deconstructive / theme

Addressing a genre, a tradition, but so as to expand it, blow it open, spread it out, open its borders to its own hidden selves. A question which will not go away and produces -- not answers -- but new possibilities. Not destructive; rather, the deconstructive reveals the obscured. In a sense, then, the deconstructive is creative, productive.

Themes represent basic categories of thought, emotion, or value. While our assignment of themes may at times seem arbitrary or whimsical, they serve to link together artists and movements along non- hierarchial pathways. Follow the themes to look for new disciplines that share qualities with those you already like, or to open up new worlds of Art and Culture.


Past Events

[Stripped] New York, NY, United States
2 Oct - 21 May
92nd Street Y / details
Add Your Views
Please to comment.


view by:

Eloisa to Abelard

In these deep solitudes and awful cells, Where heav'nly-pensive contemplation dwells, And ever-musing melancholy reigns; What means this tumult in a vestal's veins? Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat? Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat? Yet, yet I love! — From Abelard it came, And Eloisa yet must kiss the name. Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd, Nor pass these lips in holy silence seal'd. Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise, Where mix'd with God's, his lov'd idea lies: O write it not, my hand — the name appears Already written — wash it out, my tears! In vain lost Eloisa weeps and prays, Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys. Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains: Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn; Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn! Shrines! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep, And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep! Though cold like you, unmov'd, and silent grown, I have not yet forgot myself to stone. All is not Heav'n's while Abelard has part, Still rebel nature holds out half my heart; Nor pray'rs nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain, Nor tears, for ages, taught to flow in vain. Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose, That well-known name awakens all my woes. Oh name for ever sad! for ever dear! Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear. I tremble too, where'er my own I find, Some dire misfortune follows close behind. Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow, Led through a sad variety of woe: Now warm in love, now with'ring in thy bloom, Lost in a convent's solitary gloom! There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame, There died the best of passions, love and fame. Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine. Nor foes nor fortune take this pow'r away; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare, Love but demands what else were shed in pray'r; No happier task these faded eyes pursue; To read and weep is all they now can do. Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it! give me all thy grief. Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid, Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid; They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires, Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires, The virgin's wish without her fears impart, Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart, Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul, And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole. Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under Friendship's name; My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of th' all-beauteous Mind. Those smiling eyes, attemp'ring ev'ry day, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day. Guiltless I gaz'd; heav'n listen'd while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those what precept fail'd to move? Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love. Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran, Nor wish'd an Angel whom I lov'd a Man. Dim and remote the joys of saints I see; Nor envy them, that heav'n I lose for thee. How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made! Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies, Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove, Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love? The jealous God, when we profane his fires, Those restless passions in revenge inspires; And bids them make mistaken mortals groan, Who seek in love for aught but love alone. Should at my feet the world's great master fall, Himself, his throne, his world, I'd scorn 'em all: Not Caesar's empress would I deign to prove; No, make me mistress to the man I love; If there be yet another name more free, More fond than mistress, make me that to thee! Oh happy state! when souls each other draw, When love is liberty, and nature, law: All then is full, possessing, and possess'd, No craving void left aching in the breast: Ev'n thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part, And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart. This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be) And once the lot of Abelard and me. Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise! A naked lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand, Her poniard, had oppos'd the dire command. Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain; The crime was common, common be the pain. I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd, Let tears, and burning blushes speak the rest. Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altar's foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell? As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil, The shrines all trembl'd, and the lamps grew pale: Heav'n scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd, And saints with wonder heard the vows I made. Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew, Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd, but you: Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call, And if I lose thy love, I lose my all. Come! with thy looks, thy words, relieve my woe; Those still at least are left thee to bestow. Still on that breast enamour'd let me lie, Still drink delicious poison from thy eye, Pant on thy lip, and to thy heart be press'd; Give all thou canst — and let me dream the rest. Ah no! instruct me other joys to prize, With other beauties charm my partial eyes, Full in my view set all the bright abode, And make my soul quit Abelard for God. Ah, think at least thy flock deserves thy care, Plants of thy hand, and children of thy pray'r. From the false world in early youth they fled, By thee to mountains, wilds, and deserts led. You rais'd these hallow'd walls; the desert smil'd, And Paradise was open'd in the wild. No weeping orphan saw his father's stores Our shrines irradiate, or emblaze the floors; No silver saints, by dying misers giv'n, Here brib'd the rage of ill-requited heav'n: But such plain roofs as piety could raise, And only vocal with the Maker's praise. In these lone walls (their days eternal bound) These moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crown'd, Where awful arches make a noonday night, And the dim windows shed a solemn light; Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray, And gleams of glory brighten'd all the day. But now no face divine contentment wears, 'Tis all blank sadness, or continual tears. See how the force of others' pray'rs I try, (O pious fraud of am'rous charity!) But why should I on others' pray'rs depend? Come thou, my father, brother, husband, friend! Ah let thy handmaid, sister, daughter move, And all those tender names in one, thy love! The darksome pines that o'er yon rocks reclin'd Wave high, and murmur to the hollow wind, The wand'ring streams that shine between the hills, The grots that echo to the tinkling rills, The dying gales that pant upon the trees, The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze; No more these scenes my meditation aid, Or lull to rest the visionary maid. But o'er the twilight groves and dusky caves, Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves, Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws A death-like silence, and a dread repose: Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene, Shades ev'ry flow'r, and darkens ev'ry green, Deepens the murmur of the falling floods, And breathes a browner horror on the woods. Yet here for ever, ever must I stay; Sad proof how well a lover can obey! Death, only death, can break the lasting chain; And here, ev'n then, shall my cold dust remain, Here all its frailties, all its flames resign, And wait till 'tis no sin to mix with thine. Ah wretch! believ'd the spouse of God in vain, Confess'd within the slave of love and man. Assist me, Heav'n! but whence arose that pray'r? Sprung it from piety, or from despair? Ev'n here, where frozen chastity retires, Love finds an altar for forbidden fires. I ought to grieve, but cannot what I ought; I mourn the lover, not lament the fault; I view my crime, but kindle at the view, Repent old pleasures, and solicit new; Now turn'd to Heav'n, I weep my past offence, Now think of thee, and curse my innocence. Of all affliction taught a lover yet, 'Tis sure the hardest science to forget! How shall I lose the sin, yet keep the sense, And love th' offender, yet detest th' offence? How the dear object from the crime remove, Or how distinguish penitence from love? Unequal task! a passion to resign, For hearts so touch'd, so pierc'd, so lost as mine. Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state, How often must it love, how often hate! How often hope, despair, resent, regret, Conceal, disdain — do all things but forget. But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd; Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd! Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue, Renounce my love, my life, myself — and you. Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he Alone can rival, can succeed to thee. How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd; Labour and rest, that equal periods keep; "Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep;" Desires compos'd, affections ever ev'n, Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heav'n. Grace shines around her with serenest beams, And whisp'ring angels prompt her golden dreams. For her th' unfading rose of Eden blooms, And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes, For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring, For her white virgins hymeneals sing, To sounds of heav'nly harps she dies away, And melts in visions of eternal day. Far other dreams my erring soul employ, Far other raptures, of unholy joy: When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day, Fancy restores what vengeance snatch'd away, Then conscience sleeps, and leaving nature free, All my loose soul unbounded springs to thee. Oh curs'd, dear horrors of all-conscious night! How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight! Provoking Daemons all restraint remove, And stir within me every source of love. I hear thee, view thee, gaze o'er all thy charms, And round thy phantom glue my clasping arms. I wake — no more I hear, no more I view, The phantom flies me, as unkind as you. I call aloud; it hears not what I say; I stretch my empty arms; it glides away. To dream once more I close my willing eyes; Ye soft illusions, dear deceits, arise! Alas, no more — methinks we wand'ring go Through dreary wastes, and weep each other's woe, Where round some mould'ring tower pale ivy creeps, And low-brow'd rocks hang nodding o'er the deeps. Sudden you mount, you beckon from the skies; Clouds interpose, waves roar, and winds arise. I shriek, start up, the same sad prospect find, And wake to all the griefs I left behind. For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain; Thy life a long, dead calm of fix'd repose; No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows. Still as the sea, ere winds were taught to blow, Or moving spirit bade the waters flow; Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgiv'n, And mild as opening gleams of promis'd heav'n. Come, Abelard! for what hast thou to dread? The torch of Venus burns not for the dead. Nature stands check'd; Religion disapproves; Ev'n thou art cold — yet Eloisa loves. Ah hopeless, lasting flames! like those that burn To light the dead, and warm th' unfruitful urn. What scenes appear where'er I turn my view? The dear ideas, where I fly, pursue, Rise in the grove, before the altar rise, Stain all my soul, and wanton in my eyes. I waste the matin lamp in sighs for thee, Thy image steals between my God and me, Thy voice I seem in ev'ry hymn to hear, With ev'ry bead I drop too soft a tear. When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll, And swelling organs lift the rising soul, One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight, Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight: In seas of flame my plunging soul is drown'd, While altars blaze, and angels tremble round. While prostrate here in humble grief I lie, Kind, virtuous drops just gath'ring in my eye, While praying, trembling, in the dust I roll, And dawning grace is op'ning on my soul: Come, if thou dar'st, all charming as thou art! Oppose thyself to Heav'n; dispute my heart; Come, with one glance of those deluding eyes Blot out each bright idea of the skies; Take back that grace, those sorrows, and those tears; Take back my fruitless penitence and pray'rs; Snatch me, just mounting, from the blest abode; Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God! No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole; Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll! Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me, Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee. Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign; Forget, renounce me, hate whate'er was mine. Fair eyes, and tempting looks (which yet I view!) Long lov'd, ador'd ideas, all adieu! Oh Grace serene! oh virtue heav'nly fair! Divine oblivion of low-thoughted care! Fresh blooming hope, gay daughter of the sky! And faith, our early immortality! Enter, each mild, each amicable guest; Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest! See in her cell sad Eloisa spread, Propp'd on some tomb, a neighbour of the dead. In each low wind methinks a spirit calls, And more than echoes talk along the walls. Here, as I watch'd the dying lamps around, From yonder shrine I heard a hollow sound. "Come, sister, come!" (it said, or seem'd to say) "Thy place is here, sad sister, come away! Once like thyself, I trembled, wept, and pray'd, Love's victim then, though now a sainted maid: But all is calm in this eternal sleep; Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep, Ev'n superstition loses ev'ry fear: For God, not man, absolves our frailties here." I come, I come! prepare your roseate bow'rs, Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flow'rs. Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go, Where flames refin'd in breasts seraphic glow: Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay, And smooth my passage to the realms of day; See my lips tremble, and my eye-balls roll, Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul! Ah no — in sacred vestments may'st thou stand, The hallow'd taper trembling in thy hand, Present the cross before my lifted eye, Teach me at once, and learn of me to die. Ah then, thy once-lov'd Eloisa see! It will be then no crime to gaze on me. See from my cheek the transient roses fly! See the last sparkle languish in my eye! Till ev'ry motion, pulse, and breath be o'er; And ev'n my Abelard be lov'd no more. O Death all-eloquent! you only prove What dust we dote on, when 'tis man we love. Then too, when fate shall thy fair frame destroy, (That cause of all my guilt, and all my joy) In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drown'd, Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round, From op'ning skies may streaming glories shine, And saints embrace thee with a love like mine. May one kind grave unite each hapless name, And graft my love immortal on thy fame! Then, ages hence, when all my woes are o'er, When this rebellious heart shall beat no more; If ever chance two wand'ring lovers brings To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs, O'er the pale marble shall they join their heads, And drink the falling tears each other sheds; Then sadly say, with mutual pity mov'd, "Oh may we never love as these have lov'd!" From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise, And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice, Amid that scene if some relenting eye Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie, Devotion's self shall steal a thought from Heav'n, One human tear shall drop and be forgiv'n. And sure, if fate some future bard shall join In sad similitude of griefs to mine, Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore, And image charms he must behold no more; Such if there be, who loves so long, so well; Let him our sad, our tender story tell; The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost; He best can paint 'em, who shall feel 'em most.

Excerpt from "Stepmother"

Look at it this way, love, I tell her: no more slops to empty. I get no rise out of her, game as she is, my poor desperate daughter, her head is locked on one thing and one thing only: how to escape her inescapable fate. How many I've seen go this way, daughters, stepdaughters, whatever—some just turn up at my door, I'm never quite sure whose they are or where they come from—but I know where they go: to be drowned, hung, stoned, beheaded, burned at the stake, impaled, torn apart, shot, put to the sword, boiled in oil, dragged down the street in barrels studded on the inside with nails or nailed into barrels with holes drilled in them and rolled into the river. Their going always sickens me and the deep self-righteous laughter of their executioners causes the bile to rise, and for a time thereafter I unleash a storm of hell, or at least what's in my meager power to raise, and so do my beautiful wild daughters, it's a kind of violent mourning, and so they come down on us again and more daughters are caught up in what the Reaper calls the noble toils of justice and thus we keep the cycle going, rolling along through this timeless time like those tumbling nail-studded barrels. Of course, the child, naked and spread-eagled and shackled to the floor below me, expects me to get her out of this somehow. I'm a witch, I should be able to do something. And it's true, I do have a few tricks, though in general it's more useful to be thought a witch than to be one. An aura lingers on, accruing respect, but tricks are only tricks and they come and go. Magic rings and slippers are misplaced or stolen, unbreakable rods get broken, spells collapse for a fault in the grammar or a memory lapse. To which I'm increasingly given, as if my inborn malice were being mocked by my own particulates. Nevertheless, I've gotten in here only because I've been able to change into a bleating lamb and put her jailors in a trance. They're stupid boys, baa baa, a child could do it. But the trance won't last much longer, we only have a few minutes, and so far I've not been able to conjure up a way out of here. Not for a lack of effort. I've been at it since she got taken. First, I tried to turn the king into a frog so as to improve my negotiating position, but he only ended up with a rash of warts and a goutish temper. So then I sent him some sacks of gold to try to make my peace and buy her freedom, but magic gold has a way of fading to cinders while being counted and I've been told I am now in debt to the castle by that amount. I delivered a poisoned apple to the queen, who my poor daughter insists is her hateful and revengeful stepsister, one of them, but somebody nicked it and a kitchen boy was said to be poorly. I have nothing against kitchen boys and so sent another apple to make him well again, but the king appropriated this one to doctor his warts and let the boy die. I even borrowed Old Soldier's magic horn and tried to bring down the prison walls by blowing it at them, but I am short on musical gifts as everyone knows and only got pelted by garbage from the neighbors. And now I've recited a few incantations from the catechism, trying to pop her shackles, but they're of a make I haven't seen before and the old spells don't seem to work. I've rubbed her wrists and ankles with my warty thumb, trying to shrink them and so free her that way, but they're raw and I only made her cry. Time is running out for us, she'll die before the sun's down, and die horribly, unless I can stir the ashes in my old chimney and think of something. But it's clear she's losing confidence in me. When I arrived, I caught her praying to the Ogress, which goes against the family grain, though I could hardly blame her, that ruthless ghoul has a lot of heavy magic, or so they say, mother of the top dog among sorcerers and queen of a host of others, but she's so infuriatingly full of herself and a monster all the same, and I say, her magic be damned, may the shameless turkey-assed tyrant rot in hell. If there is one. And why not? No more unlikely than this pesthole. I warn my daughter. Stay away from the Ogress, I say, she only wants you dead. She's got a thing for corpses, always has had. She's a soul eater. I am running out of choices, mama. I am afraid.

The Fallguy's Faith

Falling from favor, or grace, some high artifice, down he dropped like a discredited predicate through what he called space (sometimes he called it time) and with an earsplitting crack splattered the base earth with his vital attributes. Oh, I've had a great fall, he thought as he lay there, numb with terror, trying desperately to pull himself together again. This time (or space) I've really done it! He had fallen before of course: short of expectations, into bad habits, out with his friends, upon evil days, foul of the law, in and out of love, down in the dumps—indeed, as though egged on by some malevolent metaphor generated by his own condition, he had always been falling, had he not?—but this was the most terrible fall of all. It was like the very fall of pride, of stars, of Babylon, of cradles and curtains and angels and rain, like the dread fall of silence, of sparrows, like the fall of doom. It was, in a word, as he knew now, surrendering to the verb of all flesh, the last fall (his last anyway: as for the chips, he sighed, releasing them, let them fall where they may)—yet why was it, he wanted to know, why was it that everything that had happened to him had seemed to have happened in language? Even this! Almost as though, without words for it, it might not have happened at all! Had he been nothing more, after all was said and done, than a paraphrastic curiosity, an idle trope, within some vast syntactical flaw of existence? Had he fallen, he worried as he closed his eyes for the last time and consigned his name to history (may it take it or leave it), his juices to the soil (was it soil?), merely to have it said he had fallen? Ah! tears tumbled down his cheeks, damply echoing thereby the greater fall, now so ancient that he himself was beginning to forget it (a farther fall perhaps than all the rest, this forgetting: a fall as it were within a fall), and it came to him in these fading moments that it could even be said that, born to fall, he had perhaps fallen simply to be born (birth being less than it was cracked up to be, to coin a phrase)! Yes, yes, it could be said, what can not be said, but he didn't quite believe it, didn't quite believe either that accidence held the world together. No, if he had faith in one thing, this fallguy (he came back to this now), it was this: in the beginning was the gesture, and that gesture was: he opened his mouth to say it aloud (to prove some point or other?), but too late—his face cracked into a crooked smile and the words died on his lips ...

