Why Lettrism


It seems necessary to historically define the post war period in Europe as one of the generalised halt of attempts at change, in the realm of emotions as much as in the political realm.

Just when spectacular technical inventions multiply the chances of future constructions, alongside the dangers of still unresolved contradictions, we witness a stagnation of social struggles and, on the mental level, a complete reaction against the movement of discovery which culminated around 1930 with the association of the broadest demands with the recognition of the practical means of imposing them.

From the rise of fascism to the second world war, the exercise of revolutionary means has been deceptive, and the regression of hopes linked to them has been inevitable.

Following the incomplete liberation of 1944, intellectual and artistic reaction broke loose everywhere: abstract painting, a simple moment of modern pictorial evolution where it only occupies a very meagre place, is presented by all the publicity machines as the basis of a new aesthetic. The alexandrine is dedicated to a proletarian renaissance, where the proletariat will become outmoded as a cultural form just as the quadriga and trireme have become outmoded as a means of transport. The by-products of writing which had caused indignation, and which had not been ready, are getting an ephemeral but resounding admiration: the poetry of Prevert or Char, the prose of Gracq, the drama of the atrocious cretin Pichette, and all the others. The Cinema, where the various arrangements of scenarios are used just as harmonies, proclaims its future in the plagiarism of De Sica, and finds novelty - and above all exoticism - in various Italian films where meanness has imposed a style of camerawork little different from the habits of Hollywood, but so long after S.M.Eisenstein. Further, it is known that the scholars who otherwise do not dance in caves, have given themselves up to laborious phenomenological refinements.
Confronting this dismal and profitable mess, where each repetition has its disciples, each regression its admirers, each remake its fans, a single group shows universal opposition and complete contempt in the name of the historically necessary supercession of old values. A kind of inventive optimism has taken the place of refusal, affirming itself beyond refusal. It is necessary to recognise the healthy role that Dada assumed in another epoch, despite its very different intentions.

We may be told that it is not a very intelligent project to restart Dadaism. But it is not a matter of going over Dadaism. The very serious setback of revolutionary politics, linked to the glaring weakness of the working class aesthetic promoted by the same retrograde phase, has lead to confusion in every field where it will soon have raged for thirty years. On the spiritual level the petit-bourgeoisie always hold sway. After several resounding crises, its monopoly is even more extended than before: everything which is actually impressed in the world - whether it be the capitalist literature, the social-realist literature, the false formalist avant-garde living on forms which have dropped into the public domain, or the bogus theosophical agonies of certain movements of erstwhile emancipators - entirely nurtures the petit-bourgeois spirit. Under the pressure of the realities of the epoch, it is well necessary to finish with this spirit. From this perspective any measures are good.

The outrageous provocations that the Lettrist group has carried out or prepared (poetry reduced to letters, metagraphic recital, cinema without images) unleashes a fatal inflation in the arts.

We therefore joined them without hesitation.

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