Critic on the Political Practice of Détournement
Ministories — 7 feb 2019
Jacqueline de Jongs lidmaatschap van de Situationistische Internationale (S.I.) is geen lang leven beschoren. Na haar deelname aan belangrijke bijeenkomsten (zoals het S.I.-congres in Londen in 1960) wordt ze in 1962 uit de groep gezet, tegelijk met andere leden die zich solidair verklaarden met de eerder uitgestoten Gruppe SPUR.
Reden voor de breuk is een geëscaleerd meningsverschil over de rol van kunst: kunnen kunstenaars via hun werk een revolutie teweegbrengen of moeten zij de kunst opgeven, en in plaats daarvan activist worden? S.I.-leider Guy Debord vindt het laatste. In zijn ogen is het produceren en verkopen van kunst onverenigbaar met de marxistische revolutie. Voor veel kunstenaars is dit een stap te ver, en zij verlaten de S.I. of worden er door Debord uitgezet.
De Jong laat zich niet uit het veld slaan. In mei 1962 begint ze haar in 1961 aangekondigde Engelstalige tijdschrift The Situationist Times, samen met patafysicus Noël Arnaud. In het eerste nummer neemt ze duidelijk stelling met betrekking tot het conflict met de S.I. ‘I'm proud you call us gangsters’, provoceert De Jong in een handgeschreven artikel, ‘nevertheless you are wrong. We are worse, we are Situationists.’
Hieronder is een transcriptie van de tekst te lezen:
‘Critic on the Political Practice of Detournement’
by Jacqueline de Jong
After the exclusion of the german art group Spur from the Internationale Situationniste, Jorgen Nash and I decided that the way this exclusion had taken place called for protest on our part. The reaction on this protest [this protest was made in Paris on 13th February 1962 and published in Sweden some time later and was sent to the people concerned] in the No.7 of the Internationale Situationiste postulates some deeper going problems which I will try to make clear what had actually happened here on the 10th February 1962.
The Group Spur (Gruppe Spur) had indeed got themselves involved in activities which were unacceptable to us (the IS) and they had made their position even worse by publishing a 7th number of their revue (Spur) without informing Attila Kotanyi and myself; a decision made by the IS congress in Goteborg (end of August 1961) had chosen us to collaborate in the editing of the future Spur revues, to establish in this way a closer IS-Spur connection. The Spur revue No.7 had been made in Italie. In this revue 7 the Gruppe Spur turned over to an economical and practical collaboration with people who are officially declared anti-situationist. This fact did not prevent Spur from realising the No.7 in a way that on the last page of the Spur Book, in which all numbers of the revue and their manifesto are put together, the names of these very (anti-IS) people appear as the collaborators to their revue. We asked Spur to explain No.7 and the last page of the book. Nevertheless they did not seem to get to the point of giving an acceptable explanation which put them in an extremely bad position. Four members of the Conseil Central of the IS: G.E.Debord, Attila Kotanyi, Uwe Lausen, Raoul Vaneigem, had declared at the beginning of this meeting that as far as they were concerned the case was closed and Spur was excluded from the Internationale Situationiste because: Spur had written a letter to Debord in which they had refused to give a from Debord and requested IS texts (to be given to another IS member). The explanation given for the refusal given by Spur at the CC was that the texts were at the translator and would have been sent later on. Since none the other members of the IS present at the meeting of the CC February 1962, had seen this letter of Spur until that very moment we were asked by this group of four (Lausen, Debord, Vaneigem, Kotanyi) to make up our minds about the exclusion of Spur, and informed about the fact that: Whatever our decision would be this group of four would in no case change their minds.
It is evident that with this ultimatum the possibility of any open discussion were cut short completely and that Spur’s eventual explanations would have in any case no value whatsoever to this group’s of 4 decision. Jorgen Nash refused to decide within a such a short time as the situation was too important and therefore the ultimative action completely without value. Nevertheless we did instigate a discussion by trying to get the explanations but were cut off by the demand for a immedial decision. Debord speaking on behalf of the group of four ‘4’ accepted this and added that, only those who agreed with him could come back to the meeting later on in the evening. He further said that it would be evidence of our solidarity in the matter of Spur’s lawsuit. Only later in the evening when we got the tract “Nicht Hinauslehnen” which had obviously been printed before the CC meeting their game became clear to us. It is a pity this group of 4 to have published in IS7 at the moment that Spur was
[FREE STANDING] To us the taking of an only political action and position in this case seemed absolutely absurd.
becoming summons to appear in court: .........