Excerpt from First Manifesto of Surrealism

[. . .] Beloved imagination, what I most like in you is your unsparing quality. The mere word “freedom” is the only one that still excites me. I deem it capable of indefinitely sustaining the old human fanaticism. It doubtless satisfies my only legitimate aspiration. Among all the many misfortunes to which we are heir, it is only fair to admit that we are allowed the greatest degree of freedom of thought. It is up to us not to misuse it. To reduce the imagination to a state of slavery—even though it would mean the elimination of what is commonly called happiness—is to betray all sense of absolute justice within oneself. Imagination alone offers me some intimation of what can he, and this is enough to remove to some slight degree the terrible injunction; enough, too, to allow me to devote myself to it without fear of making a mistake (as though it were possible to make a bigger mistake). Where does it begin to turn bad, and where does the mind's stability cease? For the mind, is the possibility of erring not rather the contingency of good? There remains madness, “the madness that one locks up,” as it has aptly been described. That madness or another.... We all know, in fact, that the insane owe their incarceration to a tiny number of legally reprehensible acts and that, were it not for these acts their freedom (or what we see as their freedom) would not be threatened. I am willing to admit that they are, to some degree, victims of their imagination, in that it induces them not to pay attention to certain rules—outside of which the species feels itself threatened—which we are all supposed to know and respect. But their profound indifference to the way in which we judge them, and even to the various punishments meted out to them, allows us to suppose that they derive a great deal of comfort and the thought that its validity does not extend beyond themselves. And, indeed, hallucinations, illusions, etc., are not a source of trifling pleasure. [. . .] The case against the realistic attitude demands to be examined, following the case against the materialistic attitude. The latter, more poetic in fact than the former, admittedly implies on the part of man a kind of monstrous pride which, admittedly, is monstrous, but not a new and more complete decay. It should above all be viewed as a welcome reaction against certain ridiculous tendencies of spiritualism. Finally, it is not incompatible with a certain nobility of thought.By contrast, the realistic attitude, inspired by positivism, from Saint Thomas Aquinas to Anatole France, clearly seems to me to be hostile to any intellectual or moral advancement. I loathe it, for it is made up of mediocrity, hate, and dull conceit. It is this attitude which today gives birth to these ridiculous books, these insulting plays. It constantly feeds on and derives strength from the newspapers and stultifies both science and art by assiduously flattering the lowest of tastes; clarity bordering on stupidity, a dog's life. The activity of the best minds feels the effects of it; the law of the lowest common denominator finally prevails upon them as it does upon the others.[…] *** We are still living under the reign of logic ... But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism that is still in vogue allows us to consider only facts relating directly to our experience. Logical ends, on the contrary, escape us. It is pointless to add that experience itself has found itself increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge. It too leans for support on what is most immediately expedient, and it is protected by the sentinels of common sense. Under the pretense of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth which is not in conformance with accepted practices. It was, apparently, by pure chance that a part of our mental world which we pretended not to be concerned with any longer—and, in my opinion by far the most important part—has been brought back to light. For this we must give thanks to the discoveries of Sigmund Freud. On the basis of these discoveries a current of opinion is finally forming by means of which the human explorer will be able to carry his investigations much further, authorized as he will henceforth be not to confine himself solely to the most summary realities. The imagination is perhaps on the point of reasserting itself, of reclaiming its rights. If the depths of our mind contain within it strange forces capable of augmenting those on the surface, or of waging a victorious battle against them, there is every reason to seize them - first to seize them, then, if need be, to submit them to the control of our reason. The analysts themselves have everything to gain by it. But it is worth noting that no means has been designated a priori for carrying out this undertaking, that until further notice it can be constructed to be the province of poets as well as scholars, and that its success is not dependent upon the more or less capricious paths that will be followed. Freud very rightly brought his critical faculties to bear upon the dream. It is, in fact, inadmissible that this considerable portion of psychic activity (since, at least from man's birth until his death, thought offers ,no solution of continuity, the sum of the moments of dream, from the point of view of time, and taking into consideration only the time of pure dreaming, that is the dreams of sleep, is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality, or, to be more precisely limiting, the moments of waking) has still today been so grossly neglected. I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams. It is because man, when he ceases to sleep, is above all the plaything of his memory, and in its normal state memory takes pleasure in weakly retracing for him the circumstances of the dream, in stripping it of any real importance, and in dismissing the only determinant from the point where he thinks he has left it a few hours before: this firm hope, this concern. He is under the impression of continuing something that is worthwhile. Thus the dream finds itself reduced to a mere parenthesis, as is the night. And, like the night, dreams generally contribute little to furthering our understanding. This curious state of affairs seems to me to call for certain reflections: 1.Within the limits where they operate (or are thought to operate) dreams give every evidence of being continuous and show signs of organization. Memory alone arrogates to itself the right to excerpt from dreams, to ignore the transitions, and to depict for us rather a series of dreams than the dream itself. By the same token, at any given moment we have only a distinct notion of realities, the coordination of which is a question of will. What is worth noting is that nothing allows us to presuppose a greater dissipation of the elements of which the dream is constituted. I am sorry to have to speak about it according to a formula which in principle excludes the dream. When will we have sleeping logicians, sleeping philosophers? I would like to sleep, in order to surrender myself to the dreamers, the way I surrender myself to those who read me with eyes wide open; in order to stop imposing, in this realm, the conscious rhythm of my thought. Perhaps my dream last night follows that of the night before, and will be continued the next night, with an exemplary strictness. It's quite possible, as the saying goes. And since it has not been proved in the slightest that, in doing so, the `reality' with which I am kept busy continues to exist in the state of dream, that it does not sink back down into the immemorial, why should I not grant to dreams what I occasionally refuse reality, that is, this value of certainty in itself which, in its own time, is not open to my repudiation? Why should I not expect from the sign of the dream more than I expect from a degree of consciousness which is daily more acute? Can't the dream also be used in solving the fundamental questions of life? Are these questions the same in one case as in the other and, in the dream, do these questions already exist? Is the dream any less restrictive or punitive than the rest? I am growing old and, more than that reality to which I believe I subject myself, it is perhaps the dream, the difference with which I treat the dream, which makes me grow old. 2.Let me come back again to the waking state. I have no choice but to consider it a phenomenon of interference. Not only does the mind display, in this state, a strange tendency to lose its bearings (as evidenced by the slips and mistakes the secrets of which are just beginning to be revealed to us), but, what is more, it does not appear that, when the mind is functioning normally, it really responds to anything but the suggestions which come to it from the depths of that dark night to which I commend it. However conditioned it may be, its balance is relative. It scarcely dares express itself and, if it does, it confines itself to verifying that such and such an idea, or such and such a woman, has made an impression on it. What impression it would be hard pressed to say, by which it reveals the degree of its subjectivity, and nothing more. This idea, this woman, disturb it, they tend to make it less severe. What they do is isolate the mind for a second from its solvent and spirit it to heaven, as the beautiful precipitate it can be, that it is. When all else fails, it then calls upon chance, a divinity even more obscure than the others to whom it ascribes all its aberrations. Who can say to me that the angle by which that idea which affects it is offered, that what it likes in the eye of that woman is not precisely what links it to its dream, binds it to those fundamental facts which, through its own fault, it has lost? And if things were different, what might it be capable of ? I would like to provide it with the key to this corridor. 3.The mind of the man who dreams is fully satisfied by what happens to him. The agonizing question of possibility is no longer pertinent. Kill, fly faster, love to your heart's content. And if you should die, are you not certain of reawaking among the dead? Let yourself be carried along, events will not tolerate your interference. You are nameless. The ease of everything is priceless.What reason, I ask, a reason so much vaster than the other, makes dreams seem so natural and allows me to welcome unreservedly a welter of episodes so strange that they would confound me now as I write? And yet I can believe my eyes, my ears; this great day has arrived, this beast has spoken.If man's awaking is harder, if it breaks the spell too abruptly, it is because he has been led to make for himself too impoverished a notion of atonement. 4.From the moment when it is subjected to a methodical examination, when, by means yet to be determined, we succeed in recording the contents of dreams in their entirety (and that presupposes a discipline of memory spanning generations; but let us nonetheless begin by noting the most salient facts), when its graph will expand with unparalleled volume and regularity, we may hope that the mysteries which really are not will give way to the great Mystery. I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak. It is in quest of this surreality that I am going, certain not to find it but too unmindful of my death not to calculate to some slight degree the joys of its possession. A story is told according to which Saint-Pol-Roux, in times gone by, used to have a notice posted on the door of his manor house in Camaret, every evening before he went to sleep, which read: THE POET IS WORKING. A great deal more could be said, but in passing I merely wanted to touch upon a subject which in itself would require a very long and much more detailed discussion ... At this juncture, my intention was merely to mark a point by noting the hate of the marvelous which rages in certain men, this absurdity beneath which they try to bury it. Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful. ***One evening ... before I fell asleep, I perceived, so clearly articulated that it was impossible to change a word, but nonetheless removed from the sound of any voice, a rather strange phrase which came to me without any apparent relationship to the events in which, my consciousness agrees, I was then involved, a phrase which seemed to me insistent, a phrase, if I may be so bold, which was knocking at t he window. I took cursory note of it and prepared to move on when its organic character caught my attention. Actually, this phrase astonished me: unfortunately I cannot remember it exactly, but it was something like: “There is a man cut in two by the window,” but there could be no question of ambiguity, accompanied as it was by the faint visual image of a man walking cut half way up by a window perpendicular to the axis of his body. Beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt, what I saw was the simple reconstruction in space of a man leaning out a window. But this window having shifted with the man, I realized that I was dealing with an image of a fairly rare sort, and all I could think of was to incorporate it into my material for poetic construction. No sooner had I granted it this capacity than it was in fact succeeded by a whole series of phrases, with only brief pauses between them, which surprised me only slightly less and left me with the impression of their being so gratuitous that the control I had then exercised upon myself seemed to me illusory and all I could think of was putting an end to the interminable quarrel raging within me. Completely occupied as I still was with Freud at that time, and familiar as I was with his methods of examination which I had had some slight occasion to use on some patients during the war, I resolved to obtain from myself what we were trying to obtain from them, namely, a monologue spoken as rapidly as possible without any intervention on the part of the critical faculties, a monologue consequently unencumbered by the slightest inhibition and which was, as closely as possible, akin to spoken thought. It had seemed to me, and still does—the way in which the phrase about the man cut in two had come to me is an indication of it—that the speed of thought is no greater than the speed of speech, and that thought does not necessarily defy language, nor even the fast-moving pen. It was in this frame of mind that Philippe Soupault—to whom I had confided these initial conclusions—and I decided to blacken some paper, with a praiseworthy disdain for what might result from a literary point of view. The ease of execution did the rest. By the end of the first day we were able to read to ourselves some fifty or so pages obtained in this manner, and begin to compare our results. All in all, Soupault's pages and mine proved to be remarkably similar: the same overconstruction, shortcomings of a similar nature, but also, on both our parts, the illusion of an extraordinary verve, a great deal of emotion, a considerable choice of images of a quality such that we would not have been capable of preparing a single one in longhand, a very special picturesque quality and, here and there, a strong comical effect. The only difference between our two texts seemed to me to derive essentially from our respective tempers, Soupault's being less static than mine, and, if he does not mind my offering this one slight criticism, from the fact that he had made the error of putting a few words by way of titles at the top of certain pages, I suppose in a spirit of mystification. On the other hand, I must give credit where credit is due and say that he constantly and vigorously opposed any effort to retouch or correct, however slightly, any passage of this kind which seemed to me unfortunate. In this he was, to be sure, absolutely right. It is, in fact, difficult to appreciate fairly the various elements present; one may even go so far as to say that it is impossible to appreciate them at a first reading. To you who write, these elements are, on the surface, as strange to you as they are to anyone else, and naturally you are wary of them. Poetically speaking, what strikes you about them above all is their extreme degree of immediate absurdity, the quality of this absurdity, upon closer scrutiny, being to give way to everything admissible, everything legitimate in the world: the disclosure of a certain number of properties and of facts no less objective, in the final analysis, than the others. In homage to Guillaume Apollinaire, who had just died and who, on several occasions, seemed to us to have followed a discipline of this kind, without however having sacrificed to it any mediocre literary means, Soupault and I baptized the new mode of pure expression which we had at our disposal and which we wished to pass on to our friends, by the name of SURREALISM [... ] Those who might dispute our right to employ the term SURREALISM in the very special sense that we understand it are being extremely dishonest, for there can be no doubt that this word had no currency before we came along. Therefore, I am defining it once and for all: SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner - the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern. ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life. [. . .] *** ... The mind which plunges into Surrealism relives with glowing excitement the best part of its childhood. For such a mind, it is similar to the certainty with which a person who is drowning reviews once more, in the space of less than a second, all the insurmountable moments of his life. Some may say to me that the parallel is not very encouraging. But I have no intention of encouraging those who tell me that. From childhood memories, and from a few others, there emanates a sentiment of being unintegrated, and then later of having gone astray, which I hold to be the most fertile that exists. It is perhaps childhood that comes closest to one's “real life;” childhood beyond which man has at his disposal, aside from his laissez-passer, only a few complimentary tickets; childhood where everything nevertheless conspires to bring about the effective, risk-free possession of oneself. Thanks to Surrealism, it seems that opportunity knocks a second time. It is as though we were still running toward our salvation, or our perdition. In the shadow we again see a precious terror. Thank God, it's still only Purgatory. With a shudder, we cross what the occultists call dangerous territory. In my wake I raise up monsters that are lying in wait; they are not yet too ill-disposed toward me, and I am not lost, since I fear them. *** Surrealism, such as I conceive of it, asserts our complete nonconformism clearly enough so that there can be no question of translating it, at the trial of the real world, as evidence for the defense. It could, on the contrary, only serve to justify the complete state of distraction which we hope to achieve here below. Kant's absentmindedness regarding women, Pasteur's absentmindedness about “grapes,” Curie’s absentmindedness with respect to vehicles, are in this regard profoundly symptomatic. This world is only very relatively in tune with thought, and incidents of this kind are only the most obvious episodes of a war in which I am proud to be participating. Surrealism is the “invisible ray” which will one day enable us to win out over our opponents. “You are no longer trembling, carcass.” This summer the roses are blue; the wood is of glass. The earth, draped in its verdant cloak, makes as little impression upon me as a ghost. It is living and ceasing to live that are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere.

