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overview of post-war avant-garde 1945-1986



Ist edition Aporia Press and Unpopular Books, London 1988. 2nd UK edition
AK Press, 1991.

The entire contents of this book (except the index) are available for
free on this site, but you can still buy hard copies should you so wish.
This book was written in 1987, things have moved on since then (both
for the author and in the world), so please bear that in mind....

1. Cobra.
2nd UK edition.
2. The Lettriste Movement.
3. The Lettriste International (1952-57).
4. The College Of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art and the International
Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus.
5. From the "First World Congress of Liberated Artists" to the
foundation of the Situationist International.
6. The Situationist International in its heroic phase (1957-62).
7. On the theoretical poverty of the Specto-Situationists and the
legitimate status of the Second International.
8. The decline and fall of the Specto-Situationist critique.
9. The origins of Fluxus and the movement in its 'heroic' period.
10. The rise of the depoliticized Fluxus aesthetic.
11. Gustav Metzger and Auto-Destructive Art.
12. Dutch Provos, Kommune 1, Motherfuckers, Yippies and White 1st UK edition.
13. Mail Art.
14. Beyond Mail Art.
15. Punk.
16. Neoism.
17. Class War.
Selected Bibliography.
Introduction to the Polish edition.
Introduction to the Italian edition.
Introduction to the Lithuanian edition.
Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde (included in translated editions of
book). In Portuguese from Brazil.

This book was first published by Aporia Press and Unpopular Books of
London in 1988, and subsequently reissued by AK Press (Stirling) in
1991. AK Press edition ISBN: 1 873176309 is currently available.[11/27/10 2:53:22 PM]

overview of post-war avant-garde 1945-1986

Please note the UK AK edition is the English language version approved

by the author; an overpriced and poor quality pod version was issued
by AK US without Stewart Home's knowledge, and when he found
about about it two years after it was issued and complained, AK US
agreed to withdraw it (but may or may not have done so).

From the back cover of the AK edition (lifted from the press).

" A straightforward account of the vanguards that followed Surrealism:

Letlrisme, fluxus, Neoism and others even more obscure" Village
Voice. In Spanish.

"Home's book is the first that I know of to chart this particular

'tradition' and to treat it seriously. It is a healthy corrective to the
overly aestheticised view of 20th century avant-gorde art that now
prevails." City Limits.

" Much of the information is taken from obscure sources and the book
is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. It demystifies
the political and artistic practices of opponents to the dominant culture
and serves as a basic reference for a field largely undocumented in
English. It is also engagingly honest, unpretentious, questioning and
immediate in its impact" Artists Newsletter.

In Polish.
"Reflecting the uncategorisable aspect of art that hurls itself into
visionary politics, the book will engage political scientists, performance
artists and activists" Art and Text.

" Apocalyptic in the literal sense of the word: an uncovering,

revelation, a vision" New Statesman.

" A concise introduction to a whole mess of troublemakers through the

ages... well written, incisive and colourful" NME.

"Informative and provocative" Art Forum.

Front cover photo of Shaun Caton on 2nd UK edition (AK Press) by

John Parker. Front cover of 1st UK edition shows Asger Jorn at work in
the Experimental Laboratory. In Italian.

Prelim Page Quotes:

"Our programme is a cultural revolution through a total assault on culture, which

makes use of every tool, every energy and every media we can get our collective
hands on... our culture, our art, the music, newspapers, books, posters, our
clothing, our homes, the way we walk and talk, the way our hair grows, the way we
smoke dope and fuck and eat and sleep - it's all one message - and the message is
FREEDOM." John Sinclair, Ministry Of Information, White Panthers.

"Frankly, all he asked for now was an opportunity to ingratiate himself with the
Black Panthers and uncover the man behind the scenes. Hart had been right about
this. There were whites actively engaged in supplying facilities, legal advice, aid for
the 'cell'. Liberals they were called. Some were honest citizens trying to carry
through the mayor's instructions that peace depended upon total, unbiased co-
operation between New York's polyglot millions. Others had a stake in anarchy -[11/27/10 2:53:22 PM]

overview of post-war avant-garde 1945-1986

In Lithuanian.
destruction being their aim, civil strife their immediate target. And, too, there were
the Mafia with tentacles waving for a share of the lucrative drug traffic. Pot and acid
were not enough for the pushers. They wanted 'H' and coke the mainstemming
narcotic that every militant used." Richard Allen "Demo" (New English Library,
London 1971).

"It should be re-affirmed that the creation of a counter-culture, in itself a

haphazard, chancy and unpredictable affair, has profound political implications. For
while the Establishment, with its flair for survival, can ultimately absorb policies, no
matter how radical or anarchistic (abolition of censorship, withdrawal from Vietnam,
Legalized Pot, etc), how long can it withstand the impact of an alien culture? - a
culture that is destined to create a new kind of man?" Richard Neville "Play Power"
(Jonathan Cape, London 1970).

Henry Flynt talks to Stewart Home (interview with seminal figure who
knew entire New York Fluxus circle).

Ralph Rumney talks to Stewart Home (interview with founder member

of the Situationist International)



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The Assault On Culture by Stewart Home preface




Those reading this text will better understand it if they bear in mind
the audience for whom it was written. The primary audience was seen
as those who were already engaged in activities relating to the
tradition sketched out in the text. The secondary audience was seen as
those who - for whatever reasons - were interested in the tradition
described, but played no role in its contemporary manifestations.(1)
The text is written so as to be clear to the secondary audience if it is
understood that the author writes from a position of engagement. It
should thus be borne in mind that although certain of the ideas
described are relatively obscure, they have had considerable influence 2nd UK edition
within the milieus from which they emerged.

The text contains large chunks of quotation, both to give a flavour of

the material being discussed - and to save time and effort on the part
of the author. It should be understood that these quotations are being
used to illustrate a specific argument and that to keep the text as brief
as possible the author does not fully explore the contradictions or
assumptions that any given quotation may contain.(2) For example,
the Introduction begins with a quotation from the American section of
the (specto) Situationist International (SI). The quotation is used
because it illustrates that a specto-situationist would dismiss as
ridiculous the treatment their movement receives in this text (although
such a reaction does not prove that this treatment is ridiculous). The
same quotation contains a number of very questionable assertions; for
example, the phrase "competes with, and is thereby equal to". To take 1st UK edition
a different example from the one used by the specto-SI, Ghana
competes with the USSR in the Olympic Games, but to deduce from
this that the two states are equivalent is to succumb to a gross and
ultimately meaningless form of generalisation.(3)

Where possible a date and a place of birth has been given for any
individual mentioned in the text; the severe difficulty encountered in
tracing biographical material on the subjects of this study has meant
that the occurrence of such data is somewhat erratic.


1. The first paragraph of this preface is obviously an exception to this

rule since it is written for the benefit of the secondary audience.

2. In particular the ideas of Henry Flynt, Gustav Metzger, COUM In Portuguese

Transmissions, Pauline Smith, Vittore Baroni & Tony Lowes could very
easily be taken apart and shown to be contradictory or ridiculous.[11/27/10 2:54:18 PM]

The Assault On Culture by Stewart Home preface

3. As will be demonstrated in the course of the text, the basic

theoretical technique of the various situationist groups - and
particularly the Debordist faction - was to present gross generalisation
as incontestable fact. This produced effective propaganda and
atrociously poor theory. For example, Debord writes in "The Scoiety of
the Spectacle":

"Tourism, human circulation considered as consumption, a by-product of the

circulation of commodities, is fundamentally nothing more than the leisure of going
to see what has become banal. The economic organisation of visits to different
places is already in itself the guarantee of their equivalence. The same
modernisation that removed time from the voyage also removed it from the reality
In Spanish
of space."

Next: Introduction

Extras: Introduction to the Polish edition / Italian edition

Assault On Culture contents page

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:54:18 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home introduction



"This world tries to bring the most radical gestures under its wing: the avant-garde
of its subculture serves to make it appear that the S.1. competes with, and is
thereby equal to, Regis Debray who equals the Panthers who equal the Peace and
Freedom Party which equals the Yippies who equal the Sexual Freedom League
which equals the ads on the back which equal the price on the cover. The Barb, the
Rat, Good Times, and so on - it makes no difference. Same old show, new
markets." "The Practice Of Theory" by the American section of the (specto)
Situationist International (included in "Situationist International" 1, New York 1969).

If the term 'art' took on its modem meaning in the eighteenth century,
UK 2nd edition
then any tradition of opposition to it must date from this period - or

In ancient Greece and medieval Europe, the category 'art' covered a

multitude of disciplines - many of which are now reduced to the status
of 'craft'. Those activities which have retained the title of art are now
pursued by men (sic) of 'genius'.

Art has taken over the function of religion, not simply as the ultimate -
and ultimately unknowable - form of knowledge, but also as a
legitimated form of male emotionality. The 'male' artist is treated as a
'genius' for expressing feelings that are 'traditionally' considered
'feminine'. 'He' constructs a world in which the male is heroicised by
displaying 'female' traits; and the female is reduced to an insipid
subordinate role.(1) 'Bohemia' is colonised by bourgeois men - a few of
UK 1st edition
whom are 'possessed by genius', the majority of whom are 'eccentric'.
Bourgeois wimmin whose behaviour resembles that of the 'male
genius' are dismissed as being 'hysterical' - while proletarians of either
sex who behave in such a manner are simply branded as 'mental'. Art,
in both practice and content, is class and gender specific. Although its
apologists claim 'art' is a 'universal category', this simply isn't true.
Every survey of attendances at art galleries and museums
demonstrates that an 'appreciation' of 'art' is something restricted
almost exclusively to individuals belonging to higher income groups.(2)

Since 'art' as a category has been projected back onto the religious
icons of the middle ages, it is not surprising that those who oppose it
should situate themselves within a 'utopian current' that they, in turn,
trace back to medieval heresies. After the event, it is easy enough to
perceive a tradition running from the Free Spirit through the writings
of Winstanley, Coppe, Sade, Fourier, Lautreamont, William Morris, In Portuguese
Alfred Jarry, and on into Futurism and Dada - then via Surrealism into
Lettrisme, the various Situationist movements, Fluxus, 'Mail Art', Punk[11/27/10 2:54:34 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home introduction

Rock, Neoism and contemporary anarchist cults. Taking this as our

hypothesis - we will not trouble ourselves over whether such a
perspective is 'historically correct' - we will construct a 'meaningful'
story from these fragments. Whether or not our 'fiction' is factually
valid, it can assist our understanding of disparate phenomena.

Medieval expressions of this utopian current have usually been viewed

as essentially 'religious' in content; whereas during the present
century, this tradition has been seen as primarily artistic in nature.
Such categorisation reflects the reductionist strategies of academics:
the utopian tradition has always aimed at the integration of all human
activities. The heretics of the middle ages sought to abolish the role of
the church and realise heaven on earth, while their twentieth-century In Spanish
counterparts have sought the end of social separation by
simultaneously confronting 'politics' and 'culture'.(3)

The discursive shift in this tradition, which occurred with Futurism, was
necessitated by the development of modem technologies and systems
of mass transportation. To satisfy the ideological demands of their
paymasters, historians have usually treated Futurism as yet another
turn-of-the-century art movement. But Futurism went beyond painting,
poetry and music, to create 'futurist' clothes and architecture and,
perhaps most importantly, a futurist 'politics' which fused with all other
futurist activities in a rediscovered 'totality'. ("We already live in the
absolute, because we have created eternal omnipresent speed" - First
Futurist Manifesto). To dismiss Futurist politics as fascist is as common
as it is incorrect. At its inception Futurism was chiefly influenced by
the writings of Proudhon, Bakunin, Nietzsche and, especially, Georges In Polish
Sorel. ("So let them come, the gay incendiaries with charred fingers!
Here they are! Here they are!... Come on! set fire to the library
shelves! Turn aside the canals to flood the museums!... Oh, the joy of
seeing the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters,
discoloured and shredded!... Take up your pickaxes, your axes and
hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly!" - First
Futurist Manifesto).

Dada at its peak gave Utopians a more coherent theoretico-practice

than Futurism. Dada began in Zurich but was realised in Berlin. In the
manifesto "What Is Dadaism and What Does It Want in Germany?"(4)
, Richard Huelsenbeck was demanding the "introduction of progressive
unemployment through comprehensive mechanisation of every field of
activity" and the establishment "of a Dadaist advisory council for the
remodelling of life in every city of over 50,000 inhabitants". In his
In Italian
essay "En Avant Dada: A History of Dadaism" (1920), Huelsenbeck
further clarified the relation of his own 'brand' of Utopianism to 'art' by
stating that: "The dadaist considers it necessary to come out against
art because he has seen through its fraud as a moral safety valve".
And further, that "Dada is German Bolshevism. The bourgeois must be
deprived of the opportunity to 'buy up art for his justification'. Art
should altogether get a sound thrashing, and Dada stands for that
thrashing with all the vehemence of its limited nature."

In a later essay, "Dada Lives" (1936), Huelsenbeck provides the clue

as to why it has been possible for historians to treat Dada as an art
movement. He says: "Tzara, in Paris, eliminated from Dadaism its
revolutionary and creative element and attempted to compete with
other artistic movements... Dada is perpetual, revolutionary 'pathos'[11/27/10 2:54:34 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home introduction

aimed at rationalistic bourgeois art. In itself it is not an artistic

movement. To quote the German Chancellor, the revolutionary
In Lithuanian
element in Dada was always greater than its constructive element.
Tzara did not invent Dadaism, nor did he really understand it. Under
Tzara in Paris Dada was deformed for the private use of a few persons
so that its action was almost a snobbish one".

Paris Dada was later renamed Surrealism. Under this title it became
the most degenerate expression of the Utopian tradition during the
pre-war years .Whereas Berlin Dada rejected both art and work
(themes that were later taken up by the Situationist International), the
Surrealists embraced painting, occultism, Freudianism and numerous
other bourgeois mystifications. Indeed, if Surrealism had been a
movement in its own right, rather than a degeneration from Dada, any
claim that it belongs within the Utopian tradition would be open to

From these pre-war movements the essential features of twentieth-

century Utopianism become apparent. The partisans of this tradition
aim not just at the integration of art and life, but of all human
activities. They have a critique of social separation and a concept of
totality. From the 1920s onwards Utopians were conscious of belonging
to a tradition that stretched back at least as far as Dada and Futurism,
and were aware that in previous centuries similar 'beliefs' had been
manifested in certain 'religious' heresies. There is a samizdat (self-
publishing) aspect to the tradition, that enables it to remain - at least
partially - autonomous of the cultural and commercial institutions of
the reigning society. For these reasons New York 'Neo-Dada' and
European nouveaux realisme, which were organised around critics and
galleries, cannot be considered a part of this tradition, despite the fact
that art 'historians' often treat them as being historically derived from
Dada. Even Group Zero, who were involved in self-publishing and self-
organised exhibitions, cannot be considered Utopians because they
limited their activities to 'art'.

In the twentieth-century, those adhering to Utopian principles have

worked between 'art', 'politics', 'architecture', 'urbanism' and all the
other specialisms that arise from separation. Utopians aim to 'create' a
'new' world where these specialisations will no longer exist.

Throughout the text I assume that the reader understands that while
the movements I am writing about situated themselves in opposition
to consumer capitalism, they also emerged out of societies based on
such a mode of organisation and thus do not entirely escape the logic
of the market place. This is particularly obvious in relation to the
obsession many of them display over the concept of innovation, which[11/27/10 2:54:34 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home introduction

reflects perfectly the waste inherent in a society based on planned

obsolescence. However, the movements with which I deal do not
always fail to break with the ideology of the reigning society, and
while they often deal with the same problems as serious culture, they
tend to do so from a different perspective.(5)

As well as emerging from the dominant society, it should also be

understood that these movements are, at least in part, a reaction to
the long period of Bretonian glaciation, whose negative influence on
the utopian tradition was not dissimilar to the effects of Stalinisation
on the workers' movement.

I have not written at length about the relation between the utopian
tradition and the dominant modes of organisation because I believe
the contemporary reader is perfectly capable of making such a
comparison without my assistance. I must, however, emphasise that
just because I have isolated certain currents from the totality of social
activity, this in no sense implies that these currents exist in isolation;
my intention being to provide a brief history of a politico-cultural
phenomenon whose achievements have - to date - remained either
unknown, or completely mystified, in the English speaking world rather
than a full description of the position they occupy within the dominant


1. See "Great Art and Great Culture" section in Valerie Solanas, "SCUM
Manifesto" (Olympia Press, New York 1968). Jayne M. Taylor has
elaborated the point made by Solanas in conversation with the author.

2. For a detailed statistical analysis of the relationship between art,

social class and profession, see Pierre Bourdieu, "Distinction: A Social
Critique of the Judgement of Taste" (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

3. The term 'art' is used in a number of contradictory ways in this text.

When used in its strict sense, it refers to the high culture of the ruling
class. However, some of those who I write about use it to denote
cultural productions which posit themselves in opposition to ruling
class culture. While there is no fixed link between the signifier and
signified, in its current, popular, usage, the term 'art' tends to denote
serious culture (the high culture of the ruling class). This meaning is
implicit - rather than explicit - in the popular perception of art as the
expression of individual genius ("deep stuff'): I deal with this argument
in more depth in chapter 7.

4. This manifesto was co-signed by Raoul Hausmann.

5. Grant Kester, writing in the October 1987 issue of "New Art

Examiner", had the following to say about one of the movements with
which I deal:

"Neoism is of particular importance because it engages many of the same issues

treated by recent Postmodern work. The critique of "originality" or commodification
taken up by artists like Sherrie Levine and Jeff Koons, however, is waged from
within the art world itself, through the production of art objects. Neoism, coming out
of Fluxus and Situationist roots which privilege non-objective activities, offers a
valuable alternative model. Neoism manages to advance a convincing critique of
commodified art productions, while at the same time sustaining a support system[11/27/10 2:54:34 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home introduction

that allows for an ongoing process of theoretical and practical dialogue."

Previous: Preface


Assault On Culture contents page

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Assault on Culture chapter on COBRA




COBRA's origin is dialectical, lying as it does in surrealism, but more

specifically in the rejection of surrealism's spurious doctrines. There
was a 'surrealist' group in Belgium from 1926, but it developed in a
different direction from those who fell under the influence of Breton in
Paris. In Belgium, there was little interest in mysticism or automism.

Christian Dotrement (1922-1981), a key figure in the COBRA

movement,(1) became involved with the Belgian surrealists following
the publication of his first pamphlet 'Ancienne Eternite', a long love
poem. He established contact with Breton in Paris, but was eventually UK 2nd edition
forced to break with him over the questions of mysticism and the
Communist Party. On returning to Europe after World War II, Breton
wanted nothing to do with the Communist Party and tried to make
'magic' the focal point of surrealist de activity. In 1947, Dotremont
responded by forming the 'Revolutionary Surrealist Group' to "renew
surrealist experimentation, to affirm its independence and the
simultaneous necessity for common action".

In his lectures and theoretical writings, Dotremont always stressed the

need for collective activity. At the Revolutionary Surrealist Group's first
meeting in October 1947, Dotremont made use of Henri Lefebvre's
recently published "Critique Of Everyday Life", and emphasised that
'surrealist' experiment must take place within the context of everyday
UK first edition
The Danish painter Asger Jorn (1914-1973) was an immediate
supporter of Dotremont's group. Jorn had already met Breton and
dismissed the Parisian group of surrealists as 'reactionaries'. At this
time, Jorn was a central figure in the Host group. This was a union of
painters, writers, and architects, who had originally gathered around
the magazine "Helhesten" ("House Of Hell"), which was published in
Copenhagen between 1941 and 1944. Its members included the
painters Jacobsen, Alfelt, and Bille; the writers Schade and Nash
(Jorn's brother); and the architect Olsen. "Helhesten" contained an
eclectic variety of material, ranging from imagery critical of consumer
society to texts on jazz, from poetry to writings on negro art, from
cinematic criticism to surveys of nordic culture.

Dotremont and Jorn had been introduced to each other by the Dutch
painter Constant (born Amsterdam 1920).(2) Jorn fIrst met Constant
In Portuguese
at a Miro exhibition in Paris in 1946, and again by chance in a cafe
later the same day. Constant was to prove vital in the formation of
COBRA. In 1948 he founded the Dutch group Reflex, whose[11/27/10 2:54:50 PM]

Assault on Culture chapter on COBRA

membership included Appel and Corneille. In their magazine, also

called Reflex. the group published literary texts, poetry, studies in
popular culture, and theoretical elaborations of their experimental
platform (which included opposition to the standardising influence of
De Stijl). The fIrst issue of Reflex contained two texts by Constant, one
a manifesto, the other a Declaration of Freedom in which he states:

"In the unprecedented cultural emptiness that has followed the war... in which the
reigning class increasingly pushes art into a position of dependence... We find
established a culture of individualism which is condemned by the very culture that
has produced it; because its conventionality prevents the exercise of imagination
and desire, and impedes vital expression... There cannot be a popular art, even if
concessions such as active participation are made to the public, while art forms are In Spanish
historically imposed. Popular art is characterised by vital expression, which is direct
and collective.
"A new freedom is about to be born, one which will allow people to satisfy their
creative desires. As a result of this process, the profession of artist will cease to
occupy a privileged position; which is why some contemporary artists are resistant
to it. In the period of transition, artistic creation finds itself at war with the existing
culture, while simultaneously announcing a future culture. With this dual aspect, art
has a revolutionary role in society".

In this tract we can read what would, more or less, become the
COBRA platform. The COBRA group was constituted in November 1948,
after six delegates walked out of a conference at the "International
Centre For The Documentation Of Avant-Garde Art" in Paris, protesting
at the facile level of debate. The six met at a cafe on the Quai St.
Michel, where they formed a dissident group. A short statement was In Polish
drawn up by Dotremont ("the only reason to maintain international
activity is experimental and organic collaboration, which avoids sterile
theory and dogmatism") and signed by Constant, Appel and Corneille,
on behalf of the Dutch group Reflex; by Jorn on behalf of the Danish
group Host; and by Dotremont and Noiret on behalf of the (mainly
Belgian) Revolutionary Surrealist Group. Dotremont invented the name
COBRA (made up from the first letters of the cities COpenhagen,
BRussels, Amsterdam) a week or two later. The first COBRA
manifestation took place within weeks of the group being formed. This
was as a part of the annual Host co-operative exhibition in
Copenhagen. At this time the individual groups that made up COBRA
had yet to amalgamate fully, and were thus semi-autonomous.

From its initial formation, COBRA grew to number about fifty painters,
poets, architects, ethnologists and theorists, from ten different In Italian
countries. The number might have been larger, if the Iron Curtain
hadn't cut through the cultural and political life of Europe. In its early
days COBRA was in contact with the Czech group Ra, and works sent
from Prague by Josef Istler were shown as part of COBRA's 1949
exhibition in Amsterdam. Unfortunately repression in Czechoslovakia
ended these contacts.

COBRA's activities covered meetings, exhibitions, exchanges, and the

production of the magazine "COBRA". Most of this activity was directed
by Constant, Dotremont and Jorn, although the magazine was to be
published by different groups, using French as a common language.

Although COBRA worked as a collective, the group was not without[11/27/10 2:54:50 PM]

Assault on Culture chapter on COBRA

tensions. Constant, Jorn, and their wives took a holiday on the island
of Bomholm in summer of 1949. It was here that Jorn started an affair
with Constant's wife Matie, whom he later married. This met with In Lithuanian
disapproval, particularly on the part of various Danish COBRA
members, who felt that Jorn should not have taken up with another
painter's wife while the painter was a guest in their country.

There were also political problems to be faced by the movement.

Dotremont, Jacobsen, and a number of others were forced to break
with the Communist Party over its support for social realism. This did
not weaken the movement's political conviction ("He who has the
experimental spirit must necessarily be a communist" - Dotremont).
However, although it was glaringly obvious that the CP would never
accept Dotremont's dictum that "the patch of colour is a scream in the
hands of a painter... a scream of its very substance", the break was
preceded by a good deal of soul searching.

The movement was, from its inception, critical of surrealism. In the

text "Le Discours Aux Pingonins", published in "COBRA 1", Jom
analyses Breton's definition of surrealism as 'pure psychic automism'
using materialist dialectics. Here, by referring to his conscious
experimental position, he demonstrates that individual creativity cannot
be explained purely in terms of psychic phenomena. Explication is itself
a physical act which materialises thought, and so psychic automism is
joined organically to physical automism. In a letter to Jorn, Dotremont
warned of the three dangers to the autonomous development of
COBRA - surrealism, abstract art, and social realism.

One of the movement's major projects was the creation of a new

urban environment - which would manifest itself in opposition to the
rational architecture of Le Corbusier. Michel Colle, in an article in the
first issue of "COBRA" writes:

"...buildings must not be squalid or anonymous, neither should they be show pieces
from a museum; rather they must commune with each other, integrate with the
environment to create synthesised 'cities' for a new socialist world."

It was the painter Constant who was to develop the COBRA concept of
unitary urbanism(3) and take this conception with him into the
Situationist International (SI). It was also Constant, in the 1949
editorial to the fourth issue of "COBRA", who elaborated a number of
theses concerning desire, the unknown, freedom and revolution, which
would later become central to the SI:

" speak of desire means to speak of the unknown, of the desire for freedom...
The freedom of our social life, which we propose as a first commitment, will open
the door to a new world... It is impossible to know a desire without satisfying it,[11/27/10 2:54:50 PM]

Assault on Culture chapter on COBRA

and the satisfaction of desire is revolution... Today's culture, being individualistic,

has replaced creation with 'artistic production', and has produced no more than
signs of tragic impotence... To create is always to discover what one doesn't know...
It is our desire that makes revolution".(4)

Internal and external pressures caused COBRA to disband in 1951. In

"Ce Que Sont Les Arnis De COBRA Et Ce Qu'ils Representent",
published in the second issue of "Internationale Situationiste"
(December 1958), Jorn and Constant sum up the legacy of COBRA
with the following words:

"In '51, the International of Experimental Artists broke up. The representatives of its
most advanced tendency continued their pursuits in new forms; but others
abandoned experimental activity, and now use their 'talent' to make the COBRA
picture style, the only tangible result of the movement, fashionable" .


1. The terms 'movement', 'ism', 'group' and 'tradition' are generally

employed in this text to provide a stylistic variation in syntax; while
not necessarily interchangeable, the terms are not applied with any
great rigour. A fuller discussion of their use is contained in the

2. Constant used only this name for public purposes. His other,
publicly unused, name was Nieuwenhuis.

3. This term was actually coined by the Lettriste International in the

summer of 1956.

4. A great deal of recent critical theory has dealt with desire as a

social construct - while I recognise that arguments derived from post-
structuralism could be used to invalidate the COBRA and situationist
positions on the subject, they (un)fortunately lie beyond the scope of
the present study.

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Assault on Culture Stewart Home Lettriste Movement




The Lettriste Movement was launched in post-war Paris by the

Romanian Isidore Isou (born Jean-Isidore Goldstein, 1925) and the
Frenchman Gabriel Pomerand (born Paris, 1926). From its inception
the movement was associated with controversy. On the occasion of the
first public presentation of Lettrisme (January 8th 1946), the Russian
poet Iliazd organised a counter-event - at which he demonstrated that
there were numerous precedents for what Isou termed Lettrisme. 1946
also saw Isou interrupting a lecture on Dada by Michel Leiris at the
Vieux-Colombier Theatre,(1) so that he could read his own poetry; and
the publication of the first (and only) issue of "The Lettriste UK 2nd edition

1947 saw the prestigious publishing house Gallimard issuing Isou's

Lettriste manifesto "Introduction a une Nouvelle Poesie et a une
Nouvelle Musique". This turgid tome is saved from complete
unreadability by Isou's megalomania. Typical of his pretensions are
title headings such as "From Charles Baudelaire to Isidore Isou" and
"From Claude Debussy to Isidore Isou". A footnote tells the reader that
Isou intends to play the role in poetry that was "played by Jesus in
Judaism, that is, it is Isou's intention to break a branch and make a
tree of it". Apart from acting as a piece of self-promotion, this volume
outlined Isou's belief that the development of poetry rested on words
being deconstructed to their constituent parts. The word, as it existed
at the time, was to be abolished completely, and poetry was to be
synthesised with music. The result would be "a single art", which bore UK 1st edition
no trace of "any original difference"

Isou claimed that the evolution of any art is characterised by two

phases amplic and chiseling. The amplic phase is a period of
expansion. It is followed by the chiseling phase, when the
achievements of the amplic period are refined and eventually
destroyed. In poetry the amplic period lasted until 1857, when
Baudelaire initiated the chiseling phase by reducing narrative to
anecdote: Rimbaud abandoned anecdote for lines and words, words
were reduced to space and sound by Mallarme; and finally the
Dadaists destroyed words altogether. Isou was to 'complete' this
chiseling phase and, with his Lettriste 'discoveries', initiate a new
amplic period.

Although Isou's theories are not entirely without merit, the main point
In Portuguese
of interest in his book is the affirmation that "Surrealism is dead". Isou
and the Lettriste Movement were the first group to make this
important break, and it was through this breach that other avant-[11/27/10 2:55:01 PM]

Assault on Culture Stewart Home Lettriste Movement

garde heresies were able to break away from Breton's malign and
dictatorial influence.

If early Lettriste activity was centred on sound poetry, the emphasis

soon shifted to visual production. Here, letters were seen to form the
basic unit from which works should be created. The resulting forms,
which resemble concrete poetry, typify lettriste literary endeavours.
From these there grew a Lettriste 'painting', in which, once again, the
letter would be the basic subject of aesthetic contemplation. The first
Lettriste painters were Pomerand, Guy Vallot (real name Rodica
Valeanu) and Roberdhay. Isou was never really satisfied with their
results, and eventually took up painting himself in order to realise his
Lettriste theories for the discipline. In Spanish

The Lettriste Movement extended the breadth of its activities after

Jean-Louis Brau (born Saint Owen, 1930), Gil J. Wolman (born Paris,
1929) and Maurice Lemaitre (born Paris, 1926), joined the group in
1950. Guy-Ernest Debord (born Paris, 1931) was recruited the
following year. Lemaitre was destined to become a long lasting, and
perhaps after Isou the best known, member of the Lettriste Movement.
Brau, Wolman and Debord would all have broken with Isou by the end
of 1952. However, before these breaks, 1951/2 were to prove vital
years in the development of Lettriste 'film'.

Jean Cocteau awarded Isou's first 'chiseling film', "The Drivel and
Eternity Treatise" (1951), the Avant-Garde Award at the Cannes
Festival. The soundtrack to this film had neither a 'specific', nor an 'a-
specific', relation to the picture, and could be treated as as 'a product In Polish
by itself'. The visuals included deliberately boring images, such as
footage of still photographs which had been scratched and tom. 1951
also saw the production of Lemaitre's "Has The Film Already Started?".
In this he extended Isou's concept of chiseling, by drawing letters,
numbers and other signs directly onto the processed stock. When the
film was shown, the screen was draped with objects which were
manipulated during its performance, while the movements and spoken
thoughts of spectators were introduced into the soundtrack.

1952 saw the production of Wolman's "L'Anti-Concept", Dufrene's

"Dawnsday Drums", Brau's "The Current Life's Boat", Isou's "Film
Debate" (where the discussion of the film is the film), and Debord's
"Screams In Favour Of de Sade". This last contained no images at all.
At feature length, it consisted chiefly of blackened film stock with only
the click of the projector for a soundtrack. To relieve this monotony, it
In Italian
featured occasional bursts of white light accompanied by 'random'
dialogue. The final twenty-four minutes are entirely silent.

Isou often used his political and economic theories, which he'd been
developing since 1948, as the subject matter of his films. According to
Maurice Lemaitre, in "Les Idees Politiques du Mouvement Lettriste:
L'union de La Jeunesse Dans L'enseignement, La Banque et La
Planification" (first published in Combat 1/9/67), all political economy
prior to Isou had concentrated on the working population:

"However, Isidore Isou has discovered that a large part of the other half of each
country's population - and primarily the masses of millions of young people - is in a
very different position, for it is situated outside the market, outside the relations
and definitions considered by all the theoreticians of the science of goods and[11/27/10 2:55:01 PM]

Assault on Culture Stewart Home Lettriste Movement

Consequently, those individuals who accept their function in the system, who
coincide with their position as producers and assume the problems of their "class", In Lithuanian
we call interns, adherents, or adjusteds, while the tens of millions of individuals who
do not accept their function, who reject their position in the system, who expend
their energy in climbing further up the social scale, in order to "arrive", we call
externs, or non adjusteds. (...) the externs, and above all the young, are slaves,
over-exploited from the economic point of view."

Isou used the analogy of nuclear physics to explain this social division.
The interns were fully-grown individuals - the old atoms or their
molecular conglomeration - while the externs were electrons who were
not yet 'established'. The externs, isolated from the manufacture of
commodities, and with no position in society, use their energies to
undermine the economic and political foundations of the existing
system. In a Lettriste leaflet, issued when Lemaitre stood as a
candidate in the 1967 French election, the platform of the 'nuclear
economists' was elaborated as follows:

".....we will not be able to attain these new forms of organisation without a creative
education based on the distinction between innovators and insignificant imitators.
The credit system of commodities, whether reckoned ultimately in monetary terms
or not, must be seized from the sedentary interns, the bureaucratic directors of
"All the riches in the economic sphere can only be manufactured and distributed, in
terms of permanent creative change, through nuclear planning (promoted by our
"To the nobility of labour which results from the multiplicative, permanent creation
of wealth, we must add the rotation of power, the rotation of positions of control.
"Our aim is not to create simply a socialist or communist society, where men will
work for pleasures both abundant and static. Our aim is to move toward an ideal
society, in which men will live much more - having reduced the curse of work to a
minimum - for an unbroken joy, for an ever-growing ecstasy."

From Isou and Lemaitre's political writings it can be seen that the
Lettriste Movement fits within both the Utopian tradition and the
twentieth-century avant-garde. Indeed, the desire to theorise all
aspects of life typifies both the Utopian tradition in general, and the
twentieth-century avant-garde in particular. As well as the aspects of
Lettrisme dealt with here, there is also a Lettriste "theatre",
"psychotherapy" and "education" (in 1980 the Lettriste Movement
founded the Leonardo da Vinci University).

In spite of Isou's claims, his group lacked a materialist critique of the

reigning society. Unlike other post-war utopian movements, Lettrisme
was not opposed to serious culture.(2) Indeed, the programme notes[11/27/10 2:55:01 PM]

Assault on Culture Stewart Home Lettriste Movement

to Lemaitre's play "L'Ascension du Phenix" had the following to say

about such opposition:

"Only crippled fanatics deprived of certain psychic dimensions, can reject outright a
domain that is necessary to the spirit."

Isou's Lettristes never understood that art, unlike expression, is a

bourgeois construction. They prided themselves on having pushed the
surrealists from their throne, but failed to build upon the discoveries of
Berlin Dada. Indeed, Isou had an active hatred for these progressive
elements; while his critique of the surrealists amounted to no more
than the assertion that they had made their contribution to culture
and had nothing more to offer the world! Fortunately Isou's claim that
creativity is the essential human urge - and that he personally had
resystematised all the sciences of language and the sign into a new
discipline which he named 'hypergraphology' - has not yet been taken
seriously outside the very limited domain of Lettriste circles.


1. Different sources give slight variations in their account of this event.

Maurice Lemaitre in his lecture "The Creation of Letterism in Poetry and
Music" given at the Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon, USA, on
24/5/76 claims that:

"In 1946, in the course of the first post-war performance of La Fuite (The Fight) by
Tristan Tzara, uncontested head (sic) of the Dada movement, several unknown
young men jumped up on stage of the Vieux-Colombier Theatre, shouting: "We
know all of that, enough of that old stuff! We want something new, let's hear about
Letterism!" And one of them, with a Romanian accent, started reciting strange
incomprehensible poems, which sounded like African chants.
"The scandal was great, for it broke out among the very representatives of the
poetic scandal: the dadaists and the surrealists themselves! The next day of course,
the newspapers were full of Letterism."
Thus the Letterist movement was born, the first literary avant-garde group that
France had known since World War II."

2. The term was coined by Henry Flynt in the early sixties.

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The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on Lettriste International




The Lettriste International (LI) was the first breakaway group from
Isou's Lettriste Movement (LM). They would be followed in turn by the
Ultra-Lettristes. The LI was formed after the 'left-wing' of the Lettriste
Movement disrupted a Charlie Chaplin press conference for 'Limelight'
at the Ritz Hotel, Paris, in October 1952. Isou immediately denounced
those responsible to the press, criticising the leaflet they had
distributed and claiming that Chaplin's creativity rendered him
unassailable. The young Lettristes who had engineered the intervention
immediately responded with an open letter published in the newspaper
"Combat" (2/11/52): UK 2nd edition

"We believe that the most urgent exercise of freedom is the destruction of idols,
especially when they present themselves in the name of freedom. The provocative
tone of our leaflet was an attack against a unanimous, servile, enthusiasm. The
disavowal by certain lettristes, including Isou himself, only reveals the constantly re-
engendered incomprehension between extremists and those who are no longer so..."

This letter also announced the formation of the Lettriste International.

The membership of this break-away group was extremely unstable -
twelve members were excluded from it in the fIrst two years of its
existence - but at its core were Michele Bernstein and her future
husband Guy Debord, Gil J. Wolman, Mohamed Dahou, Andre-Frank
Conord and Jacques FilIon.

Where the Lettriste Movement had created cultural works, the Lettriste
UK 1st edition
International intended to 'live' the cultural revolution. The LI's activities
were to be provisional, subject to 'experiment' and change. Thus while
abandoning the literary endeavours of the LM, the LI proceeded to
pursue certain architectural theories that had reached an embryonic
formulation in the LM. By the time Isou came to write his "Manifeste
pour Ie boulevessement de l'architecture" in 1966 (published 1968)
there can be little doubt that he'd been influenced by the urban theory
elaborated by the LI. In his manifesto Isou says that instead of
building "palaces for kings, churches for gods, triumphal arches for
heroes, we must build palaces to house vagabonds and prisoners
serving life sentences, convert churches into lavatories, triumphal
arches into bistros... we must build as if by chance, as we wish and
with the materials we want"

The single most important piece of writing on architecture and

In Portuguese
urbanism for the LI was Ivan Chtcheglov's "Formula For A New City".
Written in 1953, the essay remained unpublished until 1958, when it
was featured in the first issue of "Internationale Situationiste". The[11/27/10 2:55:12 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on Lettriste International

nineteen-year old Chtcheglov, writing under the pseudonym Gilles

Ivain, saw cities as the site of 'new visions of time and space'. The
exact nature of these 'new visions' were to be established via
experimentation with patterns of behaviour in urban environments.
Architecture was to be a means of modifying life. Such modification
was necessary because:

"A mental disease has swept the planet: banalisation. Everyone is hypnotized by
production and conveniences - sewage system, elevator, bathroom, washing
"This state of affairs, arising out of a struggle against poverty, has overshot its
ultimate goal - the liberation of man from material cares - and become an obsessive
In Spanish
image hanging over the present... It has become essential to bring about a
complete spiritual transformation by bringing to light forgotten desires and by
carrying out an intensive propaganda in favour of these desires."(1)

Once the 'hacienda', the new experimental city, had been built,
everyone would live in their own 'cathedral'. There would be different
districts in the city which would correspond to the 'diverse feelings
that one encounters by chance in everyday life'. The principle activity
of the inhabitants was to be 'continuous derive'. That is to say, drifting
through an urban environment following the solicitations of the
architecture and one's desires.(2)

During the period following the production of this text, relations

between Chtcheglov and the LI were far from cordial. In the second
issue of the LI's information bulletin "Potlatch" (29/6/54), Chtcheglov
is described as one of the band of 'old soldiers' whose 'elimination' the In Polish
Lettriste International had been 'pursuing' since November 1952. The
rest of this band included Isou, Lemaitre, Pomerand, Berna and Brau.
More specifically, Chtcheglov is described as a 'mythomaniac' whose
crazed theorising lacks 'revolutionary consciousness'. Almost a decade
later, and after Chtcheglov had spent five years in a lunatic asylum,
relations between him, Bernstein, and Debord, were patched up.
Extracts from the letters Chtcheglov sent to the couple were later
published in "Internationale Situationiste" number 9.

Taking their cue from Chtcheglov and 'an illiterate Kabyle' who - in the
summer of '53 - suggested 'psychogeography' as a general term for
the phenomena being investigated with drifts, the LI developed its
theory of 'unitary urbanism'. According to Debord's "Introduction To A
Critique Of Urban Geography" (published in the Belgian surrealist
journal "Les Levres Nues" number 6, September 1955): In Italian

"Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific
effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the
emotions and behaviour of individuals. The adjective, psychogeographical, retaining
a rather pleasing vagueness, can thus be applied to the findings arrived at by this
type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and even more generally
to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery."

The LI's theories and results, including its much vaunted 'construction
of situations', never advanced beyond the outline Chtcheglov
elaborated in "Formula For A New City". In his "Introduction To A
Critique Of Urban Geography" Debord writes of a friend who 'wandered
through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the
directions of a map of London'. Similarly the various[11/27/10 2:55:12 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on Lettriste International

'psychogeographical games' and 'exercises', although not lacking

humour, did not produce the kind of data from which serious scientific
In Lithuanian
research could progress - despite the hue and cry the LI raised over
its 'experimental' results. These include the 'possible appointment'.
Here, the subject is asked to find themselves alone, at a precise time,
in a preordained place. No one is there to meet them. Other variations
include arranging to meet an unknown person, which the LI claimed
led to interesting interactions with strangers. Activities such as walking
without rest or destination, hitch-hiking through Paris while public
transport was on strike, and walking the catacombs while they were
shut to the public, were also suggested. These highlight the LI's
interest in games played on urban sites, and demonstrate the extent
to which its concept of urbanism was as much psychological and
physiological as geographical. However, the LI introduced no
innovations into urbanism. The plan to use mobile and transformable
structures had already been outlined by Chtcheglov: the idea of a
nomadic existence is implicit in this.(3)

In its "Plan For Improving The Rationality Of The City Of Paris"

(published in "Potlatch" 23, 13/10/55) the LI make, among others, the
following suggestions: to open the metro at night, to open the roofs of
Paris as pavements - escalators would give access to them; opening
public gardens at night; placing switches on street lamps so that the
public may decide the degree of lighting it desires at night; the
transformation or demolition of churches - removing all trace of
religion, the suppression of graveyards - with the total destruction of
corpses; the abolition of museums - with art being placed in bars;
liberal admission in prisons - with the possibility of tourist visits; and
that streets should not be named after saints or famous persons.
These, and the LI's other urbanistic formulas, had been common-place
since the early days of futurism. However, the central place they
occupied in the LI's programme was in itself a novelty.

