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#6: Revolution or Resistance

Jörgen Gassilewski // Détournement of events and situations in Gothenburg, Sweden 1961 and 2001

I was born in Gothenburg in 1961. In 1961 also the so called First Situationist International had a meeting in Gothenburg. A meeting which divided the movement and in which the politicizing branch with Guy Debord at the head emerged victorious from the battle. The artistic branch, lead by Danish artist Asger Jorn, had no choice but to create a Second Situationist International. In the two books Fin de Copenhague (1957) and Mémoires (1958) Guy Debord and Asger Jorn had been in close cooperation. I was in Gothenburg 14-16 of June 2001 during the riots and police fire in connection with the visit of George W Bush and the summit meeting of the EU.

 

Moist dusty air bed-smellgood against lips. Inside the classroom with the lamp in the ceiling and the air bed. In a cupboard in the classroom T-Yellow finds some food which he splits with the others on other air beds in the classroom. T-Yellow is autonomous. He leaves the description of himself to others. He doesn’t care. He leaves the precedence of interpretation open. He says what he wants to say. He dresses like he wants to dress. He has the opinions he wants to have. He is autonomous. This is the very secret of the autonomous. This is the very secret of Antifascist Action. They can be for non-violence or for violence. They can be for masking or for non-masking. They can have series of different opinions. They can be a part of a range of different organisations. It is a mode of action. They are autonomous. What they have in common is action. They are autonomous and they gather for a united action and then become autonomous again or they are autonomous all the time and gather for a for the time being united action during which they continue to be autonomous and become after completed action autonomous in the way they certainly have been all the time. T-Yellow is autonomous. He does what he wants to do. Antifascist Action is against sexism, homophobia, racism, capitalism and fascism. T-Yellow is autonomous. He lets nobody represent him and he neither represents nobody else. Antifascist Action was founded in the beginning of the nineties after the RAF and it was something new and totally different and the triple oppression theory was new and now you couldn’t just derive racism and patriarchy from capitalism but also capitalism and patriarchy from racism and capitalism and racism from patriarchy. Consequently they are detached phenomena. And people are too. Autonomous. They only represent themselves and can only represent themselves. T-Yellow is autonomous.


In 1958 Jorn and Debord summarize a period of intense co-operation in the book Mémoires, the second and more complex of the two books they did together (the first one is Fin de Copenhague, 1957, a commentary on consumption society through detourned comic strips, commercial slogans etc.) Mémoires, which (like Fin de Copenhague) without exceptions is composed out of borrowed phrases, is a book that becomes especially important in relation to this archival strategy: with its white pages powdered by photographic reproductions, anonymous fragments of text taken from a wide range of contexts and Jorns radiant red, blue, pink, green smudges of colour (that, according to Gilman, “objectivates ‘the sublime’ as powerless stains”) the book resembles a Situationist dérive, a blueprint or a map of the urban strolling of the Situationists. But at the same time as it constitutes a map, a basis for activity, it is also a memory – the memory of the early years of the Lettrist International, 1952-53. Rather than describing events and desires, Mémoires tells about the external circumstances which is required in order to formulate these moments past. It tells about where, when and how, but not what. Alienated from the original locality which it translates, the book turns into its own structural space, with specific material conditions: “The passion of speaking and remembering rests on a material ground”, as it reads on one of the pages of the book. The book becomes a leveling surface where Jorns smudges of color, printed text and photographic reproductions unite in a banal equivalence. Make no mistake about the reference to Pollock in Jorns use of paint, but at the same time the photo-litographic drips and splashes undermine the rhetoric of gestical authenticity that surrounds Pollocks work. And in contrast to the photos of Heartfield, which interrupt the dense, painted levels in which they are inserted, Mémoires reduces everything – including the painted traces – to the photographic condition, where no gesture can be differentiated from another – an inability to detach or interrupt that is underlined through the frenetic smudges that is layered upon but, in the same fashion as in Jorns detourned paintings, neither conceals nor wipes out the text underneath. Attempts to spontaneous expression, as in dadaistic collage-poems or the Parole in Libertà of futurism, is replaced by the codified, graphical signs that characterise the structure of this book: a memory of the archive that gathers together the epoch itself, which is the framework of the Situationist work as a whole.

