DEBORD, PRINTEMPS BY FRANK PERRIN - CRASH Magazine



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DEBORD, PRINTEMPS BY FRANK PERRIN

By Crash Redaction

To be published in the “Dissidents” collection from Editions Louison.

Extract from the first draft.

 

With an average age of barely twenty-one, they form a tribe dedicated to the blank slate, an unprecedented family of demolition.  In post-war Saint-Germain-des-Prés, they categorically rejected the illusions of the Trente Glorieuses: happiness, work, success. They wished neither to be happy, nor to work, nor to succeed, and they held no concern for the future. They wanted to turn the world upside down. The secret enterprise of subversion they initiated would later take on the name of situationism. But at that moment, they were still young and basking in the perfection of these early days. In this kaleidoscopic biographical essay, Frank Perrin offers a series of portraits that aim to reconstitute the mysterious magnetism of a wild youth culture guided by Guy Debord.

 

I am

Refusal,

I am the Strategist,

immanent, Subversion, incarnated,

I am the Only,

the Exterminator and the Anathema,

I am the Passenger,

the Parricide and the Insurgent,

I am Melancholy, Dusk and Dawn,

I am the Detour,

the Situation and the Drift,

I am the Exemplar,

the Gravedigger and the Scandal,

I am the Detonator,

the Blade and the Free Explosion,

I am Contempt,

the Manipulator and the Seducer,

I am the Bandit,

the Hero and the Sage,

I am the Invisible,

the Secret and the Conspiracy,

I am the Celebration,

Negation and Anger,

I am the Radical, the Night

and the Passions, all absolutely new,

I am the Clandestine,

the Censor, the Dissident

and the Phantom who will

continue to haunt you all for ages.

 

I form an enterprise that has no precedent, and whose execution will have no successor. I want to show my kind a man in all the radicality of revolt; and this man will be me.

 

ME ALONE

 

I am nineteen, I came to Paris in 1951, I live in a hotel, from which I will soon put in motion the most secret and planetary of subversions. Though I was born officially in 1931, it is during this fall in Paris that I am truly entering the world, in this hotel room on Rue Racine, during the golden age of bold action that will never return.

My name is Guy, and Guy-Ernest until 1964 as an homage to Hemingway. I will never pursue an education, I will have neither parents nor children. My entire existence will be tirelessly and exclusively dedicated to the sole task of inventing a new life, free from any constraint.

 

I AM, ABOVE ALL ELSE, NOT RECOMMENDABLE…

 

SECRET SHOCKWAVES

This refusal of tomorrow already constituted a visionary “no future” attitude. Dada was its secret sibling, surrealism the enemy and father that it had to destroy and punk the motherless child that would soon arrive on the scene. This trinity of crypto-revolutions (dada, situationism, punk) forms a lineage of the 20th century’s secret eruptions (whose admirable saga was masterfully retraced by Greil Marcus), each using its own resources to fling a massive “NO” into the face of all established values. Each one changed the course of events with its zero program, refusing all supposedly accepted precepts. The fertile power of negativity had never been so apparent outside this trio: dada (1917), situationism (1957), punk (1977), each one a cornerstone of the apocalypse placed under the sign of seven. These radical, abrupt and unpredictable ruptures eerily reemerged at regular intervals, likea volcano that refuses to go dormant. These three eruptions that nothing could stop, arising from next to nothing and with no premeditated plan, through the power of only a handful of instigators operating in the most complete underground, maintain profound affinities among one another, tracing the lines of a secret history of the 20th century. Unpredictable streams, buried forty degrees underground, joined together to spring forth a grand refusal of everything. But the most powerful commonality between each of these three blank slates, as they surged forth with no premeditation, was never knowing precisely what they wanted to say. All three, from the hollow heart of their era, leapt into the void without ever measuring or evaluating what that might mean.

 

VITA NUOVA

Just once, a miniscule portion of the youth, nestled into a tiny corner of post-war Saint-Germain-des-Prés, would rise up in secret against the ambient conformity; that of the growing servitude to work and spectacle. Later on, they would be known as situationists. For the moment, they were just young, carefree, insolent and wild. Together, they would form a pact and made the incredible wager of reinventing life, while also taking a vow to dive headlong into new passions.

 

 In defiance of the dominant cowardice and permanent stupidity, they formed a plan to wage an obscure war, in order to destabilize all the values of a society that was beginning to be ruled by cliches. This infinitesimal section of the youth, composed of only a few rare individuals, would spontaneously declare an all-out assault on all of society’s supreme values: work, spectacle, success and collective happiness, values wholly encrypted to rob us of life and force us into a state of complete mind-numbing domination.

 

 “Be the first to enter alive into new life.” 

