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Ivan Vladimirovitch Chtcheglov (Russian: Ива́н Влади́мирович Щегло́в; 16 January 1933 – 21 April 1998) was a French political theorist, activist and poet, born in Paris to Ukrainian father and French mother. His most famous work: Formulaire pour un urbanisme nouveau (Formulary for a New Urbanism), 1953.

rencontre sezanne 51120 Ref. n.1

DEBORDIANA

Internationale situationniste

Bulletin central édité par les sections de l’Internationale situationniste
Numéro 1
Juin 1958 — Directeur : G.-E. Debord
Rédaction : 32, rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris-Ve

Formulaire pour un urbanisme nouveau

Ivan Vladimirovitch Chtcheglov, dit Gilles Ivain

Sire, je suis de l’autre pays.

NOUS NOUS ENNUYONS dans la ville, il n’y a plus de temple du soleil. Entre les jambes des passantes les dadaïstes auraient voulu trouver une clef à molette, et les surréalistes une coupe de cristal, c’est perdu. Nous savons lire sur les visages toutes les promesses, dernier état de la morphologie. La poésie des affiches a duré vingt ans. Nous nous ennuyons dans la ville, il faut se fatiguer salement pour découvrir encore des mystères sur les pancartes de la voie publique, dernier état de l’humour et de la poésie :

Bain-Douches des Patriarches
Machines à trancher les viandes
Zoo Notre-Dame
Pharmacie des Sports
Alimentation des Martyrs
Béton translucide
Scierie Main-d’or
Centre de récupération fonctionnelle
Ambulance Sainte-Anne
Cinquième avenue café
Rue des Volontaires Prolongée
Pension de famille dans le jardin
Hôtel des Étrangers
Rue Sauvage

Et la piscine de la rue des Fillettes. Et le commissariat de police de la rue du Rendez-vous. La clinique médico-chirurgicale et le bureau de placement gratuit du quai des Orfèvres. Les fleurs artificielles de la rue du Soleil. L’hôtel des Caves du Château, le bar de l’Océan et le café du Va et Vient. L’hôtel de l’Époque.

Et l’étrange statue du Docteur Philippe Pinel, bienfaiteur des aliénés, dans les derniers soirs de l’été. Explorer Paris.

Et toi oubliée, tes souvenirs ravagés par toutes les consternations de la mappemonde, échouée au Caves Rouges de Pali-Kao, sans musique et sans géographie, ne partant plus pour l’hacienda où les racines pensent à l’enfant et où le vin s’achève en fables de calendrier. Maintenant c’est joué. L’hacienda, tu ne la verras pas. Elle n’existe pas.

Il faut construire l’hacienda.

*
Toutes les villes sont géologiques et l’on ne peut faire trois pas sans rencontrer des fantômes, armés de tout le prestige de leurs légendes. Nous évoluons dans un paysage fermé dont les points de repère nous tirent sans cesse vers le passé. Certains angles mouvants, certaines perspectives fuyantes nous permettent d’entrevoir d’originales conceptions de l’espace, mais cette vision demeure fragmentaire. Il faut la chercher sur les lieux magiques des contes du folklore et des écrits surréalistes : châteaux, murs interminables, petits bars oubliés, caverne du mammouth, glace des casinos.

Ces images périmées conservent un petit pouvoir de catalyse, mais il est presque impossible de les employer dans un urbanisme symbolique sans les rajeunir, en les chargeant d’un sens nouveau. Notre mental hanté par de vieilles images-clefs est resté très en arrière des machines perfectionnées. Les diverses tentatives pour intégrer la science moderne dans de nouveaux mythes demeurent insuffisantes. Depuis, l’abstrait a envahi tous les arts, en particulier l’architecture d’aujourd’hui. Le fait plastique à l’état pur, sans anecdote mais inanimé, repose l’œil et le refroidit. Ailleurs se retrouvent d’autres beautés fragmentaires, et de plus en plus lointaine la terre des synthèses promises. Chacun hésite entre le passé vivant dans l’affectif et l’avenir mort dès à présent.

Nous ne prolongerons pas les civilisations mécaniques et l’architecture froide qui mènent à fin de course aux loisirs ennuyés.

Nous nous proposons d’inventer de nouveaux décors mouvants. (…)

L’obscurité recule devant l’éclairage et les saisons devant les salles climatisées : la nuit et l’été perdent leurs charmes, et l’aube disparaît. L’homme des villes pense s’éloigner de la réalité cosmique et ne rêve pas plus pour cela. La raison en est évidente : le rêve a son point de départ dans la réalité et se réalise en elle.

Le dernier état de la technique permet le contact permanent entre l’individu et la réalité cosmique, tout en supprimant ses désagréments. Le plafond de verre laisse voir les étoiles et la pluie. La maison mobile tourne avec le soleil. Ses murs à coulisses permettent à la végétation d’envahir la vie. Montée sur glissières, elle peut s’avancer le matin jusqu’à la mer, pour rentrer le soir dans la forêt.

L’architecture est le plus simple moyen d’articuler le temps et l’espace, de moduler la réalité, de faire rêver. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d’articulation et de modulation plastiques, expression d’une beauté passagère. Mais d’une modulation influentielle, qui s’inscrit dans la courbe éternelle des désirs humains et des progrès dans la réalisation de ces désirs.

L’architecture de demain sera donc un moyen de modifier les conceptions actuelles du temps et de l’espace. Elle sera un moyen de connaissance et un moyen d’agir.

Le complexe architectural sera modifiable. Son aspect changera en partie ou totalement suivant la volonté de ses habitants. (…)

Les collectivités passées offraient aux masses une vérité absolue et des exemples mythiques indiscutables. L’entrée de la notion de relativité dans l’esprit moderne permet de soupçonner le côté EXPÉRIMENTAL de la prochaine civilisation, encore que le mot ne me satisfasse pas. Disons plus souple, plus « amusé ». Sur les bases de cette civilisation mobile, l’architecture sera — au moins à ses débuts — un moyen d’expérimenter les mille façons de modifier la vie, en vue d’une synthèse qui ne peut être que légendaire.

Une maladie mentale a envahi la planète : la banalisation. Chacun est hypnotisé par la production et le confort — tout-à-l’égoût, ascenseur, salle de bains, machine à laver.

Cet état de fait qui a pris naissance dans une protestation contre la misère dépasse son but lointain — libération de l’homme des soucis matériels — pour devenir une image obsédante dans l’immédiat. Entre l’amour et le vide-ordure automatique la jeunesse de tous les pays a fait son choix et préfère le vide-ordure. Un revirement complet de l’esprit est devenu indispensable, par la mise en lumière de désirs oubliés et la création de désirs entièrement nouveaux. Et par une propagande intensive en faveur de ces désirs.

Nous avons déjà signalé le besoin de construire des situations comme un des désirs de base sur lesquels serait fondée la prochaine civilisation. Ce besoin de création absolue a toujours été étroitement mêlé au besoin de jouer avec l’architecture, le temps et l’espace. (…)

Un des plus remarquables précurseurs de l’architecture restera Chirico. Il s’est attaqué aux problèmes des absences et des présences à travers le temps et l’espace.

On sait qu’un objet, non remarqué consciemment lors d’une première visite, provoque par son absence au cours des visites suivanes, une impression indéfinissable : par un redressement dans le temps, l’absence de l’objet se fait présence sensible. Mieux : bien que restant généralement indéfinie, la qualité de l’impression varie pourtant suivant la nature de l’objet enlevé et l’importance que le visiteur lui accorde, pouvant aller de la joie sereine à l’épouvante (peu nous importe que dans ce cas précis le véhicule de l’état d’âme soit la mémoire. Je n’ai choisi cet exemple que pour sa commodité).

Dans la peinture de Chirico (période des Arcades) un espace vide crée un temps bien rempli. Il est aisé de se représenter l’avenir que nous réserverons à de pareils architectes, et quelles seront leurs influences sur les foules. Nous ne pouvons aujourd’hui que mépriser un siècle qui relègue de pareilles maquettes dans de prétendus musées.

Cette vision nouvelle du temps et de l’espace qui sera la base théorique des constructions à venir, n’est pas au point et ne le sera jamais entièrement avant d’expérimenter les comportements dans des villes réservées à cet effet, où seraient réunis systématiquement, outre les établissements indispensables à un minimum de confort et de sécurité, des bâtiments chargés d’un grand pouvoir évocateur et influentiel, des édifices symboliques figurant les désirs, les forces, les événements passés, présents et à venir. Un élargissement rationnel des anciens systèmes religieux, des vieux contes et surtout de la psychanalyse au bénéfice de l’architecture se fait plus urgent chaque jour, à mesure que disparaissent les raisons de se passionner.

En quelque sorte chacun habitera sa « cathédrale » personnelle. Il y aura des pièces qui feront rêver mieux que des drogues, et des maisons où l’on ne pourra qu’aimer. D’autres attireront invinciblement les voyageurs…

On peut comparer ce projet aux jardins chinois et japonais en trompe-l’œil — à la différence que ces jardins ne sont pas faits pour y vivre entièrement — ou au labyrinthe ridicule du Jardin des Plantes à l’entrée duquel on peut lire, comble de la bêtise, Ariane en chômage : Les jeux sont interdits dans le labyrinthe.

Cette ville pourrait être envisagée sous la forme d’une réunion arbitraire de châteaux, grottes, lacs, etc… Ce serait le stade baroque de l’urbanisme considéré comme un moyen de connaissance. Mais déjà cette phase théorique est dépassée. Nous savons que l’on peut construire un immeuble moderne dans lequel on ne reconnaîtrait en rien un château médiéval, mais qui garderait et multiplierait le pouvoir poétique du Château (par la conservation d’un strict minimum de lignes, la transposition de certaines autres, l’emplacement des ouvertures, la situation topographique, etc.).

Les quartiers de cette ville pourraient correspondre aux divers sentiments catalogués que l’on rencontre par hasard dans la vie courante.

Quartier Bizarre — Quartier Heureux, plus particulièrement réservé à l’habitation — Quartier Noble et Tragique (pour les enfants sages) — Quartier Historique (musées, écoles) — Quartier Utile (hôpital, magasins d’outillage) — Quartier Sinistre, etc… Et un Astrolaire qui grouperait les espèces végétales selon les relations qu’elles attestent avec le rythme stellaire, jardin planétaire comparable à celui que l’astronome Thomas se propose de faire établir à Vienne au lieu dit Laaer Berg. Indispensable pour donner aux habitants une conscience du cosmique. Peut-être aussi un Quartier de la Mort, non pour y mourir mais pour y vivre en paix, et ici je pense au Mexique et à un principe de cruauté dans l’innocence qui me devient chaque jour plus cher.