Around seven in the evening Ya Basta had their non-violence training at the gym. They were preparing for the intrusion event at Svenska Mässan Friday morning dressed in white to symbolize the rejected and those who disliked the symbolic of course were welcome to dress up in an overall in a color of their own choice and at the forefront of the march there would be 8000 balloons in all colors you can possibly imagine which the police had to crush before they could get to the demonstrators. I almost felt nostalgic. And they told us that The White Overalls was a mode of action which in Gothenburg was represented by Globalization from Beneath and Ya Basta from Finland and that they were of ancient lineage back to when Ya Basta from Italy got the honorary task of being the bodyguard of Subcomandante Marcos when the caravan was bound for Mexico City to end 500 years of American Indian repression. I felt nostalgic. In the same way Subcomandante Marcos is faceless white overalls are a symbol of invisibility and disobedience a symbol open to all who wish to wander and ask act peacefully in public space and revolt against injustice by using the body of one’s own as a weapon white overalls are not a sign of ideology the central principles of the white overalls are crystallised in Zapatism the white overalls is a horizontal movement in which all have the opportunity to participate clothed in Zapatist terms the main principle of the white overalls is to wander asking and to decide obediently and to obey decisively the white overalls are not craving for political power but want to act in favor of a change of society here and now white overalls also symbolize the change of society into an information and service community the blue collars change into white productive work and resistance are no longer restricted to the factories but reaches out over the whole tissue of society thus the white overalls symbolize a new subject of production a subject whose work more and more seldom is traditional blue-collar work and more and more often is renewing and communicative caring intellectual work beyond matter the body is the subject and object of the political struggle the body is a weapon in the activity of the white overalls the analysis of Michel Foucault and the concept of bio-politics of feminism is crystallized refugees without valid papers.

So Guy Debord and Asger Jorn went separate ways. Climax and collapse of the politicising First Situationist International was the events of May 1968. For the part of The First Situationist International it started in 1966, when the student union at Strasbourg University approached them to write a critique of student life – it was to be the pamphlet “On the Poverty of Student Life”, which called for a revolt by students. In 1968 The First Situationist International took part in the occupation of Sorbonne University. The police tried to take back the Sorbonne and a riot ensued followed by a general strike with up to ten million workers participating. The Situationists distributed calls for the occupation of factories and the formation of workers’ councils. Disillusioned with the students the Situationists soon left the university to set up the C.M.D.O., The Council for the Maintenance of the Occupations, which distributed the Situationist demands on a much wider scale. The government and the unions agreed a deal but no one went back to work. It was only after de Gaulle had threatened to start a civil war and the army was deployed on the streets of Paris that the strike did fizzle out. The police took back the Sorbonne and the C.M.D.O. disbanded. The First Situationist International never recovered but died out of itself in 1972.

[The above is a détournement of Jonas (J) Magnussons “Avantgardet ger inte upp” (plagiat och détournement hos Lautréamont, Wolman, Jorn, Debord.) [“The Avant-garde Never Gives Up” (the plagiarism and détournement of Lautréamont, Wolman, Jorn, Debord.)] in the poetry magazine OEI 15/16/17, 2003/2004 – and my own novel Göteborgshändelserna (The Gothenburg Events), which will be published in autumn 2005 and deals with the riots and police fire in connection with the visit of George W Bush and the summit meeting of the EU in Gothenburg 14-16 of June 2001. The main part of the novel takes place during and around the occupation of Hvitfeldtska Upper Secondary School.]

Jörgen Gassilewski

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