That the LI had few, if any, original ideas is hardly surprising when
one considers that, other than unitary urbanism, their chief interest
was detournement. This consisted of plagiarising preexisting aesthetic
elements and then integrating them into a superior construction.
According to Debord and Wolman in "Methods Of Detournement"
(published in "Les Levres Neus" number 8, May 1956):

"The literary and artistic heritage of humanity should be used for partisan
propaganda purposes... In fact, it is necessary to finish with any notion of personal
property in this area. The appearance of new necessities outmodes previous
"inspired" works. They become obstacles, dangerous habits. The point is not
whether we like them or not. We have to go beyond them.
"Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new[11/27/10 2:55:12 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on Lettriste International

combinations... It goes without saying that... one can... alter the meaning of...
fragments in any appropriate way, leaving the imbeciles to their slavish preservation
of 'citations' ."

What Debord and Wolman call 'detournement' is, on a grander scale,

the system by which most human technology and thought develop -
innovations are generally a synthesis of the already known and a very
minor discovery. Giant leaps into the unknown seem to occur only by
accident, and cannot be consciously worked at in the way that most
human development occurs.

During its existence, the activities of the LI remained largely unknown.

Despite the presence of a number of Algerians in its ranks (and after
October 1955 the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi), the LI remained a
largely Parisian phenomenon. Its bulletin "Potlatch" (the title refers to
pre-commercial societies which operate on the principle of 'the gift'
rather than economic exchange) was given away. The first edition,
dated 22/6/54, was produced in an edition of 50. By the end of the
first series (the final issue was put out by the Situationist International
rather than the LI on 5/11/57) four or five hundred copies of each
issue were produced. There was only ever one issue of the second

The LI amalgamated with the International Movement For An Imaginist

Bauhaus on 28 July 1957, to form the Situationist International (SI).
Although not initially visible, many of the faults of the LI would later
resurface in this organisation - in particular its aristocratic attitude. The
LI's theoretical writings are peppered with snobbery; for example in his
"Critique Of Urban Geography", Debord describes tourism as "that
popular drug as repugnant as sports or buying on credit". The LI often
referred to its activities as 'pre-situationist', but the formation of the
(specto) SI did not really mark any advance on lettrisme - in terms of
theory, practice or organisation.


1. I use here, as in a number of other places, a translation from Ken

Knabb's "Situationist International Anthology" (Bureau of Public
Secrets, Berkeley 1981). Knabb's translations, in sharp contrast to his
extremely partisan opinions about the LI and SI, are excellent. Note
added 2006: actually Knabb's translations have degenerated with his
more recent work in this field (such as his 'official' translations of
Debord's film scripts) being shockingly poor.

2. Chtcheglov seems to be drawing on the legacy of the Romantics.

Baudelaire immediately springs to mind as an example of a Romantic
treatment of urbanism and the city which is conceptually close to
Chtcheglov. A quotation from Walter Benjamin's "Charles Baudelaire: A
Lyric Poet In The Era Of High Capitalism" (NLB, London 1973) will
illustrate this. The section begins with a citation from Baudelaire's
"Flowers of Evil":

"(Through the old suburb, where the persian blinds hang at the windows of
tumbledown houses, hiding furtive pleasures; when the cruel sun strikes blow upon
blow on the city and the cornfields, I go practicing my fantastic fencing all alone,
scenting a chance rhyme in every corner, stumbling against words as against cobble
stones, sometimes striking on verses I had long dreamt of.)

"To give these prosodic experiences their due in prose as well was one of the[11/27/10 2:55:12 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on Lettriste International

intentions which Baudelaire had pursued in the "Spleen de Paris", his poems in
prose. In his dedication of this collection to Arsene Houssage, the editor-in-chief of
"La Presse", Baudelaire exposes, in addition to this intention, what was really at the
bottom of these experiences. 'Who amongst us has not dreamt, in moments of
ambition, of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm and without
rhyme, supple and staccato enough to adapt to the lyrical stirrings of the soul, the
undulations of dreams, and the sudden leaps of consciousness. This obsessive ideal
is above all a child of the experiences of giant cities, of the intersecting of their
myriad relations. '(...)

"(...)The revealing presentations of the big city... are the work of those who have
traversed the city absently, as it were, lost in thought or in worry. The image of
fantasque escrine does justice to them; Baudelaire has in mind their condition which
is anything but the condition of the observer. In his book on Dickens, Chesterton
has masterfully captured the man who roams about the big city lost in thought.
Charles Dickens's steady peregrinations had began in his childhood. 'Whenever he
had done drudging, he had no other resource but drifting, and he drifted over half
London. He was a dreamy child, thinking mostly of his dreary prospects... He walked
in darkness under the lamps of Holborn and was crucified at Charing X... He did not
go in for "observation", a priggish habit; he did not look at Charing X to improve his
mind or count the lamp-posts in Holborn to practice his arithmetic... Dickens did not
stamp these places on his mind; he stamped his mind on these places.' "

3. Although the LI, and later the situationists, planned a total

transformation of the urban environment, they never advanced a
workable plan of how to maintain a sense of human community during
and after this transformation. Without such a plan the utopian dreams
of the LI - had they been implemented - would have turned out to be
as much of a nightmare as the New Towns that were being built at the
time. Although both the LI and the Situationist International devoted
much time to talking about community and communication, their
sectarian inclinations demonstrate that they had no real understanding
of such concepts.

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The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on College of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art, IMIB





While the Lettriste Movement, and International, were undoubtedly

ludicrous, most - if not all - their members, seem to have remained
blissfully unaware of this. Isou, and later Bernstein, Conord, Dahou,
Debord, Fillon and Wolman, treated their activities with a seriousness
that the objective observer can only find comic. There were, however,
other groups with Utopian leanings who actively cultivated an air of
ridiculousness. Typical among these is the College Of Pataphysics,
which, while rarely viewed as a 'fan club', is often seen as an over- UK 2nd edition
extended joke. The 'College' was neither an organised 'art' movement,
nor an 'alternative' education institute, and yet many of the avant-
garde's leading figures came to join it. Its members have allegedly
included Boris Vian, Juan Miro, Marcel Duchamp, Eugene Ionesco, Max
Ernst, Jacques Prevert, Raymond Queneau, Jean Dubuffet, Stanley
Chapman and Asger Jorn.

Pataphysics was the science of imaginary solutions, which the French

'utopian' Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) 'invented' at the end of the
nineteenth-century. The spirit of this 'new science' was incarnated in
Jarry's famous plays "Ubu Roi", "Ubu Coco" and "Ubu Enchained", and
in other works such as the novel "The Exploits and Opinions Of Dr.
Faustroll, Pataphysician".

The College Of Pataphysics was, according to Simon Watson Taylor's UK 1st edition
"Apodeitic Outline" of it in the "Evergreen Review" (May/June 1960),
inaugurated at a meeting on 29/12/48. The highlight of its founding
was a 'harangue' by His Magnificence Dr. I. C. Sandomir. However, not
all observers take such claims at face value, as Watson Taylor

"The Vice-Curator-Founder of the College passed away on 10 April 1956 (vulgar

style)... The dignified aspect of his death was marred only by a scandalous
statement in the "Nouvelle Nouvelle Revue Francaise" by its editor M. Jean Paulhan.
Commenting on "Cahiers" announcement of the death of Dr.Sandomir, M. Paulhan
declared his sorrow at the death was tampered by the suspicion that probably Dr.
Sandomir had never existed. The College was forced to act firmly against this
provocative insinuation by declaring publicly that M. Paulhan was considered
henceforth to be pataphysically non-existent. In furtherance of this just measure,
the College printed post cards bearing the legend JEAN PAULHAN DOES NOT EXIST. In Portuguese
These were bought eagerly by members of the college and thereafter arrived in ever
increasing numbers at the address of the alleged Paulhan..."[11/27/10 2:55:23 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on College of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art, IMIB

Thus, while the College undoubtedly did exist, carrying on its

theoretical activities principally through its journal the "Cahiers of the
College of Pataphysics", the accounts it has given of its own history
have been called into question by outside observers.

A more conventional group active during this period was the Nuclear
Art Movement. It was founded in 1951 by the painters Enrico Baj (born
Milan 1924) and Sergio Dangelo (born Milan 1932). On the occasion of
the 2nd exhibition of Nuclear Art (Gallery Apollo, Brussels, February
1952), Baj and Dangelo issued the group's first manifesto in which
they state that:

"The Nuclearists desire to demolish all the 'isms' of a painting that inevitably lapses In Spanish
into academicism, whatever its origins may be. They desire and have the power to
recreate painting.
"Forms disintegrate: man's new forms are those of the atomic universe; the forces
are electrical charges. Ideal beauty is no longer the property of a stupid hero-caste,
nor of the 'robot'. But it coincides with the representation of nuclear man and his
"Our consciences charged with unforeseen explosions preclude a FACT. The
Nuclearist lives in this situation, of which only men with eyesight spent can fail to
be aware.
"Truth is not yours, it lies in the ATOM.
"Nuclear painting documents the search for this truth."

The Nuclearists were opposed to concrete and abstract art. They

believed that through experimentation, they could bring about a In Polish
renewal of painting.
Although ambitious and competitive, they were open to collaboration
with other avant-garde movements. One of their earliest contacts
outside Italy was with Shiryu Morita (born Kyoto, Japan, 1912) who
had founded the calligraphic group Bokuzin-Kai. During the Nuclear Art
exhibition in Brussels, Baj and Dangelo met several former members of
the dissolved COBRA movement. Dangelo returned to Milan via Paris,
where he visited Alechinsky and picked up a suitcase full of COBRA

In November '53, Baj and Dangelo made contact with Asger Jorn by
Jorn had spent two years in hospital, along with Christian Dotremont,
where they had both been suffering from tuberculosis. It was while
recovering from this illness at Villais, that Jorn carne into contact with
Max Bill, head of the New Bauhaus at Ulm Jorn wanted Bill to embark In Italian
on a new communal collaboration between painters and architects. But
Jorn's impulsiveness was diametrically opposed to Bill's rationalism. A
series of letters resulted in each man declaring he was theoretically
opposed to the other's opinions on art and culture.

In December '53 Jorn announced, in a letter to Baj, the formation of

the International Movement For An Imaginist Bauhaus (IMIB):

".....a Swiss architect, Max Bill, has undertaken to restructure the Bauhaus where
Klee and Kandinsky taught. He wishes to make an academy without painting,
without research into the imagination, fantasy, signs, symbols - all he wants is
technical instruction. In the name of all experimental artists I intend to create an
International Movement For An Imaginist Bauhaus....."[11/27/10 2:55:23 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on College of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art, IMIB

Jorn asked Baj to join his new movement. Baj accepted in a letter
dated January '54, and brought Dangelo and two French art critics with
him. In the same month as the letter announcing the formation of the In Lithuanian

IMIB was sent, Jorn 'presented' a Nuclear Art Exhibition in Turin.

Although he exhibited alongside Baj and the other Nuclearists, Jorn
never joined their movement or signed their manifestos. Jorn and Baj
continued exchanging letters into 1954, and in one Baj included a copy
of "Potlatch", the bulletin of the Lettriste International, which he had
come across while in Paris. Jorn immediately decided to write to the
LI, and urged Baj to do the same.

Jorn renewed contact with many leading figures of the European

avant-garde after his long illness, and persuaded several ex-COBRA
members to join the IMIB, among whom were Dotremont, Alechinsky
and Appel. In June '54, thanks to Baj, Jorn settled in Abisola, an
Italian seaside town. It was in Abisola, over the summer, that the
"International Ceramics Meeting" took place. The participants were
Appel, Baj, Corneille, Dangelo, Fontana, Giguiere, Jaguer, Jorn, Koenig,
Matta and Scanavino. The work they created became the first IMIB
exhibition, and was shown at the 10th Triennial in Milan that October.
Jorn also used this occasion to denounce Max Bill's theories of
industrial design. According to Jorn, aesthetics were to be based on a
communication that would arouse and surprise, rather than rationality
or functionalism; they should be concerned with the immediate effect
on the senses, without taking into account utility or structural value. It
was also at this time that the first IMIB "Exercise Book" was issued,
and that Jorn made contact with Ettore Sottsass - who was soon
persuaded to join the movement.

The following summer, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio (1902-64) and Piero

Simondo had an exhibition in Abisola, during which they met Jorn.
Gallizio was a pharmacist and independent councillor of the left, who
had recently taken to making experimental paintings, often drawing on
his knowledge of chemistry to do so. Simondo was a philosophy
student at Turin University, who shared the older man's passion for
avant-garde experimentation. Jorn travelled to Alba in September '55
to spend time with the two men. Gallizio's studio, located in an old
convent, became the Experimental Laboratory of the IMIB during Jorn's
stay. Jorn's views were slightly at odds with Simondo's methodological
rigor and interest in scientific problems, but he shared with Gallizio a
vision of the artist as ethically committed to mankind and an interest
in archaeology, nomadism, and popular culture.

The aim of the IMIB in setting up the Alba Laboratory was the
liberation of experiment. Thus while Jorn was shuttling between Alba,
Abisola, Paris and Silkeborg, Gallizio was experimenting with oils and[11/27/10 2:55:23 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on College of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art, IMIB

alimentary assiline mixed with sand and carbon, Baj continued his
research into automism, Sottsass investigated architecture, Walter
Olmo pursued musical intervention, and Simondo and Elena Verrone
undertook a methodological study of 'artistic problems' . Jorn used his
trips to develop the many contacts he'd made. Those with the ex-
COBRA man Constant and the Lettriste International numbered among
the most important of these. The LI eventually joined the IMIB in May

The first, and only, issue of the IMIB's journal "Eristica" was issued in
July '56. It was edited by Gallizio, with an editorial committee that
included Dotremont, Korun and Baj. It featured texts by Jorn, Simondo
and Verrone, work by Baj, and photographic documentation of the
International Ceramics Meeting of 1954.

The frantic activity of the IMIB was leading rapidly towards the "First
World Congress Of Liberated Artists", and ultimately to the formation
of the Situationist International.

Previous: The Lettriste International

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The "First World Congress Of Liberated Artists" took place in the town
hall at Alba from 2nd to 8th September 1956. Organised by Gallizio
and Jorn, the congress was attended by the Italians Simondo, Baj,
Sottsass Jr, and Verrone; by the ex-COBRA musician Jacques Calonne
from Belgium; the Dutchman Constant; and by Gil J. Wolman
representing the (mainly French) Lettriste International. The Czechs
Pravoslav Rada and Jan Kotik arrived too late to participate in
discussions but put their names to a final resolution. The Turinese UK 2nd edition
sculptors Sandro Cherchi and Franco Garelli were present as observers.
Christian Dotremont, nominated chairperson for the congress, was to
unable to attend due to illness. In issue 27 of "Potlatch", the LI
offered the following as an assessment of this fact:

"Christian Dotremont, who had been announced as a member of the Belgian

delegation in spite of the fact that he has for some time been a collaborator in, the
"Nouvelle Nouvelle Revue Francaise", refrained from appearing at the Congress,
where his presence would have been unacceptable to the majority of the

Whether or not Dotremont's illness was diplomatic, reports such as this

demonstrate the fundamental dishonesty of the LI as an organisation.
Dotremont would never have been chosen to chair the congress if the
majority of those attending had actually had objections to his UK 1st edition
presence. The LI simply projected their own views onto others whose
real opinions they had no intention of soliciting. Similarly, in the same
report, the LI claimed the representatives of avant-garde groups from
eight countries were present at the congress. While there were a few
Algerian exiles and a Paris based British national holding membership
of the LI, only a mythomaniac could deduce from this that Wolman
was thus the 'representative' of British and Algerian 'avant-garde
groups'. The LI's inflated claims bare little resemblance to the facts.
The only avant-garde groups present were the IMIB, the LI, and the
Nuclear Art Movement. Of these, on the insistence of Wolman, Enrico
Baj sole representative of the Nuclearists, as well as a member of the
IMIB - was excluded on the first day, and - according to "Potlatch":

"...the Congress affirmed its break with the Nuclearists by issuing the following
statement: 'Confronted with his conduct in certain previous affairs, Baj withdrew
In Portuguese
from the Congress. He did not make off with the cash-box' ."

Differences between Baj and Jorn had surfaced at the end of the[11/27/10 2:55:35 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on founding of Situationist International

previous year. In a letter to Jorn dated December '55, Baj had

complained that the names International Movement For An Imaginist
Bauhaus and "Eristica" 'simply don't catch on!' According to Baj, the
names were too long and 'mysteriosophic' to interest journalists. He
contrasted this to the Nuclear Art manifestoes which were 'snapped
up'. Upon his exclusion from the congress, Baj resigned from the IMIB.

The discussions at the congress concluded with 'a substantial accord'

and a signed resolution declaring the "necessity of an integral
construction of the environment by a unitary urbanism that must
utilize all arts and modem techniques"; the "inevitable outrnodedness
of any renovation of an art within its traditional limits"; the
"recognition of an essential interdependence between unitary urbanism In Spanish
and a future style of life" which must be situated "in the perspective of
a greater real freedom and a greater domination of nature"; and "unity
of action among the signers on the basis of this to programme". This
was the first time that the term 'unitary urbanism', which he the LI
had coined during the summer, was used publicly.

A retrospective exhibition of "Futurist Ceramics 1925-33" was

organised to run simultaneously with the congress. Jorn and Gallizio
had established friendships with a number of old futurists, in particular
Farfa (born Trieste 1881). While the futurist exhibition, like the
congress, was held in the town hall, a second exhibition of work from
the Experimental Laboratory was held in a local cinema. The
participants in this show were Constant, Gallizio, Garelli, Jorn, Kotik,
Rada, Simondo and Wolman.
In Polish
Constant had spent the early fifties in London, studying the city. When
he returned to Amsterdam, he abandoned painting for architecture and
investigations into the problem of space. This, combined with his social
commitment, gave the LI much to envy and admire in both him and
his work After the congress, Constant stayed on in Alba, where he
worked on plans for the first mobile architecture of unitary urbanism.
This would be for the use of gypsies who camped on a plot of land
owned by Gallizio. It was to use a system of dividing walls placed
under a single roof so that it could be continually modified to suit the
needs of its inhabitants. The model Constant made of the encampment
was a blueprint for a new urban civilisation based on common
property, mobility, and the continual variability of unitary

While Constant was working on plans for the Gypsy encampment,

Gallizio was developing his 'Industrial Painting'. With the aid of his son, In Italian

Giors Melanotte, Gallizio was making canvases 70 to 90 metres long,

which were stored on rollers - and were to be sold by the metre in
streets, markets, and department stores. Gallizio claimed that his
painting could be used to dress in, sit on, and might even be employed
in the construction of mobile architecture.

The IMIB held an exhibition entitled "Demonstrate In Favour Of Unitary

Urbanism" at the Turin Cultural Union from 10 to 15 December 1956.
The artists shown were Cherchi, Constant, Guy Debord, Jacques Fillon,
Gallizio, Garelli, Jorn, Walter Olmo and Simondo

In a letter dated January 1st 1957, signed by Bernstein, Constant,

Dahou, Debord, Fillon, Gallizio, Jorn, Ralph Rumney, Simondo, Verrone[11/27/10 2:55:35 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on founding of Situationist International

and Wolman, the IMIB accused the Milan Triennial of having left their
proposal for an experimental pavilion to gather dust. Its chief result
was the resignation of Ettore Sottsass Jr, who found its tone In Lithuanian
unnecessarily insulting. On the 13 January '57, Wolman and Fillon
were excluded from the Lettriste International, and thus also from the
IMIB, because of their 'feeble minds'. The headline in Potlatch 28 that
announces this describes them as being 'pensioned off'. In February
Walter Korun, with the aid of Guy Debord, organised a
psychogeographical exhibition in the Taptoe Gallery, Brussels. The
previous year Korun had held the first post-COBRA exhibition of
COBRA work in the same gallery.

In May , 57 Debord published his "Report On The Construction Of

Situations And On The International Situationist Tendency's Conditions
Of Organisation And Action". This text was the preparatory document
for the unification conference of the IMIB and LI. In it Debord lays out,
from his own perspective, the theses that he, Jorn, Constant, Gallizio
and many others had been developing over the years:

"What is termed culture reflects, but also prefigures, the possibilities of the
organization of life in a given society. Our era is fundamentally characterised by the
lagging of revolutionary political action behind the development of modem
possibilities of production which call for a superior organisation of the world."

Debord views a revolutionary programme in culture as being

necessarily linked to revolutionary politics. Here he sees a 'notable
progression from futurism through dadaism and surrealism to the
movements formed after 1945'. Dada had 'delivered a mortal blow to
the traditional conceptions of culture', while surrealism provided 'an
effective means of struggle against the confusionist mechanisms of the

"The surrealist programme, asserting the sovereignty of desire and surprise,

proposing a new use of life, is much richer in constructive possibilities than is
generally thought... But the devolution of its original proponents into spiritualism...
obliges us to search for the negation of the development of surrealist theory in the
very origin of this theory... The error is... the idea of the infinite richness of the
unconscious imagination... its belief that the unconscious was the finally discovered
force of life, and its having revised the history of ideas accordingly and stopped it
there... the discovery of the role of the unconscious was a surprise, an innovation,
not a law of future surprises and innovations. Freud had also ended up discovering
this when he wrote, "Everything conscious wears out. What is unconscious remains
unaltered. But once it is set loose, does it not fall into ruins in its turn?"

Thus, rather than rejecting surrealism as a degeneration from the

dadaist refusal of serious culture, Debord declares that it is necessary
to take up the original surrealist programme and carry it through to its[11/27/10 2:55:35 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on founding of Situationist International

logical conclusion. He then goes on to link the decline of surrealism to

the decline of the first workers' movement, saying that this, combined
with a lack of theoretical renewal, caused it to decay. According to
Debord, the COBRA group understood the necessity for an organised
international of artists but lacked the 'intellectual rigour' of Lettrisme -
and particularly the Lettriste International. He then places the LI and
its allies in a vanguard position, stating that:

"As for the productions of peoples who are still subject to cultural colonialism (often
caused by political oppression), even though they may be progressive in their own
countries, they play a reactionary role in advanced cultural centres."

The text betrays the influence of Isou on Debord during the latter's
formative period in the Lettriste Movement:

"It must be understood once and for all that something that is only a personal
expression within a framework created by others cannot be termed a creation.
Creation is not the arrangement of objects and forms, it is the invention of new laws
on that arrangement."

Debord implies, rather than states as Isou would, that he intends to be

the person of 'genius' who produces these new laws of creation. The
new (anti) aesthetic terrain that Debord has 'discovered' is 'the
creation of situations, that is to say the concrete construction of
momentary ambiances of life and their transformation into a superior
passional quality'. Debord will use a variety of arts and techniques 'as
means contributing to an integral composition of the milieu'. It will
'include the creation of new forms and the detournement of previous
forms of architecture, urbanism, poetry and cinema'. Debord will invent
'games of an essentially new type', with a 'radical negation of the
element of competition and separation from everyday life'.

According to Debord:

"The construction of situations begins on the ruins of the modem spectacle. It is

easy to see to what extent the very principle of the spectacle - non-intervention - is
linked to the alienation of the old world. Conversely, the most pertinent
revolutionary experiments in culture have sought to break the spectator's
psychological identification with the hero so as to draw him into activity by
provoking his capacities to revolutionise his own life."

Here, again, we find that Debord conceives of himself, and 'his

followers', as a vanguard. He insultingly assumes that the masses
require him and his cronies to 'provoke' them into changing the terms
of their own existence. Debord sees but one danger to the realisation
of his plans - sectarianism:

".....we have to eliminate the sectarianism among us that opposes unity of action
with possible allies for specific goals and prevents our infiltration of parallel

The unification conference of the IMIB and the LI took place on the
outskirts of the Italian mountain village of Cosio d' Arroscia, in a bar
owned by relatives of Sirnondo. Ralph Rumney (born Newcastle Upon
Tyne, 1934) supposedly represented a third avant-garde group - the
London Psychogeographical Association (LPA). The name was invented
during the course of the conference to 'increase' the internationalism
of the event. Rumney had lived in Italy since the early fifties. As he'd
moved around European art circles, he'd come into contact with[11/27/10 2:55:35 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter on founding of Situationist International

various lettristes, nuc1ear artists, members of the IMIB, and future

nouveaux realistes.

Apart from Rumney, those present were Bernstein and Debord from
the LI and Gallizio, Jorn, Olmo, Simondo and Verrone from the IMIB.
The conference lasted about a week, and for much of it the
participants were in a state of semi-drunkenness. Among the things
discussed was a plan by Rumney to dye the Venice Lagoon a bright
colour. This had two apparently quite different purposes: to see how
the population reacted, and as a means of studying the flows and
stagnations of the water.

The actual 'unification' of the IMIB, LI and non-existent LPA, took place
on 28th July 1957. After a vote of five in favour of unification, two
against and one abstention, a fusion of groups and the founding of the
SI was proclaimed.

Previous: The College Of Pataphysics, Nuclear Art & The IMIB

Next: The Situationist International In Its 'Heroic' Phase

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The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter of Situationist International in heroic phase




PHASE (1957-62)

During the academic year '57-8, Henri Lefebvre held a sociology course
at Nanterre which attracted the attendance, amongst others, of Guy
Debord and Raoul Vaneigem (who would join the SI in '61). Debord
and Lefebvre developed a friendship which the latter would later
describe as 'a communion', but which soon ended in rupture with the
SI claiming Lefebvre had stolen 'its' ideas. Lefebvre's theory of
'everyday life', which already held a certain sway within the SI via the
influence and input of COBRA and the IMIB, was to have a profound
influence on Debord's intellectual development. The theories of Jean UK 2nd edition
Baudrillard, who participated in the presentation of the course, also
appear to have made a certain impact on the SI's thinking.

The revision of marxian thought undertaken in France during the

1950's, in which Lefebvre played a leading role, created an
'intellectual' climate which was conducive to the development of the SI
as a 'political', and not 'just' a 'cultural', organisation. The journal
"Arguments", which is closely identified with revisionism, was founded
just before the SI, at the beginning of 1957. In France, Marxist
thought had been dominated by the Communist Party, and it was not
until after the liberation that there was any attempt at philosophic
revision. In many ways the debate was similar to that carried out in
Germany during the twenties, although commentators (i.e. Richard
Gombin) say French revisionism lacked the vigour found in the thought
of Lukacs, Adorno &c. Although Lefebvre's theory of 'everyday life' was UK 1st edition
of central importance to the SI, it was the group Socialisme ou
Barbarie (founded 1949) who would provide the political theory upon SI INC.

which Debord and Vaneigem's thought would draw most heavily. Andrew Hussey, The Game

Indeed, Debord would join S ou B briefly in 1960. The SI adopted S ou Of War: The Life & Death

B's ideas wholesale, from the analysis of the USSR as a bureaucratic Of Guy Debord, Jonathan

capitalist state, to the advocacy of Workers' Councils as the means of Cape, London 2001, 416

communist organisation. Although the SI later 'broke off' fraternal pp, £18.99 0-224-43489-X.

relations with S ou B, it was never able to break with the political Beneath The Paving

conceptions of the latter group.(1) Stones: Situationists & The

Beach, May 1968, AK
* * * * * Press, Edinburgh & San
Francisco 2001, 120 pp,
Walter Olmo, with the endorsement of Elena Verrone and her husband £9, 1-90259338-3.
Piero Simondo, presented a text - "For A Concept Of Experimental
Music" - to the SI at the end of September '57. In the essay, Olmo The Situationist micro-
gave an account of his sound researches, and linked them to the industry leaves the
construction of ambiance. Debord responded with a text issued on twentieth-century with two
15th October '57, in which he denounced Olmo, and his two[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter of Situationist International in heroic phase

new offerings, a
supporters, for approaching the problem of experimentation from the repackaging with pictures
'idealist attitude' of 'right-wing thought'. Olmo, Verrone and Simondo, of “classic” translations
having refused to retract the text, were formally expelled from the SI from French and the third
at its second conference, held in Paris on 25/26 January '58. In March biography of Debord to
'58 Ralph Rumney, an English member of the Italian section, was appear in English since his
expelled. According to Rumney,(2) the exclusion was the result of his suicide in 1994. Biography
failure to complete a psychogeographical report on time. Ironically, he is not a genre well suited a finished version of this photo-essay a day or two before he to the collective practice
received a letter from Paris notifying him of his expulsion. His marital and left-communist politics
commitments, centred around the recent birth of a son, were not of the Situationist
considered suitable reasons for the exclusion being rescinded. International and, while
According to the SI the Venetian jungle had 'closed in on the young Hussey has done extensive
man' (IS 1, June '58). research and produced a
perfectly adequate
The 1st January '58 saw the founding of the German 'section' of the
journalistic account of
SI, which consisted solely of Hans Platschek until his expulsion in
Debord’s life, the book is
February the following year. The 'section' was launched with the
still far from satisfactory.
manifesto "Nervenruh! Keine Experimente!" signed by Platschek and
There are plenty of
biographical details that
In the early months of '58, the French section issued two will be new to English
tracts:"Nouveaux theatre d'operation dans Ie culture" and "Aux language readers, most
producteurs de l'art moderne". The former schematised the programme obviously about Debord’s
of the SI, while the latter invited artists, "tired of repeating outmoded childhood and family
ideas", to organise new modes for the transformation of the background, but these do
environment. As a first step towards this they were to contact the SI. little to enrich our
understanding of the
In April '58 the SI launched its action against the "International Situationist project. Hussey
Assembly Of Art Critics" in Belgium. A tract was issued, denouncing art writes that: “The appeal of
critics for defending the old world against the subversion of a new ‘Situationism’ in the early
experimental movement. An account of how this message was 1990s, was for me more
broadcast is given in "Internationale Situationiste" 1 (June '58): political than cultural:
more precisely, this was
"Our Belgian section carried out the necessary direct attack. Beginning 13 April, on
not nineteenth-century
the eve of the opening of the proceedings, when the art critics from two
Marxism, which argued
hemispheres, led by the American Sweeney, were being welcomed to Brussels, the
revolution in the name of
text of the situationist proclamation was brought to their attention in several ways.
classes which obviously no
Copies were mailed to a large number of critics or given to them personally. Others
longer existed, but a
were personally telephoned and read all or part of the text. A group forced its way
harder, more vicious and
into the Press Club where the critics were being received and threw leaflets among
more aristocratic way of
the audience. Others were tossed onto the pavements from upstairs windows or
challenging the
from a car."
organisation of the world.”
Walter Korun, who was prosecuted for his leading role in this incident, (page 5)
was expelled from the 51 in October '58.
While Hussey is correct
The first public exhibition of Gallizio's 'Industrial Painting' opened at the when he says that the
Notizie Gallery, Turin, on 30th May '58. Three rolls of canvas (70, 14 Situationists were not
and 12 metres in length) were displayed. The painting was partially nineteenth-century
unrolled and pinned to the walls. Fashion models paraded up and down Marxists, he somehow
the gallery dressed in cuts of the canvas, which was being sold by the manages to overlook the
metre. A device emitted notes which varied in accordance with the fact that proletarian
movements of those present in the gallery. This 'musical' use of this revolution (with unlicensed
'tereminofono' had originally been developed by Walter Olmo and pleasure as its only aim)
Cacito de Torino. was Debord’s programme
even before he’d broken
Gallizio's 'work' was created with simple tools. His production process with the avant-garde, and
required the pressing and painting of oil and resin onto canvas. This denounced art as anti-[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

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technique was very much in keeping with the traditional craft methods Situationist. Len Bracken in
of fine art. The resulting rolls of canvas were described as 'industrial' his Guy Debord -
because of the scale, rather than the process, of production. Gallizio Revolutionary (Feral
had taken up painting in 1953, at first imitating the then current mode House, Portland 1997) is
of abstract expressionism. The 'Industrial Painting' which he and Giors politically closer to
Melanotte (his son) created in the late fifties, was developed as much Situationist positions, but
from this previous interest in action painting as from certain 'technical' Hussey handles his
innovations. The canvases were produced without design or historical sources with
formulation, and were 'the concrete expression of the painterly greater dexterity. Anselm
gesture'. The SI viewed such 'painting' as 'anti-painting' because, by Jappe in Guy Debord
producing such a volume of work, Gallizio intended to detourne the (University Of California
structure of the art market. According to the SI, Gallizio was not be Press, 1999) demonstrates
looked upon as an 'isolated artist', but rather as the constructor of neither Hussey’s
'unitary ambiances' . journalistic skills nor
Bracken’s political
As a result of the publication in Paris of the first issue of
sympathy. As Debord
"Internationale Situationiste" (June '58), Debord was subjected to a
biographies go, Hussey is
police interview. The French police, who were empowered to disband
as good as they get. His
subversive and criminal associations, were informed by Debord that
strength is his general
the SI was an artistic tendency which, since it had never been
knowledge of French
constituted, could not be disbanded. In a letter to Gallizio (dated 17th
culture. He provides
July '58), Debord complains that the police, having mistaken the SI for
thumb-nail sketches
'gangsters', were trying hard to intimidate them.
outlining the intellectual
In a tract entitled "Defend Liberty Everywhere" (dated 4th July '58), relationship between
Gallizio - in the name of the Italian section of the S1 - launched a Debord and everyone from
campaign to have the Milanese painter Nunzio Van Guglielmi released Georges Bataille to Jean
from a lunatic asylum. Guglielmi had been interned after breaking a Hyppolite, and these will
window of Raphael's "The Wedding Of The Virgin" and pasting up a be of service to those who
tract praising the revolution against the clerical government. In Paris, are new to this material.
on the 7th July '58, Jorn issued the tract "Au secours de van
Guglielmi". In this he denounced the imprisonment of Guglielmi as 'an However, Hussey is weak
attack against the modem spirit', and praised the Milanese painter for on the ultra-left political
assailing 'the false artistic ideals of the past'. The following year milieu in which the
Guglielmi was declared sound of mind and released from the asylum. Situationists operated. He
describes the Situationist
During the summer of '58, the SI ordered Abdelhafid Khatib to make a International’s encounter
psychogeographical report on the Les HaIles region of Paris. Among with the Socialism Or
other things, this necessitated the exploration of the district at night. Barbarism group in the
Such an undertaking was fraught with difficulties for Khatib who, as an early sixties, and makes
Algerian resident in France at the height of the nationalist bomb scare, far too much of Debord’s
was subject to a police curfew which required all Algerians to remain personal relations with
indoors after 7.30pm. Having been arrested twice, Khatib decided then teenage member
enough was enough and submitted an incomplete report which the SI Pierre Guillaume: “ was
accepted. not until Debord was
nearing the end of his life
On the 8th July '58, the second exhibition of Gallizio and Melanotte's
that the full extent of
Industrial Painting was opened at the Montenapoleone Gallery, Milan.
Guillaume’s duplicity
In October '58, IP received its Parisian premier during a 'night exercise'
became known. Guillaume
by the SI; a long roll of canvas, following the lines of ambiance, was
is... now notorious as the
pinned up in a street. In the second issue of "Intemationale
owner of La Vieille Taupe
Situationiste" (Paris, December '58), the 'unexpected' commercial
bookshop... and publishing
success of IP was explained as a defensive action on the part of the
house which specialised in
commercial art world, who were 'pretending' to accommodate IP into
‘revisionist’ or ‘negationist’
their scale of values by considering each role as one large picture. The
works of history, that is to
situationists responded to this by increasing the price from L10,000 to
say works which, in the
L40,000 per metre, and through the production of longer rolls.
name of the anarchist Left
or neo-Nazi Right, deny or[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

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If 1958 had been an active year for the SI as an organisation, it had

been particularly busy for Jorn as an individual. The SI had edited and denounce the death camps
published "Pour la forme - Ebauche d'une methodologie des Arts", a as Jewish propaganda”
collection of Jorn's writings from the period '53 to '57. Jorn, along with (page 164) To properly
Constant, Gallizio, Bernstein and her husband Debord, was one of the understand these issues, it
group of five who formed the theoretical and organisational core of the is necessary to examine
situationist movement. In April, while the SI was launching its attack how a fraction of the
against the art critics assembled in Belgium, Jorn's work was being French ultra-left - including
shown at the Brussels 'Expo' as part of "50 dans d'art modeme'. Jorn's not just Guillaume, but
reputation as a major figure in European art dates from this exhibition. also the group La Guerre
His increasing success as an artist was to have major repercussions for Sociale - got caught up
the SI. Until Jorn broke into the super-league of the art market, (alongside liberals like
Gallizio - as the situationist with the largest private income - had Noam Chomsky) in
provided most of the movement's funds. But from '58 onwards it was defending negationism on
Jorn, with the fortune he made from the sale of his paintings, who a freedom of speech
would finance the SI. Some projects such as the German "Spur" platform. Hussey’s use of
magazine he financed directly, others he paid for indirectly. Whenever the term “duplicity” is
a situationist - or the movement in general - was short of money, Jorn misleading. The matter
would give them a painting, knowing full well it would be sold. It was was more complex and
with the money raised from the sale of Jorn's paintings, presented to drawn out, and many of
Debord as presents, that the SI was able to finance its publications. those implicated in this
Jorn continued to give his paintings to members - and former idiotic political blunder
members - of the SI until his death, twelve years after he had officially never became paid up
resigned from the movement.(3) members of the fascist
camp. It should be
Jorn had met the members of Gruppe Spur in '58, during his first one stressed that Debord broke
man show in Munich. Spur (meaning trace or trail) had been founded with Guillaume years
the previous year by Lothar Fischer, Heimrad Prem, Josef Senft before the latter publicly
(pseudonym of J. K. S. Hohburg), Helmut Sturm and Hans-Peter embraced holocaust denial.
Zimmer. By the time Spur joined the SI at the third situationist
conference in Munich (17 - 20 April '59), Ervin Eisch, Heinz Hofl, and Despite being sold as a
Gretel Stadler had become members of the group, while Josef Senft sixties hits collection,
had left. During the period it constituted the German section of the SI, Beneath The Paving Stones
Dieter Kunzelmann, Renee Nele and Uwe Lausen, would join Spur's is actually a better
ranks. introduction to Situationist
theory than Hussey’s book.
Spur had much in common with both Jorn, who had 'discovered' them,
This offering works as an
and Constant. They had a shared belief in the collective, and non-
effective primer because it
competitive, production of art.(4) This was in stark contrast to the
randomly gathers four
supersession of art proposed by Bernstein and Debord. Like Constant,
relatively lengthy
Spur were developing concepts of play and of (wo)man as 'homo
Situationist texts (none of
ludens', which had previously been outlined in a 1938 essay by the
which are directly
Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. These ideas were to become central to
concerned with May 68),
the SI's programme and were often utilised, if not developed, by Raoul
alongside an eyewitness
account of the occupations

An exhibition of Gallizio and Melanotte's Industrial Painting was held at movement by a member of

the Van De Loo Gallery to coincide with the Munich conference of the the British Solidarity

SI. During the congress itself, there emerged ideological differences group. While reading these

between the Dutch section and Debord. Debord envisaged a documents may shock

revolutionary creativity totally separated from existing culture; whereas those who mistakenly

the Dutch delegates insisted on the centrality of unitary urbanism as believe the Situationists

an alternative means of liberated creation and sustained cultural were souped-up anarchists,

revolution. This difference was not resolved. The report Constant to anyone familiar with the

presented on the foundation of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism in ongoing fusions between

Amsterdam underlined the extent to which the situationist movement certain strands of the

was diverging from Bernstein and Debord's plans. Utilising a team of avant-garde and left-

artists, architects and sociologists, the 'bureau' was dedicated to the communism (which began[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter of Situationist International in heroic phase

construction of unitary ambiances. Debord chose to bide his time. It with Berlin Dada), there

would be several years before he could assume leadership of the will be delights but few

movement and enforce his own opinions on those who were left once surprises. At their best

he had purged all 'opportunist tendencies'. On the night the Munich what the Situationists did

conference closed, the SI fly posted the city with leaflets proclaiming was reformulate classical

"A Cultural Putsch While You Sleep!". left-communist positions as

poetry. For example, from
In May '59 members of the SI held exhibitions in three of Europe's On The Poverty Of Student
most prestigious art galleries. Gallizio and Melanotte presented their Life: “As for the various
"Anti-Material Cave" at the Rene Drouin Gallery, Paris. This was anarchist groups, they
another unitary environment created from rolls of their industrial possess nothing beyond a
painting. Jorn showed his "Modified Pictures" at the Rive Gauche pathetic and ideological
Gallery, Paris. These consisted of 20 'kitsch' paintings which Jorn had faith in this label. They
'detourned' with stains of colour and alteration to figures. Constant justify every kind of self-
exhibited spatial constructions at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. contradiction in liberal
These were models for the buildings of unitary urbanism, which were terms: freedom of speech,
to be suspended from frames, making them more to flexible than of opinion, and other such
traditional architecture. Research into unitary urbanism proved to be bric-a-brac. Since they
the central activity of the SI during the summer and autumn of '59; tolerate each other, they
but while the Dutch and Italian sections carried on an animated debate would tolerate anything.”
over technical and social problems to be tackled, others withdrew to (page 20)
the sidelines:Jorn because he was suspicious of functional technology,
Bernstein and Debord because they wished to pursue an essentially Due to its vituperation-on-
'political' line. The third issue of "Internationale Situationiste" (Paris, speed qualities, the
December ' 59) features documents from the congress in Munich, invective in Beneath The
articles on unitary urbanism, and an essay on Industrial Painting. Cobble Stones is at points
hackneyed. For instance,
At the end of '59, the SI began negotiations with Wilhem Sandberg to Raoul Vaneigem is very
hold an exhibition in and around the Stedelijk Museum the following heavily dependent on
May. The S1 planned to turn the exhibition rooms into a labyrinth, Alexandre Kojève's reading
exhibit documents, have pre-recorded lectures playing continually, and of Hegel, and his reuse of
organise a systematic derive conducted by three situationist groups. the master/slave dialectic
The exhibition was not held because, among other things, the SI in Totality For Kids is
refused to make modifications to the labyrinth so that it would meet mechanical and boring.
security and safety requirements. After the museum was forced to However, even a plodder
cancel the project in March '60, due to the SI's intransigence, the like Vaneigem has his
space was offered to Gallizio - who accepted it. mordant spasms: “Being
aware of the crises of both
In April ' 60, Armando, Alberts and Oudejans were expelled from the
mass parties and ‘elites’,
movement, the latter two for having accepted a contract to construct a
the SI must embody the
church. In June, Gallizio and Melanotte exhibited Industrial Painting at
supersession of both the
both the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Notizie Gallery, Turin.
Bolshevik Central
Simultaneously, they were expelled from the SI for collaborating with
Committee (supersession
'ideologically unacceptable' forces. Glauco Wuerich, another member of
of the mass party) and of
the Italian section, was purged at the same time. In the same month
the Neitzschean project
Constant tired of being criticised for 'privileging' a technical
(supersession of the
architectural form, instead of 'seeking' a global culture - resigned.
intelligentsia).” (Page 60).
On the 20th July '60, the SI published Debord and Canjuers's Here, the anti-vanguardism
"Preliminaries Toward Defining A Unitary Revolutionary Programme". of the communist-left is
Pierre Canjuers was a theoretician of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group. deployed to good effect, as
The text was described by the situationists as "a platform for it would be again by the
discussion within the SI, and for its link-up with revolutionary militants Situationists in their
of the workers movement" (IS 5, Paris December 1960). The SI was critiques of terrorism.
too sectarian for this to amount to much. For a time Debord held dual
membership of the SI and S ou B, and was one of a team the latter That said, Debord had
group sent to Belgium during the General Strike of 1960. But Debord weaknesses too, and these
resigned from S ou B after only a few months of active membership. became increasingly[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