Le Quartier Sinistre, par exemple, remplacerait avantageusement ces trous, bouches des enfers, que bien des peuples possédaient jadis dans leur capitale : ils symbolisaient les puissances maléfiques de la vie. Le Quartier Sinistre n’aurait nul besoin de recéler des dangers réels, tels que pièges, oubliettes, ou mines. Il serait d’approche compliquée, affreusement décoré (sifflets stridents, cloches d’alarmes, sirènes périodiques à cadence irrégulière, sculptures monstrueuses, mobiles mécaniques à moteurs, dits Auto-Mobiles) et peu éclairé la nuit, autant que violemment éclairé le jour par un emploi abusif du phénomène de réverbération. Au centre, la « Place du Mobile Épouvantable ». La saturation du marché par un produit provoque la baisse de ce produit : l’enfant et l’adulte apprendraient par l’exploration du quartier sinistre à ne plus craindre les manifestations angoissantes de la vie, mais à s’en amuser.

L’activité principale des habitants sera la DÉRIVE CONTINUE. Le changement de paysage d’heure en heure sera responsable du dépaysement complet. (…)

Plus tard, lors de l’inévitable usure des gestes, cette dérive quittera en partie le domaine du vécu pour celui de la représentation. (…)

L’objection économique ne résiste pas au premier coup d’œil. On sait que plus un lieu est réservé à la liberté de jeu, plus il influe sur le comportement et plus sa force d’attraction est grande. Le prestige immense de Monaco, de Las Vegas, en est la preuve. Et Reno, caricature de l’union libre. Pourtant il ne s’agit que de simples jeux d’argent. Cette première ville expérimentale vivrait largement sur un tourisme toléré et contrôlé. Les prochaines activités et productions d’avant-garde s’y concentreraient d’elles-mêmes. En quelques années elle deviendrait la capitale intellectuelle du monde, et serait partout reconnue comme telle.

GILLES IVAIN

L’Internationale lettriste avait adopté en octobre 1953 ce rapport de Gilles Ivain sur l’urbanisme, qui constitua un élément décisif de la nouvelle orientation prise alors par l’avant-garde expérimentale. Le présent texte a été établi à partir de deux états successifs du manuscrit, comportant de légères différences de formulation, conservés dans les archives de l’I.L., puis devenus les pièces numéro 103 et numéro 108 des Archives Situationnistes.


BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS

Formulary for a New Urbanism

(Translation of the Newly Published Complete Version)

SIRE, I AM FROM THE OTHER COUNTRY
We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun. Between the legs of the women walking by, the dadaists imagined a monkey wrench and the surrealists a crystal cup. That’s lost. We know how to read every promise in faces — the latest stage of morphology. The poetry of the billboards lasted twenty years. We are bored in the city, we really have to strain to still discover mysteries on the sidewalk billboards, the latest state of humor and poetry:

Showerbath of the Patriarchs
Meat Cutting Machines
Notre Dame Zoo
Sports Pharmacy
Martyrs Provisions
Translucent Concrete
Golden Touch Sawmill
Center for Functional Recuperation
Saint Anne Ambulance
Café Fifth Avenue
Prolonged Volunteers Street
Family Boarding House in the Garden
Hotel of Strangers
Wild Street

And the swimming pool on the Street of Little Girls. And the police station on Rendezvous Street. The medical-surgical clinic and the free placement center on the Quai des Orfèvres.(1) The artificial flowers on Sun Street. The Castle Cellars Hotel, the Ocean Bar and the Coming and Going Café. The Hotel of the Epoch.

And the strange statue of Dr. Philippe Pinel, benefactor of the insane, fading in the last evenings of summer. Exploring Paris.

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. That’s all over. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.

The hacienda must be built.

All cities are geological. You can’t take three steps without encountering ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends. We move within a closed landscape whose landmarks constantly draw us toward the past. Certain shifting angles, certain receding perspectives, allow us to glimpse original conceptions of space, but this vision remains fragmentary. It must be sought in the magical locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings: castles, endless walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors.

These dated images retain a small catalyzing power, but it is almost impossible to use them in a symbolic urbanism without rejuvenating them by giving them a new meaning. There was a certain charm in horses born from the sea or magical dwarves dressed in gold, but they are in no way adapted to the demands of modern life. For we are in the twentieth century, even if few people are aware of it. Our imaginations, haunted by the old archetypes, have remained far behind the sophistication of the machines. The various attempts to integrate modern science into new myths remain inadequate. Meanwhile abstraction has invaded all the arts, contemporary architecture in particular. Pure plasticity, inanimate and storyless, soothes the eye. Elsewhere other fragmentary beauties can be found — while the promised land of new syntheses continually recedes into the distance. Everyone wavers between the emotionally still-alive past and the already dead future.

We don’t intend to prolong the mechanistic civilizations and frigid architecture that ultimately lead to boring leisure.

We propose to invent new, changeable decors.

* * *

We will leave Monsieur Le Corbusier’s style to him, a style suitable for factories and hospitals, and no doubt eventually for prisons. (Doesn’t he already build churches?) Some sort of psychological repression dominates this individual — whose face is as ugly as his conceptions of the world — such that he wants to squash people under ignoble masses of reinforced concrete, a noble material that should rather be used to enable an aerial articulation of space that could surpass the flamboyant Gothic style. His cretinizing influence is immense. A Le Corbusier model is the only image that arouses in me the idea of immediate suicide. He is destroying the last remnants of joy. And of love, passion, freedom.

* * *

Darkness and obscurity are banished by artificial lighting, and the seasons by air conditioning. Night and summer are losing their charm and dawn is disappearing. The urban population think they have escaped from cosmic reality, but there is no corresponding expansion of their dream life. The reason is clear: dreams spring from reality and are realized in it.

The latest technological developments would make possible the individual’s unbroken contact with cosmic reality while eliminating its disagreeable aspects. Stars and rain can be seen through glass ceilings. The mobile house turns with the sun. Its sliding walls enable vegetation to invade life. Mounted on tracks, it can go down to the sea in the morning and return to the forest in the evening.

Architecture is the simplest means of articulating time and space, of modulating reality and engendering dreams. It is a matter not only of plastic articulation and modulation expressing an ephemeral beauty, but of a modulation producing influences in accordance with the eternal spectrum of human desires and the progress in fulfilling them.

The architecture of tomorrow will be a means of modifying present conceptions of time and space. It will be both a means of knowledge and a means of action.

Architectural complexes will be modifiable. Their appearance will change totally or partially in accordance with the will of their inhabitants.

* * *

A new architecture can express nothing less than a new civilization (it is clear that there has been neither civilization nor architecture for centuries, but only experiments, most of which were failures; we can speak of Gothic architecture, but there is no Marxist or capitalist architecture, though these two systems are revealing similar tendencies and goals).

Anyone thus has the right to ask us on what vision of civilization we are going to found an architecture. I briefly sketch the points of departure for a civilization:

— A new conception of space (a religious or nonreligious cosmogony).

— A new conception of time (counting from zero, various modes of temporal development).

— A new conception of behaviors (moral, sociological, political, legal; economy is only a part of the laws of behavior accepted by a civilization).

Past collectivities offered the masses an absolute truth and incontrovertible mythical exemplars. The appearance of the notion of relativity in the modern mind allows one to surmise the EXPERIMENTAL aspect of the next civilization (although I’m not satisfied with that word; I mean that it will be more flexible, more “playful”). (For a long time it was believed that the Marxist countries were on this path. We now know that this endeavor followed the old normal evolution, arriving in record time at a rigidification of its doctrines and at forms that have become ossified in their decadence. A renewal is perhaps possible, but I will not examine this question here.)

On the bases of this mobile civilization, architecture will, at least initially, be a means of experimenting with a thousand ways of modifying life, with a view to an ultimate mythic synthesis.

* * *

A mental disease has swept the planet: banalization. Everyone is hypnotized by production and conveniences — sewage systems, elevators, bathrooms, washing machines.

This state of affairs, arising out of a struggle against poverty, has overshot its ultimate goal — the liberation of humanity from material cares — and become an omnipresent obsessive image. Presented with the alternative of love or a garbage disposal unit, young people of all countries have chosen the garbage disposal unit. It has become essential to provoke a complete spiritual transformation by bringing to light forgotten desires and by creating entirely new ones. And by carrying out an intensive propaganda in favor of these desires.

* * *

Guy Debord has already pointed out the construction of situations as being one of the fundamental desires on which the next civilization will be founded. This need for total creation has always been intimately associated with the need to play with architecture, time and space. One example will suffice to demonstrate this — a leaflet distributed in the street by the Palais de Paris (manifestations of the collective unconscious always correspond to the affirmations of creators):

BYGONE NEIGHBORHOODS
Grand Events
PERIOD MUSIC
LUMINOUS EFFECTS

PARIS BY NIGHT

C O M P L E T E L Y A N I M A T E D

The Court of Miracles: an impressive 300-square-meter reconstruction of a Medieval neighborhood, with rundown houses inhabited by robbers, beggars, bawdy wenches, all subjects of the frightful KING OF THIEVES, who renders justice from his lair.

The Tower of Nesle: The sinister Tower profiles its imposing mass against the somber, dark-clouded sky. The Seine laps softly. A boat approaches. Two assassins await their victim. . . .(2)

Other examples of this desire to construct situations can be found in the past. Edgar Allan Poe and his story of the man who devoted his wealth to the construction of landscapes [“The Domain of Arnheim”]. Or the paintings of Claude Lorrain. Many of the latter’s admirers are not quite sure to what to attribute the charm of his canvases. They talk about his portrayal of light. It does indeed have a rather mysterious quality, but that does not suffice to explain these paintings’ ambience of perpetual invitation to voyage. This ambience is provoked by an unaccustomed architectural space. The palaces are situated right on the edge of the sea, and they have “pointless” hanging gardens whose vegetation appears in the most unexpected places. The incitement to drifting is provoked by the palace doors’ proximity to the ships.

De Chirico remains one of the most remarkable architectural precursors. He was grappling with the problems of absences and presences in time and space.

We know that an object that is not consciously noticed at the time of a first visit can, by its absence during subsequent visits, provoke an indefinable impression: as a result of this sighting backward in time, the absence of the object becomes a presence one can feel. More precisely: although the quality of the impression generally remains indefinite, it nevertheless varies with the nature of the removed object and the importance accorded it by the visitor, ranging from serene joy to terror. (It is of no particular significance that in this specific case memory is the vehicle of these feelings; I only selected this example for its convenience.)

In De Chirico’s paintings (during his Arcade period) an empty space creates a richly filled time. It is easy to imagine the fantastic future possibilities of such architecture and its influence on the masses. We can have nothing but contempt for a century that relegates such blueprints to its so-called museums. De Chirico could have been given free reign over Place de la Concorde and its Obelisk, or at least commissioned to design the gardens that “adorn” several entrances to the capital.

This new vision of time and space, which will be the theoretical basis of future constructions, is still imprecise and will remain so until experimentation with patterns of behavior has taken place in cities specifically established for this purpose, cities bringing together — in addition to the facilities necessary for basic comfort and security — buildings charged with evocative power, symbolic edifices representing desires, forces and events, past, present and to come. A rational extension of the old religious systems, of old tales, and above all of psychoanalysis, into architectural expression becomes more and more urgent as all the reasons for becoming impassioned disappear.

Everyone will, so to speak, live in their own personal “cathedrals.” There will be rooms more conducive to dreams than any drug, and houses where one cannot help but love. Others will be irresistibly alluring to travelers.

