[Photograph] Debord, Marc’O, Fillon, Cocteau [1951]

[GROUPE LETTRISTE] [Photograph] Debord, Marc’O, Fillon, Cocteau. n.p.: n.p., n.d. 21 x 15 cm.; B&W photograph on Fujifilm film stock.

Countertype (duplicate) of an original August 1951 photograph showing Marc O’ (Marc Gilbert Guillaumin), Guy Debord, and Jacques Fillon with Jean Cocteau at the artist’s house in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Cocteau made a brief apperance in Isou’s film Traité de Bave et d’Éternité (Venom and Eternity). He supported the avant-garde film and convinced the jury of the Cannes Festival to award it a special “avant-garde prize” created for that very purpose. A young Guy Debord had only joined the Lettrist group 4 months prior, in April 1951, when its members had traveled down to Cannes. The rest, as they say, is History.

Photograph reproduced in Guy Debord, Oeuvres (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), pp. 43.

In Unserer Spektakulären Gesellschaft…[1970s?]

[INTERNATIONALE SITUATIONNISTE]. [Dans le décor spectaculaire où le regard ne rencontre que les choses et leur prix…] In Unserer Spektakulären Gesellschaft… n.p. [Germany?]: n.p., n.d. [1970s?]. Poster. Ill.; 61 x 43 cm.; black ink on thick white stock.

German language translation of the original poster by Andre Bertrand, announcing the upcoming publication of Internationale Situationniste no.11. The unsigned text is by Raoul Vaneigem.

As noted by Raspaud (120-21), two different versions of this poster were released in December 1967, each with a similar unsigned text but illustrated with different comics. The other version is the work of Gerard Johannes, and is reproduced by Gonzalvez (136).

While numerous French (see here) and English-language (see here) versions of the posters are accounted for, we were not aware a German-language version. We do not locate any copy in the trade or on OCLC. Not in Raspaud.

 Malgré le blasphème [1950]

MOURRE, Michele. Malgré le blasphème. Paris: Julliard, Jan. 1951. 254 p.; 14.5 x 19.5 cm.; white cover in contemporary orange binding.

In this autobiography, 22-year old Michele Mourre describes his eventful youth, from the death of his mother to his conversion to Catholicism and decision to join (then leave) the Dominican order to the famed “Scandal of Notre-Dame”. On Easter Sunday, 1950, Mourre entered the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during High Mass, dressed as a Dominican monk. In the middle of the ceremony, he got up, stood in front of the altar, and declaimed before the congregation:

Today, Easter day of the Holy Year,
Here, under the emblem of Notre-Dame of Paris,
I accuse the universal Catholic Church of the lethal diversion of our living strength toward an empty heaven,
I accuse the Catholic Church of swindling,
I accuse the Catholic Church of infecting the world with its funereal morality,
Of being the running sore on the decomposed body of the West.
Verily I say unto you: God is dead,
… Today Easter day of the Holy Year,
Here under the emblem of Notre-Dame of Paris,
We proclaim the death of the Christ-god, so that Man may live at last.

Mourre would later recant (thus the title of this book – In spite of blasphemy) and once again become a practicing Catholic. Our copy is exceptionally dedicated by Mourre to Michel de St-Pierre, a conservative catholic writer and the author of 1954 semi-autobiographical best-seller “The Aristocrats”

J.V. Martin’s first U.S. solo exhibition in New York, through July 9, 2022

I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibition of J.V. Martin’s work at Tif Sigfrids gallery in New York. The exhibition is held through July 9th at 75 E. Broadway NY, NY 10002. Gallery hours are Thursday to Saturday, 12 to 6 and by appointment. Below is the full announcement, as well as pictures from my visit. More here:

Tif Sigfrids is thrilled to announce an exhibition of works by the late Danish painter J. V. Martin at its New York gallery on 75 East Broadway. The show will open with a reception on Friday, May 20th from 4-6 PM and remain on view through July 9th. This is the gallery’s first presentation of Martin’s work and the artist’s first solo exhibition in the US.