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Contact between the SI and S ou B diminished, and ended with a final evident in later years when
rupture in '66. what he wrote no longer
emerged from the
In August 1960, the first issue of the German "Spur" magazine was collective practice and
published in Munich. It highlighted the different ways in which various group discussions of the
factions within the SI approached the 'social question'. The differences Situationist International.
were underlined by the reprinting in the journal of the May 1960 Hussey is attracted to
manifesto of the SI, with the November '58 manifesto of SPUR. Unlike these flaws at the expense
the faction centred around Bernstein and Debord in Paris, Spur had no of what is still useful in
interest in the 'realisation and suppression' of art. This is how the Debord. The Game Of War
Germans stated their position in the year following the founding of will leave many casual
their group: readers with the
impression that Debord is
"...We oppose the logical way of mind which has led to cultural devastation. The
the perfect hero for
automatic, functional attitude has led to stubborn mindlessness, to academicism, to
counter-culture enthusiasts
the atom bomb... In order to be created, culture must be destroyed. Such terms as
who view William
culture, truth, eternity, do not interest us artists. We have to be able to survive.
Burroughs as not quite
The material and spiritual position of art is so desperate that a painter should not
incoherent enough for their
be expected to be obliging when he paints. Let the established do the obligatory...
anarchic tastes. Detached
Art is a resounding stroke of the gong, its lingering sound the raised voices of the
from the left-communist
imitators fading into thin air... Art has nothing to do with truth. Truth lies between
politics which provide a
entities. To want to be objective is one-sided. To be one-sided is pedantic and
context in which it is
possible to make sense of
dung-heap upon which kitsch grows... Instead of abstract idealism we call for honest
his films, detourned art
nihilism. The greatest crimes of man are committed in the names of Truth, Honesty,
books, interventions and
Progress, for a better future. Abstract painting has become empty aestheticism, a
pronouncements, Debord
playground for the lazy-minded who seek an easy pretext for the chewing-over once
can be anything anybody
again of long outdated truths. Abstract painting is a HUNDREDFOLD MASTICATED
wants him to be - except
PIECE OF CHEWING GUM stuck underneath the edge of the table. Today the
himself. Such is the fate of
Constructivists and the structuralist painters are trying to lick off this long-dried-up
celebrities, and Debord has
piece of chewing gum once again... WE SHALL SET AGAINST THIS OBJECTIVE NON-
been a celebrity of sorts
since 1984, when sections
The "Spur" magazine, in contrast to "Internationale Situationiste", was of the French press falsely
largely graphic. Both visually and in terms of content, the two journals accused him of murdering
show the situationist movement as being ideologically divided at every his patron Gerald Lebovici.
level. First published in Art
Monthly #250 October
These differences were much in evidence at the Fourth Congress of the 2001.
SI, held at a 'secret' location in East London, September 24-28th '60.
Upon their arrival in the English capital, delegates were set the
The role of the artist has
'psychogeographical' task of locating the British Sailors Society, where
changed considerably over
the conference was to be held. On the 26th September, Heimrad Prem
the past century, due both
read a long declaration on behalf of the Spur group attacking the
to shifts from a modernist
tendency amongst the French and Belgian delegates 'to count on the
to a post-modernist
existence of a revolutionary proletariat'. Kotanyi replied to this by
paradigm, and because of
'reminding' the Germans that in many 'advanced' capitalist countries
what might be described as
wildcat strikes had 'multiplied'. This difference was not resolved, the
the effervescence of
Spur group simply agreed to retract its statement so as not 'to impede
technology. While it would
present situationist activity'
not be untrue to state that
On the last day of the conference, the SI held a 'public' meeting at the the twentieth-century can
Institute Of Contemporary Arts in London's West End. Guy Atkins be characterised as having
includes the following eye-witness report of it in his book "Asger Jorn - witnessed the introduction
The Crucial Years 1954-1964" (Lund Humphries, 1977): of new communication
technologies, we should
"The meeting, from beginning to end, was a parody of a normal ICA evening. Toni not forget that the same
del Renzio was the ICA's chairman that night. He opened the meeting by giving might be said of the
some of the historical background of the Situationist movement. When he mentioned[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

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nineteenth-century - which
the conference in Alba there was loud applause from the Situationists. At the acted as midwife to the
mention of the 'unification conference' at Cosio d' Arroscia the clapping was terrific, railway and the telex.
accompanied by loud foot stamping. The ICA audience was clearly baffled by this Recently there has been
senseless display of euphoria. Del Renzio then introduced the S.I. spokesman much wild talk about
Maurice Wyckaert. “expanding globally
"Instead of beginning with the usual compliments, Wyckaert scolded the ICA for dominant cultural
using the word 'Situationism' in its Bulletin. 'Situationism', Wyckaert explained, industries”, and I would
'doesn't exist. There is no doctrine of this name.' He went on to tell the audience, 'If emphasise that this
you've now understood that there is no such thing as 'Situationism' you've not phenomenon can only be
wasted your evening.' understood as a part of
"After a tribute to Alexander Trocchi, who had recently been arrested for drug global capitalism. I’d also
trafficking in the United States, Wyckaert launched into a criticism of UNESCO. We like to suggest that
were told that UNESCO had failed in its cultural mission. Therefore the Situationist Stalinism and Maoism
International would seize the UNESCO building by 'the hammer blow of a putsch'. imposed capitalism on
This remark was greeted with a few polite murmurs of approval. what had been peasant
"Wyckaert ended as he had begun, with a gibe at the ICA. 'The Situationists, whose societies, and so one of
judges you perhaps imagine yourselves to be, will one day judge you. We are the chief characteristics of
waiting for you at the turning.' There was a moment's silence before people realized the twentieth-century was
that the speaker had finished. The first and only question came from a man who a shift from the formal to
asked 'Can you explain what exactly Situationism is all about?' Wyckaert gave the the real domination of
questioner a severe look. Guy Debord stood up and said in French 'We're not here capital on a global scale.
to answer cuntish questions'. At this he and the other Situationists walked out." As a result, industrial
production was shifted
At this time Spur were the most active section of the SI: between
around the planet, and
August '60 and January '61 they published seven issues of their
some of the most
journal, the fifth (June '61) of which was an all text issue on unitary
advanced industry is now
urbanism, featuring reprints of old Lettriste Internationale writings on
found in what were once
this subject.
considered “backward”
The split between the 'cultural' and 'political' factions within the 51 countries, just as regions
widened with the resignation of Jorn in April 1961. This was that were previously
compounded by Raoul Vaneigem (born Lessines in the Hainaut, 1934) heavily industrialised -
assuming membership the same year. The division of opinion reached such as the American Mid-
explosive proportions at the Fifth Conference of the SI in Goteborg, West and British Midlands -
Sweden, 28-30th August '61. Vaneigem's report demonstrated the have become rust belts. All
intransigence of the 'political' faction: of which has had an
immense impact on the
"...It is a question not of elaborating the spectacle of refusal, but rather of refusing production of art.
the spectacle. In order for their elaboration to be artistic in the new and authentic
sense defined by the SI, the elements of the destruction of the spectacle must Some of the declining
precisely cease to be works of art. There is no such thing as situationism or a industrial nations have
situationist work of art or a spectacular situationist... Our position is that of transformed cultural
combatants between two worlds - one that we don't acknowledge, the other that production and real estate
does not yet exist." into key generators of
wealth. As well as being
Kunzelmann immediately expressed 'a strong scepticism' as to the
global, the culture industry
powers the SI could 'bring together in order to act on the level
is also highly localised -
envisaged by Vaneigem' (IS 7, Paris '62). Prem reiterated the position
being both centralised and
of the Spur group on revolutionary tactics - more or less repeating
localised in places such as
what the Germans had said at s the 4th Congress of the SI. Although
Los Angeles, New York and
there was much talk of dissatisfaction and revolt, Spur noted that:
London. Furthermore,
'Most people are still primarily concerned with comfort and
cultural production is
conveniences'. Thus the third session of the Fifth Congress ended in
closely tied in with the
'uproar', with shouts of 'Your theory is going to fly right back in your
gentrification of what were
faces!' from one faction and 'Cultural pimps!' from the other.
traditionally working class

The conference decided to add Kotanyi and de Jong to the editorial areas in these cities, and

board of the 'Spur' journal; and with the consultation of these two the meteoric rise of[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

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extra editors, the .sixth issue was published in November '61. property prices has

However, in January '62 Kunzelmann, Prem, Sturm, Zimmer, Eisch, destroyed much of what

Nele, Fischer and Stadler published issue 7 of the magazine without gave these places their

informing Kotanyi or de Jong. As a result they were expelled from the character, and thus what

SI the following month. Simultaneously the Spur group was subjected initially made them

to a series of police harassments and prosecutions for immorality, attractive to the artistic

pornography, blasphemy and incitement to riot. These eventually vanguard among the

resulted in Uwe Lausen serving a three week jail sentence, while other gentrifiers. Having

members of the Spur group were fined and given suspended established a material

sentences. basis for my critique, I

would like to move on to a
After their exclusion, Spur continued to exist as a group, and were very one-sided suggestion
later involved with the 2nd Situationist International. This new that I've encountered
grouping arose in March '62 when Nash, Elde, de Jong, Lindell, Larsson numerous times in recent
and Strid broke with the faction centred around Bernstein, Debord and years, viz, that the
Vaneigem. They immediately announced the formation of the 2nd practice of the early
Situationist International, centred on Drakabygget (the Situationist twentieth-century avant-
Bauhaus), a farmhouse in Southern Sweden. Those they broke with garde has been normalised
responded by 'excluding' the 'Nashists', a term adopted at the Sixth within contemporary art.
Congress of the 'SI' at Antwerp (12-16th November '62). This is true, but only to a
very limited extent, for
Nash outlined the theories of the 2nd International in "Who Are The while the technique of
Situationists?" (Times Literary Supplement, London, 14/9/64): bricolage, and the
treatment of the entire
".....The point of departure is the dechristianisation of Kierkegaard's philosophy of
history of art as source
situations. This must be combined with British economic doctrines, German dialectic
material for the production
and French social action programmes. It involves a profound revision of Marx's
of new work has become
doctrine and a complete revolution whose growth is rooted in the Scandinavian
normalised, the critique of
concept of culture. This new ideology and philosophical theory we have called
the institution of art that
situology. It is based on the principles of social democracy in as much as it excludes
accompanied it has been
all forms of artificial privilege."
jettisoned. Here I should
From Sweden, Nash published booklets, issued the magazine reference the work of
"Drakabygget" (named after his farmhouse) and organised other Hegel and Peter Bürger, as
propaganda including exhibitions and demonstrations. Among the well as the involvement of
publicity stunts orchestrated by the Situationist Bauhaus were the the Berlin Dadaists and the
painting of 'Co-ritus' slogans all over Copenhagen and the decapitation Situationist International
of a statue in Copenhagen harbour. with the communist left.
The avant-garde wished to
Jorn, although he denounced the graffiti actions to the press, remained integrate art and life, and
on friendly terms with members of the two rival 'internationals'. Both this project failed precisely
groups were financially dependent on him and thus his collusion with because neither the
what each side perceived as the 'enemy' was, if not accepted, ignored. dadaists nor the surrealists
There was certainly no question of Bernstein and Debord sticking to (not to mention the
their usually rigorous criteria for splits and breaks. Without Jorn's Frankfurt School) properly
support, of both money and gifts, neither de Jong's "Situationist understood that art gains
Times", nor its rival "Internationale Situationiste", could have been its appearance of
published. After Jorn's death from cancer in 1973, Debord described ideological autonomy from
him as 'the permanent heretic of a movement which cannot admit its commodification.
orthodoxy' (cited in "COBRA" by Jean-Clarence Lambert {Sotherby
Publications, 1983} as a quotation from "Le Jardin de Abisola" {Turin To greatly condense my
1974}). analysis, if capitalism
provides the material
conditions for art, then
1. In his translator's introduction to Jean Barrot's "Critique Of The German idealism supplies
Situationist International" (Red Eye 1, Berkeley 1979 - reprinted as it with its ideological
"What Is Situationism?", Unpopular Books, London 1987) L.M. gives legitimation. Drawing on
the following - extremely lucid description of Socialisme ou Barbarie: the same philosophical[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chapter of Situationist International in heroic phase

sources, Marx concluded

"Socialisme ou Barbarie was a journal started by a small group of militants who that human activity
broke with mainstream Trotskyism shortly after World War II. The grounds for this constitutes reality through
break were several. Firstly, there was the fact that the post-war economic crisis, its praxis; truth is process,
and the war itself, had failed to provoke the revolutionary upheaval predicted by the process of self-
Trotsky. Secondly, there was the situation of the Soviet Union, where the development; or, as Marx
bureaucracy had survived and had consolidated itself without the country having more famously put it, the
reverted to private capitalism. This also ran counter to Trotsky's predictions - as did rounded individual of
the extension of Soviet-style bureaucratic rule to the rest of Eastern Europe. Thirdly, mature communism is a
there was the miserable internal life of the so-called "Fourth International" which by hunter in the morning, a
now constituted a mini-bureaucracy of its own, torn by sectarian rivalry and also fisherman in the afternoon,
thoroughly repressive. and a critical critic at night
- without being hunter,
"From this practical and historical experience, S ou B commenced a profound
fisherman or critic. Since it
questioning of "marxism" - that is, of the ideology which runs through the works of
is shackled by
Kautsky, Lenin and Trotsky, appears as a caricature in the writings of Stalin and his
commodification, artistic
hacks, and has part of its origin in the late work of Engels. Out of this questioning,
practice is a deformation of
S ou B's leading theoretician, Cornelius Castoriadis, writing under the pseudonyms
the sensuous unfolding of
first of Pierre Chaulieu and later of Paul Cardan, derived the following general
the self that will be
possible once we've
"(i) that the Soviet Union must now be regarded as a form of exploitative society achieved real human
called state - or bureaucratic - capitalist; community. The goal of
communism is to
"(ii) that in this the Soviet Union was only a more complete variant of a process
overcome the reification of
that was common to the whole of capitalism, that of bureaucratization;
human activity into
"(iii) that because of this the contradiction between propertyless and property- separate realms such as
owners was being replaced by the contradiction between "order-givers and order- work and play, the
takers" and that the private bourgeoisie was itself evolving via concentration and aesthetic and the political.
centralization of capital into a bureaucratic class; Communism will rescue
the aesthetic from the
"(iv) that the advanced stage this process had reached in the Soviet Union was ghetto of art and place it
largely the result of the Leninist-Bolshevik conception of the Party, which seizes at the centre of life.
State power from the bourgeoisie on behalf of the workers and thence necessarily Where, then, does this
evolves into a new ruling class; leave the role of the artist?
Since under capitalism
"(v) that capitalism as a whole had overcome its economic contradictions based on
everyone reproduces the
the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and that therefore the contradictions
conditions of their own
between order-givers and order-takers had become the sole mainspring of
alienation, while art as we
revolution, whereby the workers would be driven to revolt and achieve self-
know it continues to exist,
management only by the intolerable boredom and powerlessness of their lives, and
it would be ridiculous to
not by material deprivation."
expect those who seek its
2. The author interviewed Rumney at his home in Putney (South West abolition as a separate
London) in Autumn '87. sphere of activity not to
engage in and with it.
3. See the section on the SI in "Asger Jorn - The Crucial Years 1954- However, progressive
64" by Guy Atkins (Lund Humpheries 1977). Atkins elaborated on the artists must always keep in
funding of the SI in a 1987 letter to the author. Rumney also proffered sight the fact that their
further information on this point. role as specialist non-
specialists must be
4. Although, as we will see later, there is a real difference of opinion
negated. Art cannot be
here over the status of culture, there is also a problem over the use of
reformed, it can only be
the term 'art'. Overt and conscious use of collective practices to make
abolished. Therefore, our
'cultural artifacts' (for want of a better term) do not really fit the
cultural strategy in this
description 'art' - at least if one is using the term to describe the high
transitional period must be
culture of the ruling class in capitalist societies.
to autonomise the negative

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Next: Specto-Situationists and 2nd Situationist International the avant-garde not just in
theory, but also in
Assault On Culture contents page practice. We learn nothing
from the dead art of living
men. We learn everything
from the living art of dead
Contribution to the
ongoing The Anthology
Of Art web project,
eventually to be
published in book form.

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:55:48 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter 7 on Situationist International





The idea of Eurocentrism needs a further refinement if we are to

understand why the Specto-Situationist International,(1) led by
Bernstein, Debord and Vaneigem, is far better known in Britain, France
and North America than the 2nd Situationist International of de long
and Nash. Not only has Europe traditionally seen itself as the centre of
the world, but Britain, France and Germany, tend to view themselves
as the hub of this centre. Thus, when the SI split in two, from a
French or Anglo-American perspective, the specto-situationists based in Art And Outrage:
Paris were seen as the real SI, while the 2nd International centred on Provocation,
Scandinavia could be dismissed as 'foreign to the SI; much more Controversy and the
sociable, certainly, but much less intelligent' (IS 8, Paris 1963).The Visual Arts by John A.
specto-situationists claimed in "Internationale Situationiste 8" that Walker (Pluto Press,
Nash's new Swedish "Bauhaus" had assembled 'two or three former London 1999. ISBN 0-
Scandinavian situationists plus a mass of unknowns'. The inference is 7453-1354-X)
clear, these people are former situationists, and the specto- In his latest work John A.
situationists are sole holders of the SI title. This is typical of the Walker ranges over fifty
dishonesty the specto-situationists had inherited from the Lettriste years of art history
International. Apart from deliberate misrepresentation, the only other covering everything from
explanation for such a claim is innumeracy or a complete failure of Alfred Munnings to Rick
memory - both of which seem highly unlikely. The list of former Gibson, Reg Butler to
comrades of Bernstein and Debord who participated in activities at the Marcus Harvey, Richard
Situationist Bauhaus, or had material published in the 2nd Hamilton to Jake and Dinos
International's "Situationist Times", includes Nash, Elde, de Jong, Chapman. Like the books
Lindell, Larsson, Strid, Kunzelmann, Prem, Sturm, Zimmer, Eisch, Nele, that have proceeded it, Art
Fisher, Stadler, Jorn and Simondo. Since the average membership of And Outrage is a clippings
the SI at any time before the schism had been between 10 and 15 job laced with the author's
persons, the claims of the 2nd International to the SI's title carry as trade marked brand of
much weight as those of the specto-situationists. fatherly advice. With
regard to sculptor
The most fundamental difference between the specto-situationists and
Anthony-Noel Kelly who
the 2nd International was on the question of art. The specto-
was jailed in 1998 for
situationists wanted to 'realise and suppress' art - this desire is
stealing body parts Walker
repeated throughout their literature. The following is an example
pontificates: "One
authored by Martin, Strijbosch, Vaneigem and Vienet included in
presumes there are art
"Internationale Situationiste 9" (Paris 1964):
lovers who would be willing
"It is now a matter of realising art, of really building on every level of life everything to donate their bodies to
that hitherto could only be an artistic memory or an illusion, dreamed and preserved artists in the same way
unilaterally. Art can be realized only by being suppressed. However, as opposed to that some individuals are
the present society, which suppresses it by replacing it with the automatism of an willing to leave their bodies[11/27/10 2:56:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter 7 on Situationist International

even more passive and hierarchical spectacle, we maintain that art can really be to surgeons. This is the
suppressed only by being realized." strategy Kelly should have
pursued in order to
The 2nd International, like the specto-situationists, failed to make a challenge the existing law
proper distinction between the concepts of art and culture (i.e. Jorn's and avoid any offence to
"Mind and Sense" in "Situationist Times 5" Paris 1964). But from an the relatives of those he
identical error the two Internationals reached very different conclusions cast and then buried in
about 'what was to be done'. secret." Damien Hirst is
subjected to more
The specto-situationists - always extremely self-conscious about their forthright criticism for
public image - prided themselves on the promotion of their theory as producing paintings that
materialist; but by examining a materialist treatment of art it can be 'make no claims to
demonstrated that the ambitions and attitudes of the specto- spirituality' and using his
situationists are actually idealist. wealth 'to buy bourgeois
lifestyle trappings such as
Roger L. Taylor in his book "Art, An Enemy Of The People" (Harvester
a farmhouse and a Range
Press, Sussex, 1978) demonstrates that there have been very few
genuinely materialist treatments of art. He does this by examining art
as a social practice and then comparing the resulting materialist
Aside from what he
description to Marxist treatments of the subject. He begins by showing
perceives as trivial art,
that art, as a category, must be distinguished from music, painting,
Walker's main target is the
writing &c. Current usage of the term art treats it as a sub-category of
press. Ironically Walker
these disciplines; one which differentiates between parts of them on
makes extensive use of the
the basis of perceived values. Thus, the music of Mozart is considered
slipshod methods he claims
art, while that of Slaughter and the Dogs is not. This use of the term
to abhor in the work of
art, which distinguishes between different musics, literatures, &c,
other journalists. Rather
emerged in the seventeenth-century at the same time as the concept
than offering analysis Art
of science. Before this, the term artist was used to describe cooks,
And Outrage falls back on
shoe-makers, students of the liberal arts &c.
cliche and factual

When the term art emerged with its modem usage, it was an attempt distortion. With regard to

on the part of the aristocracy to hold up the values of their class as Rachel Whiteread's House

objects of 'irrational reverence'. Thus art was equated with truth, and Walker claims: "By calling

this truth was the world view of the aristocracy, a world view which attention to the demolition

would shortly be overthrown by the rising bourgeois class. As a of houses in the East End,

revolutionary class, the bourgeoisie wished to assimilate the 'life' of the sculpture indicted the

the declining aristocracy. However, since the activities of the Conservative government's

bourgeoisie served largely to abolish the previous modes of life, when indifference to the need for

it appropriated the concept of art it simultaneously transformed it. new council housing for

Thus beauty more or less ceased to be equated with truth, and became the homeless." The

associated with individual taste. As art developed, 'the insistence on terraced housing

form and knowledge of form' and 'individualism' (basically temporarily replaced by

romanticism) were added to lend 'authority' to the concept as a House was bomb damaged

'particular, evolving, mental set of the new ruling class' . in the Second World War
and condemned in 1946.
Thus, rather than having universal validity, art is a process that occurs Its much delayed
within bourgeois society, one which leads to an 'irrational reverence for demolition was a
activities which suit bourgeois needs'. This process posits 'the objective consequence of Nazi terror
superiority of those things singled out as art, and, thereby, the bombing not Conservative
superiority of the form of life which celebrates them, and the social indifference. Walker's
group which is implicated'. This boils down to an assertion that claims about the political
bourgeois society, and the ruling class within it, is 'somehow dimensions of House are
committed to a superior form of knowledge' . From this we can deduce particularly disingenuous
that art will continue to exist as a specialised category until capitalism since Tarmac who
itself has been abolished. This is a conclusion very different to that sponsored the sculpture
reached by the specto-situationists. In "Internationale Situationiste were simultaneously
10", Khayati asserts: demolishing perfectly good
East End housing to make[11/27/10 2:56:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter 7 on Situationist International

"...Dada realized all the possibilities of language and forever closed the door on art
way for the unwanted M11
as a speciality... The realization of art - poetry in the situationist sense means that
one cannot realize oneself in a "work", but rather realizes oneself period."

In the section on House

If art, from a materialist perspective, is a process which occurs in
Walker scrambles many
bourgeois society, there can be no question of its realisation. Such an
other facts. For example
idea is mystical since it implies not only that art has an essence, but
he treats quotes from the
that as a category it is autonomous of social structures. To undertake
Neoist Alliance and the
its realisation and suppression is an attempt to save this mental set at
London Psychogeographical
the very moment the category is abolished. Art disappears from the
Association as if they
museums only to reappear everywhere! So much for the autonomous
originated from one rather
practice of the proletariat, this is actually the old bourgeois dream of a
than two different
universal category which will propagandise for social cohesion.
organisations. As well as
Apart from its treatment of art, the other theoretical device which twisting information Walker
distinguishes the specto-situationists from the 2nd International is the doesn't appear to have
concept of the spectacle. This gains its most elaborated theorisation in verified the data he's
Guy Debord's "La societe du spectacle" (Buchet-Chastel, Paris, 1967 - gleaned from dubious
English translation Black & Red, Detroit, 1970). In this, paraphrasing sources. He accepts at face
Marx, Debord announces: value the claim that self-
styled money artist J. S. G.
"The entire life of societies in which modem conditions of production reign Boggs was able to
announces itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was exchange his drawings of
directly lived has moved away into a representation." currency for goods and
services. Despite
From this point on, Debord proceeds to treat the spectacle as a
encountering Boggs in
generalised, and simultaneously a localised, phenomenon. And by
various London pubs and
treating it in this way - offering a series of overlapping but hardly
restaurants when he was
regimented descriptions - he is unable to arrive at a uniform notion of
supposedly living solely by
the concept. Debord only appraises its various movements without
offering his pictures of
demonstrating any real relation between them.(2) The specto-
money in exchange for
situationist conception of both capitalist and communist society is as
what he consumed, I never
mystical as its conception of art. Debord announces that the "spectacle
saw any evidence that his
is not a collection of images but a social relation among people
art was accepted as an
mediated by images", as though human relations hadn't always been
alternative to payments in
conducted via sense impressions (which in terms of sight have always
sterling. What I did see
been images). Vaneigem in his "Traite de sawoir-vivre a l'usage des
Boggs do was claim he
jeunes generations" (Gallimard, Paris, 1967) talks of communist society
was financially
as being a world of 'masters without slaves'; when it is actually a
embarrassed and by this
society in which metaphors of class domination will be rendered
means get those he was
with to pay for his food
Rather than attempting to develop rigorous theories, and failing and drink.
miserably, the 2nd Situationist International pursued a more open
policy. In the "Situationist Times" de Jong would draw together I almost found myself
photographs, diagrams and odd pieces of writing on a specific theme agreeing with Walker when
(for example labyrinths in issue 4, Paris 1963) and leave her readers he criticised Giles Auty for
to draw their own conclusions. In many ways issues of the "Situationist unfavourably comparing
Times" resemble contemporary printed editions by Fluxus. Both the Ddart Performance
represent a non-art approach to what can only very loosely be termed Group to Vel‡squez with
artistic activity. the following observation:
"the comparison rather
Thus while the specto-situationists were doubly ideological in their unfairly jumps across time,
dogmatic assertion of the theoretical nature of their speculations, the national cultures and art
2nd Situationist International - which was happy to have its thought forms." Paradoxically this
described as an ideology - proved more open minded in its approach almost reasoned attack on
to philosophical enquiry. Auty appears five pages
after the following
Footnotes: outburst: "In regard to[11/27/10 2:56:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter 7 on Situationist International

materials, (Carl) Andre's...

1. The faction I describe as the 'specto-Situationist International',
choice and use of mundane
always referred to itself simply as the 'Situationist International'.
products such as bricks
However, since two factions existed, both claiming the title Situationist
provoked much adverse
International - the Nashist group at least had the decency to place the
reaction. (Yet, strangely,
word 'Second' in front of the name - I used the term 'specto' to
the general public does not
differentiate the Debordist faction from the original SI, which existed
condemn the ancient
before the split of '62. The term 'specto' refers to the theory of the
monument, Stonehenge,
'spectacle', to which the Debordist faction clung in the way a Jesuit
on that grounds that 'it is
clings to the idea of 'God'.
simply an arrangement of
2. For an earlier and more elaborate version of this argument see stones'.)" Walker italicises
David Jacobs & Christopher Winks "AT DUSK - The Situationist Stonehenge as if it is an
Movement In Historical Perspective" (Perspectives, Berkeley 1975). See art work when we do not
also Mark Shipway's essay "Situationism" in Rubel & Crump (eds) know why it was built.
"Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" Likewise, he does not seem
(MacMillan, Basingstoke & London 1987) for a less 'theoretical' to appreciate the enormous
explanation of how the specto-SI projected trends occurring within a skill involved in
specific stratum of French society across class and national boundaries transporting these huge
and into a universal 'theory'. stones to a site of great
beauty where they were
Previous: The Situationist International In Its 'Heroic' Phase aligned to solar
phenomena by a people
Next: Decline & Fall of the Specto-Situationist Critique
who had recourse to only
Assault On Culture contents page the most basic of tools.

Art And Outrage is

compiled rather than
researched. The artists and
works under discussion
appear to have been
picked at random. The
book is badly written and
woefully under theorised.
Walker appears incapable
of producing art theory or
criticism. Even considered
as journalism his
throughput is fifth rate.
The use of the term
outrage is unnecessarily
provocative and smacks of
tabloid sensationalism.
Much of what Walker has
assembled could be
discussed more soberly
Stewart Home, Ian Breakwell & Blast Theory doing digital edits in London, 1997.
under the rubric of
publicity and advertising.
Feuds and spats as a
means of generating
column inches are possibly
the only PR gimmick
missing from Walker's
latest publication and he
could easily make good the
omission by responding at
length to this review. I've
just had a new book[11/27/10 2:56:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture book by Stewart Home chapter 7 on Situationist International

published and a bit of

controversy always helps
First published in Art
Monthly #226 May

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The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chatper on Situationist International





During the early sixties both the specto-situationists and the 2nd
Situationist International were largely unknown beyond fringe groups
of artists, students and political activists. Both Internationals managed
to spread their fame a little through the use of scandal. The specto-
situationist Jeppesen Victor Martin was the most accomplished
practitioner of this tactic. After several incidents which reached the
press, he was prosecuted for producing a cartoon on the occasion of a
Danish royal wedding which depicted Christine Keeler with a speech
bubble stating that it was better to be a prostitute than marry a UK 2nd edition

When fans of the journal "Internationale Situationiste" gained control

of the student union at Strasbourg University, the specto-situationists
seized their chance for an intervention with maximum publicity. In its
text "Our Goals And Methods In The Strasbourg Scandal"
("Internationale Situationiste 11", Paris, October '67), the specto-
situationists claim they initially suggested that the students themselves
write a critique of the university and society in general; and then
publish it with student union funds. In the end, the text was written by
a card carrying specto-situationist, Mustapha Khayati - with a few
corrections made by the organisational hierarchy in Paris. Ten
thousand copies of "On The Poverty Of Student Life: considered in its
economic, political, psychological, sexual, and particularly intellectual
aspects, and a modest proposal for its remedy" (AFGES, Strasbourg, UK 1st edition
1966) were printed, and many were handed out at the official opening
of the university's academic year in November '66. Soon afterwards,
the student union was closed by court order and the specto-
situationists received international publicity. In the court case that
resulted from the text's publication, the summation of the judge is now
better remembered and publicised than the text itself:

"The accused have never denied the charge of misusing the funds of the student
union. Indeed, they openly admit to having made the union pay some $1500 for the
printing and distribution of 10,000 pamphlets, not to mention the cost of other
literature inspired by "Internationale Situationiste". These publications express ideas
and aspirations which, to put it mildly, have nothing to do with the aims of a
student union. One has only to read what the accused have written, for it is obvious
that these five students, scarcely more than adolescents, lacking all experience of
real life, their minds confused by ill-digested philosophical, social, political and In Portuguese
economic theories, and perplexed by the drab monotony of their everyday life,
make the empty, arrogant, and pathetic claim to pass definitive judgements, sinking[11/27/10 2:56:21 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chatper on Situationist International

to outright abuse, on their fellow-students, their teachers, God, religion, the clergy,
the governments and political systems of the whole world. Rejecting all morality and
restraint, these cynics do not hesitate to commend theft, the destruction of
scholarship, the abolition of work, total subversion, and a world-wide proletarian
revolution with 'unlicensed pleasure' as its only aim.
"In view of their basically anarchist character, these theories and propaganda are
eminently noxious. Their wide diffusion in both student circles and among the
general public, by local, national and foreign press, are a threat to the morality, the
studies, the reputation and thus the very future of the students of the University of

The reaction of the judge delighted lumpen intellectuals across the

world, and many of the subsequent reprints of the text have included In Spanish
this extract of the judge's summation. According to Ken Knabb
("Situationist Anthology", Bureau of Public Secrets, Berkeley, 1981):

"On The Poverty of Student life is in fact the most widely circulated situationist text.
It has been translated into Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, German, Greek, Italian,
Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, and its total printing so far is in the
neighborhood of half a million."

The text itself begins with a critique of students, 'the most universally
despised creature in France', and continues by declaring that there are
only two possible futures for delinquents, 'the awakening of
revolutionary consciousness or blind obedience in the factories'. This is
followed by a critique of the Dutch Provos, in which Constant is
personally insulted: the fact that he was once a member of the
Situationist International is conveniently ignored. Khayati proclaims In Polish
that to 'arrive at a revolutionary critique, the rebellious Provo base has
to begin by revolting against its own leaders'

It is presumably idealist induction which enables Khayati to declare

that by 'revolting against their studies, the American students have
automatically called into question a society that needs such studies'.
This revolt (at Berkeley and elsewhere) has 'from the start asserted
itself as a revolt against the whole social system based on hierarchy
and the dictatorship of the economy and the state'. This no doubt
came as a sup rise to the majority of those who had participated in
the disturbances, but since they presumably lacked the theoretical
clarity of specto-situationist analysis, Khayati felt free to state it

Similarly the struggles in Eastern Europe (East Berlin 1953, Budapest

Jacqueline de Jong, Fabian
1956, &c.) are without illusion, and the protagonists - although they
Tompsett & Stewart Home
don't know it themselves - are in complete accord with the theoretical
at site of demolished
thesis of the specto-situationists. In England, the youth involved with
Ungdomshuset at Jagtvej
the anti-bomb movement lack radical perspectives, but this can be
69 in Copenhagen, March
remedied if they link up with the shop steward movement! According
to Khayati, the fusion of student youth and radical workers that has
already taken place shows how this is to be done. One wonders where HAVING A RIOT IN
the majority of youth, who in England at least lacked the 'benefits' of COPENHAGEN
higher education, were meant to fit in. Khayati ignored such questions My trip to Copenhagen was
because his text - despite the abuse at the beginning - was intended a riot; the government had
to recruit students as cadre for the specto-situationist movement; and declared a state of
to have launched a genuine attack on student privileges would have emergency and among
doomed such a project to failure.(1) It is precisely because Khayati's other things the cops could
stale ideology is aimed at students that he presents his ideas as a stop and search you[11/27/10 2:56:21 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chatper on Situationist International

series of shop-worn paradoxes: without having to give a

reason for the harassment.
"...the first great 'defeat' of the proletarian power, the Paris Commune, is in reality
Quite a few people told me
its first great victory in that for the first time the early proletariat demonstrated its
they'd been beaten up by
historical capacity to organize all aspects of social life freely. Whereas its first great
the pigs. There were also
'victory', the Bolshevik revolution, ultimately turned out to be its most disastrous
reports of right-wingers
defeat.. The results of the Russian counterrevolution were, internally, the
running amok while the
establishment and development of a new mode of exploitation, bureaucratic state-
police turned a blind eye to
capitalism, and externally, the growth of a "Communist" International whose
their activities, allowing
spreading branches served the sole purpose of defending and reproducing their
them to trash bicycle
Russian model... in spite of apparent variations and oppositions, a single social form
shops and make burning
dominates the world, and the principles of the old world continue to govern our
barricades from looted
modern world. The tradition of the dead generations still haunts the minds of the
library books, so that
living... there can be no revolution outside the modem, nor any modem thought
these senseless acts of
outside the reinvention of the revolutionary critique... As Lukas correctly showed,
fascist violence would be
revolutionary organisation is this necessary mediation between theory and practice,
blamed on the left and
between man and history, between the mass of workers and the proletariat
thus weaken support for
constituted as a class... Everything ultimately depends on how the new
the struggle against the
revolutionary movement resolves the organisation question... the critique of
gentrification of inner city
ideology must in the final analysis be the central problem of revolutionary
working class
Khayati's style is that of a pompous academic. It makes one think of
those imbecilic professors of philosophy who welcome new students I was told repeatedly that
with the hope that at the end of their course these acolytes will those arrested were tried
emerge knowing less than when they began. No doubt Khayati's collectively (sometimes as
paradoxes were familiar and reassuring to his student readers. many as forty at a time)
and jailed for a week or
Like all specto-situationist texts, when the concepts contained in "On two collectively for alleged
The Poverty Of Student Life" are analysed they are soon seen to be rioting, despite no evidence
incoherent. Khayati, in concluding, talks about 'the actual realisation of being provided by the
real desires'. The critical reader does not infer from this an intended prosecution and no right of
distinction from the 'non-realisation of false desires'.(2) Only the semi- individual defence. I was
literate would mock the hapless theorist; Khayati's references to the told there were 200
concrete serve a real function - with them he hopes to mask the fact activists in jail when I
that his theory is no more than an abstraction. arrived, and that through
mass arrests the
The scandal surrounding "On The Poverty Of Student Life" marked a authorities had at least
high point of publicity for the specto-SI. A year and a half later, during temporarily pacified the
the occupations movement of May '68, the specto-situationists struggle. The cops were
believed they were seeing the revolution they'd predicted. concentrating of arresting
Unfortunately this was not the case, and the rapid decomposition of non-Danes and deporting
the group, started by the resignation of Michele Bernstein in December them, despite the majority
1967, accelerated. The specto-situationists claimed they played a of those being kicked out
major role in the May events, a view not shared by disinterested having European
observers.(3) During May, the specto-SI, and its supporters, formed Community citizenship and
themselves into the Committee For The Maintenance Of The thus according to
Occupations - a group numbering approximately 40 persons.(4) When bourgeois law a 'right' to
it's considered that millions of workers and students participated in the be in Denmark. The reason
May events, such a miniscule grouping cannot be deemed of much for these deportations
significance. With reality having failed to live up to the specto- being that the authorities
situationists' expectations, many of the movement's 18 members wanted to make it look like
proceeded to resign from the International. The majority of those that the trouble was caused by
didn't were excluded. Finally, when there were just three members left, outside agitators and had
Debord and Sanguinetti announced their victory over history in "La nothing to do with local
Veritable Scission dans L'Internationale" (Champ Libre, Paris, 1972). In social struggles! At least
this they claimed that the specto-SI was about to be reborn one woman had her flat
everywhere. Nothing of the kind occurred. However, the recessions of raided and was jailed[11/27/10 2:56:21 PM]

The Assault On Culture book by Stewart Home chatper on Situationist International

the seventies did demonstrate that specto-situationist 'analysis' - simply for having foreign
based as it was on the belief that capitalism had overcome its guests (who were of
economic contradictions was incorrect. course deported).

Footnotes: I didn't see any rioting,

although there were burn
1. It was left to proletarians to make a genuine critique of the student
marks still visible on the
movement. For example, during the 1968 Vietnam Solidarity
streets where there had
demonstration in London's Grosvenor Square, a phalanx of 200
been trouble. Dozens of
fanatical Millwall Football Club supporting 'skins' chanted "Students,
cops in riot vans were
Students, Ha Ha Ha", in reply to the shouts of "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh"
parked up outside the
being made from the disorganised ranks of the New Left radicals.
conference I was
2. I have not been able to locate a French edition of "On The Poverty participating in on the
Of Student Life" and so I use here Ken Knabb's translation from his Scandinavian Situationists.
"Situationist International Anthology". If Knabb's translation is faulty, I took part in a street
the point still holds: - the (specto) SI continually refer to the concrete party one night, a failed
and the total in their texts, in a vain attempt to mask the essential attempt at diverting the
vapidity of their theorising. cops while other activists
attempted to squat a new
3. It was in the interests of the right vastly to over-emphasise the role property to replace the
of the SI in the Occupations Movement. It suited conservative social centre that had been
politicians to place the blame for the May events on a small group of demolished. On Saturday I
'fanatics' who led the majority of the population astray. Such distorted turned up at the site of the
interpretations of the May movement were made from de Gaulle destroyed Old House social
downwards. centre, now just a piece of
waste ground, where it
4. Steef Davidson in "The Penguin Book of Political Comics" (Penguin,
had been planned we
Harmondsworth 1982) describes the Council For The Maintenance Of
should construct a
The Occupations as "a group of forty to fifty Situationists and 'enrages'
"People's Park". There
who had broken away from the M22M (March 22nd Movement)". Rene
were around 25 activists
Vienet in his book "The Enrages and the Situationists in the Occupation
present when a couple of
Movement France, May-June" (Tiger Papers, Heslington, York, undated)
vans carrying soil, trees
says: "About 40 people made up the permanent base of the CMDO
and other materials pulled
and they were joined for a while by other revolutionaries and strikers
up. As we attempted to
from various industries, from the provinces or from abroad and
unload the cargo, cops
returning there. The CMDO was more or less constantly made up of
from a riot van came and
about ten situationists and Enrages (among them Debord, Khayati,
stood in the way. At this
Riesel and Vaneigem) and as many from the workers, the high school
point the pigs were slightly
students or 'students', and other councillists without specific functions."
outnumbered, and they
didn't attempt to clear us

Previous: Specto-Situationists and 2nd Situationist International off the site until several
van loads of
Next: Fluxus in its 'heroic' period reinforcements arrived and
there were more of them
Assault On Culture contents page than us. So crazy times in
Copenhagen, and the
repression there

Stewart Home blog entry

Monday, March 19, 2007.

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:56:21 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home first chapter on Fluxus





In the summer of 1958 John Cage (born Los Angeles, 1912) began
teaching a course in musical composition at the New School For Social
Research, New York. This course brought together, as guest lecturers
and pupils, a number of personalities who would be crucial to the
development of what would later become known as Fluxus. Apart from
Cage, those in attendance included George Brecht (born Halfway,
Oregon, 1925), Jackson Mac Low (born Chicago, 1922), Dick Higgins
(born 1938), Allan Kaprow and Toshi Ichijanagi (Yoko Ono's fIrst
husband). UK 2nd edition

A couple of years later, George Maciunas (born Kaunas, Lithuania,

1931) attended classes in electronic music run by Richard MaxfIeld at
the same venue. La Monte Young also attended these classes. Young
was simultaneously organising a series of performances and concerts in
Yoko Ono's New York studio (December '60 to June 61) which featured
a number of the future 'fluxus' personalities. Meanwhile, Maciunas held
three lecture/demonstrations, entitled 'Musica Antiqua et Nova', at his
own AG Gallery between March and June '61. On the invitation card to
these conferences appeared the message "a 3-dollar contribution will
help to publish Fluxus magazine". This is the fIrst recorded appearance
of the name.