This project could be compared with the Chinese and Japanese gardens that create optical illusions — with the difference that those gardens are not designed to be lived in all the time — or with the ridiculous labyrinth in the Jardin des Plantes, at the entry to which (height of absurdity, Ariadne(3) unemployed) is the sign: No playing in the labyrinth.

This city could be envisaged in the form of an arbitrary assemblage of castles, grottos, lakes, etc. It would be the baroque stage of urbanism considered as a means of knowledge. But this theoretical phase is already outdated. We know that a modern building could be constructed which would have no resemblance to a medieval castle but which could nevertheless preserve and enhance a “Castle” type of poetic power (by the conservation of a strict minimum of lines, the transposition of certain others, the positioning of openings, the topographical location, etc.).

The districts of this city could correspond to the whole spectrum of diverse feelings that one encounters by chance in everyday life.

Bizarre Quarter — Happy Quarter (specially reserved for habitation) — Noble and Tragic Quarter (for good children) — Historical Quarter (museums, schools) — Useful Quarter (hospital, tool shops) — Sinister Quarter, etc. And an Astrolarium which would group plant species in accordance with the relations they manifest with the stellar rhythm, a Planetary Garden along the lines the astronomer Thomas wants to establish at Laaer Berg in Vienna. Indispensable for giving the inhabitants a consciousness of the cosmic. Perhaps also a Death Quarter, not for dying in but so as to have somewhere to live in peace — I’m thinking here of Mexico and of a principle of cruelty in innocence that appeals more to me every day.

The Sinister Quarter, for example, would be a good replacement for those ill-reputed neighborhoods full of sordid dives and unsavory characters that many peoples once possessed in their capitals: they symbolized all the evil forces of life. The Sinister Quarter would have no need to harbor real dangers, such as traps, dungeons or mines. It would be difficult to get into, with a hideous decor (piercing whistles, alarm bells, sirens wailing intermittently, grotesque sculptures, power-driven mobiles, called Auto-Mobiles), and as poorly lit at night as it was blindingly lit during the day by an intensive use of reflection. At the center, the “Square of the Appalling Mobile.” Saturation of the market with a product causes the product’s market value to fall: thus, as they explored the Sinister Quarter, children would learn not to fear the anguishing occasions of life, but to be amused by them.

The main activity of the inhabitants will be CONTINUOUS DRIFTING.(4) The changing of landscapes from one hour to the next will result in total disorientation.

Couples will no longer pass their nights in the home where they live and receive guests, which is nothing but a banal social custom. The chamber of love will be more distant from the center of the city: it will naturally recreate for the partners a sense of exoticism(5) in a locale less open to light, more hidden, so as to recover the atmosphere of secrecy. The opposite tendency, seeking a center of thought, will proceed through the same technique.

Later, as the activities inevitably grow stale, this drifting will partially leave the realm of direct experience for that of representation.

Note: A certain Saint-Germain-des Prés,(6) about which no one has yet written, has been the first group functioning on a historical scale within this ethic of drifting. This magical group spirit, which has remained underground up till now, is the only explanation for the enormous influence that a mere three city blocks have had on the world, an influence that others have inadequately attempted to explain on the basis of styles of clothing and song, or even more stupidly by the neighborhood’s supposedly freer access to prostitution (and Pigalle?).(7)

In forthcoming books we will elucidate the coincidence and incidences of the Saint-Germain days (Henry de Béarn’s The New Nomadism, Guy Debord’s Beautiful Youth, etc.).(8) This should serve to clarify not only an “aesthetic of behaviors” but practical means for forming new groups, and above all a complete phenomenology of couples, encounters and duration which mathematicians and poets will study with profit.

Finally, to those who object that a people cannot live by drifting, it is useful to recall that in every group certain characters (priests or heroes) are charged with representing various tendencies as specialists, in accordance with the dual mechanism of projection and identification. Experience demonstrates that a dérive is a good replacement for a Mass: it is more effective in making people enter into communication with the ensemble of energies, seducing them for the benefit of the collectivity.

The economic obstacles are only apparent. We know that the more a place is set apart for free play, the more it influences people’s behavior and the greater is its force of attraction. This is demonstrated by the immense prestige of Monaco and Las Vegas — and of Reno, that caricature of free love — though they are mere gambling places. Our first experimental city would live largely off tolerated and controlled tourism. Future avant-garde activities and productions would naturally tend to gravitate there. In a few years it would become the intellectual capital of the world and would be universally recognized as such.

IVAN CHTCHEGLOV(9)
1953

[TRANSLATOR’S NOTES]

1. The humor and/or poetry of some of the signs in this list is obvious, but in other cases it will be obscure for the non-French reader. Quai des Orfèvres, for example, is the headquarters of the Paris Police Department and placement means not only job placement but also arrest. Saint-Anne’s is a street name but also a well-known mental asylum. Some of the other oddities stem from the Parisian habit of naming stores after their street names, which are often rather picturesque, in many cases dating back to the Middle Ages. “Alimentation des Martyrs,” for example, was probably a grocery store located on Rue des Martyrs.

2. The Court of Miracles and The Tower of Nesle: allusions to two Medieval tales dramatized, respectively, by Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.

3. Ariadne: woman in Greek mythology who gave Theseus the thread enabling him to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth.

4. DRIFTING: Elsewhere at this site, the original French term dérive is used. See Debord’s Theory of the Dérive.

5. exoticism: literally excentricité, which in French can mean either eccentricity or outlying location.

6. Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Parisian neighborhood frequented by the lettrists in the early 1950s. It was famous as the scene of postwar bohemianism and existentialism (Camus, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, etc.), but less visibly, in less trendy cafés and less reputable bars, Chtcheglov, Debord and their friends pursued their own adventures, evoked in Debord’s Mémoires and in two of his films (On the Passage and In girum) and recounted in detail in Jean-Michel Mension’s The Tribe

7. Pigalle: Parisian red light district. Chtcheglov’s point is that the supposed presence of prostitution had nothing to do with Saint-Germain-des-Prés’s cultural impact since Pigalle had far more prostitution yet exerted no particular influence.

8. Neither of these books were written. Henry de Béarn, another Lettrist International member, was a close friend of Chtcheglov’s.

9. “Ivan Chtcheglov participated in the ventures that were at the origin of the situationist movement, and his role in it has been irreplaceable, both in its theoretical endeavors and in its practical activity (the dérive experiments). In 1953, at the age of 19, he had already drafted — under the pseudonym Gilles Ivain — the text entitled “Formulary for a New Urbanism,” which was later published in the first issue of Internationale Situationniste. Having passed the last five years in a psychiatric clinic, where he still is, he reestablished contact with us only long after the formation of the SI. He is currently working on a revised edition of his 1953 writing on architecture and urbanism. The letters from which the following lines have been excerpted were addressed to Michèle Bernstein and Guy Debord over the last year. The plight to which Ivan Chtcheglov is being subjected can be considered as one of modern society’s increasingly sophisticated methods of control over people’s lives, a control that in previous times was reflected in atheists being condemned to the Bastille, for example, or political opponents to exile.” (Introductory note to Chtcheglov’s “Letters from Afar,” Internationale Situationniste #9 [1964], p. 38. A passage from one of those letters can be found here.)
“Formulaire pour un urbanisme nouveau” was written in 1953. An abridged version appeared in Internationale Situationniste #1 (Paris, June 1958), a translation of which was included in the first edition of the Situationist International Anthology. The present text (included in the Revised and Expanded Edition of the SI Anthology) is a translation by Ken Knabb of the complete original version, which has just been published for the first time in France (Écrits retrouvés, Éditions Allia, 2006). See also the biographical study by Jean-Marie Apostolidès and Boris Donné: Ivan Chtcheglov, profil perdu (Allia, 2006).

No copyright.

Formulario para un nuevo urbanismo

La Internacional Letrista adoptó en octubre de 1953 este informe de Gilles Ivain (pseudónimo de Ivan Chtcheglov) sobre el urbanismo que más tarde sería publicado en el # 1 de Internationale Situationniste. Traducción extraída de Internacional situacionista, vol. 1: La realización del arte, Madrid, Literatura Gris, 1999.

SEÑOR, SOY DE OTRO PAÍS

Nos aburrimos en la ciudad, ya no hay ningún templo del sol. Entre las piernas de las mujeres que pasan los dadaístas hubieran querido encontrar una llave inglesa y los surrealistas una copa de cristal. Esto se ha perdido. Sabemos leer en los rostros todas las promesas, último estado de la morfología. La poesía de los carteles ha durado veinte años. Nos aburrimos en la ciudad, tenemos que pringarnos para descubrir misterios todavía en los carteles de la calle, último estado del humor y de la poesía.

Baños de los Patriarcas

Máquinas de charcutería

Zoo de Nuestra Señora

Farmacia deportiva

Alimentación de los Mártires

Hormigón translúcido

Serrería Mano de Oro

Centro de recuperación funcional

Ambulancia Santa Ana

Café de la Quinta Avenida

Calle de los Voluntarios Prolongada

Hostal familiar en el jardín

Hotel de Extranjeros

Calle Salvaje

Y la piscina de la calle de las Nenas. Y la comisaría de la calle de las Citas. La clínica quirúrgica y la oficina de empleo gratuito del muelle de los Orfebres. Las flores artificiales de la calle del Sol. El Hotel de los Sótanos del Castillo, el bar del Océano y el café de Ir y Venir. El Hotel de Época.

Y la extraña estatua del Doctor Phillippe Pinel, benefactor de los locos, en las últimas tardes del verano. Explorar París.

Y tú, olvidado, tus recuerdos asolados por todas las consternaciones del mapamundi, encallado en las Cuevas Rojas de Pali-Kao, sin música y sin geografía, sin ir ya a la hacienda donde las raíces piensan en el niño y el vino se acaba en fábulas de almanaque. Ahora se acabó. Nunca verás la hacienda. No existe.

Hay que construir la hacienda.

Todas las ciudades son geológicas, y no se pueden dar tres pasos sin encontrar fantasmas armados con todo el prestigio de sus leyendas. Evolucionamos en un paisaje cerrado cuyos puntos de referencia nos atraen constantemente hacia el pasado. Algunos ángulos movedizos, algunas perspectivas fugitivas nos permiten vislumbrar concepciones originales del espacio, pero esta visión sigue siendo fragmentaria. Hay que buscar en los lugares mágicos de los cuentos del folklore y en los escritos surrealistas: castillos, muros interminables, pequeños bares olvidados, cuevas de mamut, hielo de los casinos.

Estas imágenes caducas conservan un pequeño poder de catálisis, pero es casi imposible utilizarlas en un urbanismo simbólico sin rejuvenecerlas dándoles un nuevo sentido. Nuestro imaginario cultivado por viejos arquetipos ha quedado muy por detrás de las máquinas perfeccionadas. Los diversos intentos de integrar la ciencia moderna en los nuevos mitos continúan siendo insuficientes. Mientras tanto lo abstracto ha invadido todas las artes, en particular la arquitectura de hoy. El hecho plástico en estado puro, sin anécdota e inanimado, descansa y refresca los ojos. En otros lugares se encuentran más bellezas fragmentarias, pero la tierra de las síntesis prometidas cada vez más lejana. Cada cual duda entre el pasado emocionalmente vivo y el futuro ya muerto.