Debord's Nostalgic Algorithm

Debord's Nostalgic Algorithm Alexander R. Galloway Published in Culture Machine #10 (2009): 131-156. 'I await the end of Cinema with optimism,' Jean-Luc Godard announced in 1965. And indeed the end was near. 'The cinema seems to me to be over,' was Guy Debord's blunt assessment by the spring of 1978. Much happened in those intervening years, with the progressive explosion of the middle to late sixties engendering a crisis and retrenchment in the early to middle seventies. The transformation was evident in a number of events and pseudo-events: student revolts in Paris and elsewhere, the French left's flirtation with Maoism and other militancies, the oil crisis of 1973 and 1974, a painful renovation in the economic base of developed societies coinciding with the rise of information networks, and the concomitant changes in the role of the individual in society. Guy Debord never recovered from the crisis of the 1970s. His late life was beset by chronic illness brought on by an ever growing gluttony in food and drink. He deserted the capital city and grew more introspective in his work, mixing manifesto with memoir. By March 8, 1978 Debord's former glory as a radical filmmaker and author had faded. 'The cinema seems to me to be over,' he wrote in a letter. 'These times don't deserve a filmmaker like me' (2005: 451). These times were times of crisis. On March 16, 1978--eight days after Debord's dalliance about the cinema being 'over'--the world awoke to a dramatic turn of events. The longtime Prime Minister of Italy, Christian Democrat Aldo Moro, had been kidnapped during a brazen intervention by the far left communist militant group the Red Brigades. In Italy the progressive militancy of the sixties had metastasized during the following decade into an actually existing low-level guerrilla war. Moro was held for 54 days. During the hostage period, Moro appealed to the Christian Democrats to acquiesce and negotiate with what both the newspapers and government officials alike called terrorists, that newly evolved form of political actor so closely associated with the late-modern period. Held in secret and sentenced to death in a so-called people's trial on or about April 15, Moro received little solidarity from his former government colleagues, and sensing the immanent culmination of events, the presumed future president of Italy stipulated that no Christian Democrat leaders should be present at his funeral. There were none. Moro's body was discovered in the trunk of a red Renault R4 hatchback; he had been shot ten times. Wistful was the police report: 'The cuffs of his trousers were full of sand as if he had been walking on a beach or been dragged across rough soil shortly before his death' (The New York Times, 1978). Figure 1: The death of Aldo Moro (The New York Times, 1978). The decade of the seventies was long in Italy. It 'began in 1967-68 and ended in 1983,' recalled Antonio Negri, the man scooped up by the police in April 1979 and indicted for the Moro events, then exonerated, then indicted again and hounded in various forms for the next twenty plus years.1 'In 1967-68, as in all the developed countries, the student movement took to the barricades. However, the breadth and impact of this part of the movement was not as extensive as in other European countries: in Italy [...] May 1968 was not a particularly significant moment' (1998). Much has been said about Debord being at those May barricades, certainly in spirit if not also in the flesh, with Situationist graffiti festooning the pediments of respectable French society. But a front line militant he was not, and Debord soon left Paris to settle in one of the hexagon's more remote outposts, the rural Auvergne. There he stayed for much of the rest of his downhill life, watching the passing parade from a safe distance. The new social movements of the sixties, having swollen in importance, were soon met by an iron fist and eventually crushed by the freshly transformed post-Fordist economies of the middle to late seventies. If the sixties represented a certain triumph, the seventies were a decade of defeat. 'The first to be defeated were the social movements,' remembers Negri. 'Having cut themselves off totally from the representatives of the traditional left [...], the social movements were thus dragged into the abyss of an extremism that was becoming increasingly blind and violent. The kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro was the beginning of the end' (1998). Although Debord had declined to engage significantly with Negri or Moro, he had indeed monkey wrenched with the Italian political scene by helping Gianfranco Sanguinetti author his August, 1975 hoax pamphlet 'The True Report on the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy,' as well as translating the text from Italian to French. Contrast this with other French philosophers who were much more vocally involved with the Italian situation, such as Gilles Deleuze, who intervened with his September 20, 1977 tract against repression of Italian leftists, 'Nous croyons au caractère constructiviste de certaines agitations de gauche' ['We Believe in the Constructivist Quality of Leftist Militancy']. (Deleuze also published two short pieces in 1979 lobbying for Negri's freedom, and would later more formally affiliate himself by writing the preface to the 1982 French edition of Negri's influential book on Spinoza, The Savage Anomaly [Deleuze, 1977: 149-150; Deleuze, 2003: 155-161, 175-178].) When he did finally address Moro and the Red Brigades, in his 1979 preface to the fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle, Debord spat on the guerrilla movement, claiming that the Red Brigades were in fact unknowing pawns of the state Stalinist forces. Writing to Sanguinetti before the killing, Debord predicted that Moro would be 'suicided' by his own government, thus allowing the state forces to consolidate power (known in Italy as the 'historic compromise') around the common fear of terror and anarchy. 'Italy epitomizes the social contradictions of the whole world' (2007: 96), warned Debord. Moro was an emblem of the newfound asymmetrical conflicts plaguing developed nations, from France's Algerian uprising in the 1950s, to scores of militant splinter groups, bombings, and airplane hijackings. The tactics are called 'asymmetrical' or 'unconventional' because they no longer resemble the customs of so-called civilized, oppositional conflict, in which professional armies meet in known theaters of conflict to thrash out victory in blood and arms. With his life obscured today by the romantic mist of apotheosis, it is easy to forget that Debord was something of a fading violet when it came to actual conflict. He preferred the mischievous potshot to the Molotov cocktail. But the raw heroic drama of militancy forever excited him. Like many political thinkers, it was the thrill of revolution that was so seductive, of the possibility that this depraved life might one day be cast off and refashioned anew. 'I am very interested in war,' Debord confessed unapologetically in his late autobiographical work, Panegyric, amid glowing citations from Carl von Clausewitz on the emotional intensity of going to battle. 'I've thus been studying the logic of war. And I even had some success, already some time ago, in realizing the essence of these processes in the context of a simple chessboard' (1993: 69-70). While his fascination with war was not ironic and indeed perhaps uncritical, it's plausible to assume that Debord knew of Engels' famous assessment of Clausewitz, contained in a 1858 letter from Engels to Marx. Clausewitz's approach to philosophy was 'odd,' cautioned Engels, but 'per se very good.' More than anything else, war resembles commerce, he told Marx. 'Combat is to war what cash payment is to commerce; however seldom it need happen in reality, everything is directed towards it and ultimately it is bound to occur and proves decisive' (Marx & Engels, 1929: 241).2 So as Moro lay in the trunk of the Renault R4, Guy Debord was at his rural home playing board games and toying with the idea of fashioning one of his own. The backdrop of European militancy in the seventies makes Debord's penchant for playtime all the more delicious. One such game was Djambi. Djambi is a distinctly late-modern game. It is played on an extruded chess board of nine by nine squares. It proceeds, not bilaterally as chess, but multilaterally with four players. The game tokens are not modeled on the medieval court of kings, queens, knights, and bishops, but instead on the various political actors that make up our advanced liberal democracies: the news reporter, the provocateur, the activist militant, and the assassin. If the Moro events were to be distilled and simulated in the form of an intellectual diversion, as chess did for feudal skirmishes--and of course in doing so anesthetizing the player from any immediate knowledge or experience of political realities--Djambi would be it. 'Thanks for Djambi,' Debord wrote on May 7, 1978 to his friend and benefactor Gérard Lebovici in a letter otherwise disdainful of the game. 'As long as the only goal of the game is to eliminate all the others, there can exist but one absolute mode of winning, which can't be shared in any way, to the point that in this game of trickery, you can't trick anyone. The rules suffer from a contradiction between the game's totalitarian goal and its representation of the struggles of an "advanced liberal democracy"' (2005: 462). The ridiculous subtext of Djambi was clear to Debord: How could a board game ever correctly model the types of complex political dynamics encircling France, or Italy, or what Lyotard in his book on postmodernity would soon call 'today's most advanced societies'? What is to be done, when the power elite goes global in order to hide itself from the base of society? What is to be done, when control and organization are no longer hierarchical or repressive, but instead have migrated into flexible, rhizomatic networks? In fact at that moment, Debord was intensely focused on trying to work through the challenges of advanced liberal democracy, and particularly how armed struggle could be simulated in the form of simple parlor games. The cinema was over, he had concluded. A new format was required. So in the winter of 1977, after having been a filmmaker and author, Debord did something rather unconventional for a leftist intellectual, he formed his own company for making games.3 Not chess exactly, but a variation of his own design, dubbed first in his notes the Kriegspiel and later more formally The Game of War. 'I insist on the opportunity to throw the Kriegspiel into the stunned world as soon as we can,' Debord wrote to Lebovici. 'It's quite obvious that its time has come' (2005: 451).4 In January 1977, the two founded the company 'Strategic and Historical Games' and set out to produce an edition of the game. Debord's 'Game of War' is a Napoleonic chess-variant played by two opposing players on a game board of 500 squares arranged in rows of 20 by 25 squares; by comparison, a chess board is eight by eight, while a 'go' board is nineteen by nineteen. Like chess, the Game of War contains game tokens of varying strengths and speeds that one must maneuver across a grid landscape in an attempt to wipe out one's enemy. Unlike chess, one must also maintain 'lines of communication' that crisscross the terrain, keeping all friendly units within transmission range of one's home bases. (Debord reportedly also finished a naval warfare game called Jeu de la bataille navale, however the game was never committed to paper and is now lost.) 'The surprises of this Kriegspiel seem to be inexhaustible,' he confessed later in his memoir Panegyric. 'It might be the only thing in all my work--I'm afraid to admit--that one might dare say has some value' (1993: 70). Figure 2: Alice Becker-Ho and Guy Debord playing the Game of War (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2007). In his letters and notes Debord referred to the game as the 'Kriegspiel,' borrowing the German term meaning 'war game.' But when the game was fabricated and released in France, Debord officially titled it 'Le Jeu de la guerre.' A short discussion on the most appropriate translation of the game comes in Debord's letter of May 9, 1980 to Lebovici. After reviewing the English proofs, the last question remaining was the English title: 'The Game of the war' or 'The Game of war'? 'We must choose the more generalizing and glorious title,' he insisted. 'Even if kriegspiel = wargame is the most "linguistically" exact, it doesn't fit at all historically. Kriegspiel connotes "a serious exercise by commanders," but wargame connotes "an infantile little game played by officers"' (2006a: 55-56). With the assistance of Lebovici, Debord produced the game in a limited edition of four to five during the summer of 1977. The edition included an 18 by 14 1/4 inch game board and player tokens fashioned in copper and silver metal. The game was fabricated by a certain Mr. Raoult, a Parisian artisan whom Debord trusted implicitly, referring to him as the 'intrepid Raoult,' and admiring him for his 'politeness, rationality, and capacity to recognize what is essential in the matter at hand' (2005: 426; 2006a: 26-27). By the end of June, 1978, after a set back due to poor health, he finished drafting a written copy of the game rules. 'I am sending you soon the rules for the Kriegspiel,' he wrote to Lebovici. 'Its main section, given over to a juridico-geometric writing style, has cost me innumerable headaches' (2005: 466). As illustrated also in his jab at Djambi, Debord was thus intimately aware of the true reality of games, that they are a conjunction of two elements: the 'juridical' element, meaning the spheres of politics and law, and the 'geometrical' element, meaning the realm of mathematical processes and spatial logics. This was no longer an intervention in spectacle or in narrative, as were his films, but now an intervention at the level of a 'juridico-geometric' algorithm, that is, at the level of a finite set of rules that, when executed, result in a machine able to simulate political antagonism. The game board is divided into a northern territory and a southern territory, each with a single mountain range of nine squares, a mountain pass, three forts, and two arsenals. In addition each faction has nine infantry, four cavalry, two artillery (one footed and one mounted) and two transmission units (one footed and one mounted). Each combat unit has an attack and defense coefficient, and may move either one or two squares per turn depending on the type. The forts, arsenals, and mountains are welded to the game board, and thus immobile. The combat and non-combat units are mobile and may be positioned in any desired formation prior to the beginning of a match. Arsenals radiate lines of communication vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. In addition, transmission units propagate any line of communication aimed at them. All units must remain in direct connection with their own lines of communication, or be adjacent to a friendly unit in communication. If stranded, a unit goes out of communication and becomes inert. The lines of communication are immaterial constructs, and thus have no game token to represent them. Instead they must be mentally projected onto the game board by each player. Like the 'knight's tour' in chess, the lines of communication are in essence a network of patterns superimposed onto the basic grid of squares, helping to determine where and how each piece may move. As the game unfolds, these patterns can and will shift, adding to the complexity of possible games and possible strategies. The metal game of 1978 is stunningly modernist in its formal simplicity and reduction of ludic function into plain, abstract shapes. The cavalry units, far from aping a horse, are represented by a tall wire spike, mounted on a hexagonal base, while the infantry are represented by an upright, snubbed peg, affixed to a square base. To indicate their communicative duties, the transmission units sport a crisp flag, protruding at ninety degrees. The artillery are equally spare: a horizontal hollow tube to indicate a cannon barrel. The most representational design is reserved for the mountains and the forts, the only two elements not aligned to a faction: the mountains are hulking chunks of metal, appealingly chiseled to bring out miniature crevices and peaks; the forts resemble gallant storybook parapets, hexagonally cut for the North faction, and solidly square for the South. The mountain passes have no representational form at all, but are merely the absent spaces residing at gaps in the mountains. None of the pieces displays any sort of ornament, or additional engraving or color. All of them conform to an extremely muted, almost ascetic, formal design. Figure 3: Guy Debord, The Game of War. Photograph: Alexander R. Galloway. The game proceeds in turns. A player may move up to five units each turn, followed by a single attack against an enemy unit. An attack is determined by summing all the offensive power in range of an enemy target square, then subtracting this number from a summation of all the defensive power supporting the same target square. Offensive and defensive power emanates from a unit in a straight line, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. If the offensive power is less than or equal to the defensive power, the unit resists. If the offensive power is two or more, the unit is destroyed. Like the lines of communication, which require a certain amount of mental energy to be maintained in the imagination of each player, the combat mechanic for the game requires a nontrivial amount of player arithmetic, particularly as multiple units are involved in attack and defense at any given moment. A player wins the game by either (A) destroying all enemy combat units, or (B) destroying the enemy's two arsenals. Although not mention in Debord's rulebook, it is possible to deduce one additional win state: a player wins if the enemy's two relays are destroyed and all enemy combat units are offline. Alternately if both sides agree to quit, the game is a draw. While stressing the symmetrical quality of Clausewitzian warfare, Debord at the same time noted that the terrain of the game board should be asymmetrical. Here is revealed Debord's talent for game design. His aim was to achieve balance through asymmetry, such that the game would not lapse into predictable strategies and styles of play. Thus while certain approaches are better than others, there is no 'optimal' overall formation in the game. Instead, one plays through a series of compromises, always having to adjudicate between 'contradictory necessities' (2005: 352). For each offensive movement of aggression, one's rear flank becomes that much more vulnerable. This dialectical tension was part of what Debord aimed to achieve with the game. Thus, the two mountain ranges in the game are arranged asymmetrically: North's mountain cleaves the terrain sharply between east and west, inhibiting lateral movement but leaving a cramped passage across the top; South's mountain is a wall expelling downward advances and making any penetration into its territory difficult. But more important is the placement of the arsenals. South's two arsenals are split wide apart and held flush to the baseline, while North's two arsenals are staggered closer to the middle. This makes for two very different styles of play. South must run a split defense, or else sacrifice one arsenal and bunker down with the remaining one. North, on the other hand, can use the terrain to its advantage, gaining protection from the mountains (which block fire) plus a defense boost from the mountain pass in range of its westerly arsenal. Ten years after the game first appeared in limited edition, it was mass-produced on cardboard with wood tiles. In that year, 1987, Debord and his wife Alice Becker-Ho also published a book devoted to the game. An unconventional text, the book consists of over a hundred annotated diagrams showing snapshots of the game during each round of a complete match played by the duo. At the end are appendices containing the game rules and strategy tips. In 1991 Debord ordered all his published works destroyed, including this book. But after Debord's death and under Becker-Ho's stewardship, the French publisher Gallimard reissued the book in 2006 as Le Jeu de la Guerre: Relevé des positions successives de toutes les forces au cours d'une partie. After remaining untranslated for twenty years, an English edition of the work appeared a year later from Atlas Press, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, an ex-Situationist with whom Debord had kept in touch over the years. In 1986, as his publishing house was suffering hard times in the wake of the death of Gérard Lebovici, Debord suggested a scheme to Floriana Lebovici, Gérard's widow, to relieve the publisher's debts by commercializing the Game of War. It was merely a business matter, Debord wrote, like Monopoly. 'Or is my judgment of the strategic, and thus economic, value of this Kriegspiel distorted by a certain indulgence? We shall see' (2006a: 448-449). But while Debord and Lebovici had originally formed a company around the game (Strategic and Historical Games), it is unclear how serious they had ever been about making the game commercially viable. Debord never trusted Kessler, the intellectual property lawyer hired to assist with the game. 'You worry me greatly by bringing up "strange things about Kessler,"' he wrote in 1985 to Floriana Lebovici. 'Of anyone in the world, Kessler is in the best position to swindle us' (2006a: 306). In the end the game was never commercialized in any serious way. While distilled to a simple essence, Debord believed that the Game of War represented in gamic form all the necessary principles of war. He did admit however that three things were missing from his near perfect simulation: climate conditions and the cycles of day and night; the influence of troop morale; and uncertainty about the exact positions and movements of the enemy. 'That said,' he continued, 'one may assert that the [Game of War] exactly reproduces the totality of factors that deal with war, and more generally the dialectic of all conflicts' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 151). Debord's ambitions for the game were grandiose. By evoking the 'dialectic of all conflicts,' he was appealing backward to the power of 1968 and the days of the Situationist International, but also forward to the game's future potential in training and cultivating a new generation of militants. But the game was missing more than just climate conditions. In fact viewed against the silhouette of Debord's other work, it is surprisingly square. The spirit of 'wandering' or 'hijacking,' from the Situationist days, is absent in the game. There is no mechanism for overturning society, no temporary autonomous zones, no workers' councils, no utopian cities, no imaginary landscapes of desire, no cobblestones, and no beach, only grids of toy soldiers fighting a made-up war in a made-up world. It begs the question: Why was this game relatively unadventurous, while Debord's other work so experimental? Can this be explained away through an analysis of media formats, that Debord had a certain panache for radical filmmaking and critical philosophy, but lapsed back into the predictable habits of the bourgeois parlor game when he tried his hand at game design?5 Did Debord simply lose his radical zeal late in life, his Hegelianism finally winning out over his Marxism? Why, when the guerrillas were staging assassinations in Italy, was Debord playing with toy soldiers in France? Was there a link between Moro's killing and Debord's late work? Of course there was none, nothing more than a coincidence of dates. Yet, this very incompatibility frames in stark relief a crisis within the work: Why an objet d'art instead of a cobblestone? A number of explanations are possible. For example, it is possible that the abrasively anachronistic Debord was simply restaging the same Trojan Horse logic he had used many times before. He was well known for masquerading inside the very thing he found most repulsive. For example the 'reactionary' form of cinema was taken up by Debord precisely in order to critique that same medium of spectacle. Perhaps now he was merely making a 'reactionary' game in order to explode the logic of play from within. Alternately it is plausible the game was never intended by Debord to be a theoretical proposal, and therefore should not be evaluated as one; the game existed simply to train militants. Thus if, in Debord's view, any tactical training helped unlock radical consciousness, then it mattered little that the Game of War stresses Clausewitz (instead of Sun Tzu) or the legacy of the Napoleonic wars (instead of Parisian street revolts). Debord admitted that the game was bound to an historical period: 'This doesn't represent wars of antiquity, nor those of the feudal period, nor modern warfare refashioned by technology after the middle of the nineteenth century (railways, machine guns, motorization, aviation, missiles)' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 149). In other words the game refers to warfare as it was practiced in the early and middle modern periods up to about 1850. The 'classic equilibrium' of the eighteenth century was his model, a mode of warfare best represented by the Seven Years' War, and characterized by symmetry, regularity, professional armies, the preciousness of personnel, and the importance of supply stockpiles (Debord, 2005: 351). So the Game of War is indeed historically specific. But it is historically specific for a century long past, not the century in which Debord was living. (As Philippe Sollers quipped later: Debord wasn't interested in the twentieth century.) In comparisons made between the game and chess he accentuates the question of historical specificity. He positions chess firmly in what the French term the 'classical' period, consisting of kings and corporal fiat, while the Game of War belongs to a time of systems, logistical routes, and lines of communication. In chess 'the king can never remain in check,' but in the Game of War 'liaisons must always be maintained' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 165-166). Spatial relationships between pieces are indeed paramount in chess, the 'knight's tour' serving as a classic mental projection of pattern and recombination. Debord preserved this spatial relationship approach, but he stepped it up a notch. The 'liaisons' in the Game of War are not simply the projections of possible troop maneuvers, but a supplementary layer linking far off fighters back home. In this sense chess's king is an intensive node, one that must be fortified through the protection of its allied footmen. But Debord's arsenals are extensive nodes; yes, they too must be protected, but they also serve as the origin point for a radiating fabric of transmission. The body versus the liaison--this is not unlike the sorts of historical arguments made about the shift from early modernity to high or late modernity (i.e. the 'disciplined' modern body as opposed to the postmodern 'line of flight'). Chess presents a set of challenges in proximity to a consecrated corpus, a prize, but the Game of War is a game of decentralized space itself, the assets of war strung out in long lines and held together by a tissue of interconnection. Seen in this light, the game seems less nostalgic for bygone eras. The key is the network of lines of communication, a detail of game design entirely lacking in a game like chess. Superimposed on the game board, the lines simulate the communication and logical chains of campaign warfare; Debord's rules stipulate that all pieces on the board must stay in contact with a line, else risk destruction. (Even 'go,' a game that is largely about spatial patterns and relationships, lacks the concept of an extended ray or any sort of network phenomenon.) 