Sometime before this, the poet Chester Anderson had asked La Monte
Young to edit an issue of "Beatitude East". Various documents which UK first edition
were to have gone into "Beatitude East" disappeared, along with
Anderson. When they eventually reappeared, Young got Jackson Mac
Low to assist him in assembling a selection of material representing
the new trends in musical and poetic composition. As well as those
connected with the group which had met at the New School For Social
Research (Henry Flynt and Ray Johnson are among those not already
mentioned), works by composers living in Europe (such as Nam June
Paik, Dieter Rot and Emmett Williams) were collected. Maciunas did
the layout and design for what had by this time been retitled "An
Anthology". The paste-up was completed by October '61, but due to
delays and financial difficulties the book didn't actually appear for
another two years.

Debt forced Maciunas to take a graphic artists job with the US Air
Force, and so, in November '61, the government sent him to West In Portuguese
Germany to design lettering for military aircraft. The work was not
only highly paid, it also enabled Maciunas to use the government
resources placed at his disposal to promote fluxus. He became[11/27/10 2:56:33 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home first chapter on Fluxus

particularly adept at abusing the subsidised postal system which was

intended to keep up morale among military personnel by minimising
the cost of communication between them and their loved ones. Once in
Europe, Maciunas made contact with Nam June Paik (born Seoul,
Korea, 1932, and already infamous for cutting John Cage's necktie in
two). Paik, in his turn, introduced Maciunas to a number of other
avant-gardists resident in Europe, most notable among whom was Wolf
Vostell (born Leverkusen, Germany, 1932).

Maciunas was still planning Fluxus magazine, but by this time he was
also working on a series of concerts to promote it. Because he believed
the avant-garde should present the public with a unified front, In Spanish
Maciunas asked Paik to delay his event "Neo-Dada in der Musik", and
Vostell to put off publication of his "De-coll/age" magazine, until plans
for all Fluxus events and publications were finalised. Paik and Vostell
ignored this request; "Neo-Dada in der Musik" took place in Dusseldorf
in June 1962, and the first issue of "De-coll/age" was published to
coincide with this event.

Maciunas's plan was for a world tour of fluxus concerts taking in one
large city a month. These were to have begun in June '62 in Berlin and
ended in New York in December '63. The scheme was only very
partially realised. Initially scheduled as the fourth festival in the series,
"The Fluxus International Festival Of Very New Music" at the Horsaal
des Stadtischen Museums, Wiesbaden, West Germany (fourteen
concerts staged over the four weekends of September 1962), turned
out to be the first and most ambitious of a series of performances that In Polish

later became known as the "Festum Fluxorum". During the course of

organising the Wiesbaden event, Maciunas fell out with a number of
those billed as taking part (most notably the composers grouped
together under the New Stylists label); and as a result, this and future
fluxus manifestations would consist chiefly of action music verbally
scripted compositions which tended to receive attention from those
interested in performance art, rather than music critics.

The composers present at Wiesbaden (including Alison Knowles and her

artist husband Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Robert Filliou, Arthur
Koepcke, Wolf Vostell, Emmett Williams, Thomas Schmit, Ben
Patterson and George Maciunas) performed not only their own works,
but also many pieces by the likes of Yoko Ono, John Cage, Jackson
Mac Low, Robert Watts and La Monte Young. Sometimes the audience
became the performers, as with Terry Riley's "Ear Piece For Audience": In Italian

"The performer takes any object(s) such as a piece of paper, cardboard, plastic etc.
and places it on his ear(s). He then produces the sound by rubbing, scratching,
tapping or tearing it or simply dragging it across his ear, he also may just hold it
there, it may be placed in counterpoint with any other piece of sound source."

This, like many other pieces performed during the festival, was
included in the - at that time - unpublished "An Anthology", the paste-
up of which Maciunas had brought with him to Europe.

The bizarre and destructive nature of some performances - which

included the destruction of musical instruments, shaving exercises, and
a leap into a bathtub filled with water - attracted a certain amount of
media coverage. The festival as a whole highlighted the difference[11/27/10 2:56:33 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home first chapter on Fluxus

between what Maciunas would later label the 'monomorphic neo-haiku

flux-event' and the 'mixed media neo-baroque happening'. That is to
In Lithuanian
say that although the fluxus performances were intermedial, in the
sense that they fell between various disciplines such as music and
visual arts, each composition focused on a single event isolated from
any other action and was presented as an iconoclastic insight into the
nature of reality itself. Thus the emphasis in flux-work was on
structural simplicity, and its protagonists placed it in the tradition of
the natural event, Marcel Duchamp, jokes, gags, Dada, John Cage and
Bauhaus Functionalism. The scores on which performances were based
were invariably short, even if the actual pieces were often
indeterminate in duration. For example, Maciunas's "In Memoriam To
Adriano Olivetti";

"Each performer chooses any number from a used adding machine paper roll.
Performer performs whenever his number appears in a row. Each row indicates the
beat of metronome. Possible actions to perform on each appearance of the number:
1) bowler hats lifted or lowered.
2) mouth, lip, tongue sounds.
3) opening, closing umbrellas etc."

Theoretically, by using these scores anyone was able to perform fluxus

works with little need for practice, skill, or preparation.(1) Chieko
Shiomi's "Disappearing Music For Face" is one of the best known and
most popular examples of this:

"Change gradually from smile to no smile."

Maciunas was unable to attend the 'Festival Of Misfits' in London

(Gallery One and Institute of Contemporary Arts, 23rd October to 8th
November '62) and critics are divided over whether it should count as
an official fluxus event The participants were Arthur Koepcke, Gustav
Metzger, Robin Page, Ben Patterson, Daniel Spoerri, Ben Vautier and
Emmett Williams. Ben Vautier (born Naples, Italy, 1935) lived in the
window of Gallery One for much of the festival. Many considered Robin
Page's "Guitar Piece" to be the highlight at the evening of action music
held at the ICA. Victor Musgrave describes the performance in "The
Unknown Art Movement" (Art and Artists, October '72):

"Wearing a shining silver crash helmet and holding his guitar ready to play, Robin
waited a few moments before flinging it onto the stage and kicking it into the
audience, along the aisle and down the steps into Dover Street. The effect was
dramatic, the spectators arose and rushed after him as he ran round the block
aiming frenetic kicks at the disintegrating guitar. The night sky was lurid with
flashes of lightning; it was also the very day when the world stood poised in
trepidation at the crucial point of the Kennedy-Kruschev confrontation over Cuba."[11/27/10 2:56:33 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home first chapter on Fluxus

The "Festival of Misfits" was followed by concerts in Copenhagen

(November '62), Paris (December '62), Dusseldorf (February '63),
Amsterdam (June '63), the Hague (June '63) and Nice (August '63). It
was at the Dusseldorf event that Joseph Beuys (born Cleve, Germany
1921) first involved himself with the fluxus movement. After the
"Fluxus Festival Of Total Art" organised by Ben Vautier, Maciunas
returned to New York where he concentrated on publishing activities
rather than the organisation of concerts and other performances.

This first period of Fluxus activity coincided with a split within the
movement over the question of disrupting high cultural activities and
plans to harass middle class commuters as they travelled to and from
work. In the "Fluxus New-Policy Letter No.6" (dated 6/4/63) Maciunas
outlined his 'proposed propaganda action' for Fluxus in New York. The
use of propaganda was broken down into four main areas:

a) Pickets and demonstrations.

b) Sabotage and disruption.
c) Compositions.
d) Sale of Fluxus publications.

These were to serve a dual purpose, "action against what H. Flynt

describes as 'serious culture' & action for fluxus". Flynt, despite his
bizarre and unorthodox Leninist leanings (for an example of these see
the pamphlet "Communists Must Give Revolutionary Leadership In
Culture" - World View Publishers, New York, 1965), had already
established himself as the most politically committed of the Fluxus
circle. In February '63, under the auspices of 'Action Against Cultural
Imperialism', he'd held public demonstrations outside the Lincoln
Center and the Museum Of Modem Art, New York, to protest against
serious culture. Flynt (born Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, 1940)
was one of the first white political activists to perceive that American
high culture - due to its bourgeois European ancestry - was both racist
and classist, and that its falsely assumed superiority was simply one
aspect of its imperialistic nature.

The Fluxus aesthetic of unpretentious simplicity was by implication an

assault on serious culture. It is therefore not surprising that Maciunas
believed those adhering to his 'movement' would welcome some no
less bizarre, but somewhat more practical, attacks on class society. In
"News-Policy Letter No.6", Maciunas uses Flynt's example as a role
model for organising pickets and demonstrations.

The next set of suggestions dealt with ideas for 'propaganda through
sabotage and disruption'. These were divided into nine sections, with
three main headings. The transportation system was to be disrupted
with pre-arranged break-downs at strategic points on the city road
system during the rush hour. The communication system was to be
disrupted by the dissemination of false information and, most
ingeniously of all, "stuffing postal boxes with thousands of packages
(containing heavy bricks etc) addressed to various newspapers,
galleries, artists etc, bearing no stamps & bearing as return address
various galleries, concert halls, museums". Although Maciunas was
being over optimistic in assuming that either the 'sender' or 'receiver'
would be bound to pay for these, there is no doubt that the plan could
have caused a good deal of disruption. Since any given postal worker
can only carry a limited weight when delivering mail, if enough
packages had been sent simultaneously to a single district this could[11/27/10 2:56:33 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home first chapter on Fluxus

have caused considerable delay in the distribution of mail. If the

district selected was a business district the tactic would have been
particularly effective with virtually no adverse effect on ordinary
workers. Finally, there were plans to disrupt cultural life through the
use of stink and sneeze bombs, the mailing of fake announcements,
and using telephones to direct emergency and delivery services to
museums (&c) on opening nights.

In a letter to Maciunas dated 25th April '63, Jackson Mac Low

describes these tactics as approaching the "unprincipled, unethical and
immoral". Mac Low, who had edited the anarcho-pacifist magazine
"Resistance" from 1945-54, came out on the side of reaction by
declaring that he was not concerned with demolishing the edifices of
his enjoyment of the past. For similar reasons Brecht, Knowles (born
New York, 1933) and Higgins sided with Mac Low, - while Flynt
criticised Maciunas' s plan as being over artistic.

The dichotomy between those with a pan-disciplinary perspective and

those who were unable to perceive anything beyond minor aesthetic
concerns reached a head in August '64. Allan Kaprow (who had already
disassociated himself from fluxus) organised and directed a
performance of Stockhausen's "Originale" at the Judson Hall, as a part
of the 2nd Annual New York Avant-Garde Festival. Maciunas and other
fluxists (A-Yo, Takako Saito and Ben Vautier) who agreed with Flynt
and Tony Conrad's condemnation of Stockhausen as an active
supporter of Amerika's white racist elite, picketed the concert under
the auspices of Action Against Cultural Imperialism. Other members of
the fluxus movement decided to cross the picket line. Dick Higgins
angered both pickets and scabs by joining the protest before going
into the concert hall.

After this incident, Maciunas eventually gave way to the demands of

the scabs and removed political issues from the fluxus agenda. Flynt
distanced and disassociated himself from the movement Fluxus, like
the Situationist International before it, proved incapable of sustaining
itself as simultaneously a political and cultural movement The heroic
period was over, fluxus could do no more than slowly degenerate.


1. Fluxus never dealt with the problem of exactly who the audience
should be for these performances. Perhaps the performer acted out
the script for their own, rather than anyone else's, amusement.
However, the fact that Fluxus staged public performances of these
events would indicate that the intended audience was wider than the
individual performer(s).

Previous: Decline and Fall of the Specto-Situationist Critique

Next: The Rise of the Depoliticised Fluxus Aesthetic

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Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:56:33 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home second chapter on Fluxus




"Fluxus goals are social (not aesthetic). They (ideologically) can be related to those
of the 1929 L.E.F. Group in the Soviet Union and are set up like this: step by step
elimination of the Fine Arts (music, drama, poetry, painting, sculpture etc etc). This
motivates the desire to direct wasted material and human capabilities towards
constructive goals such as the Applied Arts: industrial design, journalism,
architecture, engineering, graphic and hypographic arts, printing etc, which are all
areas that are closely related to the fine arts and offer the artist better career

George Maciunas addressed these words to Thomas Schmit in a letter

UK 2nd edition
of January '64. At this time, despite the arguments over the 'News
Policy Letter' of the previous April, it was still possible for Maciunas to
view Fluxus as spearheading a radical new functionalist approach in the
arts. Like Isou's Lettrisme of a decade and a half before, Fluxus was
launched as an assault on all the separate categories of art, with the
intention of fusing them into a single practice. Thus when successive
keys on a piano were nailed down to create 'very new music', the act
was not simply an iconoclastic attack on the idea of music as an
artistic category - it was seen as a practical (functional) way of fusing
the disciplines of music, theatre and poetry.

With similar intentions, Wolf Vostell had been blurring and distorting
television pictures since 1959. In March '63, Nam June Paik presented
an exhibition of television pictures which had been manipulated using
magnets and other distorting effects at the Gallerie Parnass in UK first edition
Wuppertal. In May of the same year Vostell buried a television tuned
into a live broadcast as part of a Yam Festival happening on George
Segal's farm, South Brunswick, New Jersey. In September '63, Vostell
led the visitors who'd come for the opening of his "Television De-
coll/ages" in Wuppertal, to a quarry where he destroyed an operating
television with a rifle shot.

The more aestheticised Americans, such as Brecht, Knowles and

Higgins, were disturbed by the violence in the work of Paik and Vostell.
This violent trend was continued in Europe - for instance Serge III
would play a Nam June Paik "Violin Solo" using an instrument filled
with concrete, thus when the violin was brought smashing down onto a
table, it was the table, and not the instrument, that broke. However,
Fluxus activity at this time is now seen by art historians as being
centred on New York and the more hard edged actions of the In Portuguese
Europeans tend to be given a lower 'status' than the mysticism of the
North Americans.[11/27/10 2:56:48 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home second chapter on Fluxus

When Maciunas returned to the States, he'd moved into 359 Canal
Street, where Dick Higgins had a studio/loft. From here nearly twenty
fluxus multiples were issued in 1964 alone. The multiples consisted of
found objects purchased in the junk shops that lined Canal Street at
that time. They were housed in a variety of boxes, the most uniform
thing about them being the labels which Maciunas designed and had
printed in some quantity. 1964 also saw the publication of the first
"Fluxus Yearbox" - which consisted of approximately twenty envelopes
bolted together, each containing work by a different fluxus artist.
Although ostensibly a multiple, each copy varied slightly in content.

The number of live flux events continued to decline throughout the mid In Spanish
and late sixties. Initially this was compensated for by an increase in
the number of fluxus publications, which included the house magazine
"V TRE", as well as multiples by a variety of artists. The publications
tended to be poetic in character, and reflect the success with which
the aesthetic tendency toned down Maciunas's political stridency.
However, in 1968 the Fluxpress partially redeemed itself by publishing
Henry Flynt's pamphlet "Down With Art". In this text, Flynt discredited
"scientific" justifications of art. He went on to demonstrate that it was
subjectivity which distinguished art and entertainment from other
activities. According to Flynt, there was an insurmountable
contradiction in the fact that art objects existed independently of any
subjective enjoyment of them; that art was produced independently of
"people's" liking of it, and yet artists still expected their products "to
find their value in people's liking of them". Because of this separation
between production and enjoyment, the consumption of art is In Polish

essentially alienated. Rather than accepting the alienated category of

art, Flynt suggests that individuals can satisfy their subjective needs in
spontaneous self-amusement and play. Flynt terms what he describes
as 'experiences prior to art' "just-likings" or "brend".

One of the reasons for the decrease in fluxus activity during the late
sixties was that from 1966 onwards Maciunas spent much of his time
planning a fluxus co-operative building. After a couple of buildings fell
through, Maciunas acquired 80 Wooster Street at the beginning of
1967. Like the Fluxhall and former Maciunas residence at 359 Canal
Street, this building was located in the heart of New York's SoHo
Robert Watts was the first fluxist to move into the building, and was
followed by Maciunas himself. At the end of '67, the Filmmakers'
Cinematheque installed itself on the ground floor, where it remained
for two years. Maciunas went on to establish a series of other co- In Italian
operative buildings in the area, and his example was soon imitated by

Like other utopian movements, fluxus engaged in speculation about

possible improvements to the immediate environment. Maciunas's
practical interest in real estate, found its theoretical reflection in
"Fantastic Architecture" edited by Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins
(Something Else Press, New York, 1969). Vostell sets the tone of the
book in his introduction:

"This documentation of ideas and concepts of a new polymorphous reality is offered

as evidence of the new methods and processes that were introduced by Fluxus,
Happening, and Pop. A demand for new patterns of behaviour - new unconsumed
environments.[11/27/10 2:56:48 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home second chapter on Fluxus

The accent in all the works in this book lies in change. ie expansion of physical
surroundings, sensibilities, media, through disturbance of the familiar.
In Lithuanian
Action is architecture!
Everything is architecture!
A new life. Ruhm's Wien built of the letters in the German name for Vienna -
Hollein's aircraft carrier as a city for 30,000 inhabitants - Oldenburg's alteration of
the Thames - my super highway as a cathedral environment - are all utopias
containing more breadth and visualisation of present-day thought than the
repressive architecture of bureaucracy and luxury that imposes restrictions on
people. Everything is forbidden.
Don't Touch!
No spitting! No Smoking!
No thinking!
No living!
Our projects - our environments are meant to free men - only the realisation of
utopias will make man happy and release him from his frustrations! Use your
imagination! Join in... share the power! Share property!"

Such conceptions of urbanism and freedom are very close to those of

COBRA twenty years earlier and to the thinking of the Situationist
International of a decade before. Similarly, the Flux-labyrinth exhibited
at the Berlin Akademie der Kunst (5 September - 17 October 1976) is
conceptually close to the aborted Situationist plan of '59-60 for
building a labyrinth in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

In the late sixties Fluxus activities merged, to an extent, with those of

hippies, freaks, and other drop outs. SoHo, the centre of fluxus activity
in North America, was geographically situated at the heart of the East
Coast hippie scene; and while fluxus undoubtedly exerted an often
unperceived influence on the flower children, the freak life-style also
left its mark on fluxus. The hippie influence appears to be the cause of
the move away from concerts and other formal public presentations at
the end of the sixties. The only live fluxus events in New York during
'68 and '69 were New Years Eve fluxfeasts. The sensual and indulgent
nature of the feasts place them in diametrical opposition to the
severity of early fluxus manifestations.
Similarly, the fluxshow, fluxsports, and fluxmass, which took place at
Douglas College, New Brunswick, New Jersey, in February 1970 were
very different to early fluxus events and contrasted sharply with the
fluxus activities still being carried out in Europe. For the fluxmass, the
priests' assistants wore gorilla costumes, the sacramental wine was
stored in a plasma tank and dished out through a hose, the wafers
were blue cookies laced with laxative, the bread was consecrated by a
mechanical dove shitting into it, smoke bombs were used as candles,
and an inflatable superman filled with wine was bled. This was[11/27/10 2:56:48 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home second chapter on Fluxus

accompanied by sounds varying from recordings of barking dogs and

locomotives to bird calls and gun shots.

The fluxmass was followed by similar events such as the fluxdivorce of

June 1971, the fluxhalloween of autumn 1977, the fluxwedding of
February 1978, and after Maciunas's death from cancer in Boston on
9th May 1978, the fluxfuneral. It hardly needs stating that these
bizarre variations on traditional rites bear little resemblance to fluxus
activities during the movement's 'heroic' phase. In an undated
manifesto composed during this 'heroic' period, Maciunas had written:

"PURGE the world of bourgeois sickness, "intellectual", professional &

commercialized culture, PURGE the world of dead art, imitation, artificial art,
abstract art, illusionistic art, mathematical art, PURGE THE WORLD OF
art, promote NON ART REALITY to be grasped by all peoples, not only critics,
dilettantes and professionals...
(...)FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front &

Measured against these laudable aims, the later activities of fluxus can
only be viewed as a degeneration from the movement's original
intentions. However, despite this, fluxus never lost its utopian edge: in
the mid-seventies a plan of Maciunas's to set up a Utopian colony on
Ginger Island, in the Virginia Islands, was foiled when the owner died
on the day the sale agreement was to be signed. Similarly, at the time
of his death, Maciunas was planning to set up a utopian community on
a farm in New Marlborough.

Previous: The Origins of Fluxus

Next: Gustav Metzger and Auto-Destructive Art

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Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:56:48 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Homechapter on auto-destructive art




Gustav Metzger (born 1926, Nuremberg, Germany) identified

destruction as one of the crucial elements in twentieth-century art,
and on the basis of this observation became a one person art
movement. He gives a description of his artistic development in "Auto-
Destructive Art - Metzger at the AA" (an expanded version of the
lecture notes for a talk given at the Architectural Association 24/2165,
published by A.C.C., London 1965):

"In 1957 I had reached a strong dissatisfaction with the materials of painting. I
needed something tougher to work against than board. The following year I did a
UK 2nd edition
series of paintings on mild steel. I used a palette knife which in the course of paint
application scraped and incised the steel, giving reflections, This did not satisfy
either, I wanted to use some of the machinery I had been reading about in the
"Financial Times", Presses of tremendous power that respond to a minute fraction of
an inch. I wanted to make sculptures with these machines, controlling them rather
like an organist does his instrument. It was months after I had given up these
plans, partly because of the extreme difficulty of realising them, that I hit on the
idea of auto-destructive art.
Looking back on my development, I see that I had exhausted the medium of paint
on canvas as far as the expression of a fast, intense vision was concerned. In 1960,
with the acid on nylon technique, I had found it"

The first manifesto of the new art form, entitled simply "Auto-
Destructive Art", was issued in November 1959. This proclaimed:
UK first edition
"Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies.
Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of idea, site,
form, colour, method and timing of the disintegrative process.
Auto-destructive art can be created with natural forces, traditional art techniques
and technological techniques.
The amplified sound of the auto-destructive process can be an element of the total
The artist may collaborate with scientists, engineers.
Self-destructive art can be machine produced and factory assembled.
Auto-destructive paintings, sculptures and constructions have a life time varying
from a few moments to twenty years. When the disintegrative process is complete
the work is to be removed from the site and scrapped."

In this short statement Metzger set out the platform of ADA (auto-
destructive art). It was the founding manifesto of a movement which In Portuguese
never came into existence, and was followed by four more manifestos
which failed to find adherents. Metzger was influential, but most of
those who sympathised with him preferred to join the nouveaux[11/27/10 2:57:00 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Homechapter on auto-destructive art

realiste and fluxus groups. ADA should thus be seen as a tendency

typified in particular by Metzger and the early work of Jean Tinguely.

Metzger offered the following description of his techniques in a

broadsheet that accompanied his demonstration of ADA at the South
Bank, London, 3rd July 1961:

"Acid action painting. Height 7 ft, Length 12' 6". Depth 6ft Materials: nylon,
hydrochloric acid, metal. Technique. 3 nylon canvases coloured white black red are
arranged behind each other, in this order. Acid is painted, flung and sprayed onto
the nylon which corrodes at point of contact within 15 seconds.
Construction with glass. Height 13 ft. Width 9' 6". Materials. Glass, metal, adhesive
In Spanish
tape. Technique. The glass sheets suspended by adhesive tape fall on to the
concrete ground in a pre-arranged sequence."

The pieces, such as these, which Metzger actually realised, fall a long
way short of his ambitions for ADA. In his 1965 lecture at the
Architectural Association, he described plans for pieces which would
have taken years to complete and required public funding on a
massive scale:

"The... construction is to be about 18 feet high with a base about 24 ft, by 18 ft... It
consists of mild steel 118 inch thick. The structure consists of three slabs. These
highly polished forms exposed to an industrial atmosphere would start to corrode.
The process continues until the structure gets weakened by the loss of material. In
about ten years time most of the construction will have disintegrated. The remaining
girder will then be removed and the site cleared. This is a fairly simple form of auto-
In Polish
destructive art and not expensive compared with the next project
This sculpture consists of five walls or screens, each about 30 feet in height and 40
feet long and 2 feet deep. They are arranged about 25 feet apart and staggered in
plan. I envisage these in a central area between a group of three very large densely
populated blocks of flats in a country setting.
Each wall is composed of 10,000 uniform elements. These could be made of
stainless steel, glass or plastics. The elements in one of the walls could be square or
rectangular and in another wall they could be hexagonal.
The principle of the action of this work is that each element is ejected until finally
after a period of ten years, the wall ceases to exist I propose the use of a digital
computer that will control the movement of this work. This would be housed
underground in the centre of the sculpture complex...
... The third project I would like you to consider is in the shape of a 30 ft cube. The
shell of the cube is in steel with a non-reflective surface. The interior of the cube is
completely packed with complex, rather expensive, electronic equipment. This In Italian
equipment is programmed to undergo a series of breakdowns and self- devouring
activities. This goes on for a number of years - but there is no visible trace of this
activity. It is only when the entire interior has been wrecked that the steel shell is
pierced from within. Gradually, layer after layer of the steel structure is
disintegrated by complex electrical, chemical and mechanical forces. The shell
bursts open in different parts revealing the wreckage of the internal structure
through the ever changing forms of the cube. Finally, all that remains is a pile of
rubble. This sculpture should be at a site around which there is considerable traffic."

These unrealised projects of Metzger's bear a conceptual affinity to the

Unitary Urbanism of the early Situationist International; like the SI's
conceptions, if implemented, they would have increased the visibility of
the dynamic of change already implicit in any urban environment. And
like the SI's conception of urbanism they would have altered the[11/27/10 2:57:00 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Homechapter on auto-destructive art

individual's psychological relationship to the urban environment.

In Lithuanian.
Metzger developed his "aesthetic of revulsion" (auto-destructive art) as
a therapy against the irrationality of the capitalist system and its war
machine. In many ways it represents a form of institutionalised waste
with fewer anti-social consequences than those generally employed by
capitalist states. In his talk at the Architectural Association, Metzger
emphasized that the ADA was:

"not limited to theor(ies) of art and the production of art works. It includes social
action. Auto-destructive art is committed to a left-wing revolutionary position in
politics, and to struggles against future wars."

Metzger, and thus ADA, was also opposed to the art dealer system. He
believed that ADA should be publicly funded because art dealers were
not interested in 'fundamental technical change' where no profit was to
be made from it. According to Metzger, ADA was socially necessary as
the only possible substitute for war, and thus nuclear annihilation, in a
society peopled by individuals who were psychologically warped from
an entire lifetime of sexual repression.

However, ADA failed to attract any kind of government funding, and

when Metzger and the poet John Sharkey organised the "Destruction
In Art Symposium" (DIAS), London, September 1966, the event "was
run on a voluntary basis and the artists paid their own expenses". It
was the month long series of events around the three day symposium
held at the Africa Centre (September 9/10/11 '66), and not the
discussions themselves, that attracted the attention of the media.
These events included "Explosive Art Demonstrations" by Ivor Davies
in Edinburgh and London, which featured among other things
mannequins and an enormously enlarged photograph of Robert
Mitchum being, literally, blown apart. Perhaps the most powerful piece
performed during the DIAS events was Yoko Ono's "Cut" (Africa
Centre, 29 September '66). Members of the audience were simply
invited to get up onto the stage and remove Ono's clothing using a
pair of tailor's scissors, while she knelt motionless for the hour the
action took to complete. The strength of Ono's piece lay it the way it
attacked traditional assumptions about the relationship between
audience and performer; despite its apparent simplicity it effectively
revealed a complex web of social relations which under normal
circumstances remain unchallenged and undiscussed. Herman Nitsch's
"5th Abreaktionsspiel of OM Theatre" was the event which captured
the most attention. It consisted of the ritual mutilation of a lamb
carcass over which images of male genitalia were projected. Two
journalists, shocked by the obscenity of the action, complained to the
police, and as a result Metzger and Sharkey were each fined one[11/27/10 2:57:00 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Homechapter on auto-destructive art

hundred pounds for having presented an "indecent exhibition contrary

to common law". This was Metzger's second brush with British law; in
1961 he'd been imprisoned for a month as a result of his anti-bomb
activities with the Committee of 100.

After DIAS, Metzger maintained his interest in ADA, but alongside this
his distaste for the exploitative aspects of the art world grew. In his
1962 "Manifesto World", Metzger had described gallery owners as
"stinking fucking cigar smoking bastards". By 1970, Metzger was
London organiser of the "International Coalition For The Liquidation Of
Art". (1) In the catalogue accompanying "Art Into Society, Society Into
Art" (lCA London, Octobe/November 1974), Metzger called for a three
year art strike between 1977 and 1980. (2) During this period artists
would 'not produce work, sell work, permit work to go on exhibition,
and refuse collaboration with any part of the publicity machinery of the
art world'. The protest itself was a failure: Metzger was the only artist
to strike and the art world, contrary to Metzger's wishes, did not
collapse. However, the exercise bore more than a bitter fruit, because
by refusing to produce art, Metzger was refusing the role of an artist.
This single gesture demonstrated the fallacy of popular ideas about
artists as individuals possessed by an uncontrollable creative urge. It
also showed that it was possible to break with the privileged positions
certain militants had come to occupy within capitalist society. Metzger
realised what Vaneigem and various other specto-situationists could
only partially theorise - the rejection of roles - and for this alone he
will not be forgotten.


1. The fact that Metzger vacillated between calling for a totally

institutionalised art system which would provide the necessary funding
for ADA and the abolition of the existing art system, is not as
contradictory as it may at first appear. His disappointment at not being
funded by the existing institutionalised art system (which in my opinion
is because his work has nothing to do with the dominant definitions of
art) led him to call for its abolition.

2. The earliest recorded use I've found of the term 'art strike' is in
"What's To Be Done About Art?" by Alain Jouffroy (included in "Art and
Confrontation: France and the arts in an age of change" edited by Jean
Cassou, Studio Vista, London 1970). However, as the following quote
will demonstrate, Jouffroy's conception of an 'art strike' is very
different from Metzger's:

"Let us have no illusions about it: most "art critics" are going to carry on as if art
were not abolished, as if art couldn't be abolished; most "artists" are going to
continue to believe in the "artistic" character of their production; most gallery-goers,
art lovers and, of course, buyers are going to ignore the fact that the abolition of
art can really occur in the actual time and space of a pre-revolutionary situation like
that of May '68. It is essential that the minority advocate the necessity of going on
an active art strike, using the "machines" of the cultural industry so that we can
more effectively set it in total contradiction with itself.
The intention is not to end the role of production, but to change the most
adventurous part of "artistic" production into the production of revolutionary ideas,
forms and techniques. Thus it is not a question of revolting against the art and
artists of the immediate past - that would be a waste of time and energy - but, as I
have said, of imagining something that could penetrate all social classes and
organising a total, creative reappraisal of our society. The revolution no longer has[11/27/10 2:57:00 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Homechapter on auto-destructive art

any frontiers; it must be thought out, it must be prepared everywhere - in all the
sectors where man expends passion and energy to do what he does, else it will
never triumph anywhere."

Previous: The Rise of the Depoliticised Fluxus Aesthetic

Next: Dutch Provos, Kommune 1, Motherfuckers etc.

Assault On Culture contents page

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:57:00 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Dutch Provos etc.





In the early summer of 1965 a leaflet appeared in the city of

Amsterdam appealing for large sums of money to be sent to the
editorial address of a new magazine called PROVO. The leaflet stated
that the new magazine was needed:

"because this capitalist society is poisoning itself with a morbid thirst for money. Its
members are brought up to worship Having and despise Being.
- because this bureaucratic society is choking itself with officialdom and suppressing
any form of spontaneity. Its members can only become creative, individual people
UK 2nd edition
through anti-social conduct - because this militaristic society is digging its own
grave by a paranoid atomic arms build-up, its members now have nothing to look
forward to but certain death by atomic radiation."

The fIrst issue of PROVO appeared shortly afterwards and was

immediately impounded by the authorities because it contained a
diagram reprinted from "The Practical Anarchist" of 1910, which
supposedly instructed the reader on how to produce explosives. The
technique was actually useless. This scandal, and others, helped the
circulation of PROVO rise from 500 to 20,000 within a year.

The early PROVO activists - including Roal Van Duyn (born 1942), Rob
Stoik, Robert Jasper Grootveld (born 1932), Simon Vinkenoog, Bart
Huges and the former situationist Constant - came chiefly from
anarcho-communist and creative backgrounds. However, the PROVO's UK first edition
satirical politico-cultural actions soon brought much of Amsterdam's
disaffected youth into the ranks of what quickly became a movement.

Amsterdam was considered a magic centre, and at its heart was the
Spui, where - beneath a statue of a small boy called Lieverdja and
referred to by the PROVOS as the addicted consumer - Grootveld had
been organising weekly happenings since 1964.

The PROVOS hatched a series of 'white plans', as solutions to

ecological and social problems facing the city, and which
simultaneously acted as 'provocations' to the Dutch authorities. Among
the more famous of these was the 'White Bicycle Plan'. The PROVOS
announced in a leaflet that white bicycles would be left unlocked
throughout the city for use by the general population. The prototype of
this 'free communal transport' was presented to the press and public In Portuguese
on 28th July 1965 near the statue of Lieverdja. The plan proved an
enormous success as a 'provocation against capitalist private property'[11/27/10 2:57:11 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Dutch Provos etc.

and 'the car monster', but failed as a social experiment. The police,
horrified at the implications of communal property being left on the
streets, impounded any bicycle that they found left unattended and

The PROVOS became notorious with the Dutch medical community

after Bart Huges - one of the PROVO leaders - drilled a hole into his
cranium (skull trepanation). Huges believed that the membranes inside
his head could expand as a result of the extra space he had created,
thus increasing the volume of blood - and in turn oxygen - that his
brain could contain at any given time. The result, Huges claimed, was
similar to the expanded consciousness achieved during yoga exercises,
In Spanish
or an LSD trip, but in his case the benefits were permanent.

The PROVOS' international reputation dates from their March 1966

smoke bomb attack on the wedding procession of Princess Beatrix and
Prince Claus von Amsburg. The cops immediately retaliated by inflicting
savage beatings on anti-royalist protestors. However, the people of
Amsterdam demonstrated their support for the PROVO cause by voting
a representative of the movement onto the city council in local
elections three weeks later.

After this it became apparent that it was only a matter of time before
PROVO's radical activities were recuperated by the Dutch authorities,
and so in the spring of 1967 the movement was dissolved.

At the same time, in Berlin, the ex-Situationist and Gruppe Spur In Polish
member, Dieter Kunzelmann, was assisting in the formation of
Kommune 1. The commune came together in March '67, and its
members introduced freak actions and political happenings to the
conservative German environment. For their trouble they were expelled
from the German Socialist Student Association. But the rage with
which their activities were met, by traditionalists of both left and right,
only increased their standing in the eyes of many of the younger kids.
They soon became the heroes of school students on both sides of the
Berlin Wall. The 'horror commune' (as it was called by the German
press) was a hot bed of political and cultural agitation. It was in the
commune and through meetings with its members and supporters that
future terrorists such as Bommi Baumann of the June 2nd Movement
were radicalised. One of the Commune's most famous interventions
came after a fire in a Brussels department store. A leaflet was issued
entitled "When Will The Berlin Department Stores Burn": In Italian

".....Our Belgian friends have finally caught on to how they can really draw the
public into the lustful activities in Vietnam. They set fire to a department store, 300
satiated citizens and their fascinating lives and Brussels becomes Hanoi. No one
reading his paper at an opulent breakfast table need shed any more tears for the
poor Vietnamese people, for today he has only to go to the clothing department of
Ka De We, Hertie, Woolworths, Bika or Neckerman and discreetly light a cigarette in
a changing room..."

Although the leaflet - and the suggestion that the Brussels fire was
started by anti-Vietnam protestors - was clearly a hoax, the press was
outraged. Once again Kornrnune 1 was the focus of public attention
which made it difficult for the bourgeoisie to sleep soundly in their
beds.[11/27/10 2:57:11 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Dutch Provos etc.

Meanwhile, in New York some former cultural workers were about to In Lithuanian
be reborn as the street fighting Motherfuckers. The Motherfuckers (or
'Up Against The Wall Motherfucker' accompanied by a graphic showing
a freak being shaken down by the cops) formed out of the Lower East
Side branch of Students For A Democratic Society, but prior to this
brief flirtation with New Left politics they had been grouped around the
Dada inspired magazine "Black Mask". As the Black Mask collective,
their chief public activity had been attacking gallery openings, museum
lectures and rock concerts. As the Motherfuckers, and later the
Werewolves, their activity was focused on two fronts - breaking up
leftist meetings and carrying out a bombing campaign under the
slogan of' Armed Love' - against banks and other symbolic targets.

Another group active at the same time, but more concerned with
theatrical stunts than direct action, were the Yippies (Youth
International Party). While the Motherfuckers had entered the freak
milieu via the left wing of cultural agitation, the Yippies emerged
straight out of the hippie subculture. In New York the Yippies held a
Human Be-In at Grand Central Station during the rush hour - to the
great inconvenience of the commuters trying to make their way horne
- and caused pandemonium in the stock exchange by throwing
hundreds of dollar bills from a balcony onto marketeers who promptly
left off their business and fought over the money. In Britain they
caused national outrage when they invaded the "David Frost Show".
The Yippie nomination of a pig called Pigasus for president was part of
the movement's intervention in Chicago during the August 1968
Democratic Convention. This piece of guerilla theatre turned into riots
and in September 1969 eight left-wing radicals, including the Yippies
Abbe Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, found themselves brought before
Judge Julius Hoffman in what became known as the Chigaco
Conspiracy Trials. In the course of court proceedings, the judge got
into numerous arguments with the defendants and their council. When
the jury retired to consider its verdict, the judge sentenced all the
defendants, and their council, to periods of imprisonment for contempt
of court during the trial. The obvious bias of the judge in conducting
the trial and his sentencing was widely criticised; the Chicago
Conspiracy Trials became the most famous in American history. The
resulting prison sentences showed American capitalism as being more
oppressive than the Yippies had imagined. The Yippie movement
underwent a slow disintegration as its supporters discovered that the
capitalist system really was as evil as their rhetoric implied.

The White Panther Party, inspired by the Black Panthers, emerged out[11/27/10 2:57:11 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Dutch Provos etc.

of the Detroit Artists' Workshop in 1968 - showing once again that it

was former cultural workers who were leading the radicalisation of
Amerikan youth with the newly developed freak style of political
agitation. The main aim of the White Panthers was to carry agitation
into high schools, and the movement's rock and roll band - the MCS -
was their most potent weapon for achieving this aim. However by
1970, John Sinclair (leader of the White Panthers) had denounced the
MC5 for selling out. By this time Sinclair was in jail on a ten year
prison sentence for passing two marijuana joints to an undercover
drugs detective. Another White Panther, Pun Plamondon, joined the
FBI's most wanted list after he allegedly bombed a CIA building in Ann

The freak style of agitation, when employed by those who could

withstand the onslaught of oppression such action would bring down
upon them, was particularly effective because it presented both
cultural and political alternatives to capitalist domination. The
establishment, threatened by the influence of this violent vanguard,
reacted by greatly over-emphasising the 'peace and love' aspect of
hippie culture in the media. However, the militants didn't disappear
because the media chose to misrepresent the movement: instead
some of them returned in the guise of the urban guerilla. (1)


1. Obviously the sheer volume of movement activism during the sixties

makes it impossible to cover even a fraction of it in the space available
here. Among the more interesting groups I've omitted to mention are
Emmett Grogan's latter-day Diggers who spent the late sixties
providing free food, free clothes, free shelter &c., for the people of San
Francisco's Haight Ashbury. Digger groups inspired by Grogan's
activities later spread across America and into Europe. These groups
represent an eminently practical side to a movement which the
establishment often condemned for being impractical idealists.

Previous: Gustav Metzger and Auto-Destructive Art

Next: Mail Art

Assault On Culture contents page

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:57:11 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Mail Art




During the sixties, while many cultural workers were moving away
from the production of art objects towards violent political agitation,
others were moving into the realms of non-art. Fluxus is the best
known and most typical example of this trend. From the liberating
climate created by the fluxworkers' assault on the dominant culture,
mail art was able to develop. Indeed, the mail art network counts
many fluxus members among its earliest participants. Although Ray
Johnson (born 1927), considered by many as the founding father of
mail art, never joined fluxus, his work is aesthetically close to that of
the fluxus group. Indeed, Johnson often exchanged work and ideas UK 2nd edition
with the guiding lights of the fluxus movement. Some of the
correspondence he sent Dick Higgins was eventually published as a
book, "The Paper Snake" (1965), by Higgins's Something Else Press.

Johnson's work consists primarily of letters, often with the addition of

doodles, drawings and rubber stamped messages. The work is
lightweight and humorous; rather than being sold as a commodity it is
usually mailed to friends and acquaintances. Although much of
Johnson's work is given away, this hasn't prevented it attaining a
market value. The late Andy Warhol was quoted as saying he would
pay ten dollars for anything by Johnson (presumably meaning his
letters, since Johnson is also known in the straight art world as a
moderately successful pop artist).

In the early sixties Johnson adopted the name "The New York UK first edition
Correspondence School" (NYCS) as an umbrella term for his mailings.
He'd already spent some years building up a list of people with whom
he could exchange letters and other oddities. This network, with
Johnson at its centre, was the NYCS. The name was a parody of other
more formal organisations. In 1973, the New York Times received a
'dead letter' from Johnson, which killed off the NYCS. However there
was an 'instant rebirth and metamorphosis' as the Buddha University.

Johnson was not the only aesthetic contact fluxus had with the mail
system, the fluxworkers themselves used the postal system for
aesthetic purposes. The fact that the movement was spread between
North America, Japan and Europe, forced its members to use the mail
to exchange scores and ideas. But fluxus turned necessity into
advantage and were soon churning out rubber stamps and artist's
stamp sheets with which to adorn their letters and envelopes. The In Portuguese
artist's stamp sheets were gummed and perforated like ordinary postal
stamps, but their use was entirely decorative. They couldn't be used in
place of any official postal issue. Individual Fluxists also dreamed up[11/27/10 2:57:39 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Mail Art

methods of subverting the postal system and increasing the

involvement of postal workers in their mailings. The best known
example of this is the Ben Vautier postcard "The Postman's Choice"
(1965). This was printed identically on both sides with lines ruled out
for different addresses and space for a stamp. It was left to chance
and the postal authorities to decide which of the two possible
addresses it should be delivered to.