J. V. Martin (b. 1930 d. 1993) lived and worked in the provincial town of Randers, Denmark, a four-hour train ride from Copenhagen. Despite the remoteness of his locale Martin was firmly connected to one of the most important movements in art and critical theory in postwar Europe. Martin was admitted to the Situationist International (SI) at a moment when every other artist in the group had either been pressured to resign or was soon to be excluded by decree. The Situationists had grown wary of art’s usefulness to their project of societal disruption. However, rather than abandoning art completely, they redirected their energy toward an “anti-Situationist” art that revolved around the destruction of art objects and substitution of games for conventional art media.

Martin was integral to the development of this “anti-Situationist” art. His 1963 exhibition “Destruction of the RSG-6” included white canvases on which Guy Debord had painted Situationist slogans; relief paintings by Michèle Bernstein in which the Situationist writer reimagined the history of class struggle as one of proletarian victory; a shooting range, in which the audience was encouraged to use portraits of world leaders for target practice; and Martin’s own “Thermonuclear Cartographies,” a series of large canvases in which he used hair, scrap metal, and rotting cheese to envisage the alteration of familiar topographies by nuclear war.

Most of these works were destroyed in 1965 when a bomb rumored to have been planted by the Danish secret service exploded in Martin’s apartment. Yet Martin continued his “anti-Situationist” art practice in his series of “Golden Fleet” paintings commenced in 1968 from which the current exhibition includes a rare early example. Incorporating thick layers of gold paste, plastic models of warships, and comic strips, the Golden Fleet paintings suggest a war game in which the forces of playfulness (of which Martin imagined himself the admiral) is deployed against capitalist imperialism.

At the same time, Martin continued to make paintings reminiscent of those created by the Cobra movement between 1948 and 1951. Cobra was a part of the DNA of Situationism that Debord had always sought to distance himself from. Martin’s Cobra- style paintings, of which the forthcoming exhibition includes several key examples, not only call into question the idea of an “anti-Situationist” art. They bring to the fore Situationism’s fraught relationship to the avant-garde art tradition on which it was modeled. For all but a few brief moments, J.V. Martin’s Scandinavian section of the SI was a movement of one. Nevertheless, Martin vehemently opposed Debord’s dissolution of the SI in 1972 and continued to call himself a Situationist until his death in 1993.

Works by J. V. Martin were included in the 1989 exhibition “On the Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time” touring the Musée National d’Art Moderne Centre Pompidou in Paris, Institute of Contemporary Art London, and Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Works by Martin were also included in the 2017 exhibition “Tous contre le spectacle” at the Arsenale Institute for the Politics of Representation in Venice, Italy and in the 2018 exhibition “The Most Dangerous Game” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Martin’s work has been the subject of two retrospective exhibitions at Randers Kunstmuseum in 2007 and Møstings Hus in Copenhagen in 2021. In 2014 Sternberg Press published a monographic study of J. V. Martin’s life and work from 1962 to 1972 by art historian Mikkel Bolt.

The exhibition includes a section of historic documents. It is curated by Niels Henriksen, an art historian who recently defended his PhD on the art and archaeology of Asger Jorn.

Deuxième internationale lettriste [1963]

Deuxième internationale lettriste4 p.; 10.5 x 27 cm.; brown wrappers (kraft paper).

First and only publication of the short-lived Deuxième internationale lettriste, which was founded by Jean-Louis Brau, Gil Wolman and François Dufrêne as an offshot of Lettrisme. Includes short, signed texts by Brau (L’Asymptote toujours) and Wolman “(L’Art a posteriori”) and two unsigned texts (“Positions II” and “Eloge d’Isou”). The front wrapper includes the thumbprints of the authors.

See Frédéric Acquaviva (Ed.), Lettrist Corpus: The Complete Magazines (1946-2016), p. 117.

We locate a single OCLC copy at Yale’s Beinecke Library of this decidedly unusual publication.