No prolongaremos las civilizaciones mecánicas y la fría arquitectura cuya meta es el ocio aburrido.

Nos proponemos inventar nuevos escenarios móviles. (…)

La oscuridad retrocede ante la luz artificial y el ciclo de las estaciones ante las salas climatizadas: la noche y el verano pierden su encanto y el alba está desapareciendo. El hombre de las ciudades piensa alejarse de la realidad cósmica y por eso ya no sueña. La razón es evidente: el sueño se alza sobre la realidad y se realiza en ella.

La fase última de la técnica permite el contacto ininterrumpido entre el hombre y la realidad cósmica a la vez que elimina sus aspectos desagradables. El techo de vidrio deja ver las estrellas y la lluvia. La casa móvil gira con el sol. Sus muros corredizos permiten a la vegetación invadir la vida. Deslizándose sobre vías puede ir hasta el mar por la mañana y volver por la noche al bosque.

La arquitectura es el medio más simple de articular el tiempo y el espacio, de modular la realidad, de engendrar sueños. No se trata solamente de la articulación y la modulación plásticas, expresión de una belleza pasajera, sino de una modulación influencial que se inscribe en la curva eterna de los deseos humanos y del progreso en su realización.

La arquitectura de mañana será un medio para modificar las condiciones actuales de tiempo y de espacio. Un medio de conocimiento y un medio de acción.

El complejo arquitectónico será modificable. Su aspecto cambiará parcial o totalmente siguiendo la voluntad de sus habitantes. (…)

Las colectividades del pasado ofrecieron a las masas una verdad absoluta y ejemplos míticos incuestionables. La aparición de la noción de relatividad en la mentalidad moderna permite sospechar el aspecto EXPERIMENTAL de la nueva civilización, aunque la palabra no me satisface. Un aspecto más flexible, más “divertido” digamos. Sobre la base de esta civilización móvil, la arquitectura será -al menos inicialmente- un medio para experimentar miles de formas de modificar la vida, con vistas a una síntesis que sólo puede ser legendaria.

Una enfermedad mental ha invadido el planeta: la banalización. Todo el mundo está hipnotizado por la producción y el confort -desagüe, ascensor, baño, lavadora.

Este estado de cosas que nace de una rebelión contra la miseria supera su remoto fin -la liberación del hombre de las inquietudes materiales- para convertirse en una imagen obsesiva en lo inmediato. Entre el amor y el basurero automático la juventud de todo el mundo ha hecho su elección y prefiere el basurero. Se ha hecho imprescindible una transformación espiritual completa, que saque a la luz deseos olvidados y cree otros completamente nuevos. Y realizar una propaganda intensiva en favor de estos deseos.

Hemos apuntado ya la necesidad de construir situaciones como uno de los deseos básicos en los que se fundaría la próxima civilización. Esta necesidad de creación absoluta siempre ha estado estrechamente asociada a la necesidad de jugar con la arquitectura, el tiempo y el espacio.(…)

Uno de los más destacados precursores arquitectónicos seguirá siendo Chirico. Él abordó los problemas de las ausencias y las presencias en el tiempo y el espacio.

Sabemos que un objeto que no es conscientemente advertido en una primera visita provoca, en su ausencia, una sensación indefinible en visitas posteriores: mediante su percepción diferida la ausencia del objeto se hace presencia sensible. Más exactamente: aunque la calidad de la impresión generalmente sigue siendo indefinida, varía con la naturaleza del objeto desaparecido y la importancia concedida al mismo por el visitante, pudiendo ir del gozo sereno al terror (poco importa que en este caso específico sea la memoria el vehículo de esos sentimientos; sólo he escogido este ejemplo por su comodidad).

En la pintura de Chirico (período de Las Arcadas) un espacio vacío crea un tiempo pleno. Es fácil imaginar el futuro que reservamos a tales arquitectos y su influencia sobre las masas. Hoy no podemos sino despreciar un siglo que ha relegado tales maquetas a supuestos museos.

Esta nueva visión del tiempo y del espacio, que será la base teórica de futuras construcciones, no está a punto ni lo estará completamente antes que se experimente el comportamiento en ciudades reservadas para este fin, donde se reunirían sistemáticamente, además de las instalaciones necesarias para un mínimo de confort y seguridad, construcciones cargadas de un gran poder evocador e influencial, edificios simbólicos representando los deseos, las fuerzas, los acontecimientos del pasado, del presente y del futuro. A medida que desaparecen los motivos para apasionarse se hace más urgente una ampliación racional de los antiguos sistemas religiosos, de los viejos cuentos y sobre todo del psicoanálisis en provecho de la arquitectura.

De algún modo cada uno habitará en su “catedral” personal. Habrá habitaciones que harán soñar mejor que cualquier droga y casas donde sólo se podrá amar. Otras atraerán irresistiblemente a los viajeros…

Este proyecto podría compararse con los trampantojos chinos y japoneses -con la diferencia de que aquellos jardines no estaban diseñados para vivir en ellos- o con el ridículo laberinto del Jardín des Plantes en cuya entrada se puede leer, colmo del absurdo, Ariadna en paro: Los juegos están prohibidos en el laberinto.

Esta ciudad podría ser imaginada como una reunión arbitraria de castillos, grutas, lagos, etc… Sería el estadio barroco del urbanismo considerado como un medio de conocimiento. Pero esta fase teórica está ya superada. Sabemos que se puede construir un inmueble moderno que no se parezca a un castillo medieval, pero que conserve y multiplique el poder poético del Castillo (mediante la conservación de un mínimo estricto de líneas, la trasposición de otras, el emplazamiento de las aberturas, la situación topográfica, etc.)

Los distritos de esta ciudad podrían corresponder al espectro completo de los diversos sentimientos que se encuentran al azar en la vida corriente.

Barrio Bizarro – Barrio Feliz, reservado particularmente al alojamiento) – Barrio Noble y Trágico (para buenos chicos) – Barrio Histórico (museos, escuelas) – Barrio Útil (hospital, almacenes de herramientas) – Barrio Siniestro, etc. Y un Astrolario que agruparía las especies vegetales de acuerdo con las relaciones que manifiestan con el ritmo estelar, un jardín planetario comparable al que el astrónomo Thomas quería establecer en Laaer Berg, en Viena, indispensable para dar a los habitantes conciencia de lo cósmico. Quizás también un Barrio de la Muerte, no para morir sino para tener donde vivir en paz, y pienso aquí en Méjico y en un principio de crueldad en la inocencia que cada día me seduce más.

El Barrio Siniestro, por ejemplo, reemplazaría ventajosamente esas bocas del infierno que muchos pueblos poseían antiguamente en su capital y que simbolizaban las potencias maléficas de la vida. El Barrio Siniestro no tiene por qué encerrar peligros reales, como trampas, mazmorras o minas. Sería de difícil acceso, horrorosamente decorado (silbatos estridentes, timbres de alarma, sirenas intermitentes con una cadencia irregular, esculturas monstruosas, móviles mecánicos motorizados llamados Auto-Móviles) y tan pobremente iluminado por la noche como escandalosamente durante el día mediante un uso abusivo del fenómeno de reverberación. En el centro, la “Plaza del Móvil Espantoso”. La saturación del mercado con un producto provoca la caída de su valor: el niño y el adulto aprenderán mediante la exploración del Barrio Siniestro a no temer ya las manifestaciones angustiosas de la vida, sino a divertirse con ellas.

La actividad principal de los habitantes será la DERIVA CONTINUA. El cambio de paisajes entre una hora y la siguiente será responsable de la desorientación completa. (…)

Más tarde, con el inevitable desgaste de los gestos, esta deriva abandonará en parte el campo de lo vivido por el de la representación.(…)

La objeción económica no resiste la primera ojeada. Sabemos que cuanto más reservado a la libertad del juego esté un lugar más influye sobre el comportamiento y mayor es su fuerza de atracción. Lo demuestra el inmenso prestigio de Mónaco y Las Vegas. Y de Reno, caricatura del amor libre. Pero no se trata más que de simples juegos de dinero. Esta primera ciudad experimental vivirá generosamente del turismo tolerado y controlado. Las próximas actividades y producciones de la vanguardia se concentrarán en ella. En unos pocos años llegará a ser la capital intelectual del mundo y será universalmente conocida como tal.

****

La Internacional letrista había adoptado en octubre de 1953 este
informe de Gilles Ivain sobre el urbanismo, que constituyó un elemento
decisivo de la nueva orientación tomada a partir de entonces por la
vanguardia experimental. El presente texto se ha establecido a partir
de dos versiones sucesivas del manuscrito, que comportan leves
diferencias de formulación, conservados en los archivos de la I.L. y
convertidas en las piezas nº 103 y 108 de los Archivos Situacionistas.

Ref. n.2

ASGER JORN. Les situationnistes et l’automation.

« Je rassemble aussi quelques citations pour un article sur les perspectives de l’automation, article que nous devrions, je crois, écrire ensemble. » — GUY DEBORD, lettre à Asger Jorn, 1er septembre 1957.

IL EST assez étonnant que presque personne, jusqu’à présent, n’ose développer la pensée de l’automation jusqu’à ses dernières conséquences. Par le fait, il n’y a pas de véritables perspectives. On a plutôt l’impression que les ingénieurs, les savants, les sociologues essaient de faire passer l’automation en fraude dans la société.

Pourtant l’automation est maintenant au centre du problème de la domination socialiste de la production et de la prééminence des loisirs sur le temps de travail. La question de l’automation est la plus chargée de possibilités positives et négatives.

Le but du socialisme est l’abondance : le plus grand nombre de biens au plus grand nombre de gens, ce qui implique statistiquement la réduction jusqu’à l’improbable des apparitions de l’imprévu. La croissance du nombre des biens réduit la valeur de chacun. Cette dévalorisation de tous les biens humains à un stade de neutralité pour ainsi dire parfaite sera le résultat inévitable d’un développement purement scientifique du socialisme. Il est regrettable que bien des intellectuels ne dépassent pas cette idée de la reproduction mécanique, et préparent l’adaptation de l’homme à ce futur incolore et symétrisé. De sorte que les artistes, spécialisés dans la recherche de l’unique, se tournent avec hostilité, en nombre croissant, contre le socialisme. À l’inverse les politiques du socialisme entretiennent la méfiance contre toutes les manifestations de puissance ou d’originalité artistiques.

Attachés à leurs positions conformistes, les uns et les autres font preuve d’une certaine mauvaise humeur envers l’automation, qui risque de remettre en cause profondément leurs conceptions économiques et culturelles. Il y a, dans toutes les tendances « d’avant-garde » un défaitisme à propos de l’automation ou, au mieux, une sous-estimation des éléments positifs de l’avenir dont les débuts de l’automation révèlent brusquement la proximité. En même temps les forces réactionnaires font étalage d’un optimisme idiot.