 

Paris, 1950. The country lay bleeding from the dual trauma of the Nazi Occupation and Collaboration. It was further held down by the Marshall Plan, which, behind the façade of reconstruction, was in fact a program to Americanize Europe in order to combat the Communist bloc. The famous phrase “Iron Curtain” was used for the first time by Churchill. A minor portion of the French youth would savagely refuse the introduction of this plan for cheerful domestication, by implementing a war plan of its own aiming to short-circuit the opposition of these two blocs, each of which used different words to play the same song: that of servitude for all.

 

“It was necessary to discover the potential abundance of reality.” 

 

And yet it all seemed to be moving along smoothly… The country exited the war and gradually clawed its way out of scarcity and poverty. On the cusp of a transition towards a new society, the country shifted abruptly from radical shortage to unthinkable abundance. It was a time of full employment, construction on every corner and rampant consumption of irresistible new goods; it was impossible not to be or not to want to be happy. And it was precisely this impossibility that they desired, like the sole foundation of their entire lifespan. Zero for conduct, and for everything else,became the unique goal to achieve in every aspect of life, and the Holy Grail of a new religion of negativity. 

 

Resolute and refusing happiness at all costs, they dove passionately into the waves of the present, with oblivion as their only rule for life, following the momentum of a single impulse, which had never come before and will never return again…

 

“The war for freedom must be waged with anger.”

 

It was a totally unthinkable adventure for the era, and one that was absolutely unpredictable for society. They were very few, the start of a new generation, deliberately aimless… A tiny core of “lost adolescents” wishing to upset the world with no ulterior goal or plan. A pure drive for the blank slate propelled this new tribe that wanted to reinvent life, and nothing else. Marginal, irreversible.

 

He was eighteen years old, his name was Guy, and he had just graduated from high school. For the occasion, he decided never to pursue an education and sent an announcement to his relatives celebrating the joyous news of never wanting to learn from anyone. It was by drifting through the world that he provoked the encounter that would change everything. And this encounter would henceforth build the chaotic fabric of his life, punctuated by its many meetings and breakups. It was thus, while strolling through the streets of Cannes during the film festival, that he came across on La Croisette the agitators gathered around Isidore Isou, who had come to spread scandal with the film Venom and Eternity. He joined immediately with these young Lettrists who wanted to bring down everything. This was the spark that ignited the powder keg and set alight the theoretical, behavioral and practical blaze that would burn for the next forty years.

 

“A desperate disorder.”

 

Debord immediately befriended these Lettrists hungry for rupture; they pointed him in the right direction. He moved right away to Paris and lived in a hotel on Rue Racine in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, where he stayed for more than seven years. During the day, he spent most of his time at the bistro Chez Moineau, with the sole aim of reaching the youth longing to overthrow the world. The stage was set and he was ready for an unprecedented adventure. The next year, he would also direct his first film: Howls for Sade, the first shout in an uninterrupted program of future shockwaves.

 

From this resurrective encounter on La Croisette came a flow, a continuous surge of books, magazines, films, scandals, ruptures, conferences, congresses, tracts, letters and above all encounters that would form the true mobile architecture of his life…

 

A throw of the dice abolishing chance, it was on his eighteenth birthday that a long war would begin, with the first battle waged precisely on La Croisette in order to tear down the film industry and its alienating power, which no one had yet wished to recognize.

The Golem that transformed our lives into dust, as we gazed in passive and blissful contemplation. Through paradox or magnetism, it was on the battleground of film that the war against spectacle would begin.

 

1950… the year of Guy « the insurgent » and that of his eighteenth birthday, events presented in no particular order or hierarchy… The creation of the S.M.I.G. (Guaranteed Minimum Wage)… The (colonial) War in Indochina sees the first major French military

defeats… The creation of Club Med ushers in organized industrial tourism… Jean-Pierre Melville releases Les Enfants terribles… A law is passed making armed robbery a capital crime… Maurice Herzog summits Annapurna… The duration of compulsory military service is set at eighteen months… The first live television broadcast is made, with 3,794 TV sets in France… Finally, the first disposable ballpoint pen, the Bic crystal, is released… Soon everything will become disposable. We stand strangely and radically in refusal of all this… The world we are preparing for you will be totally new…

 

Notes

Guy Debord, Panégyrique, vol. 1, 1989.

Karl Marx, Lettres à Arnold Ruge, 1843.

Guy Debord, Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, 1959.

Internationale lettriste n°3, 1953.

Guy Debord, Mémoires, 1958

Debourd, printempts by Frank Perrin was published by Louison Editions on the 20th of October 2022 and is available to buy online from retailers including amazon, cultura & fnac  as well as in selected bookstores.  

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