'This "war" can be fought as much on the plane of communication as that of extensible space,' writes McKenzie Wark (2008) on the Game of War. Thus while perhaps tenuous, a sympathetic reading of Debord would be to say that the game's communication lines are Debord's antidote to the specter of Napoleonic nostalgia. They are the symptomatic key into Debord's own algorithmic allegory--or allegorithm, if the term is not too clunky--of the new information society growing up all around him in the 1970s. In short, Debord's Game of War is something like 'chess with networks.' Chess required intense strategy, but it was ultimately too boring for Debord. The Game of War 'is completely contrary to the spirit of chess,' he explained. 'Actually it was poker I was trying to imitate. Less the randomness of poker and more the powerful sense of battle' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 166). Chance has no place in the Game of War; after an opening coin toss to determine who moves first, the game plays out dice-free. But ultimately what attracted Debord to the Game of War was not an argument about historical periodization. In his view a game can only ever be about general principles, and thus abstract war simulations like chess were more apt than the actual historical reenactments of specific Napoleonic campaigns. Knowing precisely how Prussia fell was uninteresting to Debord. But knowing the abstract, general rules of antagonism, that was the key. Still, 'abstract and general' did not mean 'theoretical' for Debord. He considered theory to be an inferior form, one beholden to passing fancy, to perpetual obsolescence. This is why Debord was so enamored with war. 'War' for Debord means 'not theory' (just as for Napoleon war meant 'not ideology').6 War is that thing which is non-vague. It springs from the heart and from a sensible and practical empiricism. It finds presence in the execution of things. War is the opposite of the absolute. War is contingency--that special term so dear to late-twentieth century progressive movements. 'I'm not a philosopher,' Debord confessed to Giorgio Agamben, 'I'm a strategist' (Agamben, 2006: 36). Or as he put it in In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, his final film which was produced concurrent with the game: 'no vital periods ever began from a theory. What's first is a game, a struggle, a journey' (Debord, 1999: 26). Figure 4: Michael Curtiz (director). The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936. Film still. In In girum..., Debord incorporated footage stolen from Hollywood scenes of epic pitched battles. One such film sampled by Debord was Michael Curtiz's The Charge of the Light Brigade of 1936, a movie adapted from the Tennyson poem of the same name, which itself mythologized the notorious and bloody defeat of the British Cavalry in 1854 during the Crimean War. What does it mean to hijack such horse-mounted heroics and crosscut them with footage of the Game of War? As Debord wrote later with only a hint of irony, 'in a very heavy-handed and congratulatory way, The Charge of the Light Brigade could possibly "represent" a dozen years of interventions by the Situationist International!' (1999: 66). This 'representation' takes center stage in the Game of War, in the form of the cavalry game tokens, the most powerful units in the game due to their elevated speed and special 'charge' ability resulting in compounded, focused damage of up to 28 attack points. Through the game he was able to relive, in a mediated environment, the types of heroic monumentality attained in his previous interventions. But what a cruel narrative arc, that what started on the streets of Paris must end in an abstract plane of combat coefficients and win-loss percentages. 'The SI is like radioactivity,' he joked in a letter to one of his Italian translators. 'One speaks little of it, but detects some traces almost everywhere. And it lasts a long time' (2006a: 45-46). A game is a machine, but a book is never a machine. Of this Debord was certain. 'No matter how often one would want to replay them,' he wrote in the preface to the 1987 book devoted to the game, 'the operations of game play remain unpredictable in both form and effect' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 7).7 In Debord's view there is a stark difference between the Game of War and the pastime of military reenactment, wherein a specific historical battle is restaged with little unpredictability in its outcome. The reenactment of a specific historical event was uninteresting to Debord. His desire was not that of a nostalgia for a past event. Rather, he sought to model, in a generic and universal way, antagonism itself. 'Those who are well-versed in strategy,' he wrote, 'will see in operation here an actual model of warfare' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 7). The 1987 book is a meditation on losing. But who lost the match, Alice or Guy? Unfortunately no explicit answers exist in the text as to who played the North faction and who played the South. But one may say with precision: Debord played the South. He is the one who perishes in the end. But how is it possible to make such a claim? To explain it I must detour slightly toward a matter of some delicacy. It concerns a number of mistakes that exist in the Becker-Ho and Debord book of 1987, mistakes which largely persist in both the 2006 French reprint of the book and in the 2007 English translation.8 In addition to a few minor graphical errors, the book contains one patently illegal move, plus five additional moves that, while more subtle in nature, are also illegal given a proper interpretation of the game rules.9 The first illegal move concerns turn 9' (turns are numbered 1, 1', 2, 2', 3, 3', etc.). A southern infantry unit moves to position I17. However, infantry can only move one square at a time, and thus the book would require that one of the infantry units move two squares. The five additional illegal moves are as follows: the K15 infantry in move 14'; the L12 cavalry in move 17'; the I9 infantry in move 35'; the J10 infantry in move 36'; and the J14 infantry in move 46'. In each of these instances, the unit in question would be thrust out of communication during the course of the player's turn. However, according to the game rules, non-communicable pieces are inert and cannot move. Thus there is an impasse: in order for these five moves to be legal, one would have to overlook one of the game's rules governing the 'online' and 'offline' nature of units. So, assuming that all game rules must be followed, these five moves must be marked illegal. There are two final details worth underscoring. First, all of these mistakes are committed by the same player, the southern player; North commits no fouls. Second, (almost) all of these mistakes remain unremedied through multiple authorial and editorial stages: Becker-Ho and Debord's original playing of the match in question; Debord's documentation of the match and his writing of the annotations contained in the book; then three subsequent rounds of editorial oversight, in 1987, 2006, and 2007. Yet after all that, roughly one out of every eight full turns documented in this book contains an error. How could this be? How could so many mistakes pass through five rounds of scrutiny? Would we forgive him if Society of the Spectacle contained a nontrivial mistake in logic on every eighth page? What can explain this blindness? Let me stress in passing that the identification of these mistakes is not meant to be a mere schoolmarm act of one-upmanship, pointing out that Debord and Becker-Ho failed to publish a typo-free book. It is much more than that. What must be understood is that the identification of these mistakes reveals a very different sort of textual 'fact' than one might reveal in the identification of a typo, a misspelled word, or even a minor grammatical blunder in a work of literature. These mistakes are not orthographical or even simply syntactical in nature. They are algorithmic. Which is to say, they deal not with a relatively localized condition of correct writing (in, for example, the case of a misspelled word), but with the correct execution of rule-bound action. The correct execution of rules is rarely ever localizable; it implies dramatic repercussions in the diachronic progression of the artifact in question, be it a game or other action-based text. Traditional texts are not executed--I will happily allow the Derrideans in the room to blanch at such a claim--and therefore the status of a fault in an algorithmic text is of a very different order than the status of a fault in a traditional text. For example, a false move or an incident of cheating in a game will essentially invalidate the game from that point onward. As any school child knows, cheating taints a game to such a degree that any outcome will 'not count.' One is obligated to 'start over.' Thus I would not think it too dramatic to assert that the Becker-Ho and Debord book of 1987, in some basic sense, does not count. We must call for a do over. (But is this not in the end the most Derridean claim of all, that the text is, in some actual, demonstrable way, flawed to the core?) Let me summarize: first there is a hypothesis on the table (that Debord played the South), and second there is a set of exegetical observations (that the Becker-Ho and Debord book of 1987 contains a number of nontrivial mistakes). But where does this lead? A common assumption that people make when learning of the mistakes in the Game of War book is that Debord must have played North. The argument goes roughly like this: since Debord was the game designer and had been playing the game, or some form of it, since the middle 1950s, he would be so intimate with the game rules, that he would not break any of them. This line of reasoning locates Debord as the northern player, and Becker-Ho the southern. While such an argument is somewhat persuasive, I want to offer a different argument that strikes me as ultimately more persuasive. I want to suggest that instead of relying on a psychological rationale (what Debord did or did not know, what he did or did not intend, etc.), it is more productive to rely on a structural--or we might even say an algorithmic--rationale. The mistakes are not so much a red herring as they are decoys for what is actually happening. Instead of a style of mind, therefore, let us speak instead of a style of code. Let us speak of algorithmic and structural aesthetics. Figure 5: Visualization of combat relationships for the southern player in Guy Debord's The Game of War, 'Explanatory Diagrams, Figure 5' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2007: 33). Figure 6: Visualization of combat relationships for the southern player in Guy Debord's The Game of War, 'Explanatory Diagrams, Figure 6' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2007: 34). Important to this algorithmic aesthetics is the concept of optimization, that is, the notion that in any rule-based system there is always an optimal state of affairs in which the structure at play is exploited to the fullest. In the case of the Game of War, optimal troop formations are identified by crystalline shapes such as latices, ladders, X-formations, crosses, and wings. The reason for this is straight forward. The game rules (which are an algorithm of a certain sort) define states of affairs. In particular they define things like attack coefficients and defensive coefficients, plus the commutativity of these power coefficients to both friendly and enemy players across the grid of the game board. Since attack and defense propagate in straight lines, the game tends to privilege formations with strut shapes, such as latices and crosses. These structures can be described as crystalline in the sense that they offer a highly organized, local micro-structure (for example, a cross) that may be iterated multiple times to create durable material forms. 'Crystal' aesthetics, then, is an aesthetic of the superego: it mandates optimal material behavior through the full execution of rules. If an algorithm is sufficiently simple, the point of maximal exploitation may be known. If a gamer is sufficiently experienced with the rules of a game he or she will learn the point of maximal exploitation and, since it is in his or her interest, will enact these techniques of optimal exploitation as often as possible. For example in the Game of War, this crystal aesthetics appears via unit formations in the shape of crosses, ladders, and wings. Figures 7-8 demonstrate the southern player's affection for such formations. The same southern formations are also seen in figures 5-6, which derive from the 'Explanatory Diagrams' section of the game rules (which we know were authored by Debord, not Becker-Ho), in which the southern player is the 'protagonist,' even if for purposes of explanation. The northern player displays none of the same ticks anywhere in the book.10 The hypothesis, then, is less to indicate precisely that Debord played the south side and Becker-Ho played the north. And there is little value gained in trying to demonstrate that he was a more skilled player than she, or vice-versa. This would amount to little more than petty intra-marital speculation, and to what end. The hypothesis is that both the south player and the author of the game rules are the same person, because they both display the above described crystalline style of game play. Debord is that player and hence played South. Figure 7: Visualization of combat relationships for the southern player in Guy Debord's The Game of War, Turn 22' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2007: 83). Figure 8: Visualization of combat relationships for the southern player in Guy Debord's The Game of War, Turn 44' (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2007: 127). So in the end the mistakes (turns 14', 17', 35', 36', and 46') are something of a red herring. In identifying play styles it is much more important to identify higher-level algorithmic skill (knowledge of how rules can be exploited for optimal game states), than it is to worry over small, largely technical mistakes. But does this not lead to a new contradiction, that the very same crystalline player, who knows the optimal troop formation throughout the course of the match, and who displays a 'macho' algorithmic affect, is the same player who repeatedly makes small mistakes (turns 14', 17', 35', 36', and 46')? How could this be? Wouldn't this seem to invalidate the notion that the crystalline player is an algorithmic agent first and foremost? The answer requires a sense of how algorithmic knowledge works. The answer lies in the fact that it is possible for a single individual to be skilled at upper-level knowledge of pattern formation and rule-bound behavior, while still failing at more demanding, highly technical execution of those operations. Programmers often work in this manner: most programmers have a cultivated sense of algorithmic knowledge, and yet even the most skilled programmers are unable to identify certain bugs that for the machine are trivial to identify. There are machines and then there are machines. In the case of Debord, we have a crystalline player who is adept at the level of game play (that is, the programmer's level), but who, like most of us, is never truly a machine at the level of the Real. So Debord plays the South. He is the one who loses in the end. But he doesn't just lose, worse, he throws in the towel, punishing himself with a stern lecture on the necessity of better strategic knowledge and planning. The final annotation of the match appears at the moment of South's concession: The South ceases its hostilities. It's time now for him to reflect on the operations of the campaign, recalling the unchanging theories of war, in order to understand the string of circumstances, the assumptions, and maybe also any relevant mental traits recognizable in his command, that this time led the North to victory (Becker-Ho & Debord, 2006: 127). What are these relevant mental traits? Has he gone mad? Or worse--has she? One wonders if Debord ever really won anything, or if the entire history--the Situationist International and all the rest--was always leading up to this end and this end alone. First cinema and philosophy, and finally the bourgeois parlor game. Certainly the domain of simulation and modeling is always something of a bitter pill for progressive movements. This is the root anxiety lurking beneath the surface of Debord's game. The left will always be deceived in the domain of abstraction. This is not to say that Spirit or the logos are by necessity contrary to progressive political movements. Nevertheless the lofty realm of rational idealism has always been something of a hindrance to those suffering from the harsh vicissitudes of material fact. And here one must revisit a long history indeed, of traditionalism versus transformation, of philosophy versus sophistry, of essence versus process, of positivism versus dialectics, of social science versus 'theory,' and so on. Progressive art movements are very good at beginnings, but terrible at endings. As Debord said in 1978 amidst his losses (the death of the SI, the 'end' of the cinema, his expanding waistline and vanishing sobriety): 'avant-gardes have but one time' (1999: 47). We might say something similar about leftist cultural production in general: (1) the left is forever true in the here and now, always in the grip of its own immediate suffering, but (2) it will forever be defeated in the end, even if it finds vindication there. This is why Debord can occupy himself with both 'struggle' and 'utopia.' It is also a window into why Debord became obsessed late in life, not with street revolt, but with the sublimation of antagonistic desire into an abstract rule book. It is not that the past is always glorious and the future antiseptic. Quite the opposite, both past and future are internally variegated into alternately repressive and liberating moments. For the left, the 'historical present' is one of immediate justice won through the raw facts of struggle and sacrifice. In short, the historical present is always true, but forever at the same time bloody. But the future, the utopian imagination, is a time of complete liberation forged from the mold of the most profound injustice. In short, utopia is always false, but forever at the same time free. References Agamben, G. (2006) 'Repetition and Stoppage--Debord in the Field of Cinema,' in In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni--The Situationist International (1957-1972), S. Zweifel et al (eds). Zurich: JRP Ringier. Becker-Ho, A. & Debord, G. (2006) Le Jeu de la Guerre: Relevé des positions successives de toutes les forces au cours d'une partie. Paris: Gallimard. Becker-Ho, A. & Debord, G. (2007) A Game of War. Trans. D. Nicholson-Smith. London: Atlas. Bracken, L. (1997) Guy Debord: Revolutionary. Venice, CA: Feral House. Constant (2001) 'A Conversation with Constant,' in The Activist Drawing: Retracing Situationist Architectures from Constant's New Babylon to Beyond, C. de Zegher & M. Wigley (eds). Cambridge: MIT Press. Debord, G. (1993) Panégyrique, tome premier. Paris: Gallimard. Debord, G. (1999) In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. Paris: Gallimard. Debord, G. (2005) Correspondance, volume V: janvier 1973 - décembre 1978. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard. Debord, G. (2006a) Correspondance, volume VI: janvier 1979 - décembre 1987. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard. Debord, G. (2006b) Oeuvres. Paris: Gallimard. Debord, G. (2007) 'The State of Spectacle' [preface to the fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle], in Autonomia: Post-political Politics, S. Lotringer & C. Marazzi (eds). New York: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, G. (1977) 'Nous croyons au caractère constructiviste de certaines agitations de gauche,' Recherches 30: 149-150. Deleuze, G. (2003) Deux régimes de fous: Textes et entretiens 1975-1995. Paris: Les éditions de Minuit. Huizinga, J. (1950) Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press. Kaufmann, V. (2006) Guy Debord: Revolution in the Service of Poetry. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Marx, K. & Engels, F. (1929) Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 40. London: Progress Publishers, 1929. McDonough, T. (2006) 'Guy Debord, or The Revolutionary Without a Halo,' October 115: 39-45. Negri, A. (1998) 'Reviewing the experience of Italy in the 1970s,' Le Monde diplomatique (September 1998). The New York Times (May 10, 1978). Wark, M. (2008) 50 Years of Recuperation: The Situationist International 1957-2007. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press. Williams, R. (1976) Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. New York: Oxford University Press. Notes 1 Negri was a victim of Italy's draconian Reale law of 1975 and the antiterrorist legislations of 1979 and 1980, which among other things suspended habeas corpus, allowing for preventative detention of suspects for a period of three years and three months without trial. 2 I thank Richard Barbrook for bringing this letter to my attention. 3 Of course play was at the heart of Debord's work since the beginning. 'The situationist project was ludic above all else,' writes one of his biographers. 'Debord's life revolved around games, seduction and warfare, provocation and dissimulation, labyrinths of various kinds, and even catacombs where the knights of the lettrist round table played a game of "whoever loses (himself) wins"' (Kaufmann, 2006: 265). Debord's interest in games coincided with his self-imposed exile to a small town in the center of France after the events of 1968. 'I have long tried to lead a life of obscurity and evasion so that I may better develop my experiments in strategy,' he confessed in 1978. 'My research results will not be delivered in cinematic form' (1999: 50). One may assume that 'not in cinematic form' is a reference to the new ludic form of the Kriegspiel; a footnote reminds us that this was Debord's last film. There is also an interesting overlap between the Situationist International and the work of Johan Huizinga, author of Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Constant in particular was inspired by Huizinga, as evidenced in a late interview with Benjamin Buchloh in which the former Situationist architect aims to reconcile Huizinga and Marx: 'It is not so difficult, I should think, to make a link between Huizinga and Marx. [...] Huizinga, in his Homo Ludens, was speaking about a state of mind, not about a new kind of humanity; of human being, but in a certain sense a state of mind, of certain temporary conditions of human beings. For instance, when you are at a carnival, a feast, a wedding party. Temporarily you become the homo ludens, but then the next day you can be the homo faber again' (Constant, 2001: 24-25). The final phrase refers to the forward of Huizinga's book in which he evokes, first, the classical notion of homo sapiens, followed by the modern, industrial (and one may assume, although Huizinga resists using the name, Marxian) notion of homo faber or 'man the maker' (1950). Yet Huizinga's politics were more ancien régime than progressive revolutionary, a detail often overlooked in the frequent connections made between Huizinga and Situationism. 4 In actual fact Debord had tinkered with the Kriegspiel in some form or another since the 1950s. The first recorded mention of the game dates to 1956, where, in a text on the 'Project for an Educational Labyrinth,' Debord mentions the game by name, and describes it as a mixture of chess and poker (2006b: 285). 5 McKenzie Wark calls the game 'Debord's "retirement project"' (2008). Tom McDonough says something similar about Debord's mature work: 'We might say that Debord was born into this class [the petty bourgeoisie] and, at the end of his life, returned to it.' In McDonough's assessment the late Debord is 'marked by the deployment and consolidation of a normative--if not archaic--conception of selfhood' (2006: 42, 40). 6 Napoleon was responding at the time to the recent coinage of the term 'ideology' by Destutt de Tracy in 1796. Napoleon spat on the concept, calling ideology a 'diffuse metaphysics' responsible for 'all misfortunes which have befallen our beautiful France.' These quotations are cited without reference in Williams (1976: 154). 7 The generative quality of games coincided with Debord's penchant late in life for autobiographical introspection. This new intuitive, unpredictable media format became a useful figuration of the self. 'With his "war game" Debord formalized his rules for living. It was his most autobiographical work, the only one that would be recognized as a work, because it was inexhaustible' (Kaufmann, 2006: 267). 8 Over and above the fact that there exist bona fide mistakes in the Becker-Ho and Debord book, there unfortunately also exist deviations and mistranslations in the available English editions. First, the title and format of the book changed in translation: In the original French publication, the documentation of the match appears first, followed by the rules in appendix form; the English publication reverses the priority, with rules first and the 'record of a game' second; the French title is 'The Game of War,' the English 'A Game of War.' Additionally, the two existing English translations of the game rules--Donald Nicholson-Smith's translation for Atlas Press and an inferior translation bundled at the end of Len Bracken's biography of Debord--both misstate details. Whereas Debord indicated that a charge consists of any number of cavalry in a contiguous, straight line and immediately adjacent to the enemy, Nicholson-Smith has no fewer than 'all four' cavalry in series, while Bracken allows for non-continuous series. Bracken also mischaracterizes the combat mechanic when he states that, after successful destruction of the enemy, 'the destroyer must occupy the empty square.' In fact Debord stipulated the opposite, that it is not obligatory to occupy the empty square, nor could it be, given how movement and attack function more generally in the game. Bracken inverts another rule when he states that communication units can destroy arsenals by occupying them (they cannot). See Bracken (1997: 240-249) and Becker-Ho & Debord (2007: 11-26). I thank Adam Parrish for first discovering some of these discrepancies. In fact, the publication of 1987 contained, by Debord's own admission, five mistakes in placement of pieces during various points in the game. Many of the mistakes were only pointed out by readers, one of which he acknowledged in a letter of March 9, 1987 (2006a: 458-459). 9 I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Stephen Kelly and Jeff Geib, who first pointed out some of these mistakes to me and also helped refine and clarify in my mind the manner in which these mistakes appear in the book. Those wishing a more detailed summary of errata should consult the following web site: 10 The highly structured, crystalline forms displayed here are all the more interesting when compared to the unstructured, wandering topographical forms featured in much Situationist work. See for example Guy Debord's famous map from the late 1950s titled 'The Naked City.' Bio Alexander R. Galloway is an author and programmer. He is a founding member of the software collective RSG and creator of the Carnivore and Kriegspiel projects. The New York Times recently described his work as 'conceptually sharp, visually compelling and completely attuned to the political moment.' Galloway is the author of Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (MIT, 2004), Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Minnesota, 2006), and a new book coauthored with Eugene Thacker called The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minnesota, 2007). He teaches at New York University.