Throughout the sixties the number of cultural workers exchanging

ideas and small oddities through the post - and to a lesser extent the
number creating works that took their meaning from being mailed -
increased. This trend was fueled by the growth of conceptual and In Spanish
performance art, the main public residues of which were
documentation in the form of notes and photographs. Using the postal
system, such works could be sent around the world at very low costs.
By the early seventies various groups were publishing lists of contact
addresses for people interested in exchanging such ideas and works.
The best known of these lists were those compiled by Image Bank,
International Artists Cooperation and Ken Friedman (the latter
published the "International Contact List Of The Arts" in 1972). What
had been a few hundred people mailing each other slightly crazy
messages suddenly mushroomed into several thousand individuals
engaged in a new cultural form. The mail art network was born.

As the network grew, so various sub-genres developed within it.

However, it never created a unique style of its own. Most of those
participating used the new 'hot medium' of xerox alongside old In Polish

fashioned rubber stamps. Certificates were produced in great number,

which, like the rubber stamps, were used to parody officialdom. Typical
among these certificates is Anna Banana's "Master Of Bananology"
award. Banana herself typifies the fun side of the mail art network.
Much of what she does - and this varies from post card collages to
events like the 'Banana Olympics' - is based on the humorous
connotations of her assumed name. She has also produced vast
quantities of printed matter, varying from the ephemeral "Banana Rag"
to the more substantial "Vile", one of the network's better known
magazines. However, although she has not lost her sense of humour,
Banana's performance work has recently taken on a much more
serious tone - she's ceased her well received recreations of futurist and
dadaist theatre; her live work is now primarily concerned with the
global ecology crisis.
In Italian
While Banana's activities would be suitable as family entertainment,
Pauline Smith's "Adolf Hitler Fan Club" resulted in police raids on her
home. In her 1983 CV, deposited in the Tate Gallery Library, Smith
describes the reasons for her interest in Hitler and how she launched
the 'Fan Club':

"The ADOLF HITLER FAN CLUB was intended to be an analogy for the week-kneed
(sic) British Governments since 1945 and was stimulated by local Chelsea politics
regarding landlords/tenants/development/tourism, in which I was interested in the
early seventies. Of course, this was not the only factor involved but it was the most
pressing. The country is a mess and nothing gets any better. What I feel about the
current situation will take several years more to express through my art. For the
immediate present I am preoccupied with Adolf Hitler's involvement in the occult,
the mediumistic nature of his public speaking and the mystery of his charismatic[11/27/10 2:57:39 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Mail Art

appeal to the multitudes. He may have been a bad man but he knew very well that
people do not live by bread alone - a fact our leaders seem to have forgotten, and In Lithuanian
probably forgotten precisely because Adolf Hitler thought so deeply about meeting a
people's need for inspiration... Adolf Hitler remained the subject of my painting as
he had been of my Mailart and I continue to paint about him because everything
that has happened in this country since his death has been a reaction against him.
He is the biggest influence on this country this century."

Because most of those participating in the mail art network held liberal
to left views, Pauline Smith was not only tolerated but defended by
many. While much mail art was inconsequential, the network - or at
least parts of it - has conducted numerous campaigns for the freeing
of political prisoners, and several against nuclear weapons. The flip-
side of this is that, since the early seventies, there has been a sub-
genre of mail art concerned with extremism, sado-masochism and
pornography. The work of Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge has
provided some of the best known examples of this. In 1976 P-Orridge
was convicted of sending obscene collages thrown the post, and much
of Fanni Tutti's cultural work has centred around her activities as a
stripper and model.

Another sexual extremist working within the mail art network during
the seventies was Jerry Dreva (born 1945, Milwaukee, Wisconsin).
Dreva is best known for his artist's book "Wanks For The Memories:
The Seminal Work/Books of Jerry Dreva". Dreva created these books
by masturbating until his semen stained the pages. The completed
works were mailed to friends. As a result of these activities, Dreva has
been dubbed 'the man who had a thousand orgasms for art' .

Dreva is also well known for his manipulation of the mass media. One
of his earliest media escapades was "Les Petites Bonbons In
Hollywood", created in collaboration with Bob Lambert, Chuck Bitz and
others. The Bonbons went to all the right places and thus became a
famous rock group without needing to bother about music. The
Bonbons received coverage in People, Newsweek, Photographic Record
and Record World, on the basis of wearing the right clothes and
knowing the right people. Dreva became 'so fascinated with the power
of the media to create and define' that he took a job on a Wisconsin
paper to 'research the entire phenomenon'. As Dreva explains in a
feature in "High Performance 9" (Spring 1980):

"Eventually I began to document my own life/art performances (many of them

illegal) anonymously on the pages of the newspaper I worked for."

So, for example, Dreva would graffiti the outside of a Milwaukee High
School - just before its Festival of Arts - with the slogans "Art Only[11/27/10 2:57:39 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Mail Art

Exists Beyond The Confines Of Accepted Behaviour" and "Death To

Romance", and then in his role as a journalist caption a photo-story
about the graffiti for the local press. He would then send copies of the
story to his contacts in the mail art network.

In his "High Performance" feature, Dreva is quite clear about his


".....what I'm trying to do is point to a future when art will no longer exist as a
category separate from life."

Dreva's lucidity is unusual among mail artists. Although most of them

perceive Dada and Fluxus as their precursors, they are on the whole
unaware of the critique of separation than runs as a common thread
through these two, and all other, utopian currents. Mail art's popular
success was achieved at the cost of abandoning any theoretical rigor.
The mail art network continues to attract the involvement of a growing
proportion of the lumpen-intelligentsia from all parts of the Americas
and Europe, and participants in lesser numbers from Africa, Australia,
Japan and South East Asia. These networkers are - on the whole -
looking for an activity which will reinforce their perception of
themselves as creative and tend not to be particularly critical about
their pursuits.

The phenomenal growth of mail art is partially tied to the expansion of

higher education during the fifties and sixties. For those who perceive
it as "art" it serves as a simulacra and substitute for the rewards
higher education promised but failed to deliver. Of the millions of
students processed by the art schools, only a very few actually pursue
a career as a practicing fine artist.

From a materialist perspective mail art is not art, despite the

insistence of many of its practitioners. The democratic nature of the
mail art network clearly situates it in opposition to the elitism of art (if
art is defined as the culture of the ruling class).

The sheer numbers of people involved in mail art preclude the

movement from being 'officially' recognised as a manifestation of high
culture for at least as long as it continues to be practiced on such a
wide scale. Most art movements (Pre- Raphaelites, Impressionists,
Cubists &c.) would seem to number between five and fifty members;
mail art by comparison numbers thousands. For a formal and
organised art movement to number even a hundred members would
pose a threat to its elite status - art critics would resist elevating such
a mass of individuals to the pantheon of genius simply because such
an elevation would bring the category 'genius' into question. Such
numbers can only be dealt with by art critics under broader umbrella
terms such as Romanticism, Modernism and Post-Modernism.

As an open network the mail art system has enormous possibilities, but
for these to be realised the majority of participants have to become
fully conscious of the subversive current of which their mailings form
an incoherent part.

Previous: Dutch Provos, Kommune 1, Motherfuckers etc.

Next: Beyond Mail Art

Assault On Culture contents page[11/27/10 2:57:39 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Mail Art

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:57:39 PM]

overview of pre-neoism




The conceptual similarity of Mail Art (MA) to aspects of Dada and

Fluxus has led certain members of the MA Network to take up and
develop ideas that had made appearances within the framework of
these earlier movements. (1) It would be fruitless to try and make an
inventory of all such historical developments, the sheer volume of
material passing through the MA Network makes this an impossibility.
Instead, I propose to look at two specific examples: first, multiple
names and second, agitation against art as a bourgeois paradigm.

Multiple name concepts - the idea that a single name should be used
2nd UK edition
by a group of individuals, several magazines or music groups - did not
play a starring role in the history of Dada. But Hausmann, Grosz,
Baader, Herzfelde and Herzfelde's 'Christ & Co. Ltd' achieved more
than footnote status in the standard histories of the Berlin avant-
garde. Hausmann recollects the founding of this society in "Courier
Dada"(Paris 1958): "I took Baader to the fields of Sudende (where
Jung then lived), and said to him: 'All this is yours if you do as 1 tell
you. The Bishop of Brunswick has failed to recognize you as Jesus
Christ, and you have retaliated by defiling the altar in his church. This
is no compensation. From today, you will be President of The Christ
Society, Ltd, and recruit members. You must convince everyone that
he too can be Christ, if he wants to, on payment of fifty marks to your
society. Members of our society will no longer be subject to temporal
authority and will automatically be unfit for military service. You will
wear a purple robe and we shall organise an Echternach procession in 1st UK edition
the Potsdamer Platz. I shall previously have submerged Berlin in
biblical texts. All the poster columns will bear the words "He who lives
by the sword shall perish by the sword".'"

The idea re-emerged, in a very modified form, more than fifty years
after Hausmann made his suggestions to Baader. In the mid-seventies,
the British correspondence project Blitzinformation (Stefan Kukowski
and Adam Czamowski) circulated a leaflet on 'Klaos Oldanburgshi':

"Since the discovery that Oslo Kalundburg, the radio station, is an anagram of Klaos
Oldanburg (sic), it has become one of BLITZINFORMATION's foremost projects to
change everyone's name to Klaos Oldanburg. WE THEREFORE INVITE YOU TO
BECOME KLAOS OLDANBURG. The advantages of such an action are too numerous
In Portuguese

Those who filled in the form were given a number of descent to use[11/27/10 2:57:59 PM]

overview of pre-neoism

with the name - i.e. Klaos Oldanburg XXI (prev. Derek Hart). The use
of numbers and indication of a previous name weakens the concept if
it is viewed as a means of attacking traditional beliefs about identity.

However, both the term multiple names - and their use for political
subversion - didn't occur until a group of anarcho-art punks from the
London suburbs launched a 'movement' called the Generation Positive
in October 1982, with a call for all rock bands to use the name White
Colours. In February 1984 the movement launched its magazine Smile,
and by the second issue (April '84) were calling for all magazines to
use this name. In the fifth issue (October '84) the term multiple
names was coined as a description of the concept and launched in a
manifesto entitled "The Generation Positive Presents The Multiple Name In Spanish

In 1977, a multiple name concept had emerged among a group of mail

artists gathered around what was known as the PORTLAND ACADEMY
(Oregon, USA). At the centre of this group were the founder of the
Academy, Dr. Al 'Blaster' Ackerman and his drinking buddy David 'Oz'
Zack. In the Autumn of 1977 Zack announced his plan for an 'open
pop-star' called Monty Cantsin. The idea was that anyone could use
the name for a concert and that if enough people did so, Cantsin
would become famous - and then unknown performers could take on
the identity and be guaranteed an audience. Through the haze of
alcohol and dope that permeated the Academy, Zack won converts to
his plan to democratise the star system. The first person to perform
under the Monty Cantsin banner was the latvian acoustic punk Maris
Kundzin. After Kundzin had done a few concerts as Cantsin, the idea In Polish
caught on and while the Academy continued to exist many of those
associated with it used the name for performances. Zack and Kundzin
mailed post cards to cultural workers around the world inviting them to
become Monty Cantsin; Ackerman kept the 'Fourteen Secret Masters of
the World' (his prioritised contacts in the MA Network) in touch with
what was going on.

As more people got involved, the project took off. It is now impossible
to say who contributed what. Indeed, to attempt to do so would be
misleading, since - despite Zack taking credit for making up the
Cantsin name - the development of the idea was practically,
theoretically and organisationally collective. By the summer of 1978
the concept of ISM was added to that of Cantsin. ISM stood for an
incorporation of all the previous movements (isms) of the avant-garde.
However, fluxus seem to have been the influence that predominated.
In Italian
In the excitement generated by these projects, songs were written,
concerts performed, exhibitions held, with no attempt to document
what was going on.

While Monty Cantsin didn't put numbers after his name, it was not
unusual for a legal name to be placed in brackets beneath the 'open
pop-star' identity (for an example of this see the printed matter which
accompanies the 1978 Monty Cantsin EP on Syphon Records). Through
the interventions of Blitzinformation and Zack, we can see multiple
names beginning to take on the form they would assume during the
eighties In a letter to the author, dated 7/5/87, the Italian mail artist
Vittore Baroni explained the genesis of his own multiple name project:

"... My Lt. Murnau project (1980-1984) was an attempt to study how ... musical[11/27/10 2:57:59 PM]

overview of pre-neoism

myths are built... today, all these cult-underground bands, how far you can push an
Image without a Sound. I started with spreading a lot of leaflets and In Lithuanian
announcements using the image of film-maker W.F. Murnau in his army uniform and
the name Lieutenant Murnau that I found mysterious and evocative enough. I did
the first cassette for VEC- Holland "Meet Lt. Murnau" just mixing, breaking,
manipulating all the Beatles and Residents records. The idea is that Lt. Murnau uses
existing music without having to use instruments or compose notes. Then I tried to
confuse ... the audience having Murnau cassettes and records released in different
countries by different people: Jacques Juin in Germany ... the 7" EP "Janus Head",
with Grafike Airlines in Belgium the cassette package "The Lt. Murnau Maxi-single"
(C30). Then there were several more cassettes, contributions to compilations,
graphic works in magazines, etc ... A lot of texts etc are enclosed with the various
packages ... I also did a concert-performance as Lt. Murnau, with mask, cutting and
playing different records + crucifying a Beatles record etc. And I did in 1980 a
programme ... "La Testa di Giano" for national Radio One in Italy, using Murnau
materials. I printed and circulated hundreds of life-size cardboard masks of Lt.
Murnau, that people could wear. Anybody could do Murnau music and become Lt.
Murnau, and a few people did it. At the concert I distributed masks to the audience
and then filmed them ... as they "become" Lt. Murnau as well. The main problem I
found is that very few people were interested in working for a project that they felt
belonged to myself, even if I tried to keep it mysterious in its origins. So in the end
I always did 99% of the work, even if Jacques Juin did a lot of Murnau work in 1980
-81 and a few others contributed nice work (Michael Vanherwegen, Roger Radio,
among others). The whole project was focussed on a very limited area, that of
underground music, so it did not have the more varied overtones of the Monty
Cantsin philosophy. Yet, I think the problems are the same ... The fact is that to
participate you had to really work collectively, and this is something few in the art
circles like to do without having their name in big letters ... "

During the 80's, Baroni was not the only person to initiate a multiple
name project: by 1985 the names 'Karen Eliot', 'Mario Rossi' and 'Bob
Jones' had also been put forward for multiple use. They were seen as
means of subverting the star-system and questioning bourgeois
notions of identity.(2) Two distinct camps emerged about how they
should be used. One faction insisted that there should be a complete
identification with the name used, while the other asserted that this
would lead to the names being over identified with specific individuals,
and so there should be a clear separation between personal identity
and use of the concept. This argument has yet to be resolved and has
led to hostilities between individuals 'sharing' a multiple identity.

If multiple names are an assault on art by inference, via their attack

on the star system which sustains the notion of genius, there are
other more direct attacks being made on art from within the MA
Network. Tony Lowes's "Give Up Art/Save The Starving" campaign[11/27/10 2:57:59 PM]

overview of pre-neoism

represents the more extreme wing of this tendency:

"Seeing and creating an image are the same activity. Those who create art are also
creating the starving. Our world is a collective illusion. It is a great irony that the
myth of the artist celebrates suffering, while it is those who have never heard of art,
those enduring famine and drought and endemic diseases, who are the true poor
and wretched of our world. And in this perversion of once a religious quest, today's
artists deny that they are more than labourers, deny art itself, and so move to close
off to man the light inside him.

"Art is now defined by a self-perpetuating elite to be marketed as an international

commodity, a safe investment for the rich who have everything. But to call one man
an artist is to deny another the equal gift of vision; - and to deny all men equality is
to enforce inequality, repression, and famine.

"Everything that is learned is alien. Our histories are built on the heritage left by
men who learned only to replace one concept with another. We strive to grasp what
we do not know when our problems will be solved not by new information, but by
the understanding of what man already knows. It is time to re-examine the nature
of thought. Fictions occupy our minds and art has become a product because we
believe ourselves and our world to be impervious to fundamental change. So we
escape into art. It is our ability to transform this world, to control our
consciousness, that withers on the vine.

"We need to control our own minds, to behave as if the revolution has already
taken place. Paint all the paintings black and celebrate the dead art. We have been
living at a masqued ball: what we think of as our identity is a schooled set of
notions, preconceptions that are imprisoning us in history. From our own belief in
our own identity flows ceaseless misery - our isolation, our alienation, and our belief
that another man's life is more interesting that our own.

"It is only through valuing all the world equally that any of us will find liberation. An
end to history is our rightful demand. To continue to produce art is to addict
ourselves to our own repression. The refusal to create is the only alternative left to
those who wish to change the world. Give up art. Save the starving,"

From his farmhouse in Eire, Lowes (born New York, 1944) mails out
manifestoes, badges, stickers, and balloons bearing his slogans. They
receive a mixed reaction in the MA Network, some people agree with
him, others see his work as a joke, a few get upset. This reaction
cannot be dissimilar to the way in which Richard Hulsenbeck's attacks
on art were received by his Dadaist colleagues. Mail artists, like the
dadaists and fluxists before them, are divided over the status of their
work. Some see what they do as art, others don't. From a materialist
perspective, mail art is not art because it is not commoditised by the
bourgeoisie. On the whole, it remains outside the social process that
gives an activity the status of art. It is possible that the activity might
be elevated to the status of art at a future date, but even if this were
to happen, only a very limited number of mail art products would
actually be granted such a standing. And such an elevation in status
seems unlikely while mail art continues to be practised.

At first sight this makes Lowes's propaganda efforts within the MA

Network appear misdirected. But if his campaign is viewed as an
attack on individualised creativity ('that unique place inside us where
we possess art'), his work effectively addresses those in the network
most given to such tendencies. He is using a language which is
accessible to those who might not be artists, but perceive themselves
as such. Lowes's activities highlight the contradictions of mail art.[11/27/10 2:57:59 PM]

overview of pre-neoism

Obviously, those who coined the term did so because they identified
their activities as being art based. Starting from an idealist perspective
they presumably concluded that real art (universal human expression?
) should not be sold but must be given as a Gift. As the network
developed, a second group of individuals with a materialist perspective
were attracted to it. This second group participated precisely because
they saw MA as a support system within which they could engage in
cultural exchange free of the essentialist conceptions of gallery art.
Such individuals can use the network while ignoring its name. What
confuses the issue is that Lowes uses the mail art network as a
distribution system for an idealist attack on art. Reappearing here are
all the contradictions of anti-art, unresolved since Pere Ubu made his
stage debut.

From The Assault On Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to

Class War by Stewart Home (original edition Aporia Press/Unpopular
Books, London 1988, new edition AK Press 1991).


1. Since the origin of their network in the sixties, most mail artists
have viewed mail art as a direct development from dada and fluxus,
and thus have always exhibited a deep interest in these previous
movements. For examples of this see "Correspondence Art" edited by
Michael Crane & Mary Stofflet (Contemporary Arts Press, San Francisco
1984); in particular see "Thoughts On Dada" & "Mail Art & Dada" both
by Klaus Groh.

2. Most critics of multiple names have, to date, taken the claims made
for them over literally. For example, Waldemar Jyroczech in
"Re.Distribution" (included in "Plagiarism: art as commodity and
strategies for its negation" edited by Stewart Home, Aporia Press,
London 1987) has the following to say: "No one nowadays need rely
on, say, the use of multiple names 'to create a situation for which on
one in particular is responsible'. The very existence of the law implies
a generalised absence of responsibility, one reinforced in the realm of
'the arts' by the 'death of the author' (cf. Barthes) and the 'liquidation
of originality' (cf. Warhol). Indeed part of the problem is that this state
of affairs seems to belong to the past, to an accepted but not
understood history; a plagiaristic repetition of the issues will tend to
result in the erection of a facade of ahistoricity; a kind of fetishisation."

Jyroczech assumes that those who "rely on ... the use of multiple
names 'to create a situation for which no one in particular is
responsible' " are unaware that such a situation already exists. I would
suggest that those involved in such activities are aware of this fact and
use the conscious creation of similar situations to bring this state of
affairs to the attention of those who do not wish to perceive it. If
Jyroczech understood such intentions, he would see that what is in
dispute is his assertion that such problems 'belong to ... an accepted
but not understood history.

From "The Assault On Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to

Class War by Stewart Home (original edition Aporia Press/Unpopular
Books, London 1988, new edition AK Press 1991).

Previous: Mail Art

Next: Punk[11/27/10 2:57:59 PM]

overview of pre-neoism

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More on Neoism (chapter on Neoism from Assault On Culture)


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The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk




Like mail art, punk was a movement in which the majority of the
participants were only semi-conscious of its origins. Some critics have
made much of punk's recycling of specto-situationist theory. A typical
example of this is Dave and Stuart Wise's "The End Of Music" (Box V2,
Glasgow 1978):

"A musical situationism was born in the dressed up rebel imagery of punk and New
Wave. While, the situationist influence can only be thoroughly credited in the one
specific instance of the 'Sex Pistols', the rebellion of modem art forms, first
expressed pictorially and in literature, though now recuperated, have increasingly
UK 2nd edition
been applied to the production of music through intermediaries like 'The Velvet
Underground' and Lou Reed. Antecedents from the old cultural avant garde run into
and feed the musical new... Part of the genesis of punk goes back 16 years to the
English section of the Situationists and the subsequent, King Mob... Malcolm
McLaren, manager of 'The Sex Pistols' had been friendly with individuals versed in
the Situationist critique in England and had picked up some of the slogans and
attitudes of that milieu... The E.P. (sic) 'Pretty Vacant' was promoted through a
poster campaign displaying cut out photos of two long distance coaches heading for
'BOREDOM' and 'NOWHERE' - lifted straight from the pages of 'Point Blank' ....."

Unfortunately, Dave and Stuart Wise completely overestimate the

influence and importance of specto-situationist theory, both on punk
and in general. This is perhaps not surprising, since at the time the
text was produced they were part of the miserable milieu centred on
Guy Debord and the Champ Libre publishers in Paris. Although the UK first edition
Wises sneer at the negative influence of the Motherfuckers on King
Mob, they ignore the fact that this influence was actually more
determinate than that of the specto-SI. (1) Indeed, the English section
of the specto-SI were expelled from the International because they
refused to break with the individuals who went on to found the
Motherfuckers. King Mob were one result of this expulsion. The Wises
chide the plagiarism of graphics from Point Blank but conveniently
forgets that Jamie Reid, the Pistols' art director, had contributed
visuals for a number of Point Blank productions and was merely re-
using work he had been involved in producing! (2) Although specto-
situationist theory was known by some of those at the centre of the
original punk movement, the influence of futurism, dada, the
motherfuckers, fluxus and mail art is more obvious and important. Mail
artists such as Irene Dogmatic in the States and Genesis P-Orridge in
England became involved with punk music during its early stages. It In Portuguese
was through these mail artists that the influence of fluxus was spread.
The influence of mail art was most strongly felt in the choice of bizarre[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

stage names. The iconoclastic nature of punk identities (ie Johnny

Rotten, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie Sioux, Dee Generate and Captain
Sensible) echo the assumed names of mail artists such as Cosey Fanni
Tutti, Pat Fish and Anna Banana. Through art school training, members
of bands like the Clash and Adam and the Ants had been exposed to
the influence of Futurism and Dada. (3) The backwardness of British
art schools, the environment from which much of the original punk
milieu emerged, resulted in a familiarity with early manifestations of
the utopian avant-garde combined with an ignorance of its post-war
developments. However, the rank and file of the punk movement
remained ignorant even of these classical influences.
In Spanish
But this 'ignorance' didn't prevent kids on the street from
understanding punk as an expression simultaneously of frustration and
a desire for change. Punk was a politics of energy with a bias towards
expressing itself in the rhetoric of the left, but which more than
occasionally assumed the voice of the right. Lumpen-intellectuals who
have attempted an analysis of punk have usually understood far less
than the punks they criticise for lacking a perspective. Dave and Stuart
Wise state in "The End Of Music":

"Punk is the admission that music has got nothing left to say but money can still be
made out of total artistic bankruptcy with all its surrogate substitute for creative
self-expression in our daily lives. Punk music, like all art, is the denial of the
revolutionary becoming of the proletariat"

Such a position is clearly ridiculous since only an imbecile could

In Polish
confuse punk with art. Besides which, punk very clearly did have
something to say, and the fact that this was effectively communicated
is demonstrated to this day by widespread teenage identification with
it. (4) The Wise brothers go on to repeat the specto-situationist fallacy
that art is dead, when from a genuinely materialist perspective there
will always be art as long as there is a bourgeois class. Art cannot die,
because it is a social process, capitalist societies produce art while
non-capitalist societies don't. As we have already seen, to impute an
essence to art is mysticism. The Wise brothers compound this idealism
with another abstraction 'the revolutionary becoming of the proletariat'
. Although, as a lumpen-intellectuals, Dave and Stuart Wise might find
solace in such a concept, the proletariat which they mythologise would
find such ideas completely meaningless, if by some freak of fate they
should ever come into contact with them.
In Italian
The Wise brothers confusion of punk and art is used as a partial screen
against their ignorance of punk's non-intellectual origins in British
street culture. It is therefore not surprising that both they and the
semiologist Dick Hebdige in his book "Subculture: The Meaning Of
Style" (Meuthen, London 1979) ignore the influence of Richard Allen on
the blank generation during their pubescence. Allen (pseudonym of
James Moffatt) authored a series of skinhead novels for New English
Library during the early seventies. His books, which chronicled the
violent activities of white working class youths, circulated widely under
school desks and the belligerent attitude they espoused was a central
element in the punk sensibility. Allen's books are ignored in academic
analyses of punk, precisely because his writing lacks an intellectual
pedigree. Lumpen-intellectuals prefer to compare punk with avant-
garde artistic and political tendencies, because at least in this field[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

they have the opportunity to demonstrate a conceptual acquisition of

high culture. Dada might have shocked the bourgeoisie but at least its In Lithuanian
products were more than hurriedly written hack work glorifying football
hooliganism. One need only compare the cover of the first Clash
album, or almost any posed publicity shot of a punk band, to the
covers of Allen's books to see the extent of their influence. (5)
Whereas only a tiny minority of the punk milieu had heard of Futurism
or Dadaism, and even fewer of the Motherfuckers or specto-situationist
theory, the vast majority would have encountered Richard Allen's work
in one form or another - and were just as likely to have experienced
the culture he depicted directly on the football terrace. The fanatical
Stretford End of Manchester United's 'red army' were chanting "We
Hate Humans" in the early seventies, years before the blank
generation appropriated hate and misanthropy as themes of their own.

However, despite widespread ignorance of punk's relation to other

utopian currents, the movement successfully propagated the essential
tenets of the tradition. The division between audience and performer
was questioned, if not overcome. Although a few groups attained
superstar status, the vast majority remained accessible to the fans.
Kids who had never played an instrument in their life formed bands
and within a few months would be making public performances. A Do-
It-Yourself ethic prevailed, with independent record labels issuing
releases by unknown bands, a vast proliferation of the independent
press in the form of punk fanzines (usually xeroxed in editions of a few
hundred), and almost every punk making designer alterations to their
clothes in the form of rips and tears.

As the first wave of punk groups - the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned,
Stranglers, Buzzcocks - made the pop charts and assumed star status,
the hardcore of their following would switch loyalties and become
supporters of bands who could still be seen on the club circuit. Real
punks followed bands like the Adverts, Sham 69 and the Members in
'77, by '78 Adam and the Ants were followed by what would become
the gothic faction, the UK Subs by the future hardcore section, and
Crass by the anarcho-punks. '78 also saw an increased stereotyping in

The first wave of punk groups flirted with politics, the majority like the
Clash and Pistols from a left perspective, others like the Banshees and
Chelsea from the right. A few, such as Subway Sect, were genuinely
committed to communism; at least during their early days. 1977 saw
the emergence of groups like Crisis, who took the left rhetoric of the[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

Clash seriously and whose members belonged to organisations such as

the Socialist Workers Party and the International Marxist Group.
Playing benefit gigs for organisations such as "Rock Against Racism"
and the "Right To Work Campaign", often from the back of trucks
leading columns of marchers, Crisis spearheaded the new ground-swell
of committed punk groups. Songs like "Militant", "Take A Stand" and
"Alienation" won the group a loyal following.

If Crisis were seen as extremists by many - their song "Kill" in

particular was singled out for criticism (7) - better was yet to come.
During the early eighties anarcho-punk fanzines such as "Pigs For
Slaughter" and bands like the Apostles blazed a trail that would be
mined for its black humour and media potential by the Class War
movement. The track "Pigs For Slaughter" on the second Apostles EP
(Scum Records 1983) defined what would become the platform of
anarchist regroupment a year or so later:

"Glue the locks of all the banks and butchers or kick them in, Spray a message of
hate across a Bentley or smash it up, Sabotage the meat in supermarkets poison
them all, Go to Kensington and mug a rich bastard of all his cash.
We're knocking on your door, We're taking no more, For this is Class War.
Put sugar in the petrol tank, Deflate the tires with six inch nails, That's the way to
wreck a rolls, So get stuck in it never fails.
We'll smash it up and we'll bum it all down."

Lumpen-intellectuals like Dave and Stuart Wise had, a few years

earlier, been accusing punk of stealing its ideas from the revolutionary
theorists. By the mid-eighties events had come full circle, Class War -
a group of anarchoid ultra-leftists - would find their inspiration in punk.

Although I don't have the time or space to go into it here, the musical
origins of punk - in sixties groups such as The Who, Small Faces,
Velvet Underground and Stooges - should not be forgotten; even if in
the course of my argument it has been largely overlooked.

The youth underground of the late seventies - centred on punk - was

far weaker (in terms of the broadness of its social base) (8) than that
of the sixties, in that its existence was dependent on rock music in a
way that the more heavily po/iticised underground of a decade earlier
was not. In retrospect, punk also appears as a very straightforward
progression from the sixties, whereas at the time it was perceived as a
break. The entourage around the Sex Pistols - in particular - appears
to be little more than a copy of the milieu attracted to Warhol's
factory. (9) One of the problems faced by the blank generation - that
sixties youth did not have to overcome - was an institutionalised
youth, and 'post-youth', culture. During the sixties magazines such as
"Oz" and "International Times" didn't have to compete with the likes of
"Time Out" or liberated teenage magazines, which took away a general
youth audience for 'zines such as "Sniffin' Glue" and "Ripped & Tom".
(10) It was this situation which forced the underground press of the
late seventies to provide specialised music coverage. It was a
weakness created by the success of the previous generation. Punk had
a music, fashion and politics but socio-economic factors caused an
increasing specialisation in (and separation between) the various
disciplines united under its banner. Thus the broad social base that
might have developed was, instead, weakened and destroyed. Many
laudable strands emerged, but as a movement punk was finished very[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

soon after it began.

1. But Dave Wise should have been well aware of this since according
to Nick Brandt's "Refuse" (BM Combustion, London 1978) he was a
member of King Mob during the late '60s - as indeed was his brother
Stuart Wise.

2. See page 68 of "Up They Rise - The Incomplete Works of Jamie

Reid" by Jamie Reid and Jon Savage (Faber & Faber, London 1987). It
is worth noting that when specto and pro-situationists 'plagiarise' other
people's work, they call it 'detournement'; but when other people are
perceived as 'detouming' situationist property they are accused of
'plagiarism'. Such double standards are endemic within the specto-
situationist milieu, and are usually justified on the grounds that - with
the exception of the proletariat considered as an abstract category -
no one outside this milieu has any credibility as a 'radical'. Everyone
from Debord, to Knabb, to the Wise brothers, to Brandt, employ this
hypocrisy. It should, however, be noted that "The End Of Music" was
published without the Wise brothers consent, after it had been
circulated in typescript form. This said, the Wise brothers servile
enthusiasm for the Debordist faction of the SI is evident in several
texts they have played an active role in publishing; consequently it is
not unreasonable to see "The End Of Music" as typifying their thought.

2. See for example the lyrics of "Animals & Men" on Adam and the
Ants first Ip "Dirk Wears White Sox" (Do It Records, London 1979).

4. At its most basic punk was saying I'm young, angry, pissed off and
I want change and/or excitement. Above all else it was a statement of
identity. Even the media understood punk at this level.

5. a) Allen didn't design his own book covers; however the books
themselves were consumed as a single package. The 'authorship' of
the constituent parts was irrelevant to the readership.
b) Slaughter and the Dogs second single "Where Have All The Boot
Boys Gone?" (Decca Records, London 1977) in particular echoes the
Allen oeuvre. The opening lines run: ''Wearing boots and short hair
cuts, we will kick you in the guts...". Allen had written a novel entitled
"Boot Boys" (New English Library, London 1972) and most of his
heroes had short hair and wore boots, although - ironically - the
characters in "Boot Boys" did not have cropped hair.

6. And like football, punk emphasised a territorialism which the Super

Groups of the seventies had largely eliminated from the rock music
scene. In its negative sense this meant many punks saw themselves
as opposed to 'teds' and 'hippies'. More positively, it meant that the
movement viewed itself as being geographically specific. Thus the
Clash were 'the sound of the Westway' (the motorway system that
passes through West London); while the Sex Pistols were 'teenagers
from London's Finsbury Park and Shepherds Bush' (according to some
of their early publicity material). Outside London, Manchester had the
earliest developed punk scene and boasted among its top acts bands
like the Buzzcocks, Slaughter & the Dogs, & the Drones. Very quickly
punk scenes developed in all the large urban centres in the British
Isles. Punk was consciously urban, despising the country and the
suburbs, and yet because it was also about displacement it eventually
found its greatest support among suburban kids.
When the 'hippies' who'd started the Stone Henge festival formed their
own punk band - Crass - as a means of disseminating anarchist[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

propaganda, they eventually succeeded in injecting an element of

ruralism into the movement. However, suburbia remained as despised
as ever.

7. A sample of the lyrics to this song run as follows:

"Sack the teachers, standards fall, You send your kids to a private school.
Close the wards, the poor drop dead, You're alright Jack, you've got a private bed.
You're making me sick, You're making me ill, If you don't fuck off I'm gonna Kill,
Kill, Kill!"

In the early eighties, Crisis degenerated into the utterly pathetic Death
In June who I have dealt with elsewhere.

8. But its impact (in Britain at least) was as great, if not greater, due
to the strength of its image. By exaggerating media stereotypes of
working class belligerence, punk touched a raw nerve with the British
establishment. If sixties rebels had been inspired by the esoteric
theories of 'Che' and 'Uncle Ho', bands like the Clash appeared to have
more in common with dockers leader Jack Dash; a threat that was
much closer to home.

9. The role of the Sex Pistols in the punk movement has been
completely mystified. They may have stolen the show, but even so
punk would have happened without them - while they wouldn't have
achieved fame without punk. What was important about punk was the
Do It Yourself attitude, not the few stars who "swindled" their way to
the top.

10. Nigel Fountain in "00 Anything Beautiful" (1968 supplement, New

Statesman, London 18/12/87) has the following to say about the
alternative press and specialisation:

"Al is one fat man... who did well out of the wars of those times. In 1968 he noticed
that many of the people who bought the then flourishing American underground
press - the Berkeley Barb, the East Village Other, the Los Angeles Free Press, et al
were not doing so for their imaginative accounts of the occupation of Columbia
University, the exploits of the Yippies, or the battles at the Chicago Democratic Party
convention. They were the real army of the night, the dirty raincoat detachment, in
search of sexual contact ads. Goldstein acutely perceived as he launched Screw that
autumn that 'I am the man in the dirty raincoat.'... Goldstein's trick was to identify
one of the crucial undercurrents, sex.
Attention to the other two hedonistic ripples paid off as well. The drugs obsession
produced the briefly successful High Times; rock 'an' roll generated Joann Werner's
Rolling Stone, still coining it 21 years after its launch. Both Screw and Rolling Stone
helped drain the sea on which America's 1960s radical press sailed. One took the
sex ads and thus the sex-orientated sales, while the other sucked in the music ads
and the non-activist segment of the underground press market... It is a cautionary
tale..... "

Previous: Beyond Mail Art

Next: Neoism


Cranked Up Really High: Genre Theory & Punk Rock (book by Home)

'Academic' paper on punk rock by Stewart Home

Assault On Culture contents page[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Punk

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:58:09 PM]

overview of neoism




The date on which Neoism was founded varies from account to

account. As time progresses the date gets put back. Writing in the sole
issue of "Immortal Lies" (Montreal 1985), Istvan Kantor (born
Budapest 1949) claims that his "Post-Concerto" performed at Vehicule
Art, Montreal, on February 14th 1979, is 'considered as the opening
piece of Neoist Conspiracy'. Whereas in the 1982 text "WHAT IS A uh
uh APARTMENT FESTIVAL???", Kantor had claimed that the 'neoist
movement was launched on may 22, 1979, in Montreal', when he and
Lion Lazer distributed leaflets on the comer of Sherbrooke and McGill.
2nd UK edition
What can be ascertained with certainty is that Kantor had spent some
time at the PORTLAND ACADEMY in 1978 and returned to Montreal
with the concepts of Monty Cantsin and ISM which Zack, Ackerman
and their group had been developing. Back in Montreal, Kantor found
himself in the company of several young cultural workers who had
been profoundly influenced by the punk phenomena. In the hands of
this group, ISM was transformed into Neoism and by the summer of
'79 a graffiti campaign was being waged on the walls of Montreal.
According to R. U. Sevol (born Michael Ferara, London) in "Miles 2"
and "Miles 2 Supplement" (Paris 1985), the slogans used included
"Everything Before The 90's", ':Liberate Imagination", "Seek Beauty,
Desire Passion", "Never Work", "Hunger Is The Mother Of Beauty" and
"Convulsion, Subversion, Defection". The graffiti draws heavily on the
legacy of the French avant-garde: these are the slogans of surrealism,
situationism and the occupations movement of May '68, with some late 1st UK edition
romanticism thrown in for good measure.

However, as the group developed, it became apparent that it had more

in common with futurism than french avant-garde traditions. Indeed,
the very word Neoism is striking as a cheapening through realisation of
Marinetti's project. A heroic vision of the future reduced to the novelty
of the new. In technological terms, video was to the Neoists what the
motor car was to Marinetti. This became apparent during the Neoists'
'occupation' of Motivation 5, Montreal, in October 1980. A video
communication link was set up between the two floors of the gallery.
According to Kantor's "Video After Death" leaflet (Montreal, undated)
'video conversations eventually developed into an automatic exchange
of conceptual .ideas, video became reality and reality became video'.
Kantor's description is typical of the myth making in which he
indulges: phrases such as 'conceptual ideas' sound very grand but are In Portuguese
ultimately tautological (all ideas are conceptual), while 'automatic
exchange' implies a totalitarian system of language (an impossibility[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

since the split between signifiers and signifieds prevents meanings

from becoming transparent). The tedious nature of the gallery
occupation is revealed by the fragments from R. U. Sevol's notes
published in "Organ Centre de Recherche Neoiste vol. 3 no.
1"(previously "The Neo"):

"... Lazer is bored so he and Yana leave ... Frater Neo appears and asks questions
about photography. No one is interested ... I was too tired to move ... Kiki left to
wash his socks ... I didn't seem to care, I just did it..."

Video did not 'become reality'. The altered mental states were, at least
partially, due to sleep deprivation and boredom. The Neoists took the
slogan they'd adopted from Niels Lomholt ("Bread Feeds The Hungry,
Video Feeds The Full") too seriously. In their eagerness to indulge in In Spanish
futurist heroics, they didn't bother to examine the consequences of
what they were doing. These avatars of 'the' new sensibility hadn't
even learnt the most basic lesson of industrialisation; that although
technological innovations may alter our mode of being, the way in
which they do this is not always desirable.

In Kantor's hands, the Monty Cantsin concept regressed rather than

developed. During the course of what were often violent performances,
he would offer 'his' neoist chair to anyone who wanted to take on the
'open pop-star' identity. The aggressive way in which this was done
intimidated those who might have taken up the offer. When, in the
mid-eighties - due to the intervention of a number of European neoists
- the Cantsin identity was taken up widely for the first time since Zack
left Portland in '79, Kantor circulated letters claiming to be the 'real'
In Polish
Monty Cantsin.

In 1980, the Neoists - taking their cue from the use to which New
York cultural workers had been putting their lofts for more than twenty
long events held in the homes of conspirators. The first "International
Neoist Apartment Festival" (APT) took place in No Galero (a Montreal
apartment) from September 17th to 21st 1980. The participants were
Kiki Bonbon (psuedonym of Jean-Luc Bonspeil), Istvan Kantor, Lion
Lazer, Niels Lomholt, Napoleon Moffatt, Reinhart Underwood Sevol and
Alain Snyers. The event consisted of concerts, performance art,
installations and the screening of films and video.

The "Second International Apartment Festival", February 16th-21st

1981, was organised by Kiki Bonbon at the 'Peking Pool Room', again
in Montreal. Among the participants were several members of the In Italian
Krononauts (2) from Baltimore, USA (tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE,
Richard X, Ruth Turner and Sumu Pretzler). This second APT was
similar in content to the first one, although the element of communal
lifestyle and friendship played an increased role. On the personal
relations front, Bonbon simulated temper tantrums, while
tENTATIVELY, who had arrived before Richard X, pretended on X's
arvival to be X, while X pretended to be tENTATIVELY. The resulting
farce typified the head games which fast became an essential feature
of APT Festivals. In his essay on the events at the Peking Pool Room,
"Tim(nn) Laps(nn) M(nn)mory Kronology" (sic), tENTATIVELY concludes
by summing up the APT concept:

"APT like NEOISM as minus t he (sic) superfluous middle which would disgustingly
make it ART. APT as APT. APT as apartment: a space again skipping t he (sic) ART[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

intermediate of performance spaces as buffer b tween (sic) public & performers

private life. t he (sic) PEKING POOLROOM as KIKI BONBON's APT." In Lithuanian

The text was written in tENTATIVELY's usual brain frying style.

Throughout its first half, '(nn)' is substituted for the letter 'e'. Not
content with this, tENTATIVELY introduces other idiosyncracies to
ensure the essay is only comprehensible to a persistent reader, such
as the use of the number '2' in place of the word 'to' and the use of a
space between the 't' and 'h' of the word 'the'.

The "Third International Neoist Apartment Festival" was organised by

the Krononauts, in Baltimore, between May 29th and June 7th 1981.
This APT featured the Neoists' first nature walk, plus numerous fIlm
screenings and performances. Among the participants were Richard X,
David Zack, Richard Hambleton, Kirby Malone, tENTATIVELY a
cONVENIENCE, Marshall Reese, Bonnie Bonnell, Sumu Pretzler, Ruth
Turner, Dava Presslor, Lisa MandIe, Tom Konyves, Michael Gentile and
Tom Diventi.

