Plan for rational improvements to the city of Paris


Potlatch #23, 13 October 1955

The Lettrists attending the September 26 meeting jointly put forward the following proposals for solutions to the town planning problems that happened to come up during debate. It is worth noting that no constructive action was decided, since all those present agreed that the most urgent task is to lay the groundwork.

The subways should be opened at night, after the trains have stopped running. The passageways and platforms should be poorly lit with dim, blinking lights.

The rooftops of Paris should be opened to pedestrian traffic by means of modifications to fire escape ladders and construction of catwalks where necessary.

Public gardens should remain open at night, unlit (in some cases, dim lighting might be justified on psychogeographical grounds).

All street-lamps should be equipped with switches; lighting should be for public use.

With regard to churches, four different proposals were put forward and all were judged tenable until the appropriate experiments demonstrate which of them is the best.

G.E.-Debord argued for the complete demolition of religious buildings of all denominations. (No trace should remain of them and their sites should be used for other purposes.)
Gil J. Wolman proposed that churches should be left standing but stripped of all religious content. They should be treated as ordinary buildings. Children should be allowed to play in them.
Michele Bernstein suggested that churches should be partially demolished, so that the remaining ruins give no hint of their original function (tour Jacques, on Boulevard de Sebastopol, being an unintentional example). The ideal solution would be to raze churches to the ground and build ruins in their place. The first alternative was formulated exclusively for reasons of economy.
Lastly, Jacques Fillon is in favor of transforming churches into fearful houses (maintaining their current ambience and accentuating their unsettling effects).
All agreed that aesthetic objections should be over-ruled, that admirers of the great door of Chartes should be silenced. Beauty, when it does not hold the promise of happiness, must be destroyed. And what could better represent unhappiness than this sort of monument to everything in the world that remains to be overcome, to the immense inhuman side of life?

Train stations should be kept as they are. Their rather moving ugliness adds much to the feeling of transience that makes these buildings mildly attractive. Gil J. Wolman called for removal or scrambling of all information regarding departures (destinations, times, etc.). This would promote the derive. After a lively debate, those opposing the motion retracted their argument and it was approved without reservation. The aural environment of stations should be enhanced by broadcasting recorded announcements from a large number of different stations -- and certain ports.

Cemeteries should be eliminated. All corpses and memories of that sort should be totally destroyed: no ashes and no remains. (It is necessary to note the reactionary propaganda constituted by these hideous remnants of a past filled with alienation by the most automatic of associations. Is it possible to see a cemetery and not be reminded of Mauriac, Gide or Edgar Faure?)

Museums should be abolished and their masterpieces distributed to bars (Philippe de Champaigne's works in the Arab cafes of rue Xavier-Privas; David's "Sacre" in the Tonneau in Montagne-Genevieve).

Everyone should have free access to prisons. They should be available as tourist destinations, with no distinction between visitors and inmates (to make life more amusing, visitors would be eligible, in draws held twelve times a year, to win a real prison sentence. This would be especially aimed at cretins who cannot live without running interesting risks: today's speleologists, for example, and all those whose craving for games is satisfied by such pale imitations).

All monuments, the ugliness of which cannot be put to any use (such as the Petit or Grand Palais), should make way for other constructions.

All remaining statues whose significance has become outmoded -- where any possible aesthetic renovations are condemned by history to failure beforehand -- should be removed. Their usefulness could be extended during their final years by changing the inscriptions on their plinths, either in a political sense (THE TIGER CALLED CLEMENCEAU on the Champs Elysees) or in a puzzling sense (HOMAGE TO FEVER AND QUININE at the intersection of boulevard Michel and rue Comte, or THE DEEP in the cathedral square on Ile de la Cite).

The dulling influence of current street names on people's intelligence must be stopped. Names of town councilors, heroes of the Resistance, all Emiles and Edouards (55 Paris streets), all Bugeauds and Gallifets, and in general, all obscene names (rue de l'Evangile) should be removed.

In this regard, the appeal launched in Potlatch #9 for ignoring the word saint in place names is even more valid.



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