ET LE RESTE DU PROCESS est au POINT MORT
After having spoken and eaten with the Spur-group in the evening we met the group of 4 again with the intention of discussing. But what we got at the moment we were seated around the meeting table was “NICHT HINAUSLEHNEN” with Debord’s remark “of course if you had not accepted the exclusion of Spur this printed matter would have in any case been thrown on the table!” By coming we has accepted an exclusion of Spur but on another basis and not just on the manner of their lawsuit.
The discussion on that matter was close AND THE
BIG FIGHT HAD STARTED
After this evening I went home with the most disgusting taste in my mouth. I decided to wait until the end of next days meeting, where, of course apart from the Spur people we would all meet again to talk about everything, but Spur’s interpretations and explanations which make a practical collaboration inside the IS quite difficult. No word about Spur anymore. // The meeting was soon finished we left and Nash and I decided to meet again in the evening. After a long discussion we (Nash and I) decided to make our own protest in the form in which is done (here present) – a method having been presided by Guy Debord’s fractionnary print: “Nicht Hinauslehnen” // Nash left for Sweden. I stayed in Paris. Nothing was seen or heard from the group of 4 until the No.7 of the IS revue came out with its significant content. In the above quoted text of IS7 is written that on the15th March Nash and Elde pronounced themselves suddenly against the Internationale Situationnist. The expression of suddenness of a date (15th March) is rather strange when on the published protest, not at all against the Internationale Situationniste but against the action of 4 members of the IS who seem to think that their fraction includes a totality of the IS with all its implied limitations // I am only to take this insult which they make by writing that we pronounced ourselves against the IS as seeming to be one of those misunderstandings or even contradictions // as during the last CC it was a clear fact that the terms and theories of the IS were not to be understood by everyone in an absolutely similar way and that even complete misunderstanding and contradictions within the movement itself seem to exist and therefore the necessity for an intern dictionary had been decided on. // This next day a decision was to start a way of clearer understanding inside the movement and of a [???] theoretical work such as a dictionary of sit. terms and concepts etc as there exists several misunderstandings and different interpretations and explanations which make a practical collaboration inside the IS quite difficult
Misunderstandings and contradictions are not only of an extreme value but in fact the basis of all art and creation, if not the source of all activity in general life. The entire institution of society is build upon these facts. And it is only in political activity that they are considered to be: A) the base of all politic B) the means to be used in politics C) the danger to be avoided and denied. IN FACT REAL politics consists of all three points simultaneously and interplays with the last two points (B+C) as it best seems fit. And that is exactly where we are today in the IS. In our protest we do not attack the movement and its theory and action. We do indeed not even attack one single point of the IS. All we protest against is the organisation which 4 members of the IS have tried to establish and to put into that, which we have always and will always consider as situationist, the movement of the IS.
And where in the Situationist movement does a practical + theoretical limitation up to that point exist? Why is a protest against a non-accepted political action of four members an accusation against the entire IS movement? What the hell is left of the IS as a movement if the establishment of an organisation comes to that point where open protest against this establishment seems to be considered as against the movement? I don’t believe that these purely political activities which have been made will ever be able to detourne what is and will always be the IS, even with the detournement of its own texts it will always have its misunderstandings and contradiction and will always need them (apart from the 4 politicians), not for the organisation but for its development. All right; but what if their decision is fixed, these 4 members have by an exclusion of other members shown that their action was completely political and absolutist (absolutist, absolutist, absolutist). Does any theory, idea or action of the movement depend on them, these 4 members of the same movement?