APT 4 was a 'two-city-event'. The first half was organised by Gordon

W. Zealot, Kent Tate and Gary Shilling, at Public Works, Toronto,
running from 9th to 11th October 1981. Perhaps the highlight of the
event was when tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and Eugenie Vincent
were stopped by the cops for violating seat belt laws. They were
strapped to the roof of a rented car which was touring the city as an
advertisment for the event. The festival continued at the Low Theatre,
Montreal, from the 13th to the 18th October '81. Here tENTATIVELY
was confronted with the problem of finding himself billed to appear at
an event with an admission charge. Rather than cancel his
performance, he waited for the paying audience to go into the theatre
and then instructed them to watch his 'street guerilla act' from a
window, while those who had not gone into the theatre could view his
performance free of charge from the street.

APT 5 took place at des REFUSE, New York, from March 15th to 21st
1982. During the festival, Gordon W. Zealot 'set up his mobile kitchen
on W-Broadway, and fed neoists with greens and windbread', as 'a
life-style demonstration of primitive subsistance'. Napoleon Moffatt
gave an important 'pre-war' conference entitled "The Legitimacy Of

"I'm in search of AKADEMGOROD. I'm still searching for AKADEMGOROD.

AKADEMGOROD is the city of scientists in Russia, in Siberia. It is a city built for
destruction. It is also a city where all the brains of Russia think and create the
END.Neoists should be in search of the city of scientists, in search of[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

AKADEMGOROD. The project is to find the city of AKADEMGOROD and, by being

there,justify the city. Neoists are living, are surviving by eating high technology. I'm
ephemerally here, in this city, to ask you to join the crusade for AKADEMGOROD.
The goals of the crusade are to find the city and then establish the reality of Neoism

At this time, Moffatt was considered the theorist of the movement, and
his suggestions were usually taken up by the Montreal group, if not
always the wider Neoist Network. Akademgorod quickly became the
promised land of Neoism.

The "Neoist Network's First European Training Camp" took place at

Peter Below's Studio '58, in Wurzburg, West Germany, from 21st to
27th June 1982.(3) Here the Neoist practice of offering free hair cuts
to the public was continued. The performances on the whole saw a
shift away from futurist influences and towards a fluxus aesthetic. This
trend is typified by Pete Horobin's 'Principle Player' (PP) scripts
performed at the festival. The 'Principle Player' was an identity anyone
could take on by performing the scripts Horobin wrote for the PP, or
even by writing new PP scripts and then performing them. Horobin
(born London 1949) had been developing this concept since 1980, well
before he came into contact with Neoism and the Monty Cantsin 'open
pop-star' scenario. An example of PP performance, "Seven Scripts For
One Week Of Neoist Activity" (written August 1982) is included in
Neoism Now, edited by Monty Cantsin (Artcore Editions, Berlin 1987):

"NEODAYONE The principle player does not think about art for twentyfour hours.
NEODAYTWO The principle player does not eat for twentyfour hours.
NEODAY THREE The principle player makes a pot of tea in the traditional manner. A
sufficient amount of water for the persons present is boiled in the kettle. Just before
this water boils some is poured into a teapot and swirled around its interior. Thereby
heating the teapot. A teaspoonful of tealeaves per person plus one for the pot is put
into the hot teapot. Enough boiling water for the persons present is poured into the
teapot. The lid is put on the teapot. The teapot is allowed to stand for five minutes.
For the tea to fuse. It is then served to the persons present. With milk and sugar if
preferred. Timing is critical.
NEODAYFOUR The principle player does not sleep for twentyfour hours.
NEODAYFIVE The principle player does not communicate for twentyfour hours.
NEODAYSIX The principle player cuts his finger nails and his toe nails. The clippings
are put into a suitable receptacle. Later during this day the persons present take
their nail clippings to a mutually agreed site. Possibly the site of the Neofire. These
clippings are scattered onto the ground.
NEODAYSEVEN The principle player sifts the ashes of the dead Neofire. Taking out
the lumps of charcoal. The fire ash is put into a container. Samples from this
container are put into plastic bags which are sealed. Labelled. Stamped. Dated. And
mailed to known Neoist sympathisers."

At this time, the European Neoists were far more influenced by sixties
anti- and non-art movements than their North American counterparts,
but this would change after 1984 when several members of the punk
and post-punk generation were recruited.

APT 6 was held at the 'Neoist Embassy', Montreal, from February 21st
to 27th 1983; APT 7 at tENTATIVELY's apartment in Baltimore from
September 20th to 25th 1983. APT 8 was organised by Pete Horobin at
13 Aulton Place, London SE11, and took place from May 21st to 26th
1984. tENTATIVELY and Litvinov flew in from Baltimore, the model
Eugenie Vincent had already moved to Europe and was present, Carlo[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

Pittore was passing through London anyway, and Istvan Kantor had
been wired money by his family - rich members of the Hungarian
Communist Party - to come to Europe for his grandmother's birthday.
(4) The presence of these North American die-hards made the London
Festival a more traditional event than the Wurzburg manifestation. This
naturally included rivalry between tENTATIVELY, Pittore and Kantor.
Kantor left London before the APT had even finished, sulking because
no one turned up to see his performance at the London Musicians
Collective. When tENTATIVELY first performed his 'Neoist Guidedog' -
during which he crawled on all fours and obtained a free bus ride
because a blindwoman held him on a leash - there was a mix-up over
buses and only a few neoists witnessed the act. Unperturbed, he
persisted and managed successfully to document the performance on
Super 8 a few days after the festival finished.

The 9th Neoist Festival was organised by Pete Horobin at Emilio

Morandi's Arte Studio, Ponte Nossa, Italy, between June 1st and 7th
1985. It marked a sharp departure from previous Neoist Festivals. It
took place in a small village, whose council considered it an honour to
be hosting an International Arts Event. A major road ran through the
village, and Neoist banners were strung over this to advertise the
arrival of artists from all over Europe. The opening was a civic occasion
with the presentation of a plaque. In the week that followed, the
residents of Ponte Nossa were bemused to fmd body outlines chalked
on their streets, hundreds of different portraits - all bearing the name
Monty Cantsin - fly-posted to their walls, clothes being burnt in front
of their homes, the appearance of a large 'chronogramme' by the side
of a local river, and numerous other signs that the world had - to all
intents and purposes - been over-run by lunatics. The villagers were
further horrified by the appearance of Graf Haufen's mother, who
turned up in a camper van with a hippy boyfriend half her age, keen to
see some of her son's performances. On top of this, local youths -
noting that the carabinieri had orders not to arrest anyone for bizarre
behaviour - used the festival as a backdrop against which they were
allowed to indulge in mildly anti-social behaviour. Their parents
wondered what they'd done to deserve the festival, the teenagers held
the artists in contempt - but had a gas anyway.

In October '85, R. U. Sevol - by this time resident in Paris - circulated

an open letter proposing that the next APT should be spread over
several locations, so that greater numbers of neoists could participate
with ease. As a result, in the summer of '86, meetings of two or three
neoists took place in Paris, Amsterdam and Tepoztlan (Mexico). The
short notice at which these events were arranged resulted in low
attendances - and whether taken singly or together, they cannot in
any way be viewed as an Apartment Festival. tENTATIVELY wrote to
Sevol asking for his summer '86 tour of North East America to be
considered part of the festival. Since it was the only substantial event
to emerge, this tour must be considered the 10th Apartment Festival.

The 64th (sic) Internationale Konspirative Neoistche Apartment Festival

was held at Artcore Gallery and Stiletto Studios (Berlin) from
December 1st to 7th 1986. Like the Ponte Nossa festival its central
feature was an exploration of the Monty Cantsin concept.
Documentation was produced listing the addresses of 99 Monty
Cantsin's who participated either by post or in person. However, it was
also marked by the absence of Pete Horobin and other key figures in
European Neoism. It was the final fling of a movement overtaken by[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

dissension and apathy. A few minor Neoist manifestations have taken

place since - including the so called Millionth Apartment Festival in New
York (23rd to 27th November 1988) - but they are of no

From The Assault On Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to

Class War by Stewart Home (original edition Aporia Press/Unpopular
Books, London 1988, new edition AK Press 1991).


1. However, the speed with which electronic communications systems

operate does serve to pressurise those using them into reducing the
time they take to reach any given decision, thus lowering the overall
quality of human thought and the rationality of individual choice

2. The Krononauts were also closely linked to other groups such as the
Dallas (fexas) based Church of the SubGenius, which was founded in
the spring of 1978 by the Rev Ivan Stang. Taking a graphic from a
1940's book on advertising said to represent success, Stang added the
name l.R. "Bob" Dobbs and founded a religion. Dobbs, a pipe smoking
salesman, was promoted by Stang as the figurehead of Amerika's
weirdest cult. According to SubGenius lore, the world as we know it is
due to end on July 5th 1998. But anyone who pays a membership and
ordainment fee to the Church will be saved. "Bob" - who 'is a basically
a pretty regular guy, just very rich and possessed by forces greater
than man' - has his followers names placed in the 'Book of Humans',
so that the aliens from Planet X will take them onto their space craft
at the appointed time. The SubGenius will be saved, while all the other'
assholes fry'.

Stang's parody of revivalist religion - utilising slogans such as 'Repent!

Quit Your Job! Slack off', 'Pull the wool over your own eyes' and 'You'd
pay to know what you really think' - proved a success with the
American underground. By the early eighties, hundreds of 'abnormals'
had flocked to join his 'spazz-church of macho irony'. With the money
that poured in, the Church was able to finance its newsletter "The
Stark Fist Of Removal", badges, audio tapes, stickers, T-shirts, video
and other paraphernalia. The increased size of the Church not only
provided Stang with an income, but also enabled it to hold

The most notorious stunt in the Church's history was the climax of its
1983 Congress in Baltimore. On the 18th of September, tENTATIVELY
a cONVENIENCE (psuedonym of Michael Tolson) made national news
when he performed his 'Pee Dog/Poop Dog Copright Violation
Ritual'.tENTATIVELY, naked and covered in white greasepaint, was
arrested by more than twenty armed cops, while beating the
decomposing carcases of two dead dogs strung from the ceiling of a
railway tunnel. He was accompanied by thirty-five SubGeni, who
danced to the rhythmic pulse of a thunder sheet. Two police officers
who'd been sent to investigate reports of trespassers were so
frightened by their discoveries that they called up reinforcements. The
action resulted in tENTATIVELY receiving a probation order.
tENTATIVELY - also notorious for his films, such as "Peeing On Bob's
Head" (which after an extremely tedious single shot opening, finishes
with a woman pissing into his mouth) - is now considered a Saint by
the Church. The Church, with its cult of weirdness, ultimately becomes[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

a one line joke. It bears a certain conceptual similarity to The College

of Pataphysics, but with a popularist
It is this lowest common denominator attitude that accounts for its
success. Similar cults, such as the Krononauts - who among other
things have held a 'Party For The People Of The Future' with the
intention of attracting time travellers - are too rigorously intellectual to
appeal to the average male college student.

As well as participation in the Krononauts, Neoists and Church of the

SubGenius, tENTATIVELY simultaneously pursued his individual
interests as a 'mad scientist/d composer/sound thinker/t ho ught
collector/as been & not an artist'). Without these other diversions, it
seems unlikely that someone as hip as tENT A TlVEL Y could sustain an
interest in the church.

3. European recruits to the movement had initially been contacted via

the mail art network.

4. Kantor informed the author of this during the course of APT 8. The
author was also present at The Ninth Neoist Festival, and picked up
additional information through correspondence with individual neoists -
tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and Pete Horobin were particularly
helpful about supplying information.

5. There is much that I've overlooked in this brief treatment of

Neoism. Many 'neoists' were deeply involved in making music and/or
'audio works'. The music made by the Montreal group tended to be
extremely dull post new wave rock; it was left to 'neoists' from other
parts of the world to make more substantial audio contributions - John
Berndt and Graf Haufen (both of whom worked as Monty Cantsin) were
among those who produced the most consistently strong Work in this
area. The "Neoism Now" compilation cassette by 'White Colours'
(Artcore, Berlin 1987) offers a good introduction to neoist audio.

In the area of neoist film, tENTATlVELY a cONVENIENCE made the

most conceptually interesting work. Members of the Montreal group
made some technically very proficient videos but these were often no
more than promotional backdrops for their tedious music - and
ultimately aren't of much interest. Pete Horobin, working principally out
of Dundee, Scotland, shot a massive amount of video as part of his 10
year 'data project'; but has yet to find the money that will enable him
to hire enough time on a video suite for this work to be edited down
into a publicly presentable format. The most notorious Neoist film is
Kiki Bonbon's 'Flying Cats'. I have not seen this work, but it allegedly
features two men, dressed in white coats, standing on top of a tower
block. The men have with them a selection of cats. One at a time the
cats are picked up and thrown to their death. Throughout the film the
protagonists repeat the phrase 'the cat has no choice'.

From The Assault On Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to

Class War by Stewart Home (original edition Aporia Press/Unpopular
Books, London 1988, new edition AK Press 1991).

Previous: Punk

Next: Class War

Assault contents page

Back to chapter from Assault on immediate precursors to Neoism[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

overview of neoism

More on Neoism

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:58:18 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War





To many observers Class War appeared as if from nowhere. In the two

years between the appearance of the first "Class War" newspaper in
1983 and the 'hot autumn' of '85, the British media began to write of
an 'anarchist menace' which was the equal of any 'red scare'. For the
first time since the Angry Brigade bombings of the early seventies,
anarchism was perceived as a threat to the British establishment.

Class War very quickly became news, (1) and as usual journalistic
investigation served to mystify - rather than shed light on - the social, UK 2nd edition
cultural, and political origins of the group. This was not simply a case
of deliberate misrepresentation on the part of Fleet Street; despite the
booze hound image of cynicism they like to project, most journalists
are actually extremely naive and ignorant.

The first issue of the Class War paper featured a couple of 'toffs' on
the cover, and beneath them the slogan: "Now is the time for every
dirty lousy tramp to arm himself with a revolver or a knife and lie in
wait outside the palaces of the rich and shoot or s tab them to death
as they come out". This is a paraphrase from part of a speech given by
the nineteenth-century anarchist Lucy Parsons to the poor of Chicago.
The Class War collective was made up of long-time anarchists who,
being versed in the movement's history, were able to apply this
knowledge to the production of propaganda.
UK first edition
Ian Bone, destined to become the movement's 'leader', had previously
been lead singer for the punk band Living Legends, as well as the
'brains' behind "The Scorcher', a South Wales agitational paper.
Assorted headbangers from South Wales and London made up the rest
of the Class War collective. They were later joined by a group of
nutters who lived together in a large house in Islington (North London).
The latter .faction's involvement in the anarchist movement stretched
back more than a decade and spanned numerous projects. A number
of them had been involved with the satirical magazine "Authority", two
issues of which had appeared in the late seventies. The back cover of
the first issue featured a picture of a fascist rally and the words "The
National Front love Britain... almost as much as the anarchists love
Spain". With Class War this brand of black humour would reach new
In Portuguese

In its early days, Class War did not seek a base in the traditional
workers' movement, rather it saw disaffected youth as its most likely[11/27/10 2:58:32 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War

recruits; and its propaganda was designed to attract the extreme

fringe of the punk movement. A feature entitled "Never Mind The...
BOLLOCKS TO THAT!" from an early issue of the group's paper, will
serve to illustrate this tendency:

"Dylan got rich on the fuck-ups and misery of sixties middle class youth.
MacLaren and Punk got rich on the fuck-ups and misery of working class youth.
Punk saved the record industry and the music hacks... Emphasising energy and
aggression punk kicked the arse of the flabby supergroups of the '70' s. But for the
working class the laughs at the expense of boring old farts and the British
establishment must be put in focus. God Save The Queen, Anarchy In The U.K. at
No.1 - rock industry moguls getting knighted for their services to profit - it's a joke
In Spanish
and a revelation of the sickness of the rich bastards who run the show. But the
joke's on us... Music trends and the music papers and industry are just the raciest
example of how the modem market works according to the principle of 'if it moves
sell it'. Working class anger, via MacLaren's rehash of old 60's politics... is good for
Old punks say that the Clash, Stranglers etc 'sold out' to the Big Record companies
like the Lefties say that the trade unions sell out strikes... but they would, 'cos
making it as anti-heroes or heroes don't matter as long as you keep the industry
ticking over. Oi rejected this by getting back to the roots but it got lost.
Though founded on a real element of class culture Oi has lapsed into adoration of
the armed forces and voting Labour.
The only band (sic) to carry the musical-politics line forward was Crass.
They have done more to spread anarchist ideas than Kropotkin, but like him their
politics are up shit creek. Putting the stress on pacifism and rural escapism they
refuse the truth that in the cities opposition means confrontation and violence if it In Polish
were to get anywhere.
At last bands are emerging that reject the rock music/celebrity/wealth escape route
from working class boredom as much as they do the normal political escape route of
the Trade Union/Labour party. Not interested in making it without smashing up the
show and those who run it they mark a real departure from Oi that has declined
into glassing each other (rather than the rich) pledging support to our boys in the S.
Atlantic and voting Labour. The Apostles and the Anti-Social Workers link with the
war against the rich and make for the real possibility of taking the anger and
frustration away from the gig and out onto the streets and once and for all saying
'Fuck that' to the shitty rituals that pass for pleasure."

The article ends by quoting a song lyric by the Apostles. This feature
reads like something from a punk fanzine, except that its political
analysis - and the residues of specto-situationist theory - mark it out
as 'over sussed'. Its polemical style clearly indicates that it was written In Italian
by someone who has more experience of agitating against authority
than the average street punk.

In 1984, Class War launched their "Spring Offensive" against the rich.
The cover of the paper that announced this project featured a picture
of a fox hunter and the caption: "You Rich Fucking Scumbag We're
Gonna Get You". Class War had jumped on the Animal Liberation
bandwagon, popular among anarcho-punks, and the ploy resulted in a
circulation boost for their paper. As well as 'tail-ending' left-wing
demonstrations and anarchist inspired actions such as Stop The City,
Class War were now initiating campaigns of their own. In an article
entitled "Advance To Mayfair", the group reports on the progression of
this campaign:[11/27/10 2:58:32 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War

"The first action of the CLASS WAR spring offensive took place on March 1st at the
Grosvenor House hotel. The occasion was the Horse and Hound Ball... a must for all In Lithuanian
budding debutantes and local squire or huntmaster. Well, as it was the place to be
seen, us intrepid bunch of anarchists decided to be there as well... Some friendly
faces began appearing and our numbers swelled to around forty people. We
considered this a large enough group to make a loud noise. This was only intended
as a demonstration and not a fight, so it was on with the balaclavas and outside the
main entrance. As the scum stepped from their limos they realised the antis had
turned up in force. Our protest began in earnest when we unfurled a large banner
reading BEHOLD YOUR FUTURE EXECUTIONERS. We're not people who play about
with words. Soon the rich filth began arriving in droves with their top hats and their
'pinks' with their high society cinderellas on their arms. Jostling, well placed kicks,
spitting and an outstandingly well placed smack in the gob contrived to ruin many
an evening... The CLASS WAR spring offensive had got off to a flying start."

Despite the sloganeering - inciting readers to "Join The Anarchist Mob"

the actions of '84 were all low-key events. Nevertheless, sales of the
Class War paper climbed as high as ten thousand on some issues, and
the group's reputation grew out of all proportion to this. The back
cover of 'Angry 1', a magazine produced by a school-aged Class War
supporter in Scotland, reproduced some of the media coverage:

"...a group of political nutters who preach a dangerous new creed of anarchist
And they are trying to spread their evil message among striking miners, peace
marchers - even school kids. They can be seen on picket lines, at CND demos and at
animal rights rallies peddling a foul mouthed propaganda sheet called Class War.
It is a publication whose symbol is a skull and crossbones and whose message is
murderous... it boasts "We've blocked motorways, smashed up scabs's houses and
beaten up press reporters..." Class War's favourite hate targets are the meeting
places of "rich scumbags".
It urges supporters to attend events like Henley Regatta and polo matches dressed
in balaclavas and Doc Marten bovver boots and "make the bastards choke on their
picnic hampers".
The group has already alarmed Labour supporters at a meeting addressed by Tony
Benn... Last week the Labour journal Tribune appealed for information about Class
- From the Sunday People, cutting not dated. And:

"...Class War... Under a headline "Rich Bastards Beware", it advised readers, next
time they saw a rich bastard to jostle them, gob at them, spray paint on their walls,
and hang around in large enough numbers to make them feel uneasy.
"Fuck getting 250,000 people to tramp like sheep through London to listen to
middle-class CNO wankers like Joan Ruddock and Bruce Kent telling them to go
home and do nothing. Lets just get 5,000 to turn up at Ascot.. and turn our class[11/27/10 2:58:32 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War

anger loose on them... Make them afraid to go out on the streets alone, too scared
to show off any signs of their wealth, make them live under siege conditions behind
locked doors in their own areas and homes." ' And so on, four pages of it. A clever
parody? I have no idea..."
- From The Guardian, cutting not dated.

In 1985, Class War launched its "Bash The Rich" campaign. The back-
page feature they devoted to promoting the fIrst March in London also
informed readers of where the idea had come from:

"The idea of bash the rich marches is nothing new. Exactly I00 years ago on April
28th 1885 they were doing exactly the same thing in Chicago... The anarchist Lucy
Parsons told people who were on the verge of killing themselves to "take a few rich
people with you", let their eyes be opened to what was going on "by the red glare
of destruction". Anarchists would hold huge meetings attended by up to 20,000
people... The anarchists led huge marches from the working class ghettos into the
rich neighbourhoods. They would gather in thousands outside restaurants or the
homes of the wealthy displaying a huge banner on which was written "Behold your
future executioners", the terrified rich would summon the police and huge riots
would take place. The working class of Chicago were determined to take their
struggle into the heart of the enemies territory - so are we, a hundred years later."

The "Bash The Rich" march of May 11th '85 was guerilla theatre
worthy of the Berlin dadaists. It received a full report in the Class War

"The police threatened to arrest us all under the public order act for marching in
para-military uniform (balaclavas and DMs!). The police and Westminster council got
Meanwhile Gardens Community Association to take out a court injunction against us
to stop us having the rally. The police did everything possible to stop the march
taking place at all. But despite all this intimidation we had the biggest anarchist
march for years. Over 500 of us marched to swanky Kensington chanting "rich
scum" and "We'll be back" as they peered bewildered at us from behind drawn
curtains. We were at last bringing the reality of rising class anger into their cosy,
protected lives. It was fucking great to be on an anarchist march for once instead of
tail ending along on a leftie demonstration listening to labour party speakers. As we
turned into Holland Park Avenue all you could see down Ladbroke Grove were black
flags. The police were gutted that they had to escort us into one of the plushest
parts of London hurling abuse at its rich inhabitants and there was fuck all that they
could do about it. There was not one arrest despite the fact that the police were
frothing at the mouth as we chanted "rich bastard" at another bloated example of
the local vermin... Now we must prepare for the next Henley Regatta on July 6th. If
we work hard we can get over a thousand people at Henley that day to make the
rich bastards choke over their picnic hampers on the banks of the Thames.

As well as providing one of the most ludicrous sights in London for

many years, the march revealed the social composition of the Class
War movement. At its head were the ten or so anarchist militants -
dressed in standard street clothes and with a late twenties to mid-
thirties age range - who produced the Class War paper, while behind
them were several hundred teenage punks.

Due to a massive police presence very little disruption was caused at

Henley Regatta, but the media coverage was sufficient that Class War
could hail it as a victory in their paper. The same could not be said of
the "March On Hampstead" held on 21st September '85. The
demonstrators, again consisting of approximately 500 punks and the[11/27/10 2:58:32 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War

Class War leadership, were utterly humiliated by the cops. The police,
who outnumbered demonstrators by more than two to one, forced the
marchers off their route and onto back streets. The march was
completely halted for more than a hour, while the cops created a bottle
neck at its head and forced the demonstrators closer and closer
together. As a final humiliation the marchers were made to run - in
single file - down two rows of uniformed cops (who taunted them with
chants of "We've arrested your leaders") before being dispersed.

This failure led to considerable discussion within the group about how
the campaign should be continued. The more extreme element
suggested a "Bash The Rich" march through West Belfast and a "Harry
Roberts Memorial March" in West London. Both proposals would have
entailed serious risk. A Belfast action would have infuriated all sides
participating in the civil war, and participation would have carried with
it a very real threat of a serious beating, if not death. While to march
in celebration of a cop-killer was an open invitation for police
repression. Both options were rejected. The "Bash The Rich" campaign
came to an inglorious end after a march in Bristol on November 30th

As a group posing a serious political threat, Class War's credibility was

on the point of collapse. However, as luck would have it, the media
credited the group with a major role in the Brixton and Tottenham riots
that Autumn. In fact, the group had less than twenty London based
members at this time and exerted absolutely no influence on these
events - although a handful of their supporters did make it into the riot
zones once the trouble had started Despite this boost to Class War's
flagging credibility, the Islington crew left soon afterward, leaving Ian
Bone free to take charge as undisputed leader.

After this Class War lost their edge and were soon indistinguishable
from any other anarchist group. Despite the media coverage, their
anti-gentrification campaign in London's East End was completely
ineffectual. The group tried to broaden its appeal from punks to
ordinary working class people. The revamped "Class War" paper lacked
the style of earlier issues and failed miserably in its attempts to gain a
broader audience. The new look paper, with special sections devoted to
'Scandal', 'Pop', 'Sex', 'Sport' , &c., came across as patronising.
Meanwhile, the media ignored Class War's change of direction and
continued to feature shock features about its terrorist tactics (see for
example the article in the "News Of The World Sunday Magazine" July
5th 1987).

After the first flush of success with its agitational campaign, Class War
lapsed into all the traditional errors of the anarchist milieu. Those who
remained in the group had beaten themselves at their own game.
Class War had manipulated the media and got the most extreme
anarchist ideas across to the general public, but having done so the
group rejected proposals which would present the public with
something even more disturbing. Having found itself unwilling to
organise marches in Belfast and in celebration of a cop killer, the
group should have disbanded. Instead it unsuccessfully attempted to
broaden its appeal - something the media was bound to inhibit, even if
the group had been capable of carrying out such a project. At this
point Class War abandoned the tradition I've been attempting to
chronicle. The satirical rage which had animated the dadaist,[11/27/10 2:58:32 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home chapter on Class War

situationist and punk movements, at their peak, was dropped. The

popularist approach with which it was replaced was often so
sentimental that it made soap operas look tasteful.


1. As a tiny group, Class War realised that the best way of getting its
views across to the general public was by drawing on cultural stereo-
types and - once they'd been suitably altered - feeding them back into
the media. For these reasons, Class War was as concerned with culture
(in its broad sense) as much as politics. Inspiration was drawn chiefly
from three sources - British working class culture, punk and the
anarchist/left-communist tradition. Class War was designed to wind up
journalists and succeeded admirably! The tactics used were copied from
punk and anarchist history. Basically, whatever the media said was
evil, Class War glorified. The media portrayed the working class as
violent, and so Class War - following in the footsteps of punk -
exaggerated this image (albeit with the qualification that this violence
was always directed against the cops or the rich). Media coverage of
both punk and Class War focused on their abusive attitude towards the
rich and the establishment (particularly the royal family). When Class
War issued their "Better Dead Than Wed" EP (Mortarhate Records,
London 1986) to mark the wedding of Prince Andrew, it was like the
Sex Pistols anti-Jubilee record all over again (except of course that
Class War's brand of proletarian entertainment wasn't as popular as
punk). It's also interesting to note that the Dutch Provo action which
received the most media coverage was their 1966 smoke bomb attack
on a Dutch royal wedding procession.

Both punk and. Class War emphasised energy and aggression as

virtues of straightforward working class culture. This was contrasted to
the polite backstabbing of the middle and upper classes, who said one
thing and invariably meant another. Of all the tendencies dealt with in
this text, punk and Class War made the broadest assault on culture.
Other movements have tended to aim their invective against high
culture (art), or put their energy into the creation of alternative (often
meaning parallel) - and hence less directly threatening - lifestyles
(communes &c.). Very few movements have had a (working class)
culture as fully articulated and consciously oppositional as that of punk
and Class War.

Previous: Neoism

Next: Conclusion

Anarchist Integralism (analysis and critique of anarchist ideology)

Green Anarchist (critiques, analysis and condemnations of eco-fascist


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The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home Conclusion





Lacking the patience, time and a suitable temperament to do more

than offer a summary of what an orthodox scholar could spend a
lifetime researching, I cannot pretend to have produced a definitive
history. However, the sketch I have presented should prove sufficient
to convince even the most cynical observer that there is a tradition
that runs from futurism to Class War, and that from Lettrisme onwards
it has - to date - remained (in English at least) largely unwritten. This
discourse is a form of politico-cultural agitation and protest - and if a
term is required to describe it, the word samizdat is more suitable UK 2nd edition
than any of the conventional names. It is a dissident tradition,
concerned with self-organisation, its adherents often carrying out
actions and simultaneously documenting them. The vast majority of its
texts are self-published, as are many of the commentaries on the
individual movements that make up this lineage.

However, Samizdat - when one applies the term in a context wider

than the original Russian meaning - is far more than self-publishing.
As a tradition it is by necessity collective. Politically, it usually takes
the guise of anti-bolshevik communism - although a minority of its
partisans have adhered to Trotskyism, fascism, and even Stalinism.
Since it is not - strictly speaking - a political tradition, its ideological
base is not always explicit. However, since in most manifestations it
emphasises collective action, there is an implicit socialism.
UK first edition

Virtually all those involved with samizdat since 1945 have been aware
of futurism and dada as precursors to their own activities. For
example, Gordon W. Zealot in "Neoism Om Taka Taka" (Computer
Graphic Conspiracy, Montreal 1986) wrote the following:

"I was a pilgrim in the parched bleakness of official culture, the bankrupt paucity,
the de-colapso (sic) of organized art. I was kicked out of school at I5 yrs for reciting
Tristan Tzara's poetry at the parent-teacher night at our art school. My assistant
threw buckets of wet cooked spaghetti on the guests and teachers and we chopped
up the stage with axes."

While Guy Debord wrote in "Society Of The Spectacle":

"Dadaism and surrealism are the two currents which could mark the end of modem
art. Though only in a relatively conscious manner, they are contemporaries of the In Portuguese
last great assault of the revolutionary proletarian movement; and the defeat of this
movement, which left them imprisoned in the same artistic field whose decay they
had announced, is the basic reason for their immobilization. Dadaism and surrealism[11/27/10 2:58:46 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home Conclusion

are at once historically related and opposed. This opposition, which constitutes the
most important and radical part of the contribution of each, reveals the internal
inadequacy of their critique, developed one-sidedly by each. Dadaism wanted to
suppress art without realizing it; surrealism wanted to realize art without
suppressing it. The critical position later elaborated by the situationists has shown
that the suppression and the realization of art are inseparable aspects of the same
overcoming of art."

While all the samizdat traditions from Lettrisme onwards recognise the
importance of futurism, dadaism and - to a far lesser extent -
surrealism, the use each of these later tendencies make of their
precursors vary; although all ultimately use such history as a In Spanish
justification of their own position. While these early developments have
been subject to varied interpretations and their historification has
tended to take the form of blatant misrepresentation, at least the lies
and distortions made about them are not as great as those made
about the tendencies that emerged after 1945. Specto-situationism, in
particular, has been subject to distortion by its participants and
followers. In the English speaking world, only the political texts of the
situationist movement have been translated and published by the
movement's followers. Thus it is possible for a pro-situ such as Larry
Law to make the following claims in his pamphlet "Buffo!" (Spectacular
Times, London 1984):

"In 1958 in Italy, Situationist International member Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio exhibited

the first examples of 'industrial painting'. A machine spoldged paint as the canvas
was fed through from a large roll. A leaflet by Michele Bernstein read: "Among the In Polish
advantages... no more problems with format, the canvas being cut under the eyes
of the satisfied customer; no more uncreative periods, the inspiration behind
industrial painting, thanks to a well contrived balance of chance and machinery,
never drying up, no more metaphysical themes, machines aren't up to them; no
more dubious reproductions of the Masters; no more vemissages. And naturally,
very soon, no more painters, not even in Italy".
Despite their great difficulty in keeping a straight face, the perpetrators exhibited
and sold 'industrial painting' in Turin, Milan and Venice."

As we have seen, Gallizio and the SI were serious about industrial

painting (IP) as a subversive force; and the term was used to describe
the volume in which it was produced rather than the method of
production. IP was created using traditional craft methods, and there
were never any machines that splodged paint onto canvas - despite
Law's fantasies. In Italian
Samizdat movements, being Utopian, seek to intervene in all areas of
However, the anti-professionalism of samizdat biases it in favour of
cultural and political activities and away from serious scientific
investigation. Since western society encourages specialisation, once
any given samizdat movement looses its dynamism it tends to be
pushed into a single arena of contestation. Thus when the Situationist
International split into two rival factions in 1962, one faction became
known as artists and the other as political theorists.

Although in most cases samizdat movements tend to be most dynamic

in their early period, this is not always the case. Neoism, for example,
consisted of little more than juvenile pranks until the Montreal group[11/27/10 2:58:46 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home Conclusion

was augmented by groups and individuals in other parts of North

America - and later Europe. However, this is an exception, and it is
unfortunate that many samizdat movements did not call it a day long In Lithuanian

before their final disintegration.

Samizdat adherents find a sense of identity in their opposition to what

is considered conventional by Western society. Shock tactics are often
employed to help maintain a sense of differentiation. If similar tactics
are repeated too often they soon lose their impact. Iconoclasm has, by
its very nature, a limited life-span. A movement such as fluxus would
be far more satisfactory if it had disbanded in 1966.

Samizdat is riddled with contradictions. However, this does not prevent

the listing (as has been done in the introduction) of certain key
Despite being a sensibility, it is possible to give a meaningful
description of samizdat to sympathetic observers who have had no
personal involvement with the tradition. Even those who place
themselves in opposition to the samizdat tradition are made aware -
usually to their distaste - of certain cognitive and physical possibilities,
upon coming into contact (either first-hand or through media reports)
with the actions of those who adhere to this brand of madness.

To make the task of documenting a part of its history easier, I have

not dealt with the relationship of terrorist groups (such as the Angry
Brigade) to the samizdat tradition. (1) I have also failed to deal with
certain seminal contributions - such as Valerie Solanas's "S.C.U.M.
Manifesto" - (2), or to resolve all the contradictions regarding the
treatment of art and politics as discourses that samizdat opposes.
These omissions can be dealt with at a later date.

Samizdat is a living tradition. As long as the present society persists

there will be opposition to it. Any individual movement that attempts
to locate itself a priori at the beginning or end of this tradition is not
worthy of a place within it. The construction of this particular history
does not mark the end of samizdat as a tradition. New movements will
emerge and obviously I am - as yet - in no position to document

I hope the successes of samizdat are more than sufficient proof that
cultural, as well as political, agitation is required if radical ideas are to
have any impact on the repulsive society in which we live. This cultural
agitation does not attempt to hide its propagandist purposes behind a
charade of universal meanings. As a result, I don't expect single
strands of it to speak to even a majority of the population at any[11/27/10 2:58:46 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home Conclusion

given time. Everyone likes entertainment that panders to their own

particular ideological beliefs, samizdat speaks to those who want it -
and negatively to those who don't.
Considering that the mental sets of the ruling class are imposed on
the general population through the education system and the mass
media, samizdat is remarkably successful.

1. I have also tended to ignore geographical differences and have

over-emphasised the various movements' similarities. For example,
Lettrisme and specto-situationist theory are very obviously a product
of French culture (in the broadest sense of the term), whereas punk
and Class War are just as obviously British in origin. Similarly, specto-
situationist theory, with its implicit belief that capitalism has overcome
its economic contradictions, is clearly a product of the fifties and
sixties - when the world economy was expanding rather than
depressed. I have not dealt with the geographical and time
specificness of these movements to any great degree, so that I could
shorten and simplify my argument.

2. Ignorance of ultra-feminism forces me to refrain from speculating

about the place of Solanas's text within the samizdat tradition. It
seems wrong to divorce it from the milieu within which it emerged,
and then simply slot it in with other material to which I feel it has a
conceptual affinity. Similarly, I have not written about Japanese
phenomena such as Gutai, because I simply don't have enough
information with which to judge whether they form a part of the
tradition I am writing about.

Previous: Class War

Next: Afterword

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The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home afterward





Although this text has been an attempt to take an objective view of a

dissident tradition, the author has not entirely shed his subjective
biases. He has failed to make any proper distinction between an 'ism',
a 'movement', a 'sensibility' and a 'tradition'. In this Afterword, he will
attempt to define these terms. He has chosen not to apply the
resulting definitions back onto the main body of the text; preferring to
view it as a record of a specific stage in the development of his
thought, rather than something which can be definitively completed.
UK 2nd edition
"Movement" has military connotations and implies a mass of adherents.
For something to merit the title 'movement' it would seem to require
several thousand participants at the very least. The majority of the
dissident clusters described in this text can more accurately be labelled
'groups' than 'movements'. Among the tendencies described, only the
Sixties Underground taken as a whole, Mail Art and Punk, can
objectively be viewed as constituting 'movements' in their own right
The appellation of the term 'movement' to what - in reality - are only
'groups', serves to lend them an appearance of importance which they
do not actually possess.
An 'ism' is an indistinct body of beliefs which are consciously ascribed
as belonging to a particular group of individuals, by persons who may
or may not belong to the group in question. Whether or not the
individuals identified as being clustered around an 'ism' like their belief
UK first edition
systems being categorised in such a manner is irrelevant. 'Isms' are
emotional categorisations and close examination often reveals them to
be intellectually incoherent.

A 'sensibility' is the conscious attribution of an open and indefinable

set of beliefs to an individual or group of individuals. It is an emotional
categorisation, in some ways similar to an 'ism', but with far more
positive connotations.

A 'tradition' is a set of beliefs or customs handed down from

generation to generation, usually in the form of specific practices
and/or an oral discourse. The set of beliefs dealt with in this text are
on the borderline between being a contemporary practice and
emerging as a newly founded tradition. The practices labelled as
Samizdat in this text are no more than a hundred years old and so to In Portuguese
describe them as a 'tradition' is to fall prey to romanticism, if not
inaccuracy.[11/27/10 2:58:56 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home afterward


ADA Auto-Destructive Art

APT International Neoist Apartment Festival
CP Communist Party
DIAS Destruction In Art Symposium
IMIB International Movement For An lmaginist Bauhaus
IP Industrial Painting
IS Internationale Situationiste (journal)
LI Lettriste International
LM Lettriste Movement
LPA London Psycheogeographical Association
In Spanish
MA Mail Art
NYCS New York Correspondence School
PP Principle Player
SI Situationist International (group)
SOUB Socialisme ou Barbarie


Gabrielle Quinn for translating research material from Italian. Simon

Anderson, D.C., A.D., Mick Gaffney, Rene Gimpel, P.G., Pete Horobin,
John Nicholson, Steve Perkins, Paul Sieveking, Stefan SzczeIkun, Jayne
Taylor, F.T., Michael Tolson, Andrew Wilson, & Tom Vague for making
available material I would not otherwise have seen. Ed Baxter, Peter
Kravitz & M.S.P.W., for reading the typescript and making numerous
suggestions for improvement. Professor Guy Atkins, Vittore Baroni &
In Polish
Ralph Rumney for enthusiastically answering research enquiries. John
Berndt, Graf Haufen & Mark Pawson for their general advice and
encouragement. The staff of the British Library and the Tate Gallery
Library for their invaluable assistance during the course of my
research. Several of the authors listed in the bibliography from whom I
have shamelessly plagiarised passages and ideas.

Previous: Conclusion

Next: Bibliography

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In Italian

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:58:56 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home





Anyone who is unfamiliar with the subject matter of this book would be
best advised to read this new introduction after they have perused the
'original' text. While I am very pleased to see the work translated into
Polish, I would write something completely different if I were to sit
down again and compose a treatise on the movements that are
described in the following pages. The book was written towards the
end of 1987 and published in the summer of 1988, at a time when it
was difficult for English readers to obtain information on groups such
as the Situationists and Fluxus. Since then, there have been major UK 2nd edition
retrospective exhibitions devoted to both these movements and the
publication of numerous catalogues. Two further monographs have
appeared on the Situationists in English, two in French and one in
German. A good deal of previously untranslated Situationist material
has recently been published in English and the craze for such books
shows no sign of abating,

While Anglo-American cultural historians now seem happy to treat

Fluxus and the Situationist International (SI) as the most important
avant-garde groups of the sixties, surprisingly little comparative work
has been published on the two movements. It appears that most
'experts' want to treat them as specialist areas which simply don't
overlap. Although this book dealt with both groups, one of it's
weaknesses was that it highlighted a few parallels between the two
UK first edition
movements but failed to draw out the fact that through Gustav
Metzger and the Destruction In Art Symposium (DIAS), we can find
overlaps in the personnel who belonged to these dual avant-gardes.

Metzger was, of course, a participant in the Festival of Misfits and had

a number of other connections with Fluxus artists - some of whom
were involved in DIAS. His links with the SI are less direct but are to
be found among the likes of former COBRA and Situationist theorist
Constant, who ranked among the leadership of the Dutch Provos at the
time they participated in DIAS. Another DIAS/SI connection is Enrico
Baj. Although he was never a member of the Situationist International,
Baj was part of the milieu from which it grew, having been a
participant in Asger Jorn's International Movement For An Imaginist
Bauhaus - the group whose merger with the Lettriste International (LI)
constituted the formation of the SI. Baj also has connections with Mail In Portuguese
Art, an outgrowth of Fluxus. There's a whole chapter dedicated to Mail
Art in Baj's book "Impariano la Pittura" (Rizzoli, Milan 1985). Metzger
actually invited the specto-Situationist International to participate in[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

DIAS - but rather unsurprisingly, the Debordists refused to have

anything to do with the event. Other connections between the
Situationists and Fluxus could probably be traced through LI and SI
member Alexander Trocchi. These would take two routes, Trocchi's
beatnik connections dating back to the fifties and his involvement with
the London underground of the sixties, when he was unsuccessfully
attempting to launch Project Sigma.

Apart from failing to draw out these overlaps in personnel, the book is
also weakened by the fact that I make no distinction between avant-
garde and underground movements - the former tending to be much
more ideologically coherent than the latter. As well as possessing a In Spanish
greater critical rigour, the avant-garde collects together in smaller and
more exclusive groups than the loosely structured underground. The SI
clearly constituted an avant-garde movement - as did the various
tendencies which fed into it. Fluxus began its life as an avant-garde
movement but degenerated into an underground current. The Dutch
Provos, Motherfuckers, King Mob, Yippies, Mail Artists, Punks and Class
War exhibit an underground rather than an avant-garde mentality.
Neoism was self-consciously avant-garde. Although the Portland based
founders of the group had intended to create an anti-ideological
underground movement called No Ism, the young French Canadians
who were among the first to take up the call issued by Dave Zack, Al
Ackerman and Maris Kundzin, transformed the ideas of their mentors
and in doing this, reinvented the avant-garde for the post-Punk
generation. This process, which was one of almost complete reversal, In Polish
resulted in the tendency being renamed Neoism. As perhaps the only
genuinely avant-garde group of the ten year period between 1975 and
1985, the Neoists rank among the most likely candidates for future
canonisation as part of the tradition that stretches from Futurism and
Dada to the Situationists and Fluxus.