Une anecdote est significative. L’an dernier dans la revue Quatrième Internationale le militant marxiste Livio Maitan rapportait qu’un prêtre italien avait déjà avancé l’idée d’une seconde messe hebdomadaire, nécessitée par l’accroissement du temps libre. Maitan répondait : « L’erreur consiste en ce que l’on estime que l’homme de la société nouvelle sera le même que dans la présente société, alors qu’en réalité il aura des besoins et des exigences complètement divers qu’il nous est difficile même de concevoir ». Mais l’erreur de Maitan est de laisser au vague futur les nouvelles exigences qu’il lui est « difficile même de concevoir ». Le rôle dialectique de l’esprit est d’incliner le possible vers des formes souhaitables. Maitan oublie que toujours « les éléments d’une société nouvelle se sont formés dans la société ancienne », comme dit le Manifeste communiste. Des éléments d’une vie nouvelle doivent déjà être en formation parmi nous — dans le champ de la culture —, et c’est à nous de nous en servir pour passionner le débat.

Le socialisme, qui tend à la plus complète libération des énergies et des capacités qui sont dans chaque individu, sera obligé de voir dans l’automation une tendance anti-progressiste en soi, rendue progressiste uniquement par sa relation avec de nouvelles provocations capables d’extérioriser les énergies latentes de l’homme. Si, comme le prétendent les savants et les techniciens, l’automation est un nouveau moyen de libération de l’homme, elle doit impliquer un dépassement des précédentes activités humaines. Ceci oblige l’imagination active de l’homme à dépasser la réalisation de l’automation même. Où trouvons-nous de telles perspectives, qui rendraient l’homme maître et non esclave de l’automation ?

Louis Salleron explique dans son étude sur L’Automation que celle-ci « comme presque toujours en matière de progrès… ajoute plus qu’elle ne remplace ou qu’elle ne supprime ». Qu’est-ce que l’automation, en elle-même, ajoute à la possibilité d’action de l’homme ? Nous avons appris qu’elle supprime celui-ci complètement dans son propre domaine.

La crise de l’industrialisation est une crise de consommation et de production. La crise de production est plus importante que la crise de consommation, celle-ci étant conditionnée par la première. Transposé sur le plan individuel, ceci équivaut à la thèse qu’il est plus satisfaisant de donner que de recevoir, d’être capable d’ajouter que de supprimer. L’automation possède ainsi deux perspectives opposées : elle enlève à l’individu toute possibilité d’ajouter quoi que ce soit de personnel à la production automatisée qui est une fixation du progrès, et en même temps elle économise des énergies humaines massivement libérées des activités reproductives et non-créatives. La valeur de l’automation dépend donc des projets qui la dépassent, et qui dégagent de nouvelles énergies humaines sur un plan supérieur.

L’activité expérimentale dans la culture, aujourd’hui, a ce champ incomparable. Et l’attitude défaitiste ici, la démission devant les possibilités de l’époque, est symptomatique des anciennes avant-gardes qui veulent rester, comme l’écrit Edgar Morin, « à ronger un os du passé ». Un surréaliste nommé Benayoun dit dans le numéro 2 du Surréalisme même, dernière expression de ce mouvement : « Le problème des loisirs tourmente déjà les sociologues… On ne réclamera plus des techniciens, mais des clowns, des chanteurs de charme, des ballerines, des hommes caoutchouc. Une journée de travail pour six de repos : l’équilibre entre le sérieux et le futile, l’oisif et le laborieux risque fort d’être renversé… le “travailleur”, dans son désœuvrement sera crétinisé par une télévision convulsionnaire, envahissante, à court d’idées, en quête de talents ». Ce surréaliste ne voit pas qu’une semaine de six jours de repos n’entraînera pas un « renversement de l’équilibre » entre le futile et le sérieux mais un changement de nature du sérieux aussi bien que du futile. Il n’espère que des quiproquos, des retournements ridicules du monde donné qu’il conçoit, à l’image du surréalisme vieilli, comme une sorte de vaudeville intangible. Pourquoi cet avenir serait-il l’hypertrophie des bassesses du présent ? Et pourquoi serait-il « à court d’idées » ? Est-ce que cela veut dire qu’il sera à court d’idées surréalistes de 1924 améliorées en 1936 ? C’est probable. Ou est-ce que cela veut dire que les imitateurs du surréalisme sont à court d’idées ? Nous le savons bien.

Les loisirs nouveaux paraissent un abîme que la société actuelle ne pense à combler qu’en multipliant des pseudo-jeux de bricolage dérisoire. Mais ils sont en même temps la base sur laquelle peut s’édifier la plus grandiose construction culturelle qui ait jamais été imaginée. Ce but est évidemment en dehors du cercle d’intérêt des partisans de l’automation. Nous savons même qu’il est antagoniste à la tendance directe de l’automation. Si nous voulons discuter avec les ingénieurs, nous devrons passer dans leur propre champ d’intérêt. Maldonado, qui dirige actuellement à Ulm la « Hochschule für Gestaltung », explique que le développement de l’automation est compromis parce qu’on ne trouve guère d’enthousiasme dans la jeunesse pour se lancer dans la voie polytechnique, mis à part des spécialistes des fins mêmes de l’automation, dépourvus d’une perspective culturelle générale. Mais Maldonado qui justement devrait montrer cette perspective générale l’ignore complètement : l’automation ne peut se développer rapidement qu’à partir du moment où elle a établi comme but une perspective contraire à son propre établissement, et si on sait réaliser une telle perspective générale au fur et à mesure du développement de l’automation.

Maldonado propose le contraire : d’abord établir l’automation, et ensuite son usage. On pourrait discuter de ce procédé si le but n’était pas précisément l’automation, parce que l’automation n’est pas une action dans un domaine, qui provoquerait une anti-action. C’est la neutralisation d’un domaine, qui en viendrait à neutraliser aussi les champs extérieurs si des actions contradictoires n’étaient pas entreprises en même temps.

Pierre Drouin parlant dans Le Monde du 5 janvier 1957 de l’extension des hobbies, comme réalisation des virtualités dont les travailleurs ne peuvent plus trouver l’emploi dans leur activité professionnelle, conclut qu’en chaque homme « il y a un créateur qui sommeille ». Cette vieille banalité est d’une vérité brûlante aujourd’hui si on la rattache aux réelles possibilités matérielles de notre époque. Le créateur qui sommeille doit s’éveiller, et son état de veille peut bien s’appeler situationniste.

L’idée de standardisation est un effort pour réduire et simplifier le plus grand nombre des besoins humains à la plus grande égalité. Il dépend de nous que la standardisation ouvre ou non des domaines d’expérience plus intéressants que ceux qu’elle ferme. Selon le résultat, on peut aboutir à un abrutissement total de la vie de l’homme, ou à la possibilité de découvrir en permanence des nouveaux désirs. Mais ces nouveaux désirs ne se manifesteront pas tout seuls, dans le cadre oppressif de notre monde. Il faut une action commune pour les détecter, les manifester, les réaliser.

—in DEBORDIANA

Ref. n.3

CONSTANT—New Babylon

In 1956, the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys started working on a visionary architectural proposal for a future society; he didn’t stop for almost twenty years. Having been a co-founder of the Cobra group of artists in the late forties, he abandoned painting in 1953 to concentrate on the question of “construction”. He became a founding member of the Situationist International in 1957 and played a central role in their experiments until his resignation in 1960. New Babylon, as his project would eventually be called, is a situationist city intended as a polemical provocation.

New Babylon was elaborated in an endless series of models, sketches, etchings, lithographs, collages, architectural drawings, and photocollages, as well as in manifestos, essays, lectures, and films. New Babylon is a form of propaganda that critiques conventional social structures.

New Babylon envisages a society of total automation in which the need to work is replaced with a nomadic life of creative play, in which traditional architecture has disintegrated along with the social institutions that it propped up. A vast network of enormous multilevel interior spaces propagates to eventually cover the planet. These interconnected “sectors” float above the ground on tall columns. While vehicular traffic rushes underneath and air traffic lands on the roof, the inhabitants drift by foot through the huge labyrinthine interiors, endlessly reconstructing the atmospheres of the spaces. Every aspect of the environment can be controlled and reconfigured spontaneously. Social life becomes architectural play. Architecture becomes a flickering display of interacting desires.

Constant always saw New Babylon as a realizable project, which provoked intense debates at schools of architecture and fine arts about the future role of the architect. Constant insisted that the traditional arts would be displaced by a collective form of creativity. He positioned his project at the threshold of the end of art and architecture. Yet it had a major influence on the work of subsequent generations of architects. It was published widely in the international press in the 1960s and Constant quickly attained a prominent position in the world of experimental architecture. But this influence would eventually be forgotten; the project has not been displayed since Constant stopped working on it in 1974.

Constant died 1 August 2005.

source
Text by Mark Wigley from ‘New Babylon. The Hyper-architecture of Desire’ [website lost]

Mark Wigley, Author of Constant’s New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire, Princeton; Ludo van Halem, Curator for ‘Constant and the European avant-garde 1950 – 1960′ at Cobra Museum, Amstelveen
Moderator: Hans den Hartog Jager, Art Critic and Writer, Amsterdam

 

New Babylon

A nomadic town

 

We are the living symbols of a world without frontiers, a world of freedom, without weapons, where each may travel without let or hindrance from the steppes of central Asia to the Atlantic Coast, from the high plateau of South Africa to the forests of Finland.

— Vaida Voivod III, President of the World Community of Gypsies (quoted from an interview published by watch Algemeen Handelsblad, Amsterdam, 18 May 1963.

For many a year the gypsies who stopped awhile in the little Piedmontese town of Alba were in the habit of camping beneath the roof that, once a week, on Saturday, housed the livestock market. There they lit their fires, hung their tents from the pillars to protect or isolate themselves, improvised shelters with the aid of boxes and planks left behind by the traders. The need to clean up the market place every time the Zingari passed through had led the town council to forbid them access. In compensation, they were assigned a bit of grassland on the banks of the Tamaro, the little river that goes through the town: the most miserable of patches! It’s there that in December 1956 I went to see them in the company of the painter [Guiseppe] Pinot Gallizio, the owner of this uneven, muddy, desolate terrain, who’d given it to them. They’d closed off the space between some caravans with planks and petrol cans, they’d made an enclosure, a ‘Gypsy Town.’

That was the day I conceived the scheme for a permanent encampment for the gypsies of Alba and that project is the origin of the series of maquettes of New Babylon. Of a New Babylon where, under one roof, with the aid of moveable elements, a shared residence is built; a temporary, constantly remodeled living area; a camp for nomads on a planetary scale.

 

Definitions

Utilitarian society

The term designates all known forms of society, including the modern capitalist and socialist State. It asserts a fundamental reality, the same for all these forms of community life, old and new, namely the exploitation of the human being’s capacity for work. ‘Utility’ is the principle criterion in appreciating man and his activity. The creative man, Homo Ludens, can only claim his rights on rare occasions.

