from Guy Debord

To Ralph Rumney
Sunday, 3 February 1957
Dear Ralph:

We think that we must provide you with explanations concerning the failed rendezvous with you, and the failed exhibition at Brussels.[1]

1) [Piero] Simondo and I, we were to meet up with Asger [Jorn] twenty minutes before the train’s departure, at a precise point at the gare du Nord (the entry way). We arrived five minutes early, in other words, twenty-five minutes before the train’s departure. Thus, if Asger left without seeing us, this means he boarded the train before the time of the rendezvous, and he never returned before the departure time to see if we were at the agreed-upon spot.

2) There was another train for Brussels two hours later (Asger knew this). Thinking that he was late, we waited for an hour at the station. If he thought that we were late – and even if we were actually late – he should have waited for us.

3) Asger had brought the [customs] certificate for the paintings to cross the border. The question isn’t if it was possible for us to arrange with customs for the paintings to cross over, nevertheless: I do not see why I should have to trouble myself with such details when I had [already] furnished the certificate to Asger. Moreover, Asger left with Simondo’s ticket.

4) Since Asger didn’t indicate to me what happened to him, we went to his place Friday afternoon. Learning that he had not returned from the train station, we thought – despite the unbelievable circumstances of his departure – that he could already be in Belgium. Thus we telephoned the Taptoe Gallery for six or eight hours, successively using two wrong numbers.[2] These two wrong numbers were printed in two of Taptoe’s catalogues. Finally, we reached the gallery on Friday evening by seeking its number in Brussels. Michele [Bernstein] spoke to Haesaert[3] and asked him to have Asger call us in the evening. He didn’t.

5) On Saturday, I telephoned Haesaert and asked him to have you or Asger get back to us. The practical information that you gave me soon afterwards by telephone was – contrary to our expectations – quite satisfying. But Asger’s refusal to speak to us is an instance of such crude imbecility that it is impossible for us to come. It is buffoonery, on Asger’s part, to try to use authoritarian methods that his current importance (intellectual or economic) doesn’t justify.

6) If we ask for several explanations of the precise reality of this operation in Brussels, it is because, following Asger’s bizarre behavior during his departure from Paris, and the hypotheses that we have had to come up with to explain it, we have become aware of certain irrational, harmful and shocking methods, used by Asger for the last two months, in the affairs of the movement. I provide two examples.

a) the letter to the Triennale[4] had been discussed in December [1956] by Asger and our Italian friends, and approved by all on the condition that it wasn’t insulting (for diverse tactical reasons: for example, a loss of economic possibilities in Alba, which it has indeed produced). We drafted it in Paris without knowing about this preliminary discussion. It is quite obvious that the reaction in Alba was formally justified: the sending of our letter could not engage the group from Alba if it did not take up its opinion – which was feasible – but against its clearly expressed opinion.

b) Asger made me write to Constant at the beginning of January to ask him what he wanted to bring to the manifestation in Brussels. But Asger, pretending to have had no news from Constant, hid from me the reality that he had already received a negative response from Constant. (I learned this subsequently through Constant and Simondo.)

7) I only received on Saturday your card from Milan that gave the address and the telephone number of Yves Klein. It was certainly time for us to take Klein’s works and arrive in Brussels for the conference on Monday. But by encouraging Asger along the road of thoughtlessness, we would be quite culpable in the eyes of all our comrades. The agreement between us all can only be founded on collectively defined positions, not on lies or childishness.

8) Tomorrow I leave for two weeks in Cannes, and Simondo will go directly to Alba. If you come to Paris during this time, you can come see Michele. If not, you can write me [in Paris]; the letter will follow me.

I hope that we can meet, you and I, in March. I believe that we have many serious things to envision.

9) You can communicate all the points of this letter to Asger, and discuss with him the methods that – I imagine – you must judge as we do.


Read and strongly approved by P. Simondo and M. Bernstein

[1] Translator: at the Taptoe Gallery.

[2] Translated: deleted.

[3] Gentil Haesaert, founder of the Taptoe Gallery.

[4] Lettre ouverte aux responsables de la Triennale d’art industrial a Milan, dated 1 January 1957, published in Guy Debord, Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006, pp. 276-277.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol "0": Septembre 1951 - Juillet 1957: Complete des "lettres retrouvees" et d l'index general des noms cites by Librairie Artheme Fayard, October 2010. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2011. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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