprayed cow’s blood at the secretary of state, and dumped garbage into the fountain at Lincoln Center. Black Mask published a Dadaist broadside until 1968, when it changed its name to Up Against the Wall Motherfucker (after line in a poem by Amiri Baraka) and came to classify itself as “a street gang with analysis.” American activist Abbie Hoffman described the group as “the middle-class nightmare . . . an anti-media phenomenon simply because their name could not be printed.” Up Against the Real examines how and why the group ultimately rejected art in favor of what its members deemed “real” political action. Exploring this notorious example of cultural activism that rose from the ruins of the avant-garde, Millner-Larsen makes a critical intervention in our understanding of political art.” (Publisher)

For more on Black Mask, see https://situationnisteblog.wordpress.com//?s=%22black+mask%22&search=Go