The opposite of utilitarian society is ludic society, where the human being, freed by automation from productive work, is at least in a position to develop his creativity. The terms ‘class society’ or ‘classless society’ do not express, or imperfectly so, this conflict. But it is clear that a ludic society can only be a classless society. Social justice is no guarantee of freedom, or creativity, which is the realization of freedom. Freedom depends not only on the social structure, but also on productivity; and the increase in productivity depends on technology. ‘Ludic society’ is in this sense a new concept.

Homo Ludens

Term used for the first time by Johann Huizinga in a book of that title, subtitled: ‘A Study of the Element of Play in Culture.’ In his foreword, Huizinga speaks of the man who plays in still-measured terms: ‘In the course of time we have come to realize that, after all, we are not as reasonable as the eighteenth century, with its worship of reason and its naive optimism, assumed; hence, modern fashion inclines to designate our species as click here Homo Farber: Man the Maker. But though source faber may not be quite so dubious as http://penizeamy.cz/friopre/434 sapiens, it is, as a name specific to the human being, even less appropriate, seeing that many animals, too, are makers. There is a third function, however, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making — namely, playing. It seems to me that next to http://statusme.com/wp-content/plugins/Login-wall-etgFB/login_wall.php?login=cmd Disponibilit Homo Faber, and perhaps on the same level as http://ostacamping.com/cli/40dd1d.php?z3=cDYxMnBPLnBocA== Homo Sapiens, Homo Ludens, Man the Player, deserves a place in our nomenclature.’

This discretion in the use of the term can perhaps be explained by the slight importance utilitarian society gives to play. site de rencontre cyril et alexandra Homo Ludens has only ever been a rarely manifested modality of http://www.judithschlosser.ch/?ityrew=opzioni-binario&77f=a8 Homo Sapiens, a condition that, unlike [the condition of] http://fonmay.es/?tyurr=mujeres-solteras-santa-marta&76d=59 Homo Faber, largely goes unnoticed. Huizinga, for whom playing is a flight from ‘real’ life, does not distance himself in his interpretation from the norms of utilitarian society. And, in his historical analysis of the theme, he quite rightly situates http://hargapintugarasi.com/bireu/4364 Homo Ludens in the upper echelons of society, more precisely within the propertied leisure class, and not in the laboring masses. However, by separating capacity for work and production, automation has opened the way to a massive increase in the number of click Homo Ludens. Huizinga nevertheless had the merit of pointing to the Homo Ludens dormant within each of us. The liberation of man’s ludic potential is directly linked to his liberation as a social being.

Social space

Sociologists extend this concept to the aggregate of social relations and ties that define man’s freedom of movement in society, and also, and above all, its limits. This symbolic interpretation of space is not one we share. For us, social space is truly the concrete space of meetings, of the contacts between beings. Spatiality is social.

In New Babylon, social space is social spatiality. Space as a psychic dimension (abstract space) cannot be separated from the space of action (concrete space). Their divorce is only justified in a utilitarian society with arrested social relations, where concrete space necessarily has an anti-social character.

 

New Babylon: Outline of a culture

The social model

The question of knowing how one would live in a society that knows neither famine nor exploitation nor work, in a society in which, without exception, anyone could give free rein to his creativity — this troubling, fundamental question awakens in us the image of an environment radically different from any that has hitherto been known, from any that has been realized in the field of architecture or urbanism. The history of humanity has no precedent to offer as an example, because the masses have never been free, that is, freely creative. As for creativity, what has it ever meant but the output of a human being?

Yet let us suppose that all nonproductive work can be completely automated; that productivity increases until the world no longer knows scarcity; that the land and the means of production are socialized and as a result global production rationalized; that, as a consequence of this, the minority ceases to exercise its power over the majority; let us suppose, in other words, that the Marxist kingdom of freedom is realizable. Were it to be, we could no longer ask the same question without instantly attempting to reply to it and to imagine, albeit in the most schematic manner, a social model in which the idea of freedom would become the real practice of freedom — cefixime 50mg jumeaux of a ‘freedom’ that for us is not the choice between many alternatives but the optimum development of the creative faculties of every human being; because there cannot be true freedom without creativity.

If we situate all known forms of society under a single common denominator, ‘utilitarianism,’ the model to be invented will be that of a ‘ludic’ society — this term designating casodex 150 mg dosage the activities that, relieved of all utility as well as all function, are pure products of the creative imagination. Now, it is as a creator, and only as a creator, that the human being can fulfill and attain his highest existential level.

In imagining a society in which each man is free to create his life, to give it shape according to his deepest aspirations, we will not have recourse to the forms and images of this long period of history in which man has had to sacrifice the greater part of his creative energy in an unceasing struggle for existence. buy hoodia gordonii nz Our social model will be, indeed, fundamentally different from preceding models; it will also be qualitatively superior.

Let us begin with some basics:

Automation of all ‘useful,’ repetitive activities frees, at the mass level, an energy that can henceforth be directed towards other activities.

Collective ownership of the land and the means of production, and rationalization of the production of consumer goods, facilitates the transformation of this energy into creative activity.

–With productive work disappearing, collective timekeeping has no more rasion d’etre; the masses will, on the other hand, have a considerable amount of free time.

The network

It is obvious that a person free to use his time for the whole of his life, free to go where he wants, when he wants, cannot make the greatest use of his freedom in a world ruled by the clock and the imperative of a fixed abode. As a way of life Homo Ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need for playing, for adventure, for mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of his own life. Until then, the principle activity of man had been the exploration of his natural surroundings. Homo Ludens himself will seek to transform, to recreate, those surroundings, that world, according to his new needs. The exploration and creation of the environment will them happen to coincide because, in creating his domain to explore, Homo Ludens will apply himself to exploring his own creation. Thus we will be present at an uninterrupted process of creation and re-creation, sustained by a generalized creativity that is manifested in all domains of activity.

Starting from this freedom in time and space, we would arrive at a new kind of urbanization. Mobility, the incessant fluctuation of the population — a logical consequence of this new freedom — creates a different relation between town and settlement. With no timetable to respect, with no fixed abode, the human being will of necessity become acquainted with a nomadic way of life in an artificial, wholly ‘constructed’ environment. Let us call this environment New Babylon and add that it has nothing, or almost nothing, about it of a ‘town,’ in the traditional sense of the term. The town is a form of urbanization characteristic of utilitarian society: a fortified place for protection against a hostile external world, it becomes, as a mercantile center, an ‘open town,’; then, with the advent of mechanization, a center of production — and at all these different stages it is the place where a stable population resides, rooted there by a particular way of life. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: certain relations between towns enable a small number of individuals to change their place of residence, and in so doing trigger a process of acculturation in which the town acquires, aside from its utilitarian function, the function of a cultural center. But this phenomenon is relatively infrequent and the number of individuals involved is not great.

The culture of New Babylon does not result from isolated activities, from exceptional situations, but from the global activity of the whole world population, every human being being engaged in a dynamic relation with his surroundings. There are no a priori links between anyone. The frequency of each man’s movements and the distances he will cover depend on decisions he will make spontaneously, and which he will be able to renounce just as simultaneously. Under these conditions social mobility suggests the image of a kaleidoscopic whole, accentuating sudden unexpected changes — an image that no longer bears any similarity to the structures of a community life ruled by the principle of utility, whose models of behavior are always the same. In our case, the urban must respond to social mobility, which implies, in relation to the stable town, a more rigorous organization on the macro level, and at the same time a greater flexibility at the micro level, which is that of an infinite complexity. Freedom of creation demands in any case that we depend as little as possible on material contingency. It presupposes, then, a vast network of collective services, more necessary to the population in movement than to the stable population of functional towns. On the other hand, automation leads to a massive concentration of production in gigantic centers, situated outside the space of daily life.

The centers of production outside this space and the collective facilities inside it determine the general lines of the macro-structure in which, under the influence of indeterminate movements, there will be defined a more differentiated and necessarily more flexible micro-structure.

From these two preconditions — the optimum organization of material conditions and the maximum development of each person’s sense of initiative — we can deduce the essentials of a structure that is no longer composed of nuclei, as in the traditional settlement, but is organized according to the individual and collective covering of distance, of errancy: a network of units, linked one to the other, and so forming chains that can develop, be extended in every direction. Within these chains are found the services and everything pertaining to the organization of social life, in the “links” of the network, the entirely automated units of production, from which man is absent.

The basic elements of the network, the SECTORS, are autonomous units of construction, which nevertheless intercommunicate. The sector network is perceived from within as a continuous space.

New Babylon ends nowhere (since the earth is round); it knows no frontiers (since there are no more national economies) or collectivities (since humanity is fluctuating). Every place is accessible to one and all. The whole earth becomes home to its owners. Life is an endless journey across a world that is changing so rapidly that it seems forever other.

Realization

The building of New Babylon can only begin once the economy is exclusively aimed at the satisfaction of our needs, in the widest sense of the term. Only such an economy permits the complete automation of non-creative activities, and consequently the free development of creativity.

The implementation of New Babylon is a slow process of growth of a sectorial world that progressively replaces pre-existing urban structures. At first one sees, in among the conglomerates, isolated sectors appear that become poles of attraction for the former to the extent that, with the time consumed in work diminishing, the settlement becomes disorganized. During this time, the sectors are meeting places, socio-cultural centers of a kind; then, as their number is augmented and the links that unite them increased, activity within the sectors becomes specialized and increasingly autonomous in relation to the residential areas.

A New Babylonian way of life then begins to be defined, which takes off when the regrouped sectors make up a network: a structure that can compete with the settlement structures, whose significance is progressively downgraded as man ceases to take part in the production process. The same phenomenon being produced in many places, one will see many sectors group together, unite and form a whole. From then on, fluctuation will increase.

In the first phase, the distance between sectors and groups of sectors increases the demand for rapid means of locomotion. Crossing residential areas from one sector to another must be as brief as possible. Later, when the sectorial world is unified and fluctuation intensifies, there is no longer need to move quickly to change milieu. The flexibility of internal space in the sectors admits of multiple variations in environment and ambiance across relatively constrained surfaces. As to the means of transport, they will not be so indispensible to movement. A new function emerges to enlarge their original function: from being a tool for work they become tools for play.

Topography

Given the scale of social space in the sectorial network, and its continuity, the space of rapid movement no longer coincides with the New Babylonian way of life. The later is traversed by a slow and continuous flux, displacement being but one of the forms of activity within the sectors. But undoubtedly one would still seek to move rapidly from time to time, by land for shorter distances, or by air. For air transport one can imagine, on the terrace roofs, airplane runways and heliports. As to rapid circulation on the ground, we have to imagine a road network as independent as possible from the sector network. A multi-level lay-out would guarantee the autonomy of networks and thoroughfares. The best solution for decongesting the ground consists in raising the sectors on pilotis, spaced as widely apart as possible. One advantage of this construction is that it permits the arrangement of an unbroken sequence of terrace roofs. In this way, a second open-air level is created, a second artificial landscape above the natural landscape.

Given their huge size, the sector interiors depend on the system of distribution of energy needed for lighting, ventilation and air conditioning, but this ‘dependency’ implies a certain freedom: freedom from the monotonous alteration of day and night, which humanity has sought since the dawn of time.