Our first book is out! On the Poverty of Student Life (2022)

We are very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of ON THE POVERTY OF STUDENT LIFE. This new, 376-page edition of the classic pamphlet includes a lot of never-seen before content:

  • A preface, “The Most Scandalous Pamphlet of This Century,” by coeditor Mehdi El Hajoui
  • A critical introduction by coeditor Anna O’Meara, where she explores the relationship between the Zengakuren and the SI
  • An interview with Mustapha Khayati, tracing the origins of the pamphlet and its contemporary resonances (in English and French)
  • A reflection by Allan Antlif on the Black & Red editions of the pamphlet
  • A note by Donald Nicholson-Smith on the first English-language adaptation
  • A facsimile of that adaptation, Ten Days That Shook the University (1967)
  • An early handwritten draft of the first chapter by Mustapha Khayati
  • A facsimile of the original French edition, De la misère en milieu étudiant (1966)
  • A stunning, wide ranging graphic exploration of one hundred editions of On the Poverty of Student Life in twenty or so languages, with their original covers and detailed bibliographical information.

Simply put, a book like this has never before existed. It will surely be embraced by SI enthusiasts new and old, as well as serve as a vital resource for makers and collectors of revolutionary art, and a new generation of student revolutionaries.

You can purchase copies or encourage others to do at the Common Notions website: https://www.commonnotions.org/on-the-poverty-of-student-life. For international orders, Amazon offers shipping to Europe for ~$10. See here. If you can’t afford a copy, you can always ask your (public or university) library to order one.

A limited number of review copies may be available to those interested in bringing more attention to this work. Feel free to write to Malav Kanuga, editor and publisher at malav@commonnotions.org with details.

Alexander Trocchi : 3 original photographs [ca. 1954-late 1970s]

[TROCCHI, Alexander]. [PHOTOGRAPH] [Alexander Trocchi sitting at his desk at 6 St. Stephen’s Gardens, Notting Hill]. n.p. [London, United Kingdom], n.d. [ca. 1964]. 25.4 x 17.3cm B&W print.

Photograph of Trocch seated at his desk and who appears to be sealing envelopes. Perhaps the writer is getting ready to mail the latest issue of Sigma? Photograph by John Hopkins

[TROCCHI, Alexander]. [PHOTOGRAPH] [Alexander Trocchi and Sally Child in Trocchi’s flat in Observatory Gardens, Holland Park]. n.p. [London, United Kingdom], n.d. [ca. 1970s]. 17.8 x 23.9cm. (image size 14.9 x 22.6cm) B&W print.

The photograph — the work of Harold Chapman – shows Trocchi in his book-lined study, seated beside a coffee table covered with, among other objects, a small filing cabinet, cigarette packets, two wine glasses and an opened bottle of Möet & Chandon, while Sally Child, introduced to Trocchi by Robert Creeley’s wife, Penny, and his lover for the last seven years of his life, looks on. Photographer’s stamp and ‘Alexander Trocchi’ written out in ink by the photographer to verso.

[TROCCHI, Alexander]. [PHOTOGRAPH] [Alexander Trocchi in his Holland Park flat]. n.p. [London, United Kingdom], n.d. [ca. 1970s]. 14.7 x 21.5cm B&W print.

Splendid portrait of the tormented artist, the work of Harold Chapman. Photographer’s stamp and brief ink caption by the photographer to verso.

Sigma: A Tactical Blueprint [1964]

TROCCHI, Alexander. [Sigma 3] Sigma: A Tactical Blueprint London: Sigma, 1964. 6 mimeographed p.; 20.5 x 33 cm.; black ink on blue stock then yellow stock.

Trocchi meets Guy Debord in Paris in 1955,  and joins the Internationale Situationniste in 1958. In 1960, he publishes Cain’s book, which offers an apology of drugs and particularly heroin. For this, he was arrested in the United States, which led the Situationists to publish the leaflet Hands off Alexander Trocchi! in October 1960. Trocchi then returns to Europe and becomes part of the editing committee of Internationale Situationniste in 1963. The next year, he launches Project Sigma (more below), which leads to an amicable split with Debord and the S.I.

