Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

‘Philosophy in the Boudoir’ and a pint of gin

Another find from an old folder – my original of the Englished version of the Internationale Situationniste poster of late 1967 by Raoul Vaneigem and André Bertrand. By “original” I mean offset-litho’d on two separate pieces of foolscap in 1968, though I have no idea how many generations of copies that might represent.

posterThe French original can be seen neatly archived here, just over half way down. It’s observable that some captions are rather freely translated, and the “extra” after “supermarket” at top right was removed for some reason. As for who did the English version, I’ve no idea, but it found its way speedily onto the front of International Times 26 of February 1968, dressed up in red and blue (visible at http://www.international-times.org.uk/ITarchive.htm – click on “1968” as the direct page link doesn’t seem to work). IT 27 contained a follow up letter on this signed by a pseudonymous “Random Banana”, who may or may not have been the translator.

I see that Guy Debord’s archives are now officially a French “national treasure”, and to be the focus of a massive exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale this spring. I ebayed off some situationist ephemera myself a while back. The most eager purchasers turned out to be a collector of rock T-shirts and a radio DJ. Under post-modernism we are all now pro-situ’s, and the internet is littered with situationist graphics – mostly, Lord help us, on sites hosted by design companies. (Surely the deadly ideology of “design” should be top of the bonfire list for today’s cultural revolutionaries?) Despite this, only isolated panels of this poster pop up on Google, so it seemed like a public service to post it whole.

The original has been described as a détournement of a comic strip, but it’s not. Bertrand’s artwork looks as if it was assembled from tracings of magazine photos. The offsetting of outline against solid black lends it a pleasing style, so that the whole thing has now assumed huge retro-Pop appeal. Very commodity, in fact.

However uncomfortable I may feel these days with some of the sentiments expressed, I still admire their absolute intransigence. But the subjectivist, survivalist, almost mystical direction of Vaneigem’s thought of that era has long since been recuperated by the marketeers of “free choice”. The refusal to pay may save a few bob but beyond that it doesn’t get us very far. Freedom from choice, as Devo pointed out, is what we want.

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