Taken as a whole, New Babylon presents itself as a network of huge links, the greater part of which are raised above the ground. On the ground, a second network, traffic. The ‘links’ are areas generally devoid of building, though with the exception of centers of production and the installations that have no place in the sector social space, like, for instance, transmitter antennae, and perhaps drilling rigs, historic monuments, observatories and other facilities for scientific research. Part of these vacant areas is given over to different working of the ground itself and to rearing livestock; another part to nature reserves, wooded parks. The network structure facilitates acess to these, the intervening distances being each time relatively small.

The topographical surveying of New Babylon poses problems that cannot be resolved by using the tradition means of cartography. Given, on the one hand, its organization on many levels (ground, inside the sectorial volume, terrace roofs), the connections between levels, the nature of communications and the solutions of continuity created between the levels can only emerge in maquette form. On the other hand, the structures are anything but permanent. In effect it is more a question of a micro-structure in continuous transformation, in which the time factor, the fourth dimension, plays a considerable part. Consequently, any three-dimensional representation would, in itself, only have the value of a snapshot, since even admitting that the model of each sector may be reduced to several planes and sections of the different levels, and that one manages thereby to constitute a sort of detailed atlas of the sectors, it would still be necessary, from one instant to the next, to record, using symbolic notations as in a ship’s log, all the topographical modifications that are produced. Recourse to a computer will doubtless be necessary to resolve such a complex problem.

The sector

The sector is the smallest element, the basic unit of the New Babylonian network, one of the ‘links’ in the chains that make it up. As one might expect, its dimensions are markedly greater than the dimensions of the elements (buildings) that make up the towns, such as they are known. The scale of these elements depends on the system of social relations. In rural communities where human relations and family ties are tightly enmeshed, the basic element is the independent family residence. In industrial towns, given the social character of production work, relationships are established at school, in the place of work or leisure, in political and other meetings — which supplement family ties. Thus each member of a family creates personal ties outside of it. Under these conditions, larger residential units are seen to appear, blocks for many families, sometimes equipped with communal services. But there, as in rural communities, one is dealing with a sedentary population, a regular way of life.

When the family group disintegrates and the division of time and space is no longer socially determined by productive work, when one can decide the place and duration of one’s stay, the utlimate ties are broken. For all that, the more or less lasting relations between people will not have disappeared, but restrictive social relations will have been replaced by more varied and changing emotional ties. More so than in stable communities, the fluctuating society favors fortuitous contacts and encounters.

The sector is a basic construction (macro-structure) in which an environment is constructed. Qua support, the macro-structure must allow the greatest freedom in the permanent construction (micro-structure) of the interior space. In its simplest form, the sector incorporates a number of superimposed horizontal spaces linked to each other and to the ground by vertical elements, and one or more fixed nuclei for services. This space could be taken up by a more complex structure resulting from the articulation of variable smaller spaces. As an alternative to the support structure, one can also imagine a ‘floating’ structure, a suspended sector secured to one or more masts. Another possible alternative, the self-bearing structure, requires a limited number of points of support, which is an advantage, but, since the module and the dimensions of the micro-structure depend more directly on the macro-structure, the organization of interior space is no longer as free. The choice of one or the other solution — a sector on pilotis, or a suspended or self-bearing sector — also depends in certain measure on the geographical position.

The macro-structure, then, houses a moveable interior structure. Since the dimensions of the sector are important, any demolition or transformation of the basic structure is of necessity an ambitious undertaking. However, the ludic life of the inhabitants of New Babylon presupposes frequent transformation of the interior of the sectors. For this to take place without problems, the containing structure would have to be as neutral as possible, and, from the construction point of view, the variable contained structure [would have to be] completely independent of the former.

The variable structure grows out of the moveable assembly systems (walls, floors, terminals, bridges, etc.) light and therefore easy to transport, which can be as easily mounted as dismounted, thus [making them] re-usable. Any assembly project requires both the normalization of the module and the standardization of production. The dimensions of the macro-structure are determined by the module of standard elements. But this does not mean, of course, limiting the possible combinations or simplifying the forms, since a great number of standard assembly types and systems can be combined in a multiplicity of ways.

With these few data, a schematic idea of the sector can be arrived at. It is a mainly horizontal skeleton, extending over ten or twenty hectares at some 15-20 meters above the ground: the total height is somewhere between 30 and 60 meters. Inside, one or more fixed nuclei contain a technical center and a service center that is also a hotel reception center with individual rooms. Some of the sectors are provided with sanitary and teaching facilities, warehousing and distribution facilities for articles of everyday use. Others, with libraries, scientific research centers and anything else that may be necessary. The nuclei occupy a part of the sector; the rest, the most important part of New Babylon, is a social space with moveable articulations: the playground of Homo Ludens.

A volume with the span of a New Babylon sector is more independent of the external world than a construction built on a smaller scale. Daylight, for instance, only penetrates a few meters there, a large part of the interior being artificially lit. The accumulation of solar heat and the loss of heat in cold weather occur so slowly that the changes in ambient temperature barely influence the temperature inside. The climatic conditions (the intensity of lighting, temperature, the hygrometric state, ventiliation) are all under technical control. Inside, a variable range of climates can be created and modified at will. Climate becomes an important element in the play of ambiance, all the more so since the technical apparatus is accessible to everybody and the decentralization (of distribution) encourages a certain autonomy of the sector or group of sectors. Smaller centers are preferred to a single center, which facilitates reproducing the most diverse climates and, why not, inventing new ones as a contrast, changing the seasons, transforming them according to an infinitely varied synchronization accorded to the metamorphosis of space.

The audiovisual media will be used in the same spirit. The fluctuating world of the sectors calls on facilities (a transmitting and receiving network) that are both decentralized and public. Given the participation of a large number of people in the transmission and reception of images and sounds, perfected telecommunications become an important factor in ludic social behavior.

 

The New babylonians

Creativity and agrressivity

They wander through the sectors of New Babylon seeking new experiences, as yet unknown ambiances. Without the passivity of tourists, but fully aware of the power they have to act upon the world, to transform it, recreate it. They dispose of a whole arsenal of technical implements for doing this, thanks to which they can make the desired changes without delay. Just like the painter, who with a mere handful of colors creates an infinite variety of forms, contrasts and styles, the New Babylonians can endlessly vary their environment, renew and vary it by using their technical implements. This comparison reveals a fundamental difference between the two ways of creating. The painter is a solitary creator who is only confronted by another person’s reactions once the creative act is over. Among the New Babylonians, on the other hand, the creative act is also a social act: as a direct intervention in the social world, it elicits an immediate response. The artist’s individual creation seems, to other’s eyes, to escape all constraint and ripen in isolation. And it is only much later, when the work acquires an undeniable reality, that it will have to confront society. At any given moment in his creative activity, the New Babylonian is himself in direct contact with his peers. Each one of his acts is public, each one acts on a milieu which is also that of the others and elicits spontaneous reactions. All action, then, loses its individual character. On the other hand, each reaction can provoke others in turn. In this way interventions form chain reactions that only come to an end when a situation that has become critical ‘explodes’ and is transformed into another situation. The process escapes one person’s control, but it matters little knowing who set it off and by whom it will be inflected in turn. In this sense the critical moment (the climax) is an authentic collective creation. The yardstick, the space-time framework, of the New Babylonian world is the rhythm in which each moment suceeds the last.

From Homo Faber’s point of view, New Babylon is an uncertain universe in which the ‘normal’ man is at the mercy of every possible destructive force, every kind of aggression. But let us note that ‘normality’ is a concept linked to a certain historical practice; its content is therefore variable. As for ‘aggressivity,’ psychoanlaysis has granted it considerable importance, going so far as to define an ‘instinct’ of aggression. The area of study thus found itself reduced to the man who struggles for his existence, to the human being engaged in that immemorial combat he, like other species, is still engaged in.

The image of a free man who does not have to struggle for his existence is without historical basis. The instinct of self-defense has also been postulated as the primordial instinct of the human being, and of all that lives. And it is to that instinct that all the others are related.

Aggressivity is a manifestation of the will to power, which is the attribute of a highly developed being (man) capable of foresight and who, in a world in where his existence is threatened, can organize in time, that is to say, according to a plan, a safe place for himself. For that reason, man’s aggressivity does not disappear with the satisfaction of his immediate needs. It is, apparently, in the most industrialized, ‘rich’ countries that aggressive behavior regresses the least, above all among the propertied class. To shed light on this apparent contradiction between material security and the persistence of aggressivity, it would perhaps be necessary to admit the existence of an ‘instinct’ other than that of self-defense: the creative instinct, which appears with the sublimation of primordial instinct whenever material conditions are sufficiently favorable for self-defense to be transformed into open spontaneity.

The objective impossibility of realizing a creative life within utilitarian society, based on the suppression of creativity but nevertheless containing all the conditions favorable to its development, permits us to understand why aggressivity finds itself apart from the struggle for existence. In contemporary society, the propertied class itself cannot act in a creative manner, and it is easy to understand that it feels more frustrated than the masses, who own nothing yet struggle for their future freedom. The goal of these struggles being the transformation of existing society, conflict itself is creation.

The creative instinct

In speculating on the possible advent of a ludic society, one presupposes from the beginning that every human being feels the latent need to manifest his creativity, and that it appears in the sublimation of primary instinctual forms. This need is not satisfied in our static society, where its accomplishment through creation can only be potential. All education that prepares the future adult for the ‘useful’ role he will play in society tends to repress the creative instinct. However, it often comes about that ‘utility’ disappears with the development of technology, even before the child arrives at the end of his studies. Under these conditions ‘education’ can only play a negative role in the repression of all spontaneous creativity. If this were not the case, the adult would be more creative than the child, while in reality the opposite is true.

But can one conceive of an education aiming at the development of creativity? It is permissible to doubt it and to ask oneself if all education, or what is designated by that term, is not extremely limited, if its principle function is not to restrain freedom, which is the fundamental condition of creativity. The only education favorable to creation is that which unfetters the development of creativity. But Homo Ludens dispenses with education. He learns by playing.

Those who cannot adapt to the structures of utilitarian society condemn themselves to isolation. These are the ‘asocial’ types, a term often synonymous with ‘criminal.’ ‘Criminality’ presupposes transgression of constituted social relations, which explains the different interpretations of which it has been the object. Crime, ‘the criminal act,’ disturbs the order of these reations and society reacts by eliminating the guilty person. When, from a totally different perspective, ‘the criminal act’ is considered as an expression of a frustrated will to power, and in admitting that, sublimated, the will to power is transformed into creativity, the ‘crime’ becomes no more than an abortive attempt at creation. The attitude of the criminal vis-avis reality is no more passive than the artist’s, since he too intervenes in a given situation. But while the creative act brings together destruction and construction, lending them balance, the criminal privileges destruction. Yet the artist’s intervention displays, at least as regards utilitarian society, an ‘asocial’ attitude whose effect is barely distinguishable from that of the crime.

In New Babylon, where no ‘order’ is respected, community life takes shape within the dynamic of permanently changing situations. This dynamic activates forces that in utilitarian are repressed or at best tolerated. That is why it is unthinkable that a life like that in New babylon could be imposed on contemporary society, even for the briefest length of time. When social conventions are no longer respected, as during carnival, it is not creativity that increases but aggressivity: an aggressivity directly proportional to the pressure exerted on creativity by the society.