Possibly due to avant-garde personalities desiring what James H.

Billington describes as 'radical simplification', the history of groups such
as the Neoists and Situationists tends to become even more distorted
than those of related underground movements. Obviously, this process
has advanced a lot further in the case of the SI but it's also become
an important factor in the historification of Neoism. A case in point is
the chapter on the group in Geza Perneczky's" A Halo" (Hettorony
Konyvkiado, Budapest 1991). In this text, Neoism is treated as if it
had already arrived at its post-1984 stage of development when the In Italian
Portland 3 founded the movement as No Ism in 1978. The book also
devotes undue space to Istvan Kantor and me at the expense of an
accurate history of the group. As a Hungarian emigre, Kantor was
probably viewed as being of particular interest to those who spoke the
language in which the book was published, while I provided the easiest
means of linking Neoist theory back to that of the Situationist
International. This is a mirror image of the way in which Situationism
has been historified, since much of the published material on the SI
continues to exhibit a bias against - or at least ignorance of - North
and East European members of the group. In the Anglo-American
world, there has also been a complete misunderstanding of the way in
which Situationist ideas were initially taken up by a handful of English
speaking radicals.[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

According to legend, the men who 'invented' Punk Rock were former
members of the English 'Situationist' group King Mob, who'd In Lithuanian
abandoned the revolutionary cause and instead perverted the ultimate
anti-capitalist critique as a way of making money. The reality is rather WHY PUBLIC SUBSIDY
different. The four members of what was briefly the English section of AND PRIVATE
the Situationist International were part of a larger anarchist/freak SPONSORSHIP CAN'T
scene in Notting Hill, West London. Their understanding of Situationism SAVE ART FROM
was filtered through pop culture, anarchism, black power, the COMPLETE AND UTTER
underground and many other things - as can be seen from their IRRELEVANCE
extremely free translations of French Situationist texts. When the To say that the current
English section of the Situationist International was expelled by the system of funding the arts
mother lodge in Paris, they formed King Mob with Dave and Stuart is inequitable is to state
Wise. Rather than being Situationist, King Mob was actually an the obvious, although
imitation of the New York Motherfuckers group. A few of the many of those involved
individuals who were later active in the early Punk scene were on with the cultural industries
friendly terms with members of King Mob and other Notting Hill are unable to understand
activists. This connection may have contributed to some of the wilder this. These convenient
aspects of the sixties counterculture being incorporated into Punk - mental lapses can't simply
although none of the ideas that were passed from one generation to be put down to a confusion
the next were explicitly Situationist. That this is also the official over terminology. Art and
position of the Debordists is made quite clear by a very explicit culture are sometimes
comment in "Internationale Situationiste" 12: 'a rag called King MobÉ used interchangeably,
passes, quite wrongly, for being slightly pro-situationist'. while at other times art is
used to differentiate
The problems associated with the historification of the Situationist allegedly superior cultural
International were greatly compounded by the 1989 retrospective forms from light
exhibition of their work. The show was tailored to please chauvinists in entertainment (the music
three different national markets - so that in Paris the exhibition more of Stockhausen, for
or less concluded with the French uprisings of May '68, in London with example, being identified
British Punk Rock and in Boston with American simulationist painting. as art and thus as
While the protests of those who opposed the very idea of a Situationist somehow inherently
retrospective seemed rather pointless - if the SI had not wished to be superior to Jim Reeves).
historicised by way of exhibitions, the group wouldn't have deposited Misunderstandings stem
documents with museums - it was a great pity that the show was not just from terminological
completely deformed by nationalist considerations. sloppiness but also from
the fact that in order to
Much of what has been written about the SI simply consists of function effectively, the
anecdotes from a mythologised history. Even the American journalist hierarchical and highly
who tried to break out of this vicious circle by adopting a technique of commodified culture
free association, demonstrates little more than the failure of his own industry requires a good
imagination by endlessly falling back on the key episodes of number of those ensnared
Strasbourg, May '68 &c. In "Lipstick Traces" (Secker & Warburg, in its activities to be
London 1989), Greil Marcus moves effortlessly from John of Leyden thoroughly mystified about
(religious heresies of the middle ages) to Johnny Lydon (who under exactly what it is they're[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

the pseudonym Rotten sang for the Sex Pistols) not simply due to the doing.
names sounding similar but because they make up what the author
perceives as a hip and radical alternative history. The result is a In class societies culture is
sanitised Situationist family tree, the more unpleasant findings that stratified on class lines
ought to turn up given Marcus's technique of free association simply (this is a bald statement
don't feature in the book. For example, the Council for the Liberation but some of the ways in
of Daily Life, who went on to become the American section of the SI, which it should be
operated out of Box 666, Stuyvesant Station, New York - 666 is, of elaborated will be evident
course, the number of the Beast or Satan. Likewise, Sid Vicious (bass to anyone who has made a
player with the Sex Pistols) murdered his girlfriend in New York's close reading of Caste,
Chelsea Hotel which many years earlier had hosted Ku Klux Klan Class & Race: A study in
meetings. social dynamics by Oliver
C. Cox). Thus what I am
There are numerous parallels to be drawn between the SI and the far- saying is not that culture is
Right. Many reactionaries not only write in a manner similar to the irrelevant to most people,
specto-Situationist house style, they're also drawn towards the same but that the way it is
themes. Taken out of context, suitably censored chunks of ultra- integrated into everyday
rightist propaganda could be passed off as Debordist texts. Take, for life is haphazard and
example, a piece of writing by the notorious anti-Semite Douglas uneven. Precisely because
Reed: "The money power and the revolutionary power have been set it rarely receives direct
up and given sham but symbolic shapes ('capitalism' or 'communism') subsidies, popular culture
and sharply defined citadels ('America' or 'Russia'). Suitably to alarm is forced to make itself
the mass mind, the picture offered is that of blank and hopeless relevant to a broad
enmity and confrontation... Such is the spectacle publicly staged for audience. Popular culture
the masses. But what if similar men with a common aim secretly rule takes on board the social
in both camps and propose to achieve their ambitions through the longings of its audience,
clash between those masses? I believe that any diligent student of our and while those selling it
times will discover that this is the case." While, C. H. Douglas in the deliberately confuse the
"Social Crediter" of 17th July 1948 sounds even more trenchantly notion of community with
Debordist : "Ideas and even whole paragraphs... which first see the that of consumption (which
light in the Social Crediter can be read in increasing numbers in is not even an
various reviews and periodicals... almost invariably without impoverishment of
acknowledgement'. community but rather its
antithesis), popular culture
The similarity between the rhetoric of assorted reactionaries and the SI must at least address the
is partially due to the Debordists finding themselves in the same wants and desires (albeit
political wilderness as economic cranks such as Major Douglas and his in a distorted fashion) of
Social Credit movement. However, the parallels run far deeper than those it sets out to seduce
this and they can't be reduced to a single issue without grossly into a purchase. Musicians
distorting our understanding of the subject. The SI plagiarised a playing in Afro-American
number of slogans that had previously been popular among Christian idioms are looking for a
heretics of the middle ages. The religious ideologies from which these response to what they do,
epigrams sprang were virulently anti-Semitic and this gives us another they don't expect their
angle from which we can look at the Situationist's relationship to the audience to sit silently
racist right. It's extraordinary that Marcus fails to mention this, since contemplating the notes
he cites a work - Norman Cohn's "The Pursuit of the Millenium" (rev. they are hearing. Musicians
ed. Oxford, New York 1970) - which deals very explicitly with the anti- working in this way want
Semitic content of feudal heresies. their audience to get
down, make a noise,
To return again to the technique of free association, although Marcus shuffle and shout - in short
doesn't do much with it, the procedure can certainly produce to join in and express
interesting results. For instance, Charles Radcliffe, a member of the themselves as a
English section of the specto-Situationist International, shares his community. While the
name with the Jacobite who is said to have founded the earliest relationship between
Masonic Lodge in Paris and assumed the role of its first Grand Master audience and pop
in 1725. Thinking about the SI in terms of a Masonic organisation performers leaves much to
throws light on how the group functioned. There was no application be desired, it is infinitely[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

procedure for individuals who wished to join the Situationist preferable to the way in
International, membership was a privilege offered only to those which much so called
considered worthy of the honour. Asger Jorn appears anxious to dispel 'serious' culture is
the idea that the SI is a latter day version of the Illuminati when he consumed. In the gallery
writes in Situationiste Internationale 5 (December 1960): "The or the concert hall, the
Situationists unilaterally reject the request made in Pauwels and audience is supposed to
Bergier's book 'The Morning of the Magicians' (Les Matin des contemplate works of
Magiciens), for assistance in setting up an institute to research occult 'genius'. There is no room
techniques - and the formation of a secret society for those who are for spontaneity, for
able to manipulate the conditions of their contemporaries". improvisation, in short for
truly human contact and
Despite Jorn's rejection of Bergier and Pauwels' proposal, the meaningful human
Situationists were fascinated by the occult and this aspect of the relationships. The audience
movement has been largely overlooked by the individuals who've for classical music is
championed the SI in recent years. But as Graham Birtwistle notes in supposed to focus on
his book "Living Art" (Reflex, Utrecht 1986), while there "is no artistic intentions as if the
evidence that Jorn associated himself with any theosophical movement composer can exist
in a way comparable to his membership of the Communist Party... his independently of both the
interest in esoteric traditions was certainly more than a passing musicians playing his
fascination and in his later theories it was to wax while the orthodoxy works (successful classical
of his Marxism was to wane". When Jorn was asked in a 1963 composers usually are both
interview if he was a shaman, he replied: "Well, how is one to answer white and male, and the
that... don't you know about the shamans?". blatant institutional
discrimination that
James Webb devoted a few paragraphs to the Situationists and underlies this provides yet
mysticism in his book "The Occult Establishment" (Open Court, Illinois another reason why
1976). Among other things, he noted that: "The 'society of the 'serious' music should not
spectacle' is seen as both cause and effect of the system of be subsidised) - and the
production, but it might quite simply be expressed as Maya, the broader audience listening
illusion which must be overcome. Throughout all the transformations to them. The classical
from Surrealism to Situationism, the idea of overcoming appearance concert replicates industrial
has held constant: and traditional occultism and mysticism agree very society with audience,
well with this position. The new revolutionaries do not forget their musicians, conductor and
masters. Andre Breton's last pronouncement on Surrealism cited the composer occupying
esotericist Rene Guenon - who began his career as a disciple of Papus specialist roles. In 'serious'
- and the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem's Traite de Savoir Vivre (1967) culture, quick witted
actually includes a chapter with the same title as one of Guenon's improvised elaborations of
books." human community are
abandoned in favour of
From Ivan Chtcheglov's 1953 essay "Formulary for a New Urbanism" brutal and numbing
with it's references to Campanella ("there is no longer any Temple of celebrations of human
the Sun") through to Debord's recent writing, the Situationist circle has alienation.
been obsessed with the occult, mysticism and secret societies. The
editors of the post-Situationist journal "Here and Now" hinted at this Consuming art is supposed
when they ran a parody of a Debord collage on the cover of their to be improving and this is
double issue 7/8 - prominently featured was a Rosicrucian bee-hive. generally the basis on
Inside, there was a review of Debord's book "Commentaire sur la which it is subsidised, but
Societe du Spectacle" which was illustrated by a portrait of Adam in reality for most people
Weishaupt, the eighteenth century founder of the Illuminati. The "Here contact with 'serious'
and Now" editorial board appear to be suggesting that the SI emerge culture is largely a
from three different traditions: one artistic, one political and a third negative experience.
which is largely ignored - that of the occult and secret societies. Since However, even if it were
most 'secret' knowledge is non-verbal rather than actually being feasible to objectively
'secret', it's appropriate that Mike Peters and his friends should allude judge the intrinsic merits
to this largely unrecognised influence by the use of pictures. of cultural productions
At this point, it's perhaps illuminating to turn to a 1978 interview with (which is actually quite
Ettore Sottsass Jr who was an integral part of the milieu that formed impossible since what[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

itself into the Situationist International: "I was always interested in really matters is the
ancient cultures, the Egyptian, the Sumerian, the Central American human relationships which
and Jewish cultures... cultures that have left traces in our memories, produce cultures and which
from magic to religion to fanaticism. Technologies of life which are not are simultaneously
always rational, like those of the East, which progress by constant mediated and redefined by
training of the body and mind". Of course, Sottsass broke with Jorn them), the bureaucratic
and Debord's circle just prior to the foundation of the SI and today ways in which grants and
this Italian is best known for the typewriters he designed while working sponsorships are awarded
at Olivetti and the furniture he's produced with 'Memphis'! However, would still result in the
his attitudes are typical of those who belonged to the SI, even after most boring, alienating and
the movement split into rival 'cultural' and 'political' factions. mediocre 'work' being
subsidised. Like the artists
Like the Situationists, the Neoist Network drew heavily on the they subsidise, many arts
mythology of the occult and secret societies. Florian Cramer has been administrators are unsure
researching this area. In a letter to the author, Cramer stated that as to whether what they
Kabbalism was a major influence on John Berndt's Neoist writings: are involved with has any
"Berndt quotes the concept of gematry, that is equating words with the value at all. It is therefore
numerical values of their letters... Other Neoists, such as tENTATIVELY important that it is made
a cONVENIENCE have produced work premised on this occult clear to those involved
technique. You report in The Assault on Culture that tENTATIVELY with 'serious' culture that
substituted 'e' with '(nn)' in some of his texts: 'n' is the fourteenth not only are they failing to
letter in the alphabet, the total of the digits of fourteen is five, or 'e'. contribute anything
In The Flaming Steam Iron... Berndt writes that the perception of total positive to the world, they
incoherency leads to a new coherency (if 'no things are alike' then are actually doing a great
'anything is anything') resulting in the materialisation of Monty Cantsin. deal of harm. The culture
This is the very problem the Kabbalah is concerned with. And Berndt industry, and in particular
continues: "The Neoist universe of cosmology is based on the house of the subsidised end of the
nine squares". The square is the Kabbalist symbol of God and his four culture industry, likes to
letter name is 'YHWE'. portray itself as at
loggerheads with business
The Scottish Neoist Pete Horobin once told me that Montreal activist interests, but subsidised
Kiki Bonbon appropriated the word Neoism from a text by the opera seats are still
notorious magus Aleister Crowley. The multiple identity Monty Cantsin, snapped up by business to
which was adopted by many members of the Neoist Network, was help oil the wheels of
intended as an explicit reference to the Free Spirit movement of the commerce. Factions within
middle ages. The name literally meant what it said - Monty Can't Sin! the bourgeoisie may bicker
This was a standard heresy of the feudal era, which in less condensed between themselves over
form ran that because God was everywhere, everyone was God - and how to divide the spoils of
because God couldn't sin, there was no such thing as sin. Hell was the capitalist system, but
simply refraining from doing the things that we desired - while at the end of the day it is
blasphemy, drunkenness and fornication were holy acts. in the interest of all those
involved in these
More than anything else, Neoism was about transforming the way in arguments to defend
which the everyday world was perceived, an attempt to subvert capitalist exploitation.
consensus reality. An anecdote about the 8th International Neoist When cultural bureaucrats
Apartment Festival in London will illustrate this far better than any call for more money to be
amount of theory. On the final day of this event, two Hungarians spent on the arts, what
knocked on the door of the Neoist HQ and asked if they could they really mean is they
interview Istvan Kantor. Pete Horobin informed them that Kantor had want to feather their own
returned to Montreal. After some further banter, the men were invited nest. Since art subsidies
into the building and led through to the downstairs room where I was are largely squandered on
working on an audio document. The Hungarians were dressed in long a useless bureaucracy, it is
raincoats and looked like caricatures of KGB agents. Their cover story imperative that while this
was that they worked on a youth magazine in Budapest and had flown money remains up for
to London specifically to do a feature on Neoism. Since Horobin had grabs, those making
single-handedly organised the Apartment Festival, he took it upon critiques of capitalist
himself to explain what the event had been about, while I answered bureaucracy do all they[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

some questions about my involvement with the movement. Both can to expropriate these
Horobin and I refused to let the 'journalists' take our pictures. The resources for deployment
Hungarians then requested permission to photograph the building. in the elaboration of a truly
Upon being told that this was okay, they proceeded to take snaps of human culture.
walls, doors and windows. At this point, tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE
came downstairs to find out what was going on. After being informed What's actually required if
that the visitors were 'journalists', tENT offered to pose for a portrait. culture is to freely serve
However, he didn't want the picture to be of his face, it had to feature human needs is the
the upside-down question mark that had been shaved into the back of abolition of money (which
his head. As one of the Hungarians aimed the camera, tENTATIVELY would necessarily coincide
told him to wait a minute because he wanted the question mark to with the abolition of
come out the right way up in the photo. tENT then attempted to stand classes and art as a
on his head. After pretending that he was unable to do this, he got up separate sphere of human
and said he had another idea - if the camera was held upside down, activity). While our lives
the question mark would come out the right way up in the picture! remain distorted by the
The Hungarian obediently did as he was told. cash-nexus, a more
creative and combative
Like the Lettristes, the Neoists were groping towards new modes of culture would emerge if all
being - and the relationship between Neoism and the Plagiarist/Art arts subsidies were cut and
Strike movement provides some remarkable parallels with Lettrisme's the money that presently
role as a precursor to the more significant Situationist International. funds a bloated
This book didn't include chapters on the various Festivals of Plagiarism bureaucracy was pumped
or the Art Strike because it would have been premature to write about into a comprehensive
them in 1987. I was very actively involved with the various welfare system - or, at the
Plagiarism/Art Strike groups and what I have to say about them can very least, facilitated a
be found elsewhere. John Berndt, Florian Cramer, Geza Perneczky and return to sixties/seventies
several other individuals have been attempting to appropriate all the levels of unemployment
work I produced after breaking with Neoism for that earlier movement. benefits, since this would
They are particularly keen to claim late issues of my magazine "Smile" enable those who wanted
as Neoist publications. Possibly this is because they wish to present to take time out from work
the Neoists as the last possible avant-garde. Berndt, for instance, and/or poverty to get their
produced posters proclaiming "BEWARE: STEWART HOME IS STILL A shit together, while
NEOIST" and has suggested that within Neoism I played Henry Flynt to simultaneously avoiding
Dave Zack's George Maciunas. the absurd biases that
characterise current arts
Without doubt, former comrades are becoming increasingly bitter as funding. It is repugnant
the eighties avant-garde enters the history books in a suitably that vast sectors of the
distorted fashion. An example of this process is to be found in the new population are excluded
standard English language work on anarchism, "Demanding the from access to arts money
Impossible" by Peter Marshall (Harper Collins, London 1992): "Inspired on the utterly spurious
by the Situationists and anarchist theory another post-punk anti- grounds that they aren't
authoritarian group emerged in the late 1980s around... journals like 'artists', when being
Smile, Here and Now and the more scholarly Edinburgh Review. Much 'unproductive' can be a
of the new libertarian writing is in the Ranter and Dadaist tradition of very 'productive'
poetic declamation. It fuses fact and fiction, history and myth, and experience for anyone.
opposes the primitive to the civilized. Rather than resorting to agit- Likewise, the abolition of
prop, it tries to politicize culture and transform everyday life". Equally all immigration laws and
distorted accounts of the Neoist and Plagiarist movements can be ultimately all national
found in the third edition of the "Glossary of Art, Architecture and boundaries is essential if
Design Since 1945" by John A. Walker (London Library Association, culture is to play its proper
1992). Somewhat surprisingly, when the Victoria and Albert Museum role in the development of
organised an exhibition entitled "Smile: a Magazine of Multiple Origins" free human communities.
(London, March-August 1992) the accompanying catalogue essay by DEMOLISH SERIOUS
Simon Ford was remarkably accurate. CULTURE!
First published in Art
I now want to go back in time and deal with a few of the problems For All? Their policies
associated with the historification of Fluxus. Henry Flynt in his essay and our culture edited[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

"Mutations of the Vanguard: Pre-Fluxus, during Fluxus, late Fluxus" by Mark Wallinger and
(included in Ubi Fluxus, Ibi Motus 1990-1962, catalogue to the Fluxus Mary Warnock (Peer,
exhibition at the 1990 Venice Biennale) observes: "In the process of London 2000).
transforming Fluxus into a reiterated museum exhibit, there has been
an astonishing amount of manipulation of Fluxus history... All radical
claims - aside from mere unpretentiousness - have been stripped from
Fluxus. Also, a genuine Fluxus offshoot such as the Neoists has been
blocked from official Fluxus because its members are undergrounders
rather than money artists".

Flynt goes on to suggest that Fluxus supremo George Maciunas was

obsessed with the idea of organising the entire avant-garde - although
obviously the greater part of it, such as the Situationist and
Destruction In Art movements, escaped his control. However, as
"Mutations of the Vanguard" makes clear, much of the New York scene
which operated independently of Maciunas during the post-war period
has now been assimilated into Fluxus through sleight of hand
operations on the part of academics, curators and artists jostling for a
place in the culture industry. Ironically, many of the Fluxus bandwagon
jumpers were more successful than the Maciunas circle during the
sixties - but now find themselves reduced to claiming membership of
this 'historically important' movement because their own careers have
flagged while what was formerly a marginal group has benefited from
the 'vagaries' of fashion. The parallels between the historification of
Fluxus and the Situationist International are remarkable. While in the
late sixties and early seventies, it was Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the
March 22nd Movement who were considered to be at the forefront of
the May '68 uprisings in France, twenty-five years later, various
enthusiasts have succeeded in transforming the image of the
numerically insignificant Debordists from one of impotent ideologues
whining on the sidelines to that of pivotal actors in the drama.

Returning to Flynt, I want to deal briefly with the claim he makes in

his essay to the effect that after 1968 there was no longer any need
for an avant-garde. Flynt's argument basically runs that once he had
developed his critique of art and abandoned this area of activity in
favour of 'brend' - paradoxically to resume work as an artist at the tail
end of the eighties - the avant-garde was an anachronism. While
brend was a more advanced concept than Debord's simplistic
understanding of art as an essentially radical content that had been
deformed by its bourgeois packaging, the necessarily subjective
formulation of the Flyntian modality prevents it from acting as the last
word on the avant-garde for anyone other than its author. In fact, the
Art Strike movement of the late eighties took up elements of the
critiques of culture made by Flynt, Metzger etc., and succeeded in
propagating this heady brew with far greater success than any
previous avant-garde group.

Staying close to the present, another movement not covered in the

pages that follow was the Wroclaw based Orange Alternative. This was
because news of what Waldemar Frydrych and his circle were doing did
not reach my ears until after the first English edition of the book was
published. Among the publicity generated by the Situationist exhibition
in 1989, certain hacks saw fit to make passing reference to the Orange
Alternative as Polish Situationists. From the scanty information
available in English, this appeared to be mere hyperbole, since the few
reports about the Wroclaw group that did appear in the Western press[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

made it clear that the Orange Alternative had more in common with
the underground traditions of the Dutch Provos and American Yippies,
than with the SI's vanguard pretensions.

One action in particular, resonated with those who were familiar with
the sixties counterculture in the West. It was reported that during a
December demonstration, members of the Orange Alternative dressed
up as Father Christmas - and that this caused a great deal of
confusion among representatives of the Polish authorities. When the
police attempted to round up the protesters, they also managed to
arrest a number of those who'd been genuinely employed to play the
role of Santa Claus. Two decades earlier, members of the New York
Motherfuckers group had gone into a department store impersonating
Santa Claus and handed out free gifts - with the result that the public
were treated to the spectacle of the police snatching back toys from
children and Father Christmas being arrested. Members of King Mob
were so taken with the success of this scandal that they repeated it in
London. However, while it's likely that at least some Orange
Alternative activists were familiar with both Debordist theory and the
sixties counterculture of the West, they clearly developed a praxis that
reflected their unique social situation.

There are other groups around today that draw on the legacy of the
avant-garde and underground movements described in this book. One
example is the US based Immediast Underground. Personally, I'm not
impressed by this outfit - their propaganda is little more than a
contentless string of buzz words: "Dealing with the Ecology of
Coercion; Networker Congresses; Correspondence, Mail Art and
Exchange; Hacking; Seizing the Media; Routing the Spectacle against
itself; Creating Public Production Libraries; Enjoying Public Media and
an Open State". The Anti-Copyright Network (ACN) is an international
group working in a similar area - they distribute subversive fly-posters
around the globe. The claims the ACN makes for itself are more
modest than those of the Immediast Underground but their activities
are more substantial.

The London Psychogeographical Association (LPA) was initially no more

than a name made up at the founding conference of the Situationist
International to make the proceedings sound more impressive. In
1992, the group became a reality. I was alerted to this fact after being
handed a leaflet that read: "London Psychogeographical Association
trip to the Cave at Roisia's Cross, August 21st-23rd. This trip has been
organised to coincide with the conjunction between Jupiter and Venus
on 22 August. The trip will last for three days and involve cycling for
about 100 miles and camping for two nights. The rendez-vous is at the
back of Tesco's car park, Three Mills Lane, London E3 at 11am on
Friday 21 August with bicycle and camping gear. We hope you can
make it - see you there!"

A further outing was organised by the LPA to research the environs of

St. Catherines Hill, Winchester, on the occasion of the conjunction of
Venus, Uranus, Neptune and the Moon. A booklet entitled "The Great
Conjunction: the Symbols of a College, the Death of a King and the
Maze on the Hill" was published on the first day of this 36 hour
excursion. The text revealed that the LPA was conducting rigorous
investigations into ley-lines, the occult, the ritual organisation of
power, alchemical psychodrama, mind control and architectural[11/27/10 2:59:08 PM]

Introduction to the Polish edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

symbolism. The group is developing various avenues of research left

unexplored by the Situationists after Asger Jorn left the movement and
it split into two rival factions. The (re)formation of the LPA looks like
being one of the most important events of recent years - it may
revitalise the avant-garde.

Having looked at a few of the recent developments that grew from the
tradition of oppositional culture described in the pages that follow, I
want to get back to the task in hand and wrap up this introductory
essay. Only a little more than five years have passed since I wrote this
book but it seems like a lifetime. While the text has its faults, if I
began to correct them there'd be no end to the process and I'd find
myself writing a different work. In the words of one reviewer, the book
is "a concise introduction to a whole mess of troublemakers through
the ages". I like to think of the following pages as a bluff your way
guide, a fairly painless means of getting an overview of the cultural
currents in the second half of this century that owe a greater or lesser
debt to the Futurists, Dadaists and Surrealists. The way the book is
organised will become clear towards the end, everything hangs on two
chapters - "Beyond Mail Art" and "Neoism". If I was going to write a
book devoted to just one of the movements that gets name checked in
the chapter headings that follow, it would be Neoism. In particular, I'd
like to research the claims made by various French-Canadian Neoists
to the effect that they created the first computer viruses at the
beginning of the eighties. Although the early date suggested for this
accomplishment makes the claim appear rather dubious, it's probably
only a matter of time before various enthusiasts start declaring that
the entire hacker underground was a Neoist invention. However,
there's absolutely nothing about this in the following pages, as you'll
discover if you read on...
Stewart Home, London, January 1993


Next: Introduction to the Italian edition

Assault On Culture contents page

Most translated editions of "Assault" have also included the following

text: Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde

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The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home bibliography





Allen, Richard - Skinhead (New English Library, London 1970).
Allen, Richard - Demo (New English Library, London 1971).
Apollonio, Umbro (ed) - Futurist Manifestos (Thames & Hudson, London
Atkins, Guy - Asger Jorn The Crucial Years 1954-64 (Lund Humpheries,
Banana, Anna (ed) - About Vile (Banana Productions, Vancouver 1983).
Bandini, Mirella - L'estetico il politico da COBRA all'Internazionale UK 2nd edition
Situazionista 1948-57 (Officina Edizioni, Rome 1977).
Baumann, Bommi - How It All Began (Pulp Press, Vancouver 1977).
Benjamin, Walter - Charles Baudelaire: a lyric poet in the era of high
capitalism (NLB, London 1973).
Berke, Joseph (ed) - Counter Culture (Peter Owen, London 1969).
Berneri, Marie Louise - Journey Through Utopia (fIrst published by
Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1950, republished by Freedom
Press, London 1982).
Bourdieu, Pierre -- Distinction: a social critique ·of the judgment of
taste (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1984).
Bronson, A.A. & Gale, Peggy (ed) - Performance By Artists (Art
Metropole, Toronto 1979).
Brown, B. - Protest In Paris: Anatomy Of A Revolt (General Learning
Press, New York 1974). UK first edition
Brown, Bruce - Marx, Freud, and the Critique of Everyday Life (Monthly
Press Review, New York & London 1973).
Cantsin, Monty (ed) - Neoism Now (Artcore Editions, Berlin 1987).
Cassou, Jean (ed) - Art & Confrontation: France and the arts in an age
of change (Studio Vista, London 1970).
Crane, Michael & Stofflet, Mary (ed) - Correspondence Art
(Contemporary Arts Press, San Francisco 1984).
Daniel, Susie & McGuire, Pete (ed) - The Paint House - Words From An
East End Gang (Penguin, Harmondsworth 1972).
Davidson, Steef (00) - The Penguin Book of Political Comics (Penguin,
Harmondsworth 1982).
Debord, Guy - Society of the Spectacle (Black & Red, Detroit 1970).
Debord, Guy & Sanguinetti, Giafranco - The Veritable Split In The
International (BM Chronos, London 1985).
Ferrua, Pietro (ed) - Proceedings of the First International Symposium In Portuguese
On Letterism, May 24-29 1976 at the Lewis & Clark College, Portland,
Oregon, USA (Avant-Garde Publishers Paris & Portland 1979).[11/27/10 2:59:18 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home bibliography

Flynt, Henry - Blueprint For A Higher Civilisation (Multhipla Edizioni,

Milan 1975).
Gombin, Richard - The Origins Of Modern Leftism (Pelican,
Harmondsworth 1975).
Gombin, Richard - The Radical Tradition (Methuen, London 1978).
Gray, Christopher (ed) - Leaving The Twentieth Century (Free Fall,
London 1974).
Hebdige, Dick - Subculture: The Meaning Of Style (Methuen, London
Hewison, Robert - Too Much: Art and Society in the Sixties, 1960-75
(Methuen, London 1986).
Hoffman, Abbie - Woodstock Nation (Vintage Press, New York 1969).
Horobin, Pete - APT 8 (Private Edition, Dysart, Scotland 1984). In Spanish

Horobin, Pete - London 1984 (Private Edition, London 1984).

Horobin, Pete - The 9th Neoist Festival (Private Edition, Dundee 1985).
Horobin, Pete & Below, Peter - The Neoist Network's First European
Training Camp (Kryptic Press, Wurzburg, W. Germany 1982).
Horobin, Pete & Morris, Tudor (ed) - Mailed Sounds (Private Edition,
Dundee 1981).
Knabb, Ken (ed) - Situationist International Anthology (Bureau of
Public Secrets, Berkeley 1981).
Laing, Dave - One Chord Wonders: power and meaning in punk rock
(Open University Press, England 1985).
Lambert, Jean-Clarence - COBRA (Sotherby Publications, 1983).
Lefebvre, Henri Francois - Everyday Life In The Modern World (Allen
Lane/Penguin, London 1971).
Mairowitz, David Zane - The Radical Soap Opera (Wildwood House, In Polish
Mairowitz, David Zane (ed) - Some of IT (London 1969).
Motherwell, Robert (ed) - The Dada Painters and Poets.
Naylor, Colin & P-Orridge, Genesis (ed) - Guide to Contemporary
Artists (St.
Martins Press, London 1977).
Neville, Richard - Play Power (Jonathan Cape, London 1970,
republished by Paladin, London 1971).
Nuttall, Jeff - Bomb Culture (MacGibbon & Ross, London 1968).
Ono, Y oko - Grapefruit (peter Owen, London 1970).
P-Orridge, Genesis - G.P.O V. G.P.O. (Ecart, Switzerland 1976).
Raspaud, Jean Jacques & Voyer, Pierre - L'lnternational Situationiste
chronologie, bibliographie, protagonistes avec une index des nomes
insultes etc (Champ-Libres, Paris 1972).
Reid, Jamie & Savage, Jon - Up They Rise - The Incomplete Works of In Italian
Jamie Reid (Faber & Faber, London 1987).
Richter, Hans - Dada, Art and Anti-Art (Thames and Hudson, London
Robins, David & Cohen, Philip - Knuckle Sandwich - Growing Up In The
Working Class City (Pelican, Harmondsworth 1978).
Rubel, Maximilien & Crump, John (eds) - Non-Market Socialism in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (MacMillan, Basingstoke & London
Rubin, Jerry - Do It (Jonathon Cape, London 1970).
Rubin, Jerry - We Are Everywhere (Harper & Row, 1971).
Stansill, Peter & Mairowitz, David Zane (ed) - BAMN By Any Means
Necessary (Penguin, Harmondsworth 1971).
Taylor, Roger L. - Art, An Enemy Of The People (Harvester Press,
Hassocks, Sussex 1978).[11/27/10 2:59:18 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home bibliography

Tisdall, Caroline & Bozzolla, Angelo - Futurism (Thames & Hudson,

London 1977). In Lithuanian.
Vaneigem, Raoul - Revolution of Everyday Life (Left Bank BookslRebel
Press, New York & London 1983).
Vermorel, Fred & Judy (ed) - The Sex Pistols (Tandem, London 1978).
Vienet, Rene - The Enrages and the Situationists in the Occupations
Movement - France May-June 1968 (Tiger Papers Publications, York
Vostell, Wolf & Higgins, Dick - Fantastic Architecture (Something Else
Press, New York 1969).
Welch, Chuck - Networking Currents, Contemporary Mail Art Subjects &
Issues (Sandbar Willow Press, Boston 1985).
Willener, Alfred - The Action Image Of Society (Tavistock, London

Arte Nucleare, Galleria Schwarz, Milan.*
Art Into Society/Society Into Art, ICA, London 1974.
Fluxus Etc, Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, USA 1981.
Fluxus Etc Addenda 1, Neuberger Museum, New York 1983.
Fluxus Etc Addenda 2, Baxter Art Gallery, California 1983.
Fluxus International & Co., Leige 1980.
Fluxus: the Most Radical and Experimental Art Movement of the Sixties
(Harry Rube), Amsterdam 1979.
FLUXshoe (travelling group show), Collompton, Devon 1972.
FLUXshoe Add End A, Collompton 1973.
Happening & Fluxus, Cologne 1971.
Lettrisme: Into The Present, Iowa Muuseum of Art (special issue of
Visible Language - vol. XVII no. 3, 1983).
1962 Wiesbaden FLUXUS 1982, travelling show W. Germany 1982.
The 9th Neoist Festival, Arte Studio, Ponte Nossa, Italy 1985.
Rumney, Ralph - "The Map Is Not The Territory", Transmission Gallery,
Glasgow 1985.
SoHo: Downtown Manhattan, Berlin Academy of Art 1976.
Upheavals, Manifestos, Manifestations - Conceptions in the Arts at the
Beginning of the Sixties (DuMont, Cologne). *

* I have only seen xeroxes of parts of these catalogues and am at

present unable to trace their dates of publication.

Newspapers & Magazines

The Act Vol 1 No.2 (New York spring 1987/DIAS feature).
Angry 1 (Edinburgh undated)
Ark 32 (London 1962/feature by G. Metzger).
Art & Artists Vol. 1 No.5 (London August 1966/Auto-Destuction[11/27/10 2:59:18 PM]

The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home bibliography

Arte Postale! 55 (Forti Dei Marmi, Italy 1987/Mail Art Handbook).
Authority 1 & 2 (London 1978/9)
Class War (London 1984-7/various issues all unnumbered).
COBRA 1948-51 bulletin pour la coordination des investigations
artistiques (republished in one volume by Editions Jean Michel Place,
Paris 1980).
EI Djarida 5 (Trondheim, Norway 1987 - Mail Art Manifest number).
Evergreen Review Vol. 4 No. 13 (New York May-June 1960/Pataphysics
Flash Art No. 84/85 (October/November 1975 - Fluxus number).
Heatwave 1 (London 1966).
High Performance 9 & 24 (San Francisco 1980 & 1983/features on
Jerry Dreva & Church Of The SubGenius).
Internationale Situationiste 1 - 12 (Paris 1958-69) republished in one
volume by Champ-Libres, Paris 1975.
King Mob (Echo) No. 1,2,3,6 (London 1968-?).
The Neo Vol. 1 No. 1- 4, Vol. 2 No.1 - 5 (Montreal 1979-80).
Organ centre de recherche neoiste vol. 3 no. 1 & 2 (Montreal 1980-1
formerly The Neo).
Point Blank! 1 (Berkeley 1972).
Potlatch 1 - 29 (Paris 1954-7) republished in one volume by Editions
Gerard Lebovici, Paris 1985.
SCHMUCK 6 (Collompton, Devon 1975IFrench Schmuck including
'Extract of Lettrisme').
Situationist International 1 (New York 1969).
Situationist Times 4,5,6 (Paris 1963-7).
Smile 1 - 10, 1 - 6, 7 - 2, 23, 64-63 (International Magazine Multiple
Origins - editions published in London, Berlin, Lymm (UK), Minden (W.
Germany), Baltimore (USA), Doncaster (UK), Forte Dei Marmi (Italy),
Dundee (Scotland) etc.
Spur I - 7 (Munich 1960-2) republished in one volume.
Times Literary Supplement - (London 3/9/64 - avant-garde number).
Transition 48 No.1 (January 1948/Lettriste feature).
Vague 15 (England - undated/Church of the SubGenius feature).

Barrot, Jean - What Is Situationism? (Unpopular Books, London 1987).
Home, Stewart - Plagiarism: art as commodity and strategies for its
negation (Aporia Press, London 1987).
Jacobs, David & Winks, Christopher - AT DUSK - the Situationist
Movement In Historical Perspective (Perspectives, Berkeley 1975).
Law, Larry - Buffo! Amazing Tales of Political Pranks and Anarchic
Buffoonery (Spectacular Times, London & Reading 1984).
Metzger, Gustav - Auto Destructive Art: Metzger At AA (Destruction!
Creation, London 1965).

Other Material
Anderson, Simon - FLUXUS, Early Years and Close Correspondences
(unpublished MA Cultural History dissertation, Royal College Of Art,
London 1983).
Smith, Pauline - CV (London 1983/deposited in Tate Gallery Library).
Taylor, Jayne M. - On Fluxus (unpublished BA dissertation, Glasgow
School of Art 1982).

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Introduction to the Italian edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home





"The Assault On Culture" is not a work that I could revise, I would

have to write a completely new book. Naturally, I am flattered that an
Italian translation should appear eight years after this work was first
published in English, since Mirella Bandini's "L'estetico il politico da
COBRA all'Internationale Situazionista 1948-57" not only predates my
own excursion into this territory, but by limiting her area of focus
Bandini was able to be deal with her chosen subject matter in much
greater depth. Likewise, through the medium of Gianfranco Sanguinetti
and others, the situationist critique has had a far greater influence in UK 2nd edition
Italy than in Anglo-American countries.

Since "The Assault On Culture" was first published in 1988, there has
been an explosion of material dealing with both the Situationists and
Fluxus. One of the things that has disappointed me about much of this
coverage is its narrow focus. In an article entitled "The Second Death
Of The Situationist International" (International Review 80, Brussels
Spring 1995), the International Communist Current point out that
Mustapha Khayati "joined the Democratic Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, without this causing his immediate exclusion
from the SI; in the end, it was Khayati who resigned. At its Venice
conference in 1969, the SI simply accepted the resignation with the
argument that it did not accept 'dual memberships'. In short, whether
Khayati joined a group like the ICO or enrolled in a bourgeois army
UK first edition
(why not the police, it all comes to the same thing?) made no
difference to the SI."

It is not difficult to understand why the ICC consider Khayati's

resignation to be "the best proof of the SI's lack of rigour". However,
this is merely one example of the situationist 'project' descending into
farce. Equally incriminating is the fact that while J. V. Martin remained
a member of the Debordist SI until its dissolution in 1972, this had no
effect on his ongoing friendship with the partisans of the 2nd
Situationist International, who were regularly damned as 'Nashists' in
the pages of "Internationale Situationiste". For example, in "The
Organisation Question For The SI" included in issue 12 (Paris 1969),
Debord writes: "The exclusions have almost always been responses to
objective threats that existing conditions hold in store for our action.
There is a danger of this recurring at higher levels. All sorts of In Portuguese
'Nashisms' could reconstitute themselves, we must simply be in a
position to destroy them."[11/27/10 2:59:30 PM]

Introduction to the Italian edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

According to one of the more amusing Situationist Bauhaus legends,

after the 1962 split in the international Debord was desperate to
uncover the 'real' identity of Ambrosius Fjord who'd 'signed' several
'Nashist' manifestos. J. V. Martin, who was in on the joke, never
revealed to Debord that Ambrosius Fjord was actually the name of
Jorgen Nash's horse despite being charged with the task of
investigation. While the effectiveness of this prank may have been
exaggerated in its constant retelling, Martin was on the editorial board
of "The Antinational Situationist", a journal with which the 2nd
Situationist International attempted to relaunch itself two years after
Debord's Situationist International was dissolved. Given the anarchist
character of "The Antinational Situationist", including apologetics for In Spanish
Bakuninist methods of organisation, Martin's ongoing involvement with
Jorgen Nash and Jens Jorgen Thorsen tarnishes Debord's 'rigorous'
image every bit as much as Khayati's membership of the Democratic
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Much could have been made of the activities of the 2nd Situationist
International to unify the material in the following pages, if I'd had a
greater knowledge of the subject at the time I composed "The Assault
On Culture". While individual members of Fluxus passed through the
Situationist Bauhaus in Sweden, both Black Mask and Kommune 1
endorsed the 'Nashist' 'Declaration On The New International Solidarity
Among Artists'. This manifesto formed part of an intervention at the
1968 Venice Biennale which included the occupation of the Swedish
pavilion, where the official works were replaced with a 'situationist In Polish
environment'. More seriously, while I have never called myself an
anarchist, I had not developed a sufficient critique of anarchism at the
time this book was written to effectively distance myself from the
anarchist swamp. Despite these faults, I hope what follows is of some
use to those who recognise the necessity of constantly reforging the
passage between theory and practice...