And neither do I believe that I could attack the theories or actions which I have always considered as Situationist and of which movement I have chosen to be a member. Only the false use of this movement can feel necessary to be attacked. If the 4 will be right, that our protest is an attack against the situationist movement and against them and their personal activities then it will mean that ONLY they and what is theirs is situationist. In that case I must admit that my opinion on the Internationale Situationniste is was and will always be wrong. I refuse to make a suicide in this way as with me others would have to do the same. As the mentioning of the third signature, which happens to be mine, seems to have been neglected because of the fact that there is perhaps a misunderstanding (already shown during the CC) about my position I will try to explain. You say in your text, Guy Debord, that the entire IS (consisting as it seems of you and the other 3 signatories of the “Nicht Hinauslehnen” and the Danish voice J.V.Martin) is false, that I, as the only Dutch member of the IS was chosen as the representative (of Holland) of the CC. But when we made the list of the members of the CC for our protest we had to control by asking the excluded Spur, as you neglected in Goteborg to make a written and by us all signed protocol with every decision. Nash, Kunselmann, Zimmer, Prem, Sturm + Strid being in Paris for the CC declared that in fact I had been chosen as dutch member of the CC at the congress in Goteborg, where they were present. And Elde signing the Protest later on in Sweden, agreed with this. In the revue No.7 (IS) my name as member if the CC does not appear. Bad memory and neglection by all present members of the IS of a signed protocol makes that there are now two different opinions of the at that moment not yet excluded members of the IS present at the Congress in Goteborg. Nowhere in our protest is it written that the Scandinavian Section will be transformed into a Bauhaus. Thank you for inform us about this, Guy Debord. I actually thought this had been talked over to a decisive point before the Conseil Central. Where in our text is written that you tried to intimidate us (the minority) by the atmosphere of the civil war, which ruled since two days (helas) in Paris? Paris happened to be in an extremely bad situation (10–12 Feb 1962) and to foreigners coming from perhaps too calm countries even if they are situationists this makes an impression which is undeniable. To mention that in an introduction in the protest does not mean to be intimidated as you see.
I regret to have to admit that here it becomes clear why our collaboration in MUTANT seemed difficult, Guy Debord; when you open up the New-York Herald Tribune of the 30th December 1961 you will not find the publication of the open letter to President Kennedy and Governor Rockefeller, written by the members of the academic staff of University Colleges and Research Institutes in the New-York city and the Cambridge Boston Area after which we made Mutant as you indicate in IS7 but in the New York Times (international edition of 30 dec.1961) For an ultimatum is made by a fraction towards another part of this same movement (see last page). What is wrong is the fear of facing the reaction after the offence made by an ultimatum, that then appears and exists between the “ultimators” towards the others. On the base of this fear, a cold war and a thermonuclear agitation are made by what are the “ultimators” or “provocators”. As long as neither of the “provocators” or “ultimators” get a protest from the others, this game goes on. When there are several provocators they all try to be the strongest, then it becomes an economical, social etc. question. There have to be found new ways out to detourne the problems into new ones (from A-Bom to shelter etc). And this goes on until the disaster OR.. until a protest of the non-provocating but provocated lot. But if Europe will start protesting against ridiculous provocation. And it might be that not the entire Europe will do so, but only a part, because of a certain tradition in which one part has always shown a desire for clarification of necessary facts AND another part has always had an extreme capacity and desire of detourning facts. WHAT THEN?
What has happened here has an extreme importance because this sort of game is very close to another game which has to be considered as quite dangerous for Europe. Why do we protest and why do we want to clarify a situation which appears to us as wrong and damned unclear? Why do you protest against our want to clarify things?
You detourn our protest very smartly into a false one. Well done! But had you printed our protest in the IS Revue 7 your detournement would have been completely unnecessary (and obviously ridiculous) as facts.
I’m absolutely not interested in facts, but when I see that there is a point where they are necessary, I use them. And you prefare to detourne them than to use them. This is of course a fantastic good tactic up to a certain point. And that is where we are now. When detournements come to this point inside an organisation or movement, they are not called detournement anymore, but SABOTAGE. It is not possible to be together in a movement if the distrust or desinterest is so big that a discussion on a subject does not even seem to be needed [next page]
The Anti-Nash fight which you start, has not so very much to do with what has to be considered as the Internationale Situationniste movement. The fight which has started with your fractionist exclusion of Spur and our protest against what we considered as being an un-situationist action has only started. It will go on. This mean that all the IS evidently knows the existence of a dutch member of the CC is false. Only all today left members of the IS seem to know that.
I’m proud you call us gangsters, nevertheless you are wrong. We are worse we are Situationists.
The continual process of inclusions and exclusion of the IS have after the last events come to the point where the IS has to be considered either as an avantgarde school which has already produced a series of first class artists thrown out after having passed through their education OR as an anti-organisation based upon new ideology which is situationist and which has not yet found in details its clear formulations in the fields of science, technique and art. The Situationistic notion cannot be on art it is an ideological and elaborative development. Everybody who develops theoretically or practically this new unity is automatically a member of the situationist international and in this perspective the Situationist Times.
The IS is a movement in public declared as anti-organisation. The reason why Debord wanted the exclusion of the Gruppe Spur was a pure question of discipline of an organisation which has absolutely no rules.
De tentoonstelling Jacqueline de Jong – Pinball Wizard is mede tot stand gekomen dankzij de steun van het Mondriaan Fonds, dat middels het experimenteerreglement bijdroeg aan het honorarium van de kunstenaar.