The Rape of the Lock

Canto I What dire offence from am'rous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due: This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view: Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, If She inspire, and He approve my lays. Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle? O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd, Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord? In tasks so bold, can little men engage, And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage? Sol thro' white curtains shot a tim'rous ray, And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day: Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake: Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground, And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound. Belinda still her downy pillow prest, Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest: 'Twas He had summon'd to her silent bed The morning-dream that hover'd o'er her head; A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau, (That ev'n in slumber caus'd her cheek to glow) Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay, And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say. Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air! If e'er one vision touch.'d thy infant thought, Of all the Nurse and all the Priest have taught; Of airy Elves by moonlight shadows seen, The silver token, and the circled green, Or virgins visited by Angel-pow'rs, With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs; Hear and believe! thy own importance know, Nor bound thy narrow views to things below. Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd, To Maids alone and Children are reveal'd: What tho' no credit doubting Wits may give? The Fair and Innocent shall still believe. Know, then, unnumber'd Spirits round thee fly, The light Militia of the lower sky: These, tho' unseen, are ever on the wing, Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring. Think what an equipage thou hast in Air, And view with scorn two Pages and a Chair. As now your own, our beings were of old, And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous mould; Thence, by a soft transition, we repair From earthly Vehicles to these of air. Think not, when Woman's transient breath is fled That all her vanities at once are dead; Succeeding vanities she still regards, And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards. Her joy in gilded Chariots, when alive, And love of Ombre, after death survive. For when the Fair in all their pride expire, To their first Elements their Souls retire: The Sprites of fiery Termagants in Flame Mount up, and take a Salamander's name. Soft yielding minds to Water glide away, And sip, with Nymphs, their elemental Tea. The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome, In search of mischief still on Earth to roam. The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair, And sport and flutter in the fields of Air. "Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd: For Spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. What guards the purity of melting Maids, In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades, Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark, The glance by day, the whisper in the dark, When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, When music softens, and when dancing fires? 'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know, Tho' Honour is the word with Men below. Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face, For life predestin'd to the Gnomes' embrace. These swell their prospects and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love deny'd: Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant brain, While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping train, And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear, And in soft sounds, Your Grace salutes their ear. 'T is these that early taint the female soul, Instruct the eyes of young Coquettes to roll, Teach Infant-cheeks a bidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a Beau. Oft, when the world imagine women stray, The Sylphs thro' mystic mazes guide their way, Thro' all the giddy circle they pursue, And old impertinence expel by new. What tender maid but must a victim fall To one man's treat, but for another's ball? When Florio speaks what virgin could withstand, If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand? With varying vanities, from ev'ry part, They shift the moving Toyshop of their heart; Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive, Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive. This erring mortals Levity may call; Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all. Of these am I, who thy protection claim, A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name. Late, as I rang'd the crystal wilds of air, In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star I saw, alas! some dread event impend, Ere to the main this morning sun descend, But heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where: Warn'd by the Sylph, oh pious maid, beware! This to disclose is all thy guardian can: Beware of all, but most beware of Man!" He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long, Leap'd up, and wak'd his mistress with his tongue. 'T was then, Belinda, if report say true, Thy eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux; Wounds, Charms, and Ardors were no sooner read, But all the Vision vanish'd from thy head. And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd, Each silver Vase in mystic order laid. First, rob'd in white, the Nymph intent adores, With head uncover'd, the Cosmetic pow'rs. A heav'nly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears; Th' inferior Priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride. Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here The various off'rings of the world appear; From each she nicely culls with curious toil, And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring spoil. This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder box. The Tortoise here and Elephant unite, Transformed to combs, the speckled, and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux. Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace, And calls forth all the wonders of her face; Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes. The busy Sylphs surround their darling care, These set the head, and those divide the hair, Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown: And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own. Canto II Not with more glories, in th' etherial plain, The Sun first rises o'er the purpled main, Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames. Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone. But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone. On her white breast a sparkling Cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore. Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose, Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those: Favours to none, to all she smiles extends; Oft she rejects, but never once offends. Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the sun, they shine on all alike. Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride, Might hide her faults, if Belles had faults to hide: If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all. This Nymph, to the destruction of mankind, Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind In equal curls, and well conspir'd to deck With shining ringlets the smooth iv'ry neck. Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, And mighty hearts are held in slender chains. With hairy springes we the birds betray, Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey, Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair. Th' advent'rous Baron the bright locks admir'd; He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd. Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way, By force to ravish, or by fraud betray; For when success a Lover's toil attends, Few ask, if fraud or force attain'd his ends. For this, ere Phœbus rose, he had implor'd Propitious heav'n, and ev'ry pow'r ador'd, But chiefly Love — to Love an Altar built, Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt. There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves; And all the trophies of his former loves; With tender Billet-doux he lights the pyre, And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize: The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r, The rest, the winds dispers'd in empty air. But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides: While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften'd sounds along the waters die; Smooth flow the waves, the Zephyrs gently play, Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay. All but the Sylph — with careful thoughts opprest, Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons strait his Denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair: Soft o'er the shrouds aërial whispers breathe, That seem'd but Zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight, Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light, Loose to the wind their airy garments flew, Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew, Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies, Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes, While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings, Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings. Amid the circle, on the gilded mast, Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd; His purple pinions op'ning to the sun, He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun. Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your chief give ear! Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Dæmons, hear! Ye know the spheres and various tasks assign'd By laws eternal to th' aërial kind. Some in the fields of purest Æther play, And bask and whiten in the blaze of day. Some guide the course of wand'ring orbs on high, Or roll the planets thro' the boundless sky. Some less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night, Or suck the mists in grosser air below, Or dip their pinions in the painted bow, Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main, Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain. Others on earth o'er human race preside, Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide: Of these the chief the care of Nations own, And guard with Arms divine the British Throne. Our humbler province is to tend the Fair, Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious care; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let th' imprison'd-essences exhale; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs; To steal from rainbows e'er they drop in show'rs A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelow. This day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair, That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care; Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight; But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night. Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail China jar receive a flaw; Or stain her honour or her new brocade; Forget her pray'rs, or miss a masquerade; Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball; Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall. Haste, then, ye spirits! to your charge repair: The flutt'ring fan be Zephyretta's care; The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign; And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine; Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite Lock; Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock. To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note, We trust th' important charge, the Petticoat: Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail, Tho' stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale; Form a strong line about the silver bound, And guard the wide circumference around. Whatever spirit, careless of his charge, His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large, Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins, Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins; Or plung'd in lakes of bitter washes lie, Or wedg'd whole ages in a bodkin's eye: Gums and Pomatums shall his flight restrain, While clogg'd he beats his silken wings in vain; Or Alum styptics with contracting pow'r Shrink his thin essence like a rivel'd flow'r: Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel The giddy motion of the whirling Mill, In fumes of burning Chocolate shall glow, And tremble at the sea that froths below! He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend; Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend; Some thrid the mazy ringlets of her hair; Some hang upon the pendants of her ear: With beating hearts the dire event they wait, Anxious, and trembling for the birth of Fate. Canto III Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flow'rs, Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs, There stands a structure of majestic frame, Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name. Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom Of foreign Tyrants and of Nymphs at home; Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey. Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes Tea. Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort, To taste awhile the pleasures of a Court; In various talk th' instructive hours they past, Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last; One speaks the glory of the British Queen, And one describes a charming Indian screen; A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes; At ev'ry word a reputation dies. Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat, With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that. Mean while, declining from the noon of day, The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; The hungry Judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jury-men may dine; The merchant from th' Exchange returns in peace, And the long labours of the Toilet cease. Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, Burns to encounter two advent'rous Knights, At Ombre singly to decide their doom; And swells her breast with conquests yet to come. Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join, Each band the number of the sacred nine. Soon as she spreads her hand, th' aërial guard Descend, and sit on each important card: First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore, Then each, according to the rank they bore; For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race, Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place. Behold, four Kings in majesty rever'd, With hoary whiskers and a forky beard; And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a flow'r, Th' expressive emblem of their softer pow'r; Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band, Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand; And particolour'd troops, a shining train, Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain. The skilful Nymph reviews her force with care: Let Spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were. Now move to war her sable Matadores, In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors. Spadillio first, unconquerable Lord! Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board. As many more Manillio forc'd to yield, And march'd a victor from the verdant field. Him Basto follow'd, but his fate more hard Gain'd but one trump and one Plebeian card. With his broad sabre next, a chief in years, The hoary Majesty of Spades appears, Puts forth one manly leg, to sight reveal'd, The rest, his many-colour'd robe conceal'd. The rebel Knave, who dares his prince engage, Proves the just victim of his royal rage. Ev'n mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew And mow'd down armies in the fights of Lu, Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid, Falls undistinguish'd by the victor spade! Thus far both armies to Belinda yield; Now to the Baron fate inclines the field. His warlike Amazon her host invades, Th' imperial consort of the crown of Spades. The Club's black Tyrant first her victim dy'd, Spite of his haughty mien, and barb'rous pride: What boots the regal circle on his head, His giant limbs, in state unwieldy spread; That long behind he trails his pompous robe, And, of all monarchs, only grasps the globe? The Baron now his Diamonds pours apace; Th' embroider'd King who shows but half his face, And his refulgent Queen, with pow'rs combin'd Of broken troops an easy conquest find. Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild disorder seen, With throngs promiscuous strow the level green. Thus when dispers'd a routed army runs, Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons, With like confusion different nations fly, Of various habit, and of various dye, The pierc'd battalions dis-united fall, In heaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all. The Knave of Diamonds tries his wily arts, And wins (oh shameful chance!) the Queen of Hearts. At this, the blood the virgin's cheek forsook, A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look; She sees, and trembles at th' approaching ill, Just in the jaws of ruin, and Codille. And now (as oft in some distemper'd State) On one nice Trick depends the gen'ral fate. An Ace of Hearts steps forth: The King unseen Lurk'd in her hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen: He springs to Vengeance with an eager pace, And falls like thunder on the prostrate Ace. The nymph exulting fills with shouts the sky; The walls, the woods, and long canals reply. Oh thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate, Too soon dejected, and too soon elate. Sudden, these honours shall be snatch'd away, And curs'd for ever this victorious day. For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown'd, The berries crackle, and the mill turns round; On shining Altars of Japan they raise The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze: From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide, While China's earth receives the smoking tide: At once they gratify their scent and taste, And frequent cups prolong the rich repast. Straight hover round the Fair her airy band; Some, as she sipp'd, the fuming liquor fann'd, Some o'er her lap their careful plumes display'd, Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade. Coffee, (which makes the politician wise, And see thro' all things with his half-shut eyes) Sent up in vapours to the Baron's brain New Stratagems, the radiant Lock to gain. Ah cease, rash youth! desist ere't is too late, Fear the just Gods, and think of Scylla's Fate! Chang'd to a bird, and sent to flit in air, She dearly pays for Nisus' injur'd hair! But when to mischief mortals bend their will, How soon they find fit instruments of ill! Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace A two-edg'd weapon from her shining case: So Ladies in Romance assist their Knight, Present the spear, and arm him for the fight. He takes the gift with rev'rence, and extends The little engine on his fingers' ends; This just behind Belinda's neck he spread, As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head. Swift to the Lock a thousand Sprites repair, A thousand wings, by turns, blow back the hair; And thrice they twitch'd the diamond in her ear; Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the foe drew near. Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought The close recesses of the Virgin's thought; As on the nosegay in her breast reclin'd, He watch'd th' Ideas rising in her mind, Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her art, An earthly Lover lurking at her heart. Amaz'd, confus'd, he found his pow'r expir'd, Resign'd to fate, and with a sigh retir'd. The Peer now spreads the glitt'ring Forfex wide, T' inclose the Lock; now joins it, to divide. Ev'n then, before the fatal engine clos'd, A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd; Fate urg'd the shears, and cut the Sylph in twain, (But airy substance soon unites again) The meeting points the sacred hair dissever From the fair head, for ever, and for ever! Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes, And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies. Not louder shrieks to pitying heav'n are cast, When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last; Or when rich China vessels fall'n from high, In glitt'ring dust and painted fragments lie! Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine (The victor cry'd) the glorious Prize is mine! While fish in streams, or birds delight in air, Or in a coach and six the British Fair, As long as Atalantis shall be read, Or the small pillow grace a Lady's bed, While visits shall be paid on solemn days, When num'rous wax-lights in bright order blaze, While nymphs take treats, or assignations give, So long my honour, name, and praise shall live! What Time would spare, from Steel receives its date, And monuments, like men, submit to fate! Steel could the labour of the Gods destroy, And strike to dust th' imperial tow'rs of Troy; Steel could the works of mortal pride confound, And hew triumphal arches to the ground. What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel, The conqu'ring force of unresisted steel? Canto IV But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppress'd, And secret passions labour'd in her breast. Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive, Not scornful virgins who their charms survive, Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss, Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss, Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die, Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry, E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair, As thou, sad Virgin! for thy ravish'd Hair. For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew, Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite, As ever sully'd the fair face of light, Down to the central earth, his proper scene, Repair'd to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen. Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome, And in a vapour reach'd the dismal dome. No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows, The dreaded East is all the wind that blows. Here in a grotto, shelter'd close from air, And screen'd in shades from day's detested glare, She sighs for ever on her pensive bed, Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head. Two handmaids wait the throne: alike in place, But diff'ring far in figure and in face. Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient maid, Her wrinkled form in black and white array'd; With store of pray'rs, for mornings, nights, and noons, Her hand is fill'd; her bosom with lampoons. There Affectation, with a sickly mien, Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen, Practis'd to lisp, and hang the head aside. Faints into airs, and languishes with pride, On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe, Wrapt in a gown, for sickness, and for show. The fair ones feel such maladies as these, When each new night-dress gives a new disease. A constant Vapour o'er the palace flies; Strange phantoms rising as the mists arise; Dreadful, as hermit's dreams in haunted shades, Or bright, as visions of expiring maids. Now glaring fiends, and snakes on rolling spires, Pale spectres, gaping tombs, and purple fires: Now lakes of liquid gold, Elysian scenes, And crystal domes, and angels in machines. Unnumber'd throngs on every side are seen, Of bodies chang'd to various forms by Spleen. Here living Tea-pots stand, one arm held out, One bent; the handle this, and that the spout: A Pipkin there, like Homer's Tripod walks; Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose-pie talks; Men prove with child, as pow'rful fancy works, And maids turn'd bottles, call aloud for corks. Safe past the Gnome thro' this fantastic band, A branch of healing Spleenwort in his hand. Then thus address'd the pow'r: "Hail, wayward Queen! Who rule the sex to fifty from fifteen: Parent of vapours and of female wit, Who give th' hysteric, or poetic fit, On various tempers act by various ways, Make some take physic, others scribble plays; Who cause the proud their visits to delay, And send the godly in a pet to pray. A nymph there is, that all thy pow'r disdains, And thousands more in equal mirth maintains. But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a grace, Or raise a pimple on a beauteous face, Like Citron-waters matrons cheeks inflame, Or change complexions at a losing game; If e'er with airy horns I planted heads, Or rumpled petticoats, or tumbled beds, Or caus'd suspicion when no soul was rude, Or discompos'd the head-dress of a Prude, Or e'er to costive lap-dog gave disease, Which not the tears of brightest eyes could ease: Hear me, and touch Belinda with chagrin, That single act gives half the world the spleen." The Goddess with a discontented air Seems to reject him, tho' she grants his pray'r. A wond'rous Bag with both her hands she binds, Like that where once Ulysses held the winds; There she collects the force of female lungs, Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues. A Vial next she fills with fainting fears, Soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears. The Gnome rejoicing bears her gifts away, Spreads his black wings, and slowly mounts to day. Sunk in Thalestris' arms the nymph he found, Her eyes dejected and her hair unbound. Full o'er their heads the swelling bag he rent, And all the Furies issu'd at the vent. Belinda burns with more than mortal ire, And fierce Thalestris fans the rising fire. "O wretched maid!" she spread her hands, and cry'd, (While Hampton's echoes, "Wretched maid!" reply'd) "Was it for this you took such constant care The bodkin, comb, and essence to prepare? For this your locks in paper durance bound, For this with tort'ring irons wreath'd around? For this with fillets strain'd your tender head, And bravely bore the double loads of lead? Gods! shall the ravisher display your hair, While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare! Honour forbid! at whose unrivall'd shrine Ease, pleasure, virtue, all our sex resign. Methinks already I your tears survey, Already hear the horrid things they say, Already see you a degraded toast, And all your honour in a whisper lost! How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend? 'T will then be infamy to seem your friend! And shall this prize, th' inestimable prize, Expos'd thro' crystal to the gazing eyes, And heighten'd by the diamond's circling rays, On that rapacious hand for ever blaze? Sooner shall grass in Hyde-park Circus grow, And wits take lodgings in the sound of Bow; Sooner let earth, air, sea, to Chaos fall, Men, monkeys, lap-dogs, parrots, perish all!" She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs, And bids her Beau demand the precious hairs; (Sir Plume of amber snuff-box justly vain, And the nice conduct of a clouded cane) With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face, He first the snuff-box open'd, then the case, And thus broke out — "My Lord, why, what the devil? "Z — ds! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil! Plague on't!'t is past a jest — nay prithee, pox! Give her the hair" — he spoke, and rapp'd his box. "It grieves me much" (reply'd the Peer again) "Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain. But by this Lock, this sacred Lock I swear, (Which never more shall join its parted hair; Which never more its honours shall renew, Clipp'd from the lovely head where late it grew) That while my nostrils draw the vital air, This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear." He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread The long-contended honours of her head. But Umbriel, hateful Gnome! forbears not so; He breaks the Vial whence the sorrows flow. Then see! the nymph in beauteous grief appears, Her eyes half-languishing, half-drown'd in tears; On her heav'd bosom hung her drooping head, Which, with a sigh, she rais'd; and thus she said. "For ever curs'd be this detested day, Which snatch'd my best, my fav'rite curl away! Happy! ah ten times happy had I been, If Hampton-Court these eyes had never seen! Yet am not I the first mistaken maid, By love of Courts to num'rous ills betray'd. Oh had I rather un-admir'd remain'd In some lone isle, or distant Northern land; Where the gilt Chariot never marks the way, Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea! There kept my charms conceal'd from mortal eye, Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die. What mov'd my mind with youthful Lords to roam? Oh had I stay'd, and said my pray'rs at home! 'T was this, the morning omens seem'd to tell, Thrice from my trembling hand the patch-box fell; The tott'ring China shook without a wind. Nay, Poll sat mute, and Shock was most unkind! A Sylph too warn'd me of the threats of fate, In mystic visions, now believ'd too late! See the poor remnants of these slighted hairs! My hands shall rend what ev'n thy rapine spares: These in two sable ringlets taught to break, Once gave new beauties to the snowy neck; The sister-lock now sits uncouth, alone, And in its fellow's fate foresees its own; Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal shears demands, And tempts once more thy sacrilegious hands. Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!" Canto V She said: the pitying audience melt in tears. But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's ears. In vain Thalestris with reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails? Not half so fix'd the Trojan could remain, While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain. Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her fan; Silence ensu'd, and thus the nymph began. "Say why are Beauties prais'd and honour'd most, The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toast? Why deck'd with all that land and sea afford, Why Angels call'd, and Angel-like ador'd? Why round our coaches crowd the white-glov'd Beaux, Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows; How vain are all these glories, all our pains, Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains: That men may say, when we the front-box grace: 'Behold the first in virtue as in face!' Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day, Charm'd the small-pox, or chas'd old-age away; Who would not scorn what housewife's cares produce, Or who would learn one earthly thing of use? To patch, nay ogle, might become a Saint, Nor could it sure be such a sin to paint. But since, alas! frail beauty must decay, Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey; Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade, And she who scorns a man, must die a maid; What then remains but well our pow'r to use, And keep good-humour still whate'er we lose? And trust me, dear! good-humour can prevail, When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail. Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul." So spoke the Dame, but no applause ensu'd; Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her Prude. "To arms, to arms!" the fierce Virago cries, And swift as lightning to the combat flies. All side in parties, and begin th' attack; Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack; Heroes' and Heroines' shouts confus'dly rise, And bass, and treble voices strike the skies. No common weapons in their hands are found, Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound. So when bold Homer makes the Gods engage, And heav'nly breasts with human passions rage; 'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms; And all Olympus rings with loud alarms: Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around, Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound: Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives way. And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day! Triumphant Umbriel on a sconce's height Clapp'd his glad wings, and sate to view the fight: Propp'd on the bodkin spears, the Sprites survey The growing combat, or assist the fray. While thro' the press enrag'd Thalestris flies, And scatters death around from both her eyes, A Beau and Witling perish'd in the throng, One died in metaphor, and one in song. "O cruel nymph! a living death I bear," Cry'd Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair. A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast, "Those eyes are made so killing" — was his last. Thus on Mæander's flow'ry margin lies Th' expiring Swan, and as he sings he dies. When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down, Chloe stepp'd in, and kill'd him with a frown; She smil'd to see the doughty hero slain, But, at her smile, the Beau reviv'd again. Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air, Weighs the Men's wits against the Lady's hair; The doubtful beam long nods from side to side; At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside. See, fierce Belinda on the Baron flies, With more than usual lightning in her eyes: Nor fear'd the Chief th' unequal fight to try, Who sought no more than on his foe to die. But this bold Lord with manly strength endu'd, She with one finger and a thumb subdu'd: Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew, A charge of Snuff the wily virgin threw; The Gnomes direct, to ev'ry atom just, The pungent grains of titillating dust. Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows, And the high dome re-echoes to his nose. Now meet thy fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd, And drew a deadly bodkin from her side. (The same, his ancient personage to deck, Her great great grandsire wore about his neck, In three seal-rings; which after, melted down, Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown: Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew, The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew; Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs, Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.) "Boast not my fall" (he cry'd) "insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low, Nor think, to die dejects my lofty mind: All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames — but burn alive." "Restore the Lock!" she cries; and all around "Restore the Lock!" the vaulted roofs rebound. Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain Roar'd for the handkerchief that caus'd his pain. But see how oft ambitious aims are cross'd, And chiefs contend 'till all the prize is lost! The Lock, obtain'd with guilt, and kept with pain, In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain: With such a prize no mortal must be blest, So heav'n decrees! with heav'n who can contest? Some thought it mounted to the Lunar sphere, Since all things lost on earth are treasur'd there. There Hero's wits are kept in pond'rous vases, And beau's in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases. There broken vows and death-bed alms are found, And lovers' hearts with ends of riband bound, The courtier's promises, and sick man's pray'rs, The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs, Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea, Dry'd butterflies, and tomes of casuistry. But trust the Muse — she saw it upward rise, Tho' mark'd by none but quick, poetic eyes: (So Rome's great founder to the heav'ns withdrew, To Proculus alone confess'd in view) A sudden Star, it shot thro' liquid air, And drew behind a radiant trail of hair. Not Berenice's Locks first rose so bright, The heav'ns bespangling with dishevell'd light. The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies, And pleas'd pursue its progress thro' the skies. This the Beau monde shall from the Mall survey, And hail with music its propitious ray. This the blest Lover shall for Venus take, And send up vows from Rosamonda's lake. This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies, When next he looks thro' Galileo's eyes; And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome. Then cease, bright Nymph! to mourn thy ravish'd hair, Which adds new glory to the shining sphere! Not all the tresses that fair head can boast, Shall draw such envy as the Lock you lost. For, after all the murders of your eye, When, after millions slain, yourself shall die: When those fair suns shall set, as set they must, And all those tresses shall be laid in dust, This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to fame, And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name.