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Next: Introduction to the Lithuanian edition

Assault On Culture contents page

Most translated editions of "Assault" have also included the following

text: Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde
In Italian

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Introduction to the Italian edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home





Although I wrote "The Assault On Culture" more than 20 years ago and
it was my first book, it remains a work to which I frequently return.
This is because more than anything else it is a source book, a
compendium of the things that have long constituted the basis of my
activities. At the time I wrote the book much of the information it
contains was scattered and I assembled it from diverse sources which
were rarely linked. A year or so after the book was published Guy
Debord and his version of the Situationist International started to
become fashionable in the Anglo-American world, and they remain so UK 2nd edition
to this day, but still separated from any extensive knowledge of the
currents to which they may have been antagonistic but were
nonetheless related.

In London the 40th anniversary of May 1968 was a cause for much
celebration and many cultural events. The focus was very much on
France, with odd nods to events elsewhere such as the Prague Spring
and its brutal suppression. The situationists were treated as an accept
part of this heritage and there seemed little understanding that had we
been celebrating the anniversaries of the same events in 1978 or even
1988, it is extremely unlikely the situationists would have been
mentioned. Histories are constantly rewritten and they don't
necessarily become more accurate as a result of this. The situationists
are well worth knowing about, but the relatively minor role they played UK first edition
in the French struggles of 1968 have in recent years been overstated.
Meanwhile other collectives of the same period, such as the Zanzibar
film group, have only recently been rediscovered.

Fluxus became fashionable in the Anglo-American art world around the

same time the situationists were causing a stir not only on the gallery
circuit but also in cultural studies and even politically. However, in the
rush to revive Fluxus it has been depoliticised, and the far-left leanings
of its founder George Maciunas and its more interesting fellow
travellers such as Henry Flynt are too often overlooked. For this reason
it is remains worth raising today a question that has been in the
forefront of my mind since the beginning of the 1980s; viz, how can
we most effectively combine the best and most radical elements of
both the situationists and Fluxus?
In Lithuanian
From what I’ve said above it should be clear that I do not view this as
a book to be passively contemplated, it is to be used, its contents
cannibalised and regurgitated in new forms and combinations.
Although we now live in a very different world to the one inhabited by[11/27/10 2:59:40 PM]

Introduction to the Italian edition of The Assault on Culture by Stewart Home

the groups and individuals this book describes, some of their tactics
can be deployed just as effectively today as they were 20, 30, 40 and
even 50 years ago. In the sixties Black Mask disrupted reified cultural
events in New York by making up flyers giving the dates, times and
location of art events and giving these out to the homeless with the
lure of the free drink that was on offer to the bourgeoisie rather than
the lumpen proletariat; I reused the ruse just as effectively in London
in the 1990s to disrupt literary events. The tactics outlined here are
just as effective today as they were in the past, what we need to
create for our own times are new strategies to attack the ongoing
In Portuguese
march of commodification.

Previous: Introduction to the Italian edition

Start: Preface to the UK edition

Assault On Culture contents page

Most translated editions of "Assault" have also included the following

text: Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde

In Spanish

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art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde



One of the problems with recent academic critiques of the avant-garde

is the way in which 'anti-art' has been conceptualised as privileging
space over time. As a consequence, there has been little interest in
viewing the avant-garde teleologically. Peter Burger in Theory Of The
Avant-Garde (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 1984) tends to
interpret the avant-garde through the prism of Dada and Surrealism. A
correction to this tendency begins to emerge in works such as Andrew
Hewitt's Fascist Modernism: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Avant-Garde
(Stanford University Press, California 1993), a work that focuses on
Futurism. However, while this move 'backwards' in 'time' is most
welcome, academic theorising about the avant-garde has yet to get to
grips with post-war phenomena such as Lettrism and Situationism.
Stewart Home tells it like
What can most usefully be lifted from Burger is the notion of the it is...
avant-garde as an attack on the institution of art, which emerges in
opposition to the absurd assumption that Dada and Surrealism were
merely an attempt to supersede the dominant artistic styles of their
epoch. With regard to the author of Theory Of The Avant-Garde and
his collaborator in criticism Christa Burger, Hewitt problematises the
idea of the autonomy of art that they took up from the Frankfurt
School. The following passage from Fascist Modernism (page 59) is
typical of Hewitt's polemic: 'If capitalism provides the material
preconditions for autonomous art, then it is the philosophical tradition Three Signs Removed
of German Idealism that provides its ideological legitimation. At the From A Shop In Whitecross
end of the eighteenth century the emerging literature is assigned a Street - Triptych (2010) by
place within a discursive hierarchy regulated by the philosophy of Stewart Home. Installation
Idealism. Thus, while art might be said to resist at the level of content shot of the work on display
capitalism's tendency toward economic rationalization, it can do so only as part of Strange
within a prerationalized set of philosophical relationships. Contrary to Attractor Salon at Viktor
its ideological status in the nineteenth century as an escape from Wynd Fine Art, London,
ubiquitous social forces of rationalization, autonomous art is also a January 2010. The work is
product of those forces.' at the top of the picture,
pieces by others are below.
It has long been a banality among 'radical economists' that choice
within the 'free market system' is already and always ideological; that
rather than being 'value free,' choice (which is inevitably
preconditioned) is an arbitrary a priori value. The 'free market' has
never existed, it is a utopian construct designed to mask the 'social'
forces that actually shape the economy. Historically, as 'the arts' are
liberated from the shackles of the patronage system and thereby
become 'Art' in its modern sense, precisely at that moment when the
commodification of culture brings about the possibility of its ideological
'autonomy,' the institution of art emerges to regulate the cultural field.
It follows from this that in attacking the institution of art, the avant-[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde

garde ought to develop a critique of commodity relations. The failure of

the classical avant-garde, and I would subsume the Situationist
International within this category, is its failure to make this leap to an
issue that lies at the heart of marxist economics. This failure arises
from a desire on the part of the classical avant-garde to integrate art
and life. The classical avant-garde is utopian precisely because it wants
to deregulate art; but this literal/metaphorical acceptance of the
absurd claims made by Capital's ideological apologists (who necessarily
propagate theories which imply that art does, or at least can, exist in
the 'beyond' as a secular religion that 'transcends' commodity
relations) is not without certain merits, because ultimately it brings
those operating within the institution of art into conflict with the very
forces that legitimate 'artistic' activity.

It is within the parameters of such a discourse that we must situate

the 'praxis' of the Situationist International. Guy Debord states in
theses 191 of Society Of Spectacle (Black & Red, Detroit 1970, revised
1977) that: 'Dadaism and Surrealism are the two currents which mark
the end of modern art. They are contemporaries, though only in a
relatively conscious matter, of the last great assault of the
revolutionary proletarian movement; and the defeat of this movement,
which left them imprisoned in the same artistic field whose decrepitude
they had announced, is the basic reason for their immobilization.
Dadaism and Surrealism are at once historically related and opposed
to each other. This opposition, which each of them considered to be its
most important and radical contribution, reveals the internal
inadequacy of their critique, which each developed one-sidedly.
Dadaism wanted to suppress art without realizing it; Surrealism
wanted to realize art without suppressing it. The critical position later
elaborated by the Situationists has shown that the suppression and the
realization of art are inseparable aspects of a single supersession of

Debord, whose 'anti-career' began with a full-length feature film

Howlings In Favour Of De Sade which contained no images, just black
film stock interspersed with bursts of white light, was incapable of
stepping outside the frame of reference provided by the institution of
art, and instead theorised his way back to a one-sided understanding
of the Hegel. It is perfectly clear from both The Philosophical
Propaedeutic (The Science of the Concept, Third Section, The Pure
Exhibition of Spirit theses 203 to 207) and the Philosophy Of Mind:
Being Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences
(Section Three - Absolute Mind theses 553 to 571) that within the
Hegelian system the supersession of art is in fact found in revealed

Since among the more advanced sections of the 'bourgeoisie,' 'art' had
by Debord's day come to replace revealed religion, the Situationists
were forced to skip this particular Hegelian inversion, and instead jump
forward to philosophy which represents the highest achievement of
'absolute mind' in Hegel's system. In line with the young Marx, Debord
viewed the proletariat as the subject that would realise philosophy, The
Situationist conception of the supersession of art is also filtered
through the ideas of August von Cieszkowski, whose 1838 tome
Prolegomena zur Historiosophie was dedicated to the notion that 'the
deed and social activity will now overcome (supersede) philosophy.' It
was this source that provided the Situationists with the material to[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde

complete their false 'sublation,' allowing them to arrive back at the

final category of romantic art within the Hegelian system, that is to
say poetry.

Raoul Vaneigem states in The Revolution Of Everyday Life (Rebel Press

and Left Bank Books, London and Seattle 1983, page 153) that:
"Poetry is.... 'making,' but 'making' restored to the purity of its
moment of genesis - seen, in other words, from the point of view of
the totality." In the sixties, Debord and Vaneigem claimed that they'd
superseded the avant-garde and were consequently 'making' a
'revolutionary' situation that went beyond the point of no return.
However, all the Situationists actually succeeded in doing was restating
the failures of Dada and Surrealism in Hegelian terminology, with the
inevitable consequence that their critique was in many ways much less
'advanced' than that of their 'precursors'. Debord, who was a better
theorist than his 'comrade' Vaneigem, appeared to be aware of this
slippage although he didn't know how to 'overcome' it, and the
fragment of Cieszkowski cited in the celluloid version of Society Of The
Spectacle (an English translation of the script can be found in Society
Of The Spectacle And Other Films, Rebel Press, London 1992, page 71)
is most telling: 'Therefore, after the direct practice of art has ceased to
be the most distinguished thing, and this predicate has been devolved
onto theory, such as it is, it detaches itself presently from the latter, in
so far as a synthetic post-theoretical practice is formed, which has as
its primary goal to be the foundation and the truth of art as

Hewitt states in Fascist Modernism (page 85) that: "History, to the

artists of the avant-garde, is available as commodity; and the
commodity, in turn, is intrinsically 'historical,' second-hand. Perhaps,
after all, the avant-garde does develop a style, one of bricolage, in
which the commodification of history and the historicization of the
commodity (that is, aestheticization and politicization respectively)
converge." I agree with Peter Burger when he suggests in Theory Of
The Avant-Garde that the failure of the Dadaist and Surrealist assault
on the institution of art led to a widening of the definition of what is
acceptable as art. This was a double edged 'failure,' arising as it did
from the desire of the classical avant-garde to integrate 'art' and life,
because as Hewitt implies, it leads to the history of art becoming
available to the artist as a commodity. However, since the ideological
'autonomy' of art is grounded in its status as a commodity with a
market value regulated by the institution of art, it must inevitably be
protected as a piece of 'intellectual property' against its free use as a
piece of bricolage in later works of art.

It comes as no surprise that as early as 1959, the Situationist Guy

Debord had to rework his film On The Passage Of A Few Persons
Through A Rather Brief Period Of Time because he was unable to buy
the rights to many of the scenes he wished to re-use from Hollywood
'classics.' Debord's constant recourse to cliche is undoubtedly self-
conscious and iconoclastic, so perhaps it is not ironic that his 'wholly
new type of film' should sit very easily within one of the most despised
cinematic genres of the post-war period, that of the mondo movie.
Nevertheless, Debord was much more than simply a plagiarist, when
his output is viewed from the perspective of avant-garde film-making,
it appears highly innovative.[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde

Once the practice of appropriation became widespread within the field

of art, that is to say within that field of cultural practices regulated by
the institution of art, then art as a discourse had reached its historical
limits. These contradictions cannot be resolved within the discourse of
art; within this discursive field it is not possible to advance beyond the
solution offered by Hegel for whom 'plagiarism would have to be a
matter of honour and held in check by honour' (Philosophy Of Right,
thesis 69). In other words, while copyright laws remain in force,
appropriation as an 'artistic' practice will continue to be dealt with by
the legal system on a case by case basis. From my perspective, all
that remains to be done is for the contemporary avant-garde to
broaden its intransigent critique of the institution of art, while
simultaneously offering a lead to all those who would step outside art
as a frame of reference. This is not so much a case of 'overcoming' art
as abandoning it; such a strategy was implicit in the activities of Henry
Flynt, an individual active on the fringes of Fluxus who as long ago as
1962 gave up art in favour of a subjective modality which he'd named

The avant-garde is viewed as a nuisance by those who are happy with

the world as it is. Art is a secular religion that provides a 'universal'
justification for social stratification, it furnishes the ruling class with
the social glue of a common culture, while simultaneously excluding
the vast mass of men and wimmin from participation in this 'higher'
realm. The work of art is never a simple entity, a 'thing in itself,' but is
literally produced by those sets of social and institutional relationships
that simultaneously legitimate it. While the contemporary avant-garde
shares its precursor's desire to attack the institution of art, it also
differs fundamentally from its classical predecessor. If Futurism, Dada
and Surrealism wanted to integrate art and life, today's avant-garde
wants to consign the former category to oblivion. This is the return at
a higher level of Islamic-cum-Protestant iconoclasm. While the classical
avant-garde was ultimately Deist in its attitude towards art, its
progeny has taken up a stance of intransigent atheism in its
antagonistic relationship to the dominant culture.

The institution of art long ago adopted the ironic pose of post-
modernism, which is why the contemporary avant-garde denigrates
space in favour of time. To be avant-garde is to be ahead of the pack
and this inevitably entails a 'teleological' conception of history. The
avant-garde uses the 'myth of progress' in a manner analogous to
Georges Sorel's conception of the 'General Strike'. The avant-garde
does not believe in 'absolute' progress. Progress is simply a means of
organising the present, it is a 'heuristic' device. In its 'affirmative'
guises, 'progress' is an empty conception that offers men and wimmin
the illusory compensation of future revenge for the humiliations they
suffer in daily life. A mythic conception of progress moves wo/men to
action, it is the means by which they can organise the transformation
of geographical 'space'. This transformation will entail a complete break
with the ideological trappings that have been familiar to us since the
enlightenment. Just as the Christian religion ceased to be a viable
vehicle for social contestation in the eighteenth-century, the political
party as an engine of social change is now utterly exhausted. The
future of mass struggle lies in what were until very recently viewed as
'fringe' phenomena, that is to say new social movements with an
absurdly faked antiquity; the ever growing band of 'Druid' Councils
offer an excellent example of this type of organisation.[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde

My mythic notion of progress would be an anathema to the classical

avant-gardists of the Situationist International. However, while I agree
with Kant that 'culture' must be brought before the judgement of
tradition, the founding father of transcendental idealism failed to ask
by what tradition is any particular theory or cultural artefact to be
judged? The contemporary avant-garde insists that the only tradition
by which anything can be judged is one that does not yet exist, in
other words, the culture we are elaborating in our theory and practice.
Fluxus was not a 'genuine' avant-garde, it was simply a womb out of
which intransigents capable of superseding the Situationist
International have subsequently emerged. If various young adults are
currently experimenting with Fluxus-style assemblages, multiples and
mailings, this is a perfectly healthy first step towards avant-garde
iconoclasm. To borrow Wittgenstein's metaphor, Fluxus is a ladder with
which youth can climb above the world as it is, and then proceed to
throw Fluxus away.

While Debord and his comrades wanted to supersede art with the
'highest' achievements of 'absolute mind,' that is to say philosophy,
recent theorising about the avant-garde can be read as an attempt to
transform culture into a religion of the most 'primitive' type, that of
the 'divine King' or a vegetation cult. Paul Mann in The Theory-Death
Of The Avant-Garde (Indiana University Press, Bloomington and
Indianapolis 1991) states that: 'Death is necessary so that everything
can be repeated and the obituary is a way to deny that death ever
occurred. Under the cover of the obituary artists and critics continue
exactly as before, endlessly recuperating differential forms, endlessly
manufacturing shabbier and shabbier critical goods... The death of the
avant-garde is old news, already finished, no longer worth discussing;
but those who think so have not yet even begun to think it. There is
no post: everything that claims to be so blindly repeats what it thinks
it has left behind. Only those willing to remain in the death of the
avant-garde, those who cease trying to drown out death's silence with
the noise of neocritical production, will ever have a hope of hearing
what that death articulates.'

The task of the avant-garde then, is to carry on as before by providing

those still trapped within the old modes of discourse with a myth that
will deconstruct itself. What is as yet particular must become general,
that is to say we require the social construction of a new 'subjectivity'
so that, once belief is recognised as 'our' enemy, it becomes possible
for 'everybody' to step outside the frames of reference provided by
art, religion and philosophy. This must necessarily take the form of
what the discredited 'culture' views as a fraud and a sham. Rather
than attempting to 'resolve' contradictions, the 'avant-garde' puts
them to 'work' as the engine of an as yet unknown 'disorder.'

Previously published in The Hacienda Must Be Built: On the legacy

of Situationist revolt, essays and documents relating to an
international conference on the Situationist International, The
Hacienda, Manchester 1996 (Aura, Huddersfield 1996).

About the currents that fed into Neoism

The Assault On Culture (contents page with links to text)

Art/Anti-Art[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

art, life,death, politics, the avant-garde

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 2:59:47 PM]

Stewart Home interviews Henry Flynt



Henry Flynt talks to Stewart Home, New York 8 March 1989.

Henry Flynt was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1940. In 1961,

after his New York debut in Yoko Ono's Chambers Street loft, he
originated the idea of concept art. Then, in 1962, Flynt initiated a
utopian critique of art from the stand-point of the absolute subjectivity
of taste. He destroyed most of his early works, left the art world and
began a campaign to 'demolish serious culture.' Flynt continued to
produce music but his cultural activities tailed off in the late sixties.
Despite this he did appear in Ira Cohen's 1968 drugs and magic
underground short "The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda" as a member
of the The Universal Mutant Repertory Company with cohorts Loren
Standlee, Ziska Baum, Angus MacLise, Raja Samayana, Tony Conrad,
and Jackson MacLow; the resultant celluloid is notorious as perhaps
the most drug damaged cinematic experiment of the psychedelic era.

During the seventies Flynt returned to college to take a phd in

Jack Smith (underground film-
communist economics. In 1987, he resumed making concept art in
maker) and Henry Flynt picket
conjunction with the crystallisation of his researches into the
MOMA (Museum of Modern Art in
foundations of science. Flynt now views his previous assessment of art
New York) on 27 February 1963
as being heavily conditioned by the period in which he entered the
to protest against "serious
New York art scene. Nevertheless, his critique provides a useful
culture". Photo Tony Conrad.
starting point for discussing the class basis of culture. As the eighties
draw to a close, Flynt's extreme utopianism is gaining currency among
a younger generation of thinkers (particularly those who emerged from
the now defunct Neoist movement). Simultaneously, his recent work is
creating ripples of interest among the cognoscenti of the official art

The principal collection of Flynt's writings is "Blueprint For A Higher

Civilisation" (Multhipla Edizioni, Milan 1975). A recent essay on concept
art by Flynt and an interview with him can by found in "Io" #41 edited
by Charles Stein (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley 1988).

My interview with Flynt took place in a sandwich bar on the corner of

Installation shot of 1989
Broadway and Spring, a few yards away from the Emily Harvey Gallery
Henry Flynt show "Classic
where Flynt's "Classic Modernism and Authentic Concept Art" was on
Modernism and Authentic
show. It is chiefly concerned with Flynt's activities during the sixties
Concept Art" at Emily
and his utopian critique of art.
Harvey Gallery, New York:
HOME: How did your ideas develop, what direction were you coming north-east corner.
from in the early sixties?
In 1994 I went to a Tate
FLYNT: My early work was philosophic, what would be called
Gallery lecture on Fluxus
epistemology, I was convinced I'd dicredited cognition. When
by art historian Simon[11/27/10 3:00:05 PM]

Stewart Home interviews Henry Flynt

somebody says that all statements are false, the obvious problem is
Anderson who I hadn't
that as an assertion it's self-defeating. I had to find a way to frame
seen since he'd left London
this insight which was not self-defeating and that's in "Blueprint", the
in the eighties, I took a
essay entitled "The Flaws Underlying Beliefs." One has to do what
copy of "Smile" with my
Wittgenstein claimed to do in the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,"
Henry Flynt interview in it
which is to use the ladder and then throw it away. The way I
to give to him, since I
devolved, moved out from, this position of strict cognitive nihilism, was
knew it would interest him.
with the idea of building a new culture which would depart profoundly
However, after I'd opened
from the scientific culture in which we live.
the publication at the
Henry Flynt interview to
I was a student at Harvard and that's where I learned about so called
show it to Simon, French
avant-garde music. Jackson Pollock, abstract expressionism and action
Fluxus anti-artist Ben
painting were well known at this time, but the music was more of a
Vautier snatched the
cult thing with individual composers doing very unusual work. It was
magazine from my hand
very hard to find out about what these people were doing. I was told
and walked off with it after
that people like Cage were the latest thing. Christian Wolff, who was
saying: "I'm having this, I
an associate of Cage, was at Harvard as a graduate student and there
collect everything to do
were a lot of concerts of so called avant-garde music held at the
with Henry Flynt..."

HOME: How did you got involved with the set promoting this type of

FLYNT: I was trying to be up with the latest thing. To a point I just

took what I was offered, logical positivism in philosophy and the so
called avant-garde in music. I began composing works which were
imitative of the music I was being told about. I was also very
interested in translating the music into visual terms. At the same time
I felt a tremendous disquiet about the avant-garde, there was
something very inauthentic about it. There was the mystique of
scientificity, Stockhausen was making claims which were actually false,
that were philosophically discreditable.

Another thing that happened was that when I came to New York, I
began to meet the people who became the most famous artists of our
time. I was insecure about my own level of ability, I didn't know
whether I could compete with these people and, at the same time, I
was wondering what is this anyway? I felt very uneasy about the fact
that all these people were competing with each other to become rich
and famous and the original reason for all this activity had been lost.

HOME: So it was when you came into contact with the people
composing this music that you became critical of it.

FLYNT: When I began competing with the other artists in New York.
Also, at that time, I discovered classical North Indian music. I spent a
lot of time with this and began to question the whole enterprise of
classical music as such. I have a lot of problems with modern
European culture. I find European music to be very four-square, it
really lends itself to computerisation. In classical oil painting, there
seemed to be a radical turn to seeing things as the camera sees them,
with that technological modification. I began to have a tremendous
problem with all of this. At the same time I was listening to black Flynt did not endorse my
music and I began to think that the best musicians were receiving the revival of his 'Demolish
worst treatment. The people who were doing the greatest work were Serious Culture' slogan as
despised as lower class, with no dignity accorded to what they did, part of my Art Strike
while the stuff being promoted as serious culture and performed in the campaign of the mid to[11/27/10 3:00:05 PM]

Stewart Home interviews Henry Flynt

Lincoln Centre was absolutely worthless. There was no real emotion in late eighties, nor was he
it, the possibility of ingenuous experience had been replaced by an very keen on some of my
ideology of science and scientism. re-uses and appropriations
of his past activities...
I became very angry about the fact that I'd been talked into going to
these Cage concerts when I was in college, that I'd sat and tried to
make myself like that stuff and think in those terms. I felt I'd been
brainwashed, that it was a kind of damage to my sensibilities. I'm still
mad about this, I still feel I've not recovered from the experience.

HOME: How was this anger expressed in your activities during the
early sixties?

FLYNT: At that time I was initiating concept art. I was doing a lot of
things, many of them imitative. The purpose of concept art as a genre
is to unbrainwash our mathematical and logical faculties. At the same
time it's bound up with aesthetic delectation. I think these two aspects
are integral to concept art, it's not just an artificial pasting together of
the two things, they actually change each other in the course of their
From there I moved to an absolutely subjective position aesthetically,
where each individual should become aware of their unformed taste. I
used the term brend to signify this and thought that it would replace
art. Basically, at this time, I viewed any work of art as an imposition
of another persons taste and saw the individual making this imposition
as a kind of dictator. I don't think there's any irony about the fact that
I was beginning to dabble in political leftism at the very time I was
inventing a theory in which art disappears and is replaced by a kind of
absolute individualism. It's not strange if you understand what the final
utopia of socialism was supposed to be. It's no different from talking
about getting rid of money or the state.

It was then that I began demonstrating against serious culture. In

hindsight, the actual course of events has been very humiliating for me
because no one picked up on the intellectual critique I made of
Stockhausen. Another point I made was that black American music
was a new language and I don't feel this was ever really
acknowledged. What happened was that rock became an incredible
commercial success, people just became bored with serious music and
it was forgotten. It was not an intellectual battle or a battle of
principle at all.

HOME: How was the group Action Against Cultural Imperialism


FLYNT: It wasn't, the organisation didn't exist, it was just a bluff.

HOME: You didn't hold policy meetings?

FLYNT: No. There were two stages to this affair, at first we were
demonstrating against all serious culture. The organisation was really
just me and Tony Conrad. At that time Tony was living with Jack
Smith, who just came along with us. At first he didn't want to do it, he
told us he had work in the Museum of Modern Art and that he wouldn't
picket them. Then I got out the signs that I'd made for the
demonstration and he began giggling hysterically. He ended up coming
along because he thought it was funny. The focus changed[11/27/10 3:00:05 PM]

Stewart Home interviews Henry Flynt

tremendously as my interest in politics developed. I was meeting

people who were calling my attention to issues of socialism, which I'd
never really thought about.

HOME: Who were these people?

FLYNT: You wouldn't know them, somebody named Richard Ohmann,

he's an English professor today. I converted myself to Marxism through
reading. The Cuban revolution had just taken place and there was a
tremendous discussion going on about it, there were books coming out
on the subject. I got into it in that way and by 1964 I was affiliated
with a Marxist group. The focus of the cultural demonstrations changed
tremendously, I began to concentrate on the issues of race and
imperialism. As a political statement the demonstrations were an
absolute failure, nobody understood why I was holding them. I was
told my activities were creating deep confusion about where I was
coming from and why I was angry. The chairman of Workers World
Party suggested I write a book. He said, you don't present a new
theory at a demonstration, you write a book about it. That's how
"Communists Must Give Revolutionary Leadership In Culture" came to
be written.

HOME: So this was in the mid-sixties?

FLYNT: Yes, a lot of things were happening then. Around 1967 I

began backing away from dogmatic Leninism, not so much because I
thought it was false, I just decided there was nothing utopian about it.
When you translate it from theory into practice it becomes just another
political event.*

HOME: To return to the point about confusion, to me that seems

central to what you do. Before we started taping the conversation, you
said your writing was a black hole which would suck people in and
deconstruct their mode of thought.

FLYNT: That was in relation to cognition. I have a picture of an ideal

consciousness which the writings are directed towards producing. It's
not confused, I'm actually a great fan of lucidity.

HOME: I wasn't implying that your formulations were confused, what I

was trying to say was that the texts have a disorientating effect on
the reader.

FLYNT: I associate lucidity with belieflessness. I'm trying to assemble

materials for a different mode of life, but it's a completely open
question about how they might connect up. The whole drive of western
culture, the part of it which is serious, is towards an extreme
objectification. It's carried to the point where the human subject is
treated almost as if it's dirt in the works of a watch. I'm trying to go
to the source of this insane aberration, so that I can dissolve it. I want
to do this by integrating subjectivity and objectivity, by making these
two things intrinsically interdependent.

* i.e. the modernisation strategy of last resort. c.f. 'The Three levels of
Politics' in 'Blueprint.' [Note added].

First published in Smile 11, London Summer 1989.[11/27/10 3:00:05 PM]

Stewart Home interviews Henry Flynt

Henry Flynt's website

Chapter on early Fluxus from "Assault On Culture" (Flynt dislikes being

associated with Fluxus and views those linking him to this anti-art
group as hostile to his thought, but within the art world he is widely
but "wrongly" perceived as a "Fluxus artist")



Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 3:00:05 PM]

Ralph Rumeny interviewed about the Situationist International by Stewart Home



INTERNATIONAL : Ralph Rumney in conversation with
Stewart Home, Paris 7 April 1989
I've removed the introduction that was written to accompany this
interview when it first appeared in "Art Monthly" because to me it now
appears redundant. However, if you know nothing about the
Situationist International you may want to check chapters 1 to 8 of my
1988 book "The Assault On Culture" (available free here on this site).

HOME: I'm curious to know how you feel about a Situationist

exhibition being held at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Institute
Of Contemporary Arts. Ralph Rumney: born
RUMNEY: My feelings are rather mixed. We held protests against the Newcastle upon Tyne
Stedelijk and the Triennalle because we wanted to do our own thing. (England) 5 June 1934,
That was a long time ago. What's happened now is that our work has died Manosque (France) 6
entered the public domain and so we can't really stop museums taking March 2002.
an interest in it. It's there, it's history, it's recuperation, it's whatever
you like. At the same time, I thought the title of the exhibition was
quite nice. I especially liked the subtitle, "About the Situationist
International." And now that I'm getting older and I want to earn a
living, it's nice to see this work doing something for me after all these
HOME: I notice there's been little support for the show from Bernstein
or Debord.
RUMNEY: There wouldn't be. Michele Bernstein because she doesn't
need it. It's pointless to her, it's something she did and from which she
now more or less dissociates herself. Not that she's ashamed of it, or
disagrees with it, but because she's doing other things and that's it.
Debord just has to keep up this view of himself as being totally
The Tribe by Jean-
HOME: Whereas the Scandinavians, the Situationist Bauhaus and
Michel Mension (Verso
Group Spur would seem more supportive of the exhibition.
£10) and The Consul by
RUMNEY: They all turned up at the private view and were doing little
Ralph Rumney (Verso
happenings, which I rather disapproved of. I went to the opening to
£10). These two books are
see the exhibition and because I wanted to meet old friends and learn
about drinking and the
a few things. There's a lot of work in the show which I'd not seen
avant-garde, and in them
the pursuit of the former
HOME: I think the exhibition is going to surprise a lot of people in
proves to be inseparable
London. Situationist theory is considered relatively sophisticated,
from the latter. Both
whereas most of the painting is extremely primitive.
contain edited transcripts
RUMNEY: Gallizio was a total primitive. Jorn was not an
of interviews conducted in
unsophisticated painter but he created the Institute for Comparative
various bars by Gerard
Vandalism, he was an intellectual primitive. Primitivism had a very
Berreby, and they have
strong influence on COBRA and also on the Germans. I don't know if
been subtitled
I'm wrong to make this distinction but I think of myself as a
“Contributions to the[11/27/10 3:00:22 PM]

Ralph Rumeny interviewed about the Situationist International by Stewart Home

completely different kind of painter. I could never have joined COBRA.

History of the Situationist
HOME: But it's this type of painting which dominates the exhibition.
International and its
RUMNEY: Yes, it does, it's very strong painting. The curators asked
Time”. “The Tribe” is
me to lend paintings and I said no, my paintings aren't anything to do
tightly focused, dealing
with it. I would have been inclined to lend some of the erotic things,
with the period 1952 to
but the dates are wrong.
1954, when Mension was a
HOME: These are the polaroids and plaster casts that you exhibited at
petty criminal who went
Transmission Gallery in 1985 and which were also included in your
drinking in the Saint-
recent retrospective at England & Co.
Germain-des-Pres quarter
RUMNEY: Which I regard as more situationist, more political, than
of Paris with Guy Debord.
most of my other work.
Rumney’s book covers
HOME: To return to the Situationist exhibition, how do you see the
several decades, and since
public reacting to it?
he was a painter rather
RUMNEY: I read the visitors book and that was very interesting.
than a juvenile delinquent,
Almost everyone who'd written in it had said this is disgraceful,
he spends more time
situationists in a museum, what a load of rubbish! I, however, believe
giving due consideration to
that history should be recorded. I have also come to believe in
the art of the post-war era.
museums. One of their functions is to make ideas available to people.
That said, Rumney married
When we were making our work, the last place we wanted to find it
into the super rich
was in a museum. But it's all over now and I don't see why it shouldn't
Guggenheim family, so
be recorded, catalogued, documented and so on.
some of his eminently
HOME: One of the good things about the exhibition is to demonstrate
sober observations about
that there's post-war work which stands up alongside the
this union will
achievements of the futurists, dadaists and surrealists. It's as strong
simultaneously titillate
as anything they did. What are your feelings about this?
lovers of celebrity gossip.
RUMNEY: My feelings are somewhat mixed because I regard my
The books are well
painting as very much distinct from Nordic, COBRA based,
illustrated, Rumney’s
Expressionist works. I don't like this type of painting very much. I liked
mainly with art works and
Asger Jorn's work, it's extremely distinguished. I liked Gallizio as a
manifestos; Mension’s with
person but I'm not crazy about his work.
Ed van der Elsken’s
HOME: I thought his "Anti-Material Cave" was the strongest thing in
famous photographs of
the show.
young drinkers at
RUMNEY: Of course it was, it's amazing. There's this primitive reality
Moineau’s Bar.
about Gallizio. I think the splits within the movement were due to it
containing both intellectuals and these rather marvellous primitives.
Mension tends to stick to
I'm not convinced that the intellectuals necessarily made the greatest
the familiar, Rumney is
contribution to the group. It was what was actually done that was
more given to abstraction,
important, far more important than the theory. Theories are
but this distinction can
evanescent. Situationist theory was intentionally inspissated, to make
become blurred in their
it difficult to understand and extremely difficult to criticise.
drinker’s tales. Mension on
HOME: And also to give an impression of complete originality! But
Eliane Brau: “Here’s a
what about influences?
good Eliane story. Often,
RUMNEY: The College Of Pataphysics was an influence on the
around two in the morning,
Situationists. Debord hated anything which could be seen as having
when Moineau’s closed, we
influenced him. He saw the College Of Pataphysics as a wretched little
would take the same short
coterie. I declined to become a member of the College because of the
route... By tradition, we
Situationists. I liked their publications, they had a coherence and a
would take a piss en route
persistent line of thought running through them which if you look at
in a corner... One night...
the twelve issues of "Internationale Situationiste", is not there. Now
the cops came down on
then, that may actually be in favour of the IS and say something
us... Eliane, who had
rather good about it, because where I would criticise Debord is that he
pissed along with everyone
wanted to be in charge of the group, he wanted to set up a party line
else... was now shouting...
and he wanted everyone to toe it. In fact he never really achieved this
‘I would never piss in front
and consequently you get this amalgam of divergent ideas which did
of guys!’... Her cop was
amalgamate in the first three days of May '68 and in the punk
pretty good-humoured...
movement. It's not every little group of twelve that can lay claim thirty
Then Eliane goes: ‘Look, I
years later to having had any influence on two events as important as[11/27/10 3:00:22 PM]

Ralph Rumeny interviewed about the Situationist International by Stewart Home

can prove that I didn’t

piss.’ She pulls down her
HOME: To return to Debord, what I find interesting about him is this
panties, squats, and starts
sense that he always needs a collaborator, whether it be Wolman,
pissing all over again in
Jorn, Vaneigem or Sanguinetti.
front of the cop.”
RUMNEY: Sanguinetti is where he met his match. He got a
Rumney’s booze soaked
collaborator who was smarter than he was. Sanguinetti is absolutely
anecdotes carry the same
HOME: There's a figure who I feel is always lurking in the background
message: “When Mendes-
of the situationist saga and that's Michele Bernstein. I get this feeling
France put up posters
that she played a key role within the movement, but I can't specify
warning ‘alcohol kills
exactly what it was she contributed.
slowly’... we wrote
RUMNEY: You can't put your finger on it because she won't tell you
underneath: ‘We’re not in a
and she wouldn't thank me if I told you. Since she was my wife, I've
hurry.’ ” I interviewed
got to respect her wishes. I can tell you various little things. She typed
Rumney in Paris in the late
all the "Potlatchs", all the "IS" journals and so on. One of the curious
eighties, and while
things about the IS was that it was extraordinarily anti-feminist in its
unhurried, his drinking was
practice. Women were there to type, cook supper and so on. I rather
simultaneously excessive;
disapproved of this. Michele had, and has, an extraordinarily powerful
indeed, he proved
and perceptive mind which is shown by the fact that she is among the
incapable of walking more
most important literary critics in France today. A lot of the theory,
than a few hundred yards
particularly the political theory, I think originated with Michele rather
down a street without
than Debord, he just took it over and put his name to it.
stopping at a bar for a
HOME: Something I found strange about the exhibition was that there
was no real acknowledgement of influences. There was very little
about the Lettristes or the International Movement For An Imaginist
Mension and Rumney are
absolutely certain that
RUMNEY: That's the fault of the curators. They might have found it
what they got up to in
very difficult to do in any other way.
various fifties dives was of
HOME: The presentation of the exhibition is very low-tech, the books
world historical
are displayed on weathered boards, how do you feel about this?
importance, and in this
RUMNEY: I don't feel anything one way or another, they can present
self-belief there are
it how they like. It's their exhibition. It's not my exhibition, it's the
undertones of the
curators, Beaubourg, they've done the exhibition. Apparently there was
belligerence and nostalgia
a vast shortage of money for the show. On the one hand, Beaubourg's
that typifies drinkers
been crying out about this. On the other hand, they're apparently
everywhere. However, it
charging the ICA an absolute fortune to have it. It seems extremely
needn’t concern the casual
odd that they didn't have enough money to do a little bit more. I think
reader whether Mension
the curating was wrong because whatever one says or feels about
and Rumney really are
Isou, it should have started with him. That would have made the
charming rogues, or if a
historical exhibition I'd have liked to see. I feel that the Situationists
careful editing of their
have somehow achieved this trick of commandeering and imposing a
conversations facilitates
version of history, rather than allowing it to be told as it was.
this impression, since the
HOME: I found the inclusion of Art and Language and NATO rather
results are delightfully
entertaining. While
RUMNEY: That's the curators, Peter Wollen and Mark Francis. I met
Mension’s appeal is almost
them both and neither of them struck me as serious experts. They
universal, Rumney will find
were asking questions about things I'd expect them to know. The
his readers among those
English tend to be a bit soft intellectually. You could say they are
who have at least a
supermarket intellectuals, anything that'll go in the trolley, let's have it.
passing interest in modern
First published in Art Monthly, London June 1989. art. Mension gives
Bukowski a run for his
First chapter on Situationist International form The Assault on Culture money, and his book is an
ideal gift for literate
Assault on Culture contents page delinquents. However,
given that Rumney never
Chapter on non-relationship between Situationist International and
allowed his pursuit of art
punk rock from Cranked Up Really High[11/27/10 3:00:22 PM]

Ralph Rumeny interviewed about the Situationist International by Stewart Home

to impede his drinking,

Review of Guy Debord's suicide “The Consul” may yet
induce barflies to imbibe at
Art/Anti-Art the font of modernity -
since this is a work that
refreshes parts others fail
to reach.

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 3:00:22 PM]

Stewart Home:on art & anti-art



About The Situationist International (Ralph Rumney interview)

Anon (exhibition by Home & others at 33 Arts Centre, Luton, 1989)
Apeman (Stewart Home performance script)
Art Is Like Cancer: Roger Taylor talks to Stewart Home
Art of Chauvinism in Britain and France
Art of Ideology & the Ideology of Art
Art Strike Biennial
Art Strike Papers (Home & Others)
The Assault On Culture (book by Home)
Assessing The Art Strike (1993 lecture notes from V&A Museum)
Becoming (M)other (2004/05 exhibition by Home)
Bob & Roberta Smith Opening (with Martin Creed - London art world
Bridget Riley's Ass (review of "Ida Kar: Photographer 1908-1974" by
Val Williams)
Claude Cahun (review of "Disavowals")
Desire In Ruins (1987 exhibition, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow)
Doctorin' Our Culture (KLF & Rachel Whiteread)
Empty Grave of Kurt Schwitters (psychogeography & anti-art)
Festival of Plagiarism (events organised by Home & others, text by
From Arse to Arsehole (on critic John Roberts and 90s London art)
Jubilee (1970s Derek Jarman film)
Hallucination Generation (Stewart Home exhibition, Bristol 2006)
Hayward Party September 2006 (London art world snapshot)
High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s by Julian Stallabrass (book
How I Discovered America by Stewart Home (psychogeographical photo
Humanity In Ruins (Stewart Home one man show London 1988)
Image Has Cracked (photography of Chris Dorley Brown)
Karen Eliot
Letter to Art Monthly 8/10/96 (on David Burrows' review of Vermeer
Letter to Art Monthly 13/11/96 (on Terry Atkinson, Thomas Crow etc)
Level 2 Project (Stewart Home at Tate Modern, London)
London Art Tripping (psychogeography)
Neoism (short entry)
Neoism (chapter on Neoism from Assault On Culture)
Neoist Correspondence Script (by various Monty Cantsins)
Neoist Manifestos
Notes On Four Stewart Home Anti-Films
On War: Robert Capa and Omer Fast at Barbican Gallery (2008-9)
Oxum: Goddess of Love (2007 abstract film by Stewart Home)[11/27/10 3:00:39 PM]

Stewart Home:on art & anti-art

Paint It Black (Stewart Home provides an overview of his work)

Palingenesis of the Avant-Garde (on attempts to go 'beyond' 'art')
Pocket Essentials Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley (book review)
Pre-Neoism (from Assault On Culture)
Prostitution II: The "Return" of the "Male" "Gaze" (on appropriation
Psychedelic Art & 1960s London Drug Culture
Psychogeography Of Zeros And Ones (Arts Council Commission)
Re:Action (newsletter of the Neoist Alliance various issues as pdfs)
Readymade Brought To Book (Stewart Home 2010 gallery work)
Revenge of the Shamans (Andre Stitt's performance art)
Ruins of Glamour (1986 exhibition, Chisenhale Studios, London)
Saturday Nite In Shoreditch (snap shot of London art scene Sept.
Secretary of the Invisible (review of 2008 Marine Hugonnier show)
Space Soon (Arts Catalyst event at London Roundhouse Sept. 2006)
Super! Bierfront on Neoism (those crazy Neoists exposed at last!)
Thomas Hirschhorn's The Bridge 2000 (art & politics)
To Transvalue Value: Vermeer II (on own exhibition & art 'restoration')
Vermeer II (another text by Home about his 1996 one person show)
What Is Violence? Why Curate? (contribution to ICA panel talk)

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Stewart Home: Political Writing



Anarchist Integralism (critique of anarchism as political ideology)

Anarchy in the UK? (newspaper article on anarchist festival)
Bending The Bars (review of prison book by John Barker)
Bombing of Dresden (50th anniversary piece from 1994)
Christine Keeler Affair (film review)
Class War (account of British anarchist group in 1980s)
Green Anarchist (critiques of eco-fascist front)
Letter from Stewart Home to Head Magazine of 8/9/99
Martin Amis is Stupid (review of Koba The Dread)
Roger Taylor talks to Stewart Home (art is like cancer)
The End of Copenhagen? (on the riots in Nørrebro & a situationist

On 9/11
1. Twin Towers
2. Data Panics & Data Voids
3. Data Quakes

On the journal Anarchist Studies & their reviews of Stewart

A curious exhange of letters with Anarchist Studies
Anarchism & The Bolshevisation of Culture
My Tactics Against Anarchist Studies[11/27/10 3:00:57 PM]

Stewart Home: Political Writing

Copyright © is problematic. Some rights reserved. Contact for clarification.[11/27/10 3:00:57 PM]