With Project Sigma, Trocchi tried to establish an international network of countercultural activism largely focused on socially-based institutions perceived as limiting free expression such as the media, universities, and workplaces. For more about Sigma, see http://realitysandwich.com/128311/alexander_trocchi_project_sigma/ and http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/items/show/9588

Along with Insurrection of a million minds (Sigma #2), Sigma: A Tactical Blueprint (Sigma #3) is the most important issue of the Sigma portfolio. In it, Trocchi describes the motivations behind and theoretical underpinnings of his Sigma Project:

  • “It is our contention that, for many years now, a change, which might be usefully regarded as evolutionary, has been taking place in the minds of men; they have been becoming aware of the implications of self-consciousness. And, here and there throughout the world, individuals are more or less purposively concerned with evolving techniques to inspire and sustain self-consciousness in all men”
  • “In looking for a word to designate a possible international association of men who are concerned individually and in concert to articulate an effective strategy and tactics for this cultural revolution (cf. The Invisible Insurrection), it was thought necessary to find one which provoked no obvious responses. We chose the word “sigma.” Commonly used in mathematical practice to designate all, the sum, the whole, it seemed to fit very well with our notion that all men must eventually be included”
  • “Actually dispersed as we are, and will be until several self-conscious focal-points (sigma-centres) are established, effective communications are vital. All individuals and groups the world over must be contacted and henceforth invited to participate. People must be located and activated: we are confronted with the technical problem of elaborating the ways of gearing the power of all of us individuals to an effective flywheel.”
  • “All over the world today are little conflagrations of intelligence, little pockets of “situation-making.” Some of the first theorists called themselves “Situationnistes.” Other individuals and groups who appear to us to have similar attitudes are presently being gathered into a comprehensive index which will serve as the basis for our communications. We have to evolve the mechanisms and techniques for a kind of supercategorical cultural organization”

Trocchi also discusses in ample detail his concept of the “spontaneous university” — inspiring future “Free Universities” in London, New York, Copenhagen, and more…

  • “In “The Invisible Insurrection” we touched on the kind of situation we wish to bring about. We conceived it to be a kind of spontaneous university. But the term “university” has some unfortunate connotations and is, besides, too limited to include the entire complex of vital and infectious human processes we have in mind to detonate, first in England and subsequently throughout the world. The original spontaneous university (or sigma-centre) will be a fountainhead only. We are concerned with cities and civilizations, not with “classrooms” in the conventional sense, nevertheless, we are at the beginning of it all and must commence with certain practical considerations. Our experimental situation, our international conference, must be located so that our “cosmonauts” can either congregate or be in contact.”
  • “The more imaginative university teachers all over the world are well aware of these things. But they can do nothing until they can see a possible alternative. Sigma as spontaneous university is such an alternative. It can only grow out of the combined effort of individuals and groups of individuals working unofficially at supernational level. A large country house, not too far from London (and Edinburgh, and New York, and Paris, etc.), is being sought for the pilot project.”
  • ” Then, “the original building will stand deep within its own grounds, preferably on a riverbank. It should be large enough for a pilot-group (astronauts of inner space) to situate itself, orgasm and genius, and their tools and dream-machines and amazing apparatus and appurtenances; with outhouses for workshops large as could accommodate light industry, the entire site to allow for spontaneous architecture and eventual town-planning,” etc. (cf. The Invisible Insurrection.) Here our “experimental laboratory” will locate itself, our community-as-art, and begin exploring the possible functions of a society in which leisure is a dominant fact, and universal community, in which the conventional assumptions about reality and the constraints which they imply are no longer operative, in which art and life are no longer divided. The “university,” which we suspect will have much in common with Joan Littlewood’s “leisuredrome” (if she will forgive my coining a word), will be operated by a “college” of teacher-practioners with no separate administration.”

In addition to its stand-alone publication, “Sigma: A Tactical Blueprint” was published in City Lights Journal #2 in 1964. Full text available at http://www.notbored.org/sigma.html [English]

We locate 4 OCLC copies.