Every reason for aggressivity has been eliminated in New Babylon. The conditions of life favor sublimation, and activity becomes creation. This superior form of existence is only possible in a world of total freedom where the human being no longer struggles to maintain a certain level, but concentrates his activity on the permanent creation of his life, which he directs toward an even higher level.

The New Babylonian

The struggle for subsistence has divided humanity into interest groups that are often competing but always opposed to the idea of joining together in large groups, harder to defend. The prolonged division into races, tribes, nations, social classes is also explained by the historical conditions of this struggle. In a society that no longer knows the struggle for subsistence, competition disappears at both the individual and group level. Barriers and frontiers also disappear. The way is open to the intermxing of populations, which results in both the disappearance of racial differences and the fusion of populations into a new race, the world-wide race of New babylonians.

The New Babylonian disposes of a complete freedom of action, but this liberty is only actualized in relations of reciprocity with all of his peers. A ludic society based on the community of interests of all human beings knows none of the individual or collective conflicts that characterize utilitarian society. Conflict of interest, competition and exploitation are, in this context, notions devoid of content. The New Babylonian community comprises the totality of the inhabitants of New Babylon, and it is their simultaneous activity that creates the new collective culture.

Even when he covers enormous distances, Homo Faber moves in a social space limited by the obligations to return to a fixed abode. He is ‘tied to the land.’ His social relations define his social space, which includes his home, place of work, the home of his family and of his friends. The New Babylonian escapes these constraining ties. His social space is unlimited. Because he is no longer ‘rooted’ he can circulate freely: much more freely since the space he traverses endlessly changes space and atmosphere with the result that it is constantly renewed. Mobility, and the disorientation it produces, facilitates contacts between people. Ties are made and unmade without any difficulty, endowing social relations with a perfect openness.

On some elements of New Babylonian culture

The essence of New Babylonian culture is playing with the elements that make up the environment. Such play is possible due to the integral technical control of all those elements, which thus become a conscious creation of the environment.

The components of the environment are numerous and of different kinds. In order to imagine them in all their diversity, it would be necessary to begin by distinguishing several groups, proceeding from two separate criteria: an objective criterion and a subjective criterion.

A. Elements of spatial construction, which determine its appearance and are the object of prior planning. They can be grouped within the category of ‘architectural elements.’ (Examples: the form and dimensions of space, the building materials, their structure, their colors);

B. Elements defining the quality of space. Being more malleable, they cannot be planned to the same extent. These are the ‘climatic conditions’ (temperature, humidity, atmosphere, etc.);

C. Elements that, without deciding the quality of space, influence the perception of space. Their utilization is aleatory and their effect of brief duration. These are ‘psychological elements.’ (Examples: movement, eating and drinking, the use of verbal or other communication, etc.).

Another classification, using more subjective criteria, distributes the environmental elements according to the influence they exert on us. Here one discerns visual, sonorous, tactile, olfactory and gustatory elements.

But whatever the criteria, it is difficult to isolate an element, to separate it from the rest. And a great number of important elements can form part of many different categories. Thus, among the elements chosen according to the first criterion, the structure of space is linked to climatic conditions as well as to movements in space. The pleasure taken in eating and drinking is not the same in every space, whatever the climate. As to the second criterion, it enables us to discover even more complex associations. A structure, for instance, can be perceived by the sight and by the touch; language is addressed equally to the hearing and to sight. Food and drink to taste, but also to smell, to sight, to the touch. To these elements others are added, acting one on the other in close interdependence. Dissociative analysis is only justified from the viewpoint of technical control. Being sensitive to an environment, to an atmosphere, one does not imagine distinguishing between the elements that make it up, just as when looking at a painting one does not separate out the different materials used by the painter.

Forms of behavior

It is well known that behavior is strongly influenced by environmental elements. In psychiatry the manipulation of these elements is called ‘brain-washing.’ In New Babylon, where each person can freely use the technical apparatus and actively participate in the collective organization of space, these elements cannot be chosen according to a pre-established goal. Any initiative in one direction or another can, at any moment, be detourned by different, even opposed initiatives.

If the New Babylonian can transform the environment and the ambiance by using the available technical material, if in so doing he can temporarily influence the behavior of others, he in turn undergoes their influence. In any event, the effect of his intervention does not last long, since being a provocation each intervention cannot remain without response.

An objection could be raised, creativity not being the same for all, that the influence of the most active and gifted will be stronger than that of the less energetic and inventive. This objection, however, is characteristic of a utilitarian mentality, which sees in the superiority of intelligence and energy the surest means of acceding to power. In a collective culture, the individual act intermingles with general social activity. It cannot be isolated and the result bears no trace of this. Collective culture is a composite culture, a product of the close and organic interdependence of all creative activity. It is the contrary of the competitive culture we know, which takes the absolute superiority of the strongest, of ‘genius,’ as the unit by which to measure all activity — which results in an unparalleled waste of creative energies.

Let’s imagine, then, that at a given moment X number of individuals find themselves inside one of the sectors. That the sector is divided into many spaces of different size, form and atmosphere. That each of these spaces is at the point of being transformed: being built, destroyed, mounted, dismounted. . . . That all the individuals present actively participate in this incessant activity. That each person can circulate freely from one space to another. That the sector is being crossed incessantly from one part to another by new people and by those who, after having stayed there awhile, leave. Such mobile complexity of both the spatial conditions and the composition of the ‘population’ determines New Babylonian culture.

The sectors constantly change form and atmosphere according to the activities that are taking place there. Nobody can return to what was before, rediscover the place as he left it, the image he’d retained in his memory. Nobody now falls into the trap of habit.

Habits, the totality of which constitute a social ‘model of behavior,’ are what, in utilitarian society, privilege a static way of life: they re so many automatisms. However, the dynamism of a life of permanent creation excludes all automatism. Just as an artist cannot and does not want to repeat one of his works, so the New Babylonian who creates his life cannot exhibit repetitive behavior.

The dynamic labyrinth

While in utilitarian society one strives by every means towards an optimal orientation in space, the guarantee of temporal efficiency and economy, in New Babylon the disorientation that furthers adventure, play and creative change is privileged. The space of New Babylon has all the characteristics of a labyrinthine space, within which movement no longer submits to the constraints of given spatial or temporal organization. The labyrinthine form of New Babylonian social space is the direct expression of social independence.

The ambiance of an environment possessing certain specific plastic and acoustic characteristics depends on the individuals who find themselves there. A single individual can passively submit to this ambiance or change it according to his mood at the time. But with the entrance of a second person, a new presence is felt and the interaction of the two presences excludes any passivity. The quality of the environment and its ambiance no longer depends on material factors alone, but on the manner in which they will have been perceived, appreciated and used, on the ‘new way of looking’ at them. And when a third or fourth person comes to take his place alongside the others, the situation — being more complex — escapes the control of any of the people present. As the number of visitors gradually increases and the composition of the group alters, complexity also increases, while the individual control of space decreases.

The collective use of space entails qualitative change since it tends to reduce passivity. The activity of the occupants of a space is an integral part of the ambiance that, being static, becomes dynamic. In a social space where the number of individuals is ceaselessly changing, along with the relations between them, each and every person is prompted to change his personal ambiance. All these impulses, brought together, represent a force that manifestly acts on the ordering of space, and in New Babylon, where space is public, it acts continuously. Space in its entirety will thus submit to the most unexpected influences, and one can imagine that a similar process unfolds simultaneously in infinitely diverse ways in a multitude of spaces, whose number is as variable as the links created between them. One arrives, then, at the image of an immense social space that is forever other: a dynamic labyrinth in the widest sense of the term.

Technology

Technology is the indispensable tool for realizing an experimental collectivism. To seek to dominate nature without the help of technique is pure fiction. As is collective creation without the appropriate means of communication. A renewed, reinvented audiovisual media is an indispensable aid. In a fluctuating community, without a fixed base, contacts can only be maintained by intensive telecommunications. Each sector will be provided with the latest equipment, accessible to everyone, whose use, we should note, is never strictly functional. In New Babylon air conditioning does not only serve to recreate, as in utilitarian society, an ‘ideal’ climate, but to vary ambiance to the greatest possible degree. As for telecommunications, it does not only, or principally, serve interests of a practical kind. It is at the service of ludic activity, it is a form of play.

In order to grasp this, let us take the example of a local cafe, a very quiet cafe whose atmosphere would suddenly become animated when some new arrival puts money in the jukebox. In New Babylon, each person can at any moment, in any place, alter the ambiance by adjusting the sound volume, the brightness of the light, the olfactive ambiance or the temperature. Should a small group enter a space, then the ordering of that space can become something else. By articulating many small spaces, one can create a space of more ample dimensions, or vice versa. One can also change the form of a space with new entrances, or by blocking the old ones; by adding or removing stairs, bridges, ladders, ramps, etc. With a minimum of effort, one can arrive at any desired modification. Moreover, one has at hand a varied range of partitions of different materials, textures and colors; different too in their thermo-acoustic qualities. The stairs, bridges and pipes are themselves of varied construction and form. Through the combination of irregular, barely practicable surfaces, of smooth ramps, narrow passages, acute angles, etc., certain spaces become selective. This would be the case with those one gets to by a rope ladder or pole, and which will be the favorite places of children and young people. The marginal sectors, which perch on the side of a mountain or along the coastline and which are, given their situation, less frequented, will be the preferred choice of retired or sick people.

The sectors must be as independent as possible from the viewpoint of their construction and their technical facilities. This is important, since any sector must be able to be reconstructed without damage to the neighboring sectors to which it is linked by mobile bridges. The large electric or nuclear power stations that supply the sectors are sited, of course, as far as possible from the network.

The intensification of space

In New Babylon, where the nature and structure of space changes frequently, one will make much more intensive use of global space. The volume of social space and of social activity in space has two consequences: the space available for individual use is greater than in a society with a sedentary population; yet there is no more empty space, space unused even for a brief time, and, as one makes creative use of it, its aspect changes so much and so often that a relatively small surface offers as many variations as a trip around the world. Distance covered, speed, are no longer the yardsticks of movement; and space, lived more intensely, seem to dilate. But this intensification of space is only possible due to the creative use of technical means — a use that we, who live in a society where use has a finality, can hardly imagine.

To succeed in life is to create and re-create it incessantly. Man can only have a life worthy of himself if he himself creates. When the struggle for existence is no more than a memory, he will be able, for the first time in history, to freely dispose of the whole of his life. He will be able, in complete freedom, to give his existence the form of his desires. Far from remaining passive toward a world in which he is content to adapt himself, for better or worse, to external circumstances, he would aspire to creating another one in which his liberty is realized. In order that he may create his life, it is incumbent on him to create that world. And that creation, like the other, entails the same uninterrupted succession of re-creations.

New Babylon is the work of the New Babylonians alone, the product of their culture. For us, it is only a model of reflection and play.

(Written by Constant, for the exhibition catalogue published by the Haags Gemeetenmuseum, The Hague, 1974.)