An Essay on Criticism

'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Appear in writing or in judging ill; But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. Some few in that, but numbers err in this, Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss; A fool might once himself alone expose, Now one in verse makes many more in prose. 'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own. In Poets as true genius is but rare, True Taste as seldom is the Critic's share; Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write. Let such teach others who themselves excel, And censure freely who have written well. Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, But are not Critics to their judgment too? Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind: Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light; The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right. (But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd, (Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd, (So by false learning is good sense defac'd: Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools. In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn Critics in their own defence: Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side. If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can write. Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past, Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last. Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass, As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass. Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle, As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call, Their generation's so equivocal: To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require, Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. But you who seek to give and merit fame, And justly bear a Critic's noble name, Be sure yourself and your own reach to know, How far your genius, taste, and learning go; Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, And mark that point where sense and dulness meet. Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains; Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit; So vast is art, so narrow human wit: Not only bounded to peculiar arts, But oft in those confin'd to single parts. Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before, By vain ambition still to make them more; Each might his sev'ral province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand. First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, One clear, unchang'd, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of Art. Art from that fund each just supply provides, Works without show, and without pomp presides: In some fair body thus th' informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve sustains; Itself unseen, but in th' effects, remains. Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse, Want as much more, to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment often are at strife, Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife. 'T is more to guide, than spur the Muse's steed; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed; The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse, Shows most true mettle when you check his course. Those Rules of old discovered, not devis'd, Are Nature still, but Nature methodiz'd; Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd By the same laws which first herself ordain'd. Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights: High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod; Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize, And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rise. Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n, She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n. The gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire, And taught the world with reason to admire. Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid prov'd, To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd: But following wits from that intention stray'd, Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid; Against the Poets their own arms they turn'd, Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd. So modern 'Pothecaries, taught the art By Doctor's bills to play the Doctor's part, Bold in the practice of mistaken rules, Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they. Some drily plain, without invention's aid, Write dull receipts how poems may be made. These leave the sense, their learning to display, And those explain the meaning quite away. You then whose judgment the right course would steer, Know well each Ancient's proper character; His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page; Religion, Country, genius of his Age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticize. Be Homer's works your study and delight, Read them by day, and meditate by night; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring, And trace the Muses upward to their spring. Still with itself compar'd, his text peruse; And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse. When first young Maro in his boundless mind A work t' outlast immortal Rome design'd, Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law, And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw: But when t' examine ev'ry part he came, Nature and Homer were, he found, the same. Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold design; And rules as strict his labour'd work confine, As if the Stagirite o'erlook'd each line. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem; To copy nature is to copy them. Some beauties yet no Precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles Poetry, in each Are nameless graces which no methods teach, And which a master-hand alone can reach. If, where the rules not far enough extend, (Since rules were made but to promote their end) Some lucky Licence answer to the full Th' intent propos'd, that Licence is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take, May boldly deviate from the common track; From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which without passing thro' the judgment, gains The heart, and all its end at once attains. In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend. But tho' the Ancients thus their rules invade, (As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made) Moderns, beware! or if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its End; Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need; And have, at least, their precedent to plead. The Critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force. I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults. Some figures monstrous and mis-shap'd appear, Consider'd singly, or beheld too near, Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. A prudent chief not always must display His pow'rs in equal ranks, and fair array. But with th' occasion and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which error seem, Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream. Still green with bays each ancient Altar stands, Above the reach of sacrilegious hands; Secure from Flames, from Envy's fiercer rage, Destructive War, and all-involving Age. See, from each clime the learn'd their incense bring! Hear, in all tongues consenting Pæans ring! In praise so just let ev'ry voice be join'd, And fill the gen'ral chorus of mankind. Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days; Immortal heirs of universal praise! Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found! Oh may some spark of your celestial fire, The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, (That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights; Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes) To teach vain Wits a science little known, T' admire superior sense, and doubt their own! Of all the Causes which conspire to blind Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is Pride, the never-failing voice of fools. Whatever nature has in worth denied, She gives in large recruits of needful pride; For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind: Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, And fills up all the mighty Void of sense. If once right reason drives that cloud away, Truth breaks upon us with resistless day. Trust not yourself; but your defects to know, Make use of ev'ry friend — and ev'ry foe. A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring. There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts, In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts, While from the bounded level of our mind Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind; But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise New distant scenes of endless science rise! So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try, Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky, Th' eternal snows appear already past, And the first clouds and mountains seem the last; But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey The growing labours of the lengthen'd way, Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes, Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise! A perfect Judge will read each work of Wit With the same spirit that its author writ: Survey the Whole, nor seek slight faults to find Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind; Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with Wit. But in such lays as neither ebb, nor flow, Correctly cold, and regularly low, That shunning faults, one quiet tenour keep, We cannot blame indeed — but we may sleep. In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts; 'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, But the joint force and full result of all. Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, (The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!) No single parts unequally surprize, All comes united to th' admiring eyes; No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear; The Whole at once is bold, and regular. Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's End, Since none can compass more than they intend; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spight of trivial faults, is due; As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, T' avoid great errors, must the less commit: Neglect the rules each verbal Critic lays, For not to know some trifles, is a praise. Most Critics, fond of some subservient art, Still make the Whole depend upon a Part: They talk of principles, but notions prize, And all to one lov'd Folly sacrifice. Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say, A certain bard encount'ring on the way, Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis of the Grecian stage; Concluding all were desp'rate sots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our Author, happy in a judge so nice, Produc'd his Play, and begg'd the Knight's advice; Made him observe the subject, and the plot, The manners, passions, unities; what not? All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a Combat in the lists left out. "What! leave the Combat out?" exclaims the Knight; Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. "Not so, by Heav'n" (he answers in a rage), "Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the stage." So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain. "Then build a new, or act it in a plain." Thus Critics, of less judgment than caprice, Curious not knowing, not exact but nice, Form short Ideas; and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts. Some to Conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line; Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit; One glaring Chaos and wild heap of wit. Poets like painters, thus, unskill'd to trace The naked nature and the living grace, With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part, And hide with ornaments their want of art. True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd, What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd; Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind. As shades more sweetly recommend the light, So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. For works may have more wit than does 'em good, As bodies perish thro' excess of blood. Others for Language all their care express, And value books, as women men, for Dress: Their praise is still — the Style is excellent: The Sense, they humbly take upon content. Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found, False Eloquence, like the prismatic glass, Its gaudy colours spreads on ev'ry place; The face of Nature we no more survey, All glares alike, without distinction gay: But true expression, like th' unchanging Sun, Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon, It gilds all objects, but it alters none. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent, as more suitable; A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd: For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects sort, As several garbs with country, town, and court. Some by old words to fame have made pretence, Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense; Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style, Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile. (Unlucky, as Fungoso in the play, (These sparks with awkward vanity display (What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; And but so mimic ancient wits at best, As apes our grandsires, in their doublets drest. In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold; Alike fantastic, if too new, or old: Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. But most by Numbers judge a Poet's song; And smooth or rough, with them is right or wrong: In the bright Muse though thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; (Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, (Not mend their minds; as some to Church repair, (Not for the doctrine, but the music there. These equal syllables alone require, Tho' oft the ear the open vowe's tire; While expletives their feeble aid do join; And ten low words oft creep in one dull line: While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes; Where-e'er you find "the cooling western breeze," In the next line, it "whispers through the trees:" If crystal streams "with pleasing murmurs creep," The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with "sleep:" Then, at the last and only couplet fraught With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along. Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth or languishingly slow; And praise the easy vigour of a line, Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, The sound must seem an Echo to the sense: Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar: When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, The line too labours, and the words move slow; Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main. Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprize, And bid alternate passions fall and rise! While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove Now burns with glory, and then melts with love, Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow, Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow: Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found, And the world's victor stood subdu'd by Sound! The pow'r of Music all our hearts allow, And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now. Avoid Extremes; and shun the fault of such, Who still are pleas'd too little or too much. At ev'ry trifle scorn to take offence, That always shows great pride, or little sense; Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best, Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. Yet let not each gay Turn thy rapture move; For fools admire, but men of sense approve: As things seem large which we thro' mists descry, Dulness is ever apt to magnify. Some foreign writers, some our own despise; The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize. Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is apply'd To one small sect, and all are damn'd beside. Meanly they seek the blessing to confine, And force that sun but on a part to shine, Which not alone the southern wit sublimes, But ripens spirits in cold northern climes; Which from the first has shone on ages past, Enlights the present, and shall warm the last; Tho' each may feel increases and decays, And see now clearer and now darker days. Regard not then if Wit be old or new, But blame the false, and value still the true. Some ne'er advance a Judgment of their own, But catch the spreading notion of the Town; They reason and conclude by precedent, And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent. Some judge of author's names, not works, and then Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. Of all this servile herd the worst is he That in proud dulness joins with Quality, A constant Critic at the great man's board, To fetch and carry nonsense for my Lord. What woful stuff this madrigal would be, In some starv'd hackney sonneteer, or me? But let a Lord once own the happy lines, How the wit brightens! how the style refines! Before his sacred name flies ev'ry fault, And each exalted stanza teems with thought! The Vulgar thus through Imitation err; As oft the Learn'd by being singular; So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng By chance go right, they purposely go wrong; So Schismatics the plain believers quit, And are but damn'd for having too much wit. Some praise at morning what they blame at night; But always think the last opinion right. A Muse by these is like a mistress us'd, This hour she's idoliz'd, the next abus'd; While their weak heads like towns unfortify'd, 'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. Ask them the cause; they're wiser still, they say; And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day. We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow, Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so. Once School-divines this zealous isle o'er-spread; Who knew most Sentences, was deepest read; Faith, Gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed, And none had sense enough to be confuted: Scotists and Thomists, now, in peace remain, Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane. If Faith itself has diff'rent dresses worn, What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn? Oft', leaving what is natural and fit, The current folly proves the ready wit; And authors think their reputation safe, Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh. Some valuing those of their own side or mind, Still make themselves the measure of mankind: Fondly we think we honour merit then, When we but praise ourselves in other men. Parties in Wit attend on those of State, And public faction doubles private hate. Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose, In various shapes of Parsons, Critics, Beaus; But sense surviv'd, when merry jests were past; For rising merit will buoy up at last. Might he return, and bless once more our eyes, New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise: Nay should great Homer lift his awful head, Zoilus again would start up from the dead. Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue; But like a shadow, proves the substance true; For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known Th' opposing body's grossness, not its own, When first that sun too pow'rful beams displays, It draws up vapours which obscure its rays; But ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way, Reflect new glories, and augment the day. Be thou the first true merit to befriend; His praise is lost, who stays, till all commend. Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes, And 'tis but just to let them live betimes. No longer now that golden age appears, When Patriarch-wits surviv'd a thousand years: Now length of Fame (our second life) is lost, And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast; Our sons their fathers' failing language see, And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be. So when the faithful pencil has design'd Some bright Idea of the master's mind, Where a new world leaps out at his command, And ready Nature waits upon his hand; When the ripe colours soften and unite, And sweetly melt into just shade and light; When mellowing years their full perfection give, And each bold figure just begins to live, The treach'rous colours the fair art betray, And all the bright creation fades away! Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things, Atones not for that envy which it brings. In youth alone its empty praise we boast, But soon the short-liv'd vanity is lost: Like some fair flow'r the early spring supplies. That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies. What is this Wit, which must our cares employ? The owner's wife, that other men enjoy; Then most our trouble still when most admir'd, And still the more we give, the more requir'd; Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Sure some to vex, but never all to please; 'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun, By fools't is hated, and by knaves undone! If Wit so much from Ign'rance undergo, Ah let not Learning too commence its foe! Of old, those met rewards who could excel, And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well: Tho' triumphs were to gen'rals only due, Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too, Now, they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown, Employ their pains to spurn some others down; And while self-love each jealous writer rules, Contending wits become the sport of fools: But still the worst with most regret commend, For each ill Author is as bad a Friend. To what base ends, and by what abject ways, Are mortals urg'd thro' sacred lust of praise! Ah ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, Nor in the Critic let the Man be lost. Good-nature and good-sense must ever join; To err is human, to forgive, divine. But if in noble minds some dregs remain Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain; Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes, Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times. No pardon vile Obscenity should find, Tho' wit and art conspire to move your mind; But Dulness with Obscenity must prove As shameful sure as Impotence in love. In the fat age of pleasure wealth and ease Sprung the rank weed, and thriv'd with large increase: When love was all an easy Monarch's care; Seldom at council, never in a war: Jilts rul'd the state, and statesmen farces writ; Nay wits had pensions, and young Lords had wit: The Fair sate panting at a Courtier's play, And not a Mask went unimprov'd away: The modest fan was lifted up no more, And Virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before. The following licence of a Foreign reign Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain; Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, And taught more pleasant methods of salvation; Where Heav'n's free subjects might their rights dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute: Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, And Vice admir'd to find a flatt'rer there! Encourag'd thus, Wit's Titans brav'd the skies, And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies. These monsters, Critics! with your darts engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, Will needs mistake an author into vice; All seems infected that th' infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye. Learn then what Morals Critics ought to show, For't is but half a Judge's task, to know. 'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join; In all you speak, let truth and candour shine: That not alone what to your sense is due All may allow; but seek your friendship too. Be silent always when you doubt your sense; And speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence: Some positive, persisting fops we know, Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so; But you, with pleasure own your errors past, And make each day a Critic on the last. 'T is not enough, your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. Without Good Breeding, truth is disapprov'd; That only makes superior sense belov'd. Be niggards of advice on no pretence; For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise; Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise. 'T were well might critics still this freedom take, But Appius reddens at each word you speak, And stares, tremendous, with a threat'ning eye, Like some fierce Tyrant in old tapestry. Fear most to tax an Honourable fool, Whose right it is, uncensur'd, to be dull; Such, without wit, are Poets when they please, As without learning they can take Degrees. Leave dang'rous truths to unsuccessful Satires, And flattery to fulsome Dedicators, Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more, Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er. 'T is best sometimes your censure to restrain, And charitably let the dull be vain: Your silence there is better than your spite, For who can rail so long as they can write? Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. False steps but help them to renew the race, As, after stumbling, Jades will mend their pace. What crowds of these, impenitently bold, In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, Still run on Poets, in a raging vein, Ev'n to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, And rhyme with all the rage of Impotence. Such shameless Bards we have; and yet't is true, There are as mad abandon'd Critics too. The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always list'ning to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails. From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales. With him, most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new Play, and he's the Poet's friend, Nay show'd his faults — but when would Poets mend? No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchyard: Nay, fly to Altars; there they'll talk you dead: For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. (Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, (It still looks home, and short excursions makes; (But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks, And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside, Bursts out, resistless, with a thund'ring tide. But where's the man, who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite; Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right; Tho' learn'd, well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere, Modestly bold, and humanly severe: Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd; A knowledge both of books and human kind: Gen'rous converse; a soul exempt from pride; And love to praise, with reason on his side? Such once were Critics; such the happy few, Athens and Rome in better ages knew. The mighty Stagirite first left the shore, Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore: He steer'd securely, and discover'd far, Led by the light of the Mæonian Star. Poets, a race long unconfin'd, and free, Still fond and proud of savage liberty, Receiv'd his laws; and stood convinc'd 't was fit, Who conquer'd Nature, should preside o'er Wit. Horace still charms with graceful negligence, And without method talks us into sense, Will, like a friend, familiarly convey The truest notions in the easiest way. He, who supreme in judgment, as in wit, Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, Yet judg'd with coolness, tho' he sung with fire; His Precepts teach but what his works inspire. Our Critics take a contrary extreme, They judge with fury, but they write with fle'me: Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations By Wits, than Critics in as wrong Quotations. See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine, And call new beauties forth from ev'ry line! Fancy and art in gay Petronius please, The scholar's learning, with the courtier's ease. In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find The justest rules, and clearest method join'd: Thus useful arms in magazines we place, All rang'd in order, and dispos'd with grace, But less to please the eye, than arm the hand, Still fit for use, and ready at command. Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire, And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire. An ardent Judge, who zealous in his trust, With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just; Whose own example strengthens all his laws; And is himself that great Sublime he draws. Thus long succeeding Critics justly reign'd, Licence repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd. Learning and Rome alike in empire grew; And Arts still follow'd where her Eagles flew; From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom, And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome. With Tyranny, then Superstition join'd, As that the body, this enslav'd the mind; Much was believ'd, but little understood, And to be dull was constru'd to be good; A second deluge Learning thus o'er-run, And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun. At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, (The glory of the Priesthood, and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage. But see! each Muse, in Leo's golden days, Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays, Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head. Then Sculpture and her sister-arts revive; Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live; With sweeter notes each rising Temple rung; A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung. Immortal Vida: on whose honour'd brow The Poet's bays and Critic's ivy grow: Cremona now shal ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame! But soon by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd; Thence Arts o'er all the northern world advance, But Critic-learning flourish'd most in France: The rules a nation, born to serve, obeys; And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'd, And kept unconquer'd, and unciviliz'd; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defy'd the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were, among the sounder few Of those who less presum'd, and better knew, Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restor'd Wit's fundamental laws. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell, "Nature's chief Master-piece is writing well." Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners gen'rous as his noble blood; To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And ev'ry author's merit, but his own. Such late was Walsh — the Muse's judge and friend, Who justly knew to blame or to commend; To failings mild, but zealous for desert; The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. This humble praise, lamented shade! receive, This praise at least a grateful Muse may give: The Muse, whose early voice you taught to sing, Prescrib'd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing, (Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise, But in low numbers short excursions tries: Content, if hence th' unlearn'd their wants may view, The learn'd reflect on what before they knew: Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame; Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame, Averse alike to flatter, or offend; Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.

Interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Conversation Participants: IV Hans Ulrich Obrist TS Thomas Scheibitz IV I would like to begin with the question of how your work relates to architecture. How do you see the interface between art and architecture? Do you draw inspiration from architecture, or is it the other way round, that your work frequently provides architectural points of reference simply as a reflection of your innate artistic sensibilities? TS I often get asked this, and I have to say that I am not really all that interested in architecture as such, but more in the... let’s call it the architectural subheading of tectonics, the things that are undoubtedly very important for architects. As far as my work is concerned, when a viewer stands in front of a sculpture or other work of mine, seeing it in relation to his or her own physical size, it immediately becomes clear that it is not about architecture as such, because architecture is always related to human scale, to our size as individuals or as a group, to public spaces or ordinary things in the world around us that have been adapted, calculated and made to suit our needs. On the other hand, architecture is obviously a source of formal inspiration for me in terms of how I see and experience a lot of architecture from the 1920s, or also from the present day, where computers play a greater role in developing new inventions and possibilities. IV Are there links to the ‚Gläserne Kette’ (Glass Chain) movement and the Alpine architectures of Bruno Taut, Finsterlin and the like? Could we perhaps talk about this? Has it been an influence? TS No, except perhaps in a more general sense: the development of an architectural idea is influential, but I don’t know whether the experience would be the same if I were to see the things actually built. For me, however, the stimulating aspect is the conception, the sketch, the mental exercise, so to speak, involved in developing the idea. My works are concepts and ideas, very few of which have actually been realised. And when Bruno Taut or other architects from that period put their designs into practice, what emerges is very close to... or between social housing and sports stadiums, for example, or maybe a crematorium or something like that, and what is curious is that it has been very realistically conceived; it is designed for use. Nowadays - as seen for example in the work of an architect I greatly admire, Zaha Hadid - if you compare her designs with the architecture that is ultimately built, which can be perceived as an experience, as it were, or entered, then you see this aspect of social feasibility. A ski jump, for example, would be more appropriate from a formal point of view. Building a hospital would, I imagine, be a lot more difficult. That’s the difference between an architect and an artist. The architect is ultimately obliged to address issues of practical application, to think about things like escape routes. In my sculptural work I don’t have to do that at all. In fact it’s the exact opposite situation. IV So what you are saying is that your sculptures and paintings are not applicable models... TS Yes. IV Because the question of the model was also something I wanted to ask. Yve-Alain Bois talked about painting as model, and perhaps it could be said that art involves non-applicable models, whereas architecture rather involves applicable models. Is that correct? TS Yes, I would say so. Yes. IV And what about the model? Is painting or sculpture a model? TS In my studio system, if I can call it that, the weakest point is reached if the sculpture merely illustrates the painting or vice versa. A model is related to the concept of scale, which in the first instance means a reduction in size. When I make a model out of board or Plexiglas, for example, before I give it to one of my assistants or a workshop to be made it into a sculpture or ‚blank’ object, then the primary purpose of the model, i.e., the reduction, is simply to provide clarity... it’s a helpful tool. If I were to build models on a scale of 1 : 1, then the model itself would almost be a sculpture. The model is not a sculpture, or at least I would want to make a very clear distinction between the two. Increasingly I am keeping hold of the models, but visually they don’t actually play much of a role once they have been used. Sometimes they are photographed in a kind of still-life arrangement and thus become photographic works, but that’s a different matter. IV I’m very interested in the term ‚studio system’. Bruno Latour once described the studio or the laboratory – scientist’s laboratory or the artist’s studio in the 21st century - as a kind of art network or actor-network condition. What I am curious to know is - how does a 21st-century studio work? What is the studio system? Is there an actual system? TS Yes. Well, in my case the studio system means that I have divided the space up relatively equally between sculpture and painting. The point is, however, that in my painting studio no one can really help me, or at least no one can directly assist me, because things are done differently there... I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. Given the particular way in which I construct a painting and the things that are related to it, it is actually almost impossible for someone to assist me. Within the realm of sculpture - where I make a distinction between sculpture, plastic art and objects - I do need someone to help me, someone who can actually take things off my hands or manufacture something in that sense, depending on how well I can explain it... it’s what I always refer to as a ‚blank’ object. From there I can decide what direction it will take. With the sculptures, the ultimate aim is to create a painted sculpture or painted object, so at some point a particular surface has to be added, and again this can only be determined by me. IV How many assistants work in your studio system? TS Altogether there are three people working full-time on the sculptures and one lady who helps me organise my office. IV I see. And nobody who works on the paintings. TS No. IV And what about the drawings, because I have your book here in front of me - Spielfilm, Musik und Roman (Film, Music and Novel), which was published by Damien Hirst in London. In fact it is more like an artist’s book than a catalogue. Besides painting and sculpture, drawing clearly plays an extremely important part in your work. How would you describe the role of drawing? Does it connect the other two aspects? TS Yes, drawing is an intermediary step, as it were, in the, let’s call it the sketching process, the development of a roughly outlined idea. I always have to have a kind of sketchbook with me; on the one hand that means a digital camera, on the other an actual sketchbook of the kind we all know, where I initially note down, draw or stick in ideas or things that inspire me, similar works I’ve seen or whatever, and sometime later a drawing will develop from this. In order to preserve a certain sense of visual order, these sketchbooks are always the same size, which is the standard A4 format or, when I’m in America, the standard US letter format. So first of all these ideas are brought to the same size in a formal sense; then they are laid out next to each other - more or less in terms of content - so as to create a filter or method of evaluating them. Drawing is in fact almost the most important connecting link between the idea and its execution. Of course I also have to bear in mind the various options available in my studio, the possible ways of using metal, wood, plastics, MDF, etc., which allow me to work relatively independently. IV And besides drawing, another link, if you will, between sculpture and painting is collage, which is also a distantly related form. This artist’s book, therefore, contains drawings along with collaged elements, newspaper articles, notes, stuck-in pages of books, alphabets, holiday snaps, encyclopaedic fragments and so on... you get the impression that it is a kind of huge collection of images and... TS Yes, it is. IV ... so I am very curious to know more about this, because I wondered whether it perhaps has a similar function to Gerhard Richter’s Atlas... TS No, not really. IV ... and whether it is systematically organised. How does your image archive work, and where is it located? TS In the beginning it was very well organised, with images sorted into folders and plastic sleeves and so on, which meant that I was able - merely for my own purposes - to check what material I had from 1969, for example, or what I had collected or seen somewhere in 2000. But in the meantime it has accumulated in big boxes, large plan chests and drawing cabinets, and increasingly I find that that the things I come across as illustrations or on torn-out pages can no longer be used in such a direct manner. I have to be able to transform or translate the source material in some way, in which case it doesn’t necessarily have to be kept in the form of an organised archive. And more and more things are being added that I can capture with the electronic eye, so to speak. Occasionally I will note down actual measurements - if I see something with nice proportions like a stair, the crossbar of a window or a pattern on the street [laughs]. This is important, for example, if I am deciding whether to include the measurement 2.08 or 2.11 m - which for me is often a big difference - in a sculpture, where it is a question of whether the entire piece becomes a door or whether this is merely a hole in relation to the rest. IV And what part does text play in your archive? There are pages here such as Youth of America, Barfly or Heaven and Hell where a large number of keywords fill lines or pages. There are also image/text relations: I am thinking here of the Arcimboldo-type collage that contains the terms ’Lieblingsstück’, ’Einzelbild’‚ ’Heimat’ and ’Virtuosen Reservat’. How does it work with the text? TS The text... [sighs]. With the text it’s like this: the ideas for the text also come from my so-called studio system. The title of a work plays a crucial role, but that role... or at least I try to make it so that when I add the text, i.e., the title, to the work, picture or sculpture, the work controls the title and not the other way round, that the title determines a work. And of course the text also relates to me as a person - English is my second spoken language, and there are also phonetic phenomena or affinities which influence the text. In some cases I like the phonetic aspect of a word better than what it expresses as language. Take for example the German word ’Himmel’ - in English this can be ’sky’ or ’heaven’. The visual appearance of ’sky’ or ’heaven’ as a word is then important to me, and I will use it accordingly in both the German and the English case. And in German I am very frequently interested in the relatively... I don’t want to say wilful, but those somehow particular combinations of letters which recall something from our collective memory, or perhaps from some advertisement or other. Seen in conjunction with my painted or built objects, this generates a different meaning ‚ where on its own it might not. Ultimately this has to do with visual parallels - which are obviously perceived differently by every viewer - or images that most people are familiar with to a similar or equal extent, like our so-called collective memory. IV And what do you think about Douglas Fogle’s statement, which appears as a text extract in your book, referring to the linguist De Saussure: ’As the modern Saussurian linguistics has taught us, however, meaning is not inherent in the words themselves but is a product of the combination with and difference from other words.’ Is this the kind of combination...? TS Yes, yes. It’s... for instance, I once held a lecture at an artacademy and opened with this example from the world of music: in the early 1980s, Malcolm McLaren is walking through the streets of New York and sees this relatively tall Afro- American guy wearing a punk T-shirt. So Malcolm McLaren asks the guy if he knows what the T-shirt, what punk represents. It was, I think, a Sex Pistols’ T-shirt with the slogan ’Never Mind the Bollocks’. And so the guy says, ‚Yeah, it’s great’, and ’I love punk music’, and so on, and then he says, ’Why don’t you come to our party to hear what we’re doing?’ - the CD is put together like a kind of audio play. McLaren is taken aback, so he goes along, and it turns out that this was the first concert by Zulu Nation, and the guy on the street with the punk T-shirt was Afrika Bambaataa. That is - as I see it - the instinctive perception you can have of things, even if they are presented clearly in the form of writing, or as a slogan or in combination - you somehow feel instinctively drawn to them. The only thing that surprised Malcolm McLaren at that moment was that an Afro-American was interested in punk. Was that a helpful example? IV Definitely, yes. What also occurs to me in connection with De Saussure is the question of whether Lévi-Strauss was ever an inspiration for you. I visited him a few weeks ago – he’s a hundred years old now. He has spatialised his book The Origin of Table Manners, meaning that in his office there is this wonderful object, cut out of silk to create an almost tree-like structure, whereby the structure is primary. I wanted to ask you whether your work has a connection to structuralism. Is structure primary for you? TS You could say so, although I am not very familiar with his work, but I do feel very committed to structure as such... maybe without sticking an ’ism’ on the end of it. IV Are there other authors, books or theories, other things that have been like toolboxes for you in your work? TS Yes, well, in my case the toolboxes are perhaps those things which are exactly opposite my own field, i.e., the genres of painting and sculpture. I am more likely to draw inspiration from books, films or music than to be examining some painter’s late Renaissance work, or for my table to be constantly loaded with art-historical books. That’s not the case. Greater experiences actually occur outside the museum [laughs] or art gallery. My work does of course have a classical aspect; I greatly admire classicism - or what is currently termed classicism - and have also explored this from an academic perspective. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Michelangelo drawing of an elbow or the label from my bottle of mineral water I have here on the table in front of me - these are first of all compared on the same level. They both play the same role in this visual experience. Then, later, I think about what I might be able to use. I make no clear distinction between high culture and pop or low culture, or whatever you’re meant to call it. And there are always... there is a changing list of the top... [laughs] the top three or top five films or tracks, which can lie anywhere between the so-called high and low. IV So what are the...? Right now it’s August 2006... TS [laughs] IV So what’s on your list at the moment? TS Well... there was one list, it had to do with... it’s pretty kitschy, of course, but it had to do with age - the age at which artists achieved some particular thing. It was 26. I had Jimi Hendrix’s album Electric Ladyland on the same reel as Citizen Kane by Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. So these are three things I think are really good, things you can engage with. My examples from the world of music mainly come from the area you could call extreme music, which is close to the genre of heavy metal. Anyway, I look for things that are trying to break away from genre conventions... but not obsessively, of course. IV In a more playful manner, then. TS Yes, definitely. It’s not like... a great track can also be three minutes long. That doesn’t bother me [laughs], but then it’s about achieving a different effect. Staying on the subject of music, one band I’ve followed since the very beginning is Fantômas, for example, or Melvins. IV Fantômas? What makes them so interesting from your point of view? TS Well, it has to do with what I was trying to describe before. It’s a, a... you know... well, you wouldn’t know right away which basket to put them in, whether they’re a rock band or a heavy metal band. And a band like Fantômas will play quasi- heavy metal or jazz versions of film music or music from animated films. And they’re pretty successful in what they’re trying to do, I think. IV A lot of unexpected connections are also made in your book Spielfilm, Musik und Roman. Taking the title as a starting point, under the heading ‚ ’Spielfilm’ (movie) we find above all - and rather surprisingly - painting, under ’Musik’ (music) we find drawing through to sculpture, and under ’Roman’ (novel) it’s back to painting again. Can we maybe talk a bit more about the book, and how these different classifications came about? In this respect it really does seem to fit the definition of an artist’s book... TS Yes. IV ... and so I wondered how you came to this title and these surprising and extremely interesting classifications. TS Yes, well, I am of course very grateful to Damien Hirst and his publishing house for giving me free reign over this project; it was such a generous invitation that allowed me to devote myself to a project in this way. The title... well, there are a few... I think one is also illustrated here... there are a few A4 sheets filled with closely written text - titles I’ve accumulated from all sorts of different sources, for example when I’ve come across an unusual name, a particular piece of technical information or some kind of detail from the end credits of a film. This all gets collected and then combined on a sheet of paper to form visual, textual and phonetic cross-references. It’s difficult, because it’s always on the verge of becoming too fanciful, but then on the other... how should I describe it? [sighs] Anyway, these are almost surreal means, or methods we know from Surrealism, how things were combined there - in that we form a connection which is not directly legible on the surface. The three terms I chose - film, music and novel - describe forms of expression for which I have great respect or which give me a lot of input, and of course they represent things I myself haven’t mastered and will probably never produce. That is the actual idea behind it: to choose such a title for a book that depicts my entire creative world, but no films, music and novels. IV So could it be said perhaps that it is about understanding one’s own practice better by looking at it from fields that are opposed to it? TS Yes, exactly. The greatest... as I said before, the greatest stimulation really comes from things opposite my field. When, for example, I have the opportunity to talk to a film director about how he organises his material or puts things together, how he might have to bring forward some bits of night shots which in the film actually come after the scene on the beach, or whatever. I find that really interesting, how you can combine or organise, as it were, everything you need - this ability to abstract. I have a kind of storyboard for every exhibition and every project I do. That is perhaps in turn a cross-reference to a structure you have to have as an artist. Otherwise I would probably lose track of things, also in terms of how I run my studio. I certainly have great respect for writers who spend three or four years working on huge manuscripts and heaps of text. IV Do you have direct dialogue with writers? TS No, not really in a direct way. I read a lot about writers - biographies and so on. But that would be... it would be an interesting other connection. IV Yes, another interface. We talked about music already. It might be interesting to talk a bit more about the references to film in your work. There is a fantastic excerpt here in the book: ’This is Orson Welles.’ TS Yes, that’s one of my favourite pages in the book. IV That gave me the idea that it might be good to talk a little about film. I saw this work of yours which was, I think, shown in a group exhibition; it was a video piece about the end credits of films... TS Yes. IV ... a little-known work that Maurizio Cattelan, one of the curators of the Berlin Biennale, showed at... TS ... Gagosian Gallery, on Auguststrasse. IV Can you tell me some more about that piece? TS It started with the fact that I was interested in formal design and certain typefaces. There was also a small... as a kind of initial prompt, a small reference, a short newspaper article that I seem to have mislaid in the meantime. It was about - that was the headline - the uprising of writing. Meaning that nowadays many things are turned on their heads or reworked which stonemasons or typecutters once tried to establish as ideal proportions in order to set standards, and that things also have a structure, or a reduced and fundamental standard. The way we deal with writing today means that it can be pushed to the very brink of legibility, that something can be recognised as a logo or that altogether things are almost being used in a sculptural way again. If I take something and transform or decode it and use it in a different way, that is almost a sculptural process, and as a sign the writing or script is of course... How should I put it? It’s a quasi-reinvention of script in a distinct new form. Another important aspect of the end credits of films is that the text and image are moving. I find that very stimulating... but more in an intuitive sense... I don’t know. Perhaps I can give you an example: I once spent some time in Tokyo, in the early 1990s. I lived there for two months, and of course I was barely able to make sense of the language and the symbols. What is interesting, however, is that you don’t actually confuse all that many things when you’re shopping in a supermarket, or when you use the underground rail network, which provides a kind of guide system through the city. There seems to be something visual or intuitive that ultimately regulates how our world works, something that has also been internationalised, so we can more or less find our bearings wherever we are. IV The idea of orienting oneself is interesting, also in connection with the very insightful text by Dieter Schwarz from 2001, entitled ’View and Plan of Toledo’, which makes repeated reference to the idea of a map. Can we perhaps discuss this? I mean, the notion of a map and the geographical reference. TS Well, I was very keen on the painting Ansicht und Plan von Toledo, a late work (from c. 1609) by El Greco, in terms of its structure. Rather than fulfil the conventional documentary task of the panoramic city view, El Greco developed his own pictorial composition. The palace, for example, which in reality is located somewhere else in the city, is here placed in the centre of the painting. Then, however - lmost like an apology - the scene as a whole is obstructed by the inclusion of a two- dimensional plan, as a form of documentation within the three-dimensional landscape. IV I see what you mean, yes. TS My painting, Ansicht und Plan von Toledo, on the other hand, draws its formal inspiration from the relatively structured cover of a Japanese comic. Of course the original image looked pretty much like the typical front cover of any comic, but there was a very curious formal reference that I used for my own purposes. IV That’s interesting, because it’s a black-and-white comic and... you can see how it expresses its freedom in black and white; it’s a matter of translation and... it’s not about appropriation. A lot of artists have appropriated images from mangas and comics. TS Yes. IV Can we perhaps talk a little more about this freedom of translation, and whether computers play a part in this or not? Has the computer changed the way you work? TS No, computers really don’t play a big part in what I call my studio system. In fact I myself don’t use a computer at all; if I have a question I’ll pass it on to someone else who then does what is necessary with the computer. In my work, the most important thing really is finding a forum that enables me to perform such ’translations’. A virtually 1 : 1 computer-based rendering or imitation is not something I am very familiar with, nor does it possess sufficient value for me. IV I see. TS For me, the concept of translation is - even if it sounds quite generalised here - the most appropriate term; in my case, it’s important to work in a field where I couldn’t make the things I make with any other means or tool. The medium of drawing, sketching or painting means so much to me if only because all of the things that occur to me, or which I try to put into practice, actually possess the greatest possible independence in that particular medium. That’s the most important thing for me - being independent and having a forum that enables me to translate it all. IV That would make a very nice closing statement about the value of independence, particularly given that your book Spielfilm, Musik und Roman so powerfully demonstrates such independence, but perhaps I can throw in a few more questions before we finish. TS Sure. IV Earlier in our discussion there was a latent question we didn’t take any further, also with regard to the ’Gläserne Kette’ movement: namely, the issue of utopia. On this subject Ernst Bloch once stated that, ’Something is missing’. How do you see it? TS Yes, well, utopia is of course... I think it could almost be said that the field of utopia has diminished somewhat, perhaps because more and more can now be achieved with technology. A computer can process an idea almost like a magic wand. Today there are so many possible ways of realising every structure, including the most intangible or non-static, of materialising it in some form or other. This becomes increasingly appealing the further you look into and seek forms. From a socio- political perspective, on the other hand, it is perhaps more the case that utopia is on the retreat. Already everything has become very realistic, fewer risks are being taken, and it seems to me that there is much less enthusiasm for that sort of thing. IV Are there unrealised projects in your work to date - projects that were too large or too small-scale to be implemented, things that were censored or considered too expensive, proposals for competitions that were unsuccessful? TS No, not really. Well, within my studio system I’ve been unsuccessful so far in the ’competition’ to make an outdoor piece, but that’s the next step I’ll be working on in the coming year. Generally speaking, I think it’s important to establish a healthy balance in relation to your work. IV Can you maybe give me an example of an unrealised piece of public art? TS No, not yet. IV That’s something for the future. TS Yes. IV Before we conclude, it would be really interesting to learn more about your studio system. Earlier on you gave a very good description of how the system operates. But what does your studio actually look like? How does it look like right now, for example, in August 2006? TS Well, the sculpture side of the studio system is full of things, but, as I tried to explain before, these are all in a raw or ’blank’ state, as it were. It’s relatively easy for me to bring the work to this stage, with the help of others of course, my assistants. These blank objects then exist as an idea within the space and can also be combined with each other or stacked together, etc. Ultimately I have to - as could be seen in the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale - add the surfaces and the colours to the form, to the basic idea. I have to put a finish on it. Each individual piece has to be able to assert itself in the combination of things, and vice versa. In this respect the studio can sometimes be the better form of presentation, as coincidence also plays a part in these spatial conditions. Then the point is reached where a photograph is taken as a kind of official documentation, clearing the way once more for the next detail or the next idea. As far as the paintings are concerned, it has always been the case that I prefer to work in parallel. This means that maybe ten or fifteen relatively large-format paintings are always visually available; they stand side by side in preparation for a specific project. And between them there is always space for new questions and considerations... IV Wonderful! Thank you very much.

A+C Viewpoint: Guy Debord

In 1950, Debord began his association with the Lettrist International, which was being led by Isidore Isou at the time. The Lettrists were attempting to fuse poetry and music, and were interested in transforming the urban landscape. In 1953 they mapped out what they called the "psychogeography" of Paris by walking through the city in a free-associative manner, or "drifts". Texts on this activity were first published in Naked Lips in 1955 and 1956, in essays titled "Detournement: How to Use" and "Theory of the Derive." In 1957 the Lettrist International joined another group of avant-garde artists, called Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, to form the Situationist International (SI), and founded the magazine called Situationiste Internationale. Debord proclaimed himself the leader of the SI, and saw himself responsible for maintaining the high ideals he had in mind for the group, but to equate Debord with the SI in all its activities would be misleading. He had a major role in unifying Situationist practice, but he also prevented its expansion into areas he felt would undermine his own goals. The original membership of the SI were Parisian intellectuals and artists who were influenced by the Dada and Surrealist movements, and the group never grew to more than a dozen members. Members were rapidly admitted and expelled, and by 1963 all the original members had left or had been pushed out, including Asger Jorn, who was one of the most prominent members. At the beginning of the SI movement their goal was to transgress the boundary separating art and culture from the everyday and make them part of common life. They theorized that Capitalism has the effect of diverting and stifling creativity, dividing the social body into producers and consumers, or actors and spectators. The SI saw art and poetry as a production by all people, that this was a way to make art the dominant power rather than having power rest in a small group of designated men. They argued for complete divertissement, and were against work. By 1962 they were applying their critique to all aspects of capitalist society, and no longer limiting it to arts and culture. They were inspired by the history of the anarchist movement, and looked to the First International, Spain, Kronstadt, and the Makhnovists in their research. They accused the USSR of being a "capitalist bureaucracy", and were advocates for workers' councils. They retained, however, Marxist elements and never identified as entirely anarchistic. In 1967 Debord published Society of the Spectacle, his major work. In the book he takes the position that the spectacle, or the domination of life by images, has subsumed all other forms of domination. He attacks wage labor and commodity production, indeed all forms of hierarchy, in an elaboration of Situationist theory, but claiming that they continue to wield power only in their subsumption into the spectacle. He writes that the spectacle is "capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image" and that images are the currency of contemporary society. Society of the Spectacle had an enormous influence on the student rebellion in 1968. Many quotations were taken from the text to become graffiti on the walls of Paris at the time. Members of the SI acted with the Enrages from Nanterre University in the assembly held in permanent session: the Occupations Committee of the Sorbonne. In 1973 Debord made a film version of Society of the Spectacle (Simar Films) and in 1989 he updated the text in Commentaries on Society of the Spectacle, proving its holding power as a definitive text on cultural imperialism, capital, and mediation in society. The analysis that life has been reduced to a spectacle, as the result of all relationships becoming transactional in capitalist society, can be seen as a reworking of Marx's early writing on alienation. The Situationist addition to this theory is the recognition of "pseudo-needs", created by capitalism to continually ensure increased consumption. They switched consciousness from its determination at the point of production to the point of consumption, seeing modern capitalism as a consumer society. The individual, or worker, is no longer recognized as a producer, but courted as a consumer. The Situationists believed that it was necessary to think of the immediate moment as the highest potential for change, and that to liberate oneself was to transform society by effecting power relations. They believed that to transform the structure of society we need only change our perception of the world. Their praxis was based in constructing situations that were disruptive to social norms. It was in this spirit that they created the idea of the 'derive,' as a flow of acts and encounters, and the 'detournement,' as a redirection of images and events. As methods of undermining consumer society and the constructed spectacle they encouraged vandalism, wildcat strikes and sabotage, seeing these as creative acts. The SI saw it their responsibility to make apparent to the masses the system in which they were already implicated. They hoped to be catalysts in a revolutionary process that would eventually make the SI redundant and cause their dissolution. This fantasy was not to come about, however, as the group disbanded over tactical disputes in 1972. Their ideas continue to have a lasting influence on art, politics and philosophy. In 1971 Debord became friends with Gerard Lebovici, who would become his publisher and producer. In 1984 Lebovici was assassinated, and Debord was tangentially implicated. He was subjected to police interrogation, and suffered defamation in the press. Debord was infuriated by the accusations, and as a consequence, prohibited the screening of his films in France during his lifetime. He won his subsequent libel suits, and he published Considerations on the Assassination of Gerard Lebovici in 1985. In 1987 Debord wrote The Game of War with his second wife, Alice Becker-Ho. In 1989 he published his Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle, expanding on the earlier text by writing of the "integrated" spectacle, the new, more insidious form of the spectacle. In 1994, Debord committed suicide in Champot, Upper Loire. It was not his first attempt, having tried to asphyxiate himself once before in 1955. His ashes were scattered on the point of Ile de la Cite, Paris. The French press promptly made him a celebrity, never before having acknowledged the significance of the Situationist International or Debord's work.