The Sound and the Fury

In 1947, onomatopoetic poetry marked the first scandalous intervention of a new current of ideas. A group united under the name "Lettrist," on account of the poetics that it proclaimed, extended its field of action in the years that followed to the novel, painting (1950) and cinema (1951).

A positive Dadaism, this era of the movement operated the critique of the formal evolution of the aesthetic disciplines, with an exclusive care for novelty that was not -- as one has too easily objected to us -- a taste for originality at all costs, but a will to surrender oneself to the mechanisms of invention. The foreseeable dialectical widening of Lettrism's objectives, marked by the brisk struggles of factions and the exclusions of surpassed leaders, situated the problem in the only [possible] utilization of these mechanisms, which was towards passionate ends.

Founded in 1952, the Lettrist International grouped [together] the extremist tendency of the movement. In October of that year, after the incidents against Charles Chaplin provoked by the supporters of the International and the disavowal of this gesture by the Lettrist right, the agreement with the retrograde tendency was denounced and its members were purged.

Since then, our bearing has been precise on all occasions.

We have always avowed that a certain practice of architecture, for example, or social agitation, only represents for us the means of approach to a form of life to be constructed.

A hostility that derives from bad faith leads a part of [public] opinion to confuse us, who are alone, with a phase of poetical expression -- or its negation -- that means little to us, as little as all other historical forms that writing has taken.

It is also maladroit to [try to] limit us to the role of partisans of any kind of aesthetic, as it is to denounce us, as one has furthermore done, as drug addicts and gangsters. We have indeed said that the programme of claims recently defined by surrealism -- to cite the system that has denounced us -- appears to us as a minimum, the urgency of which must not be escaped.

As far as personal ambitions, they are not reconciliable with the causes with which we have deliberately compromised ourselves.

22 July 1954

For the Lettrist International:

Michele-I. Bernstein, Andre-Frank Conord, Mohamed Dahou,
G.-E. Debord, Jacques Fillon, Vera, Gil J Wolman

(Published in Potlatch: Information Bulletin of the French Group of the Lettrist International, #6, 27 July 1954. Translated from the French by NOT BORED!)

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