A mental disease has swept the planet: banalization. Everyone is hypnotized by production and comfort - sewage system, elevator, bathroom, washing machine. This state of affairs, which arose out of a struggle against poverty, overshoots its ultimate goal - the liberation of humanity from material cares - and becomes an obsessive image hanging over the present. Between love and a garbage disposal, young people of all countries have made their choice and prefer the garbage disposal. A complete and sudden change of spirit has become essential, by bringing to light forgotten desires and creating entirely new ones. And by an intensive propaganda in favor of these desires. Gilles Ivain (aka Ivan Chtcheglov)
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Robert Louis Stevenson presents a character who, in London at night, is astonished 'to walk for such a long time in such a complex decor without encountering even the slightest shadow of an adventure.' The urbanists of the twentieth century will have to construct adventures. The simplest Situationist act would consist in abolishing all the memories of the employment of time of our epoch. It is an epoch that, up until now, has lived far below its means.
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We must change life, ' the poet [Rimbaud] had written, and so the Situationists set out to transform everyday life in the modern world through a comprehensive program that included above all else the construction of 'situations' - defined in 1958 as moments of life 'concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and a play of events' - but that also necessary entailed the supersession of philosophy, the realization of art, the abolition of politics, and the fall of the 'spectacle-commodity economy.
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4. Radicalism of forms. If a new model once created meets with much success on account of its greater efficiency than its predecessor, it lends certain neighbouring forms a formal radicalism, which attempts to borrow from the appearance of the new form: for example, bronze tools that had reached the furthest development of their utility had a disastrous influence on stone tools, warping them toward an elegance that could only be attained in bronze. Today aviation has imposed its aerodynamic forms even on baby strollers and irons. This radicalism of forms is a result of the fact that people become bored when they do not find some unexpected element in the familiar. This radicalism might seem illogical, as the advocates of standardization believe, but we must not forget that discovery is only made possible by this need of humanity.
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The alarming lack of ideas that is recognizable in all acts of culture, politics, organization of life, and the rest is explained by this, and the weakness of the modernist constructers of functionalist cities is only a particularly visible example of it. Intelligent specialists only ever have the intelligence to play the game of specialists: hence the fearful conformity and fundamental lack of imagination that make them admit that this or that product is useful, good, necessary. In fact, the root of the reigning lack of imagination cannot be understood if one does not have access to the imagination of lack-that is to conceiving what is absent, forbidden, and hidden, and yet possible, in modern life.
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We leave to monsieur Le Corbusier his style that suits factories as well as it does hospitals. And the prisons of the future: is he not already building churches? I do not know what this individual - ugly of countenance and hideous in his conceptions of the world - is repressing to make him want thus to crush humanity under ignoble heaps of reinforced concrete, a noble material that ought to permit an aerial articulation of space superior to Flamboyant Gothic. His power of cretinization is vast. A model by Corbusier is the only image that brings to my mind the idea of immediate suicide. With him moreover any remaining job will fade. And love - passion - liberty. Gilles Ivain (aka Ivan Chtcheglov)
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Henceforth the crisis of urbanism is all the more concretely a social and political one, even though today no force born of traditional politics is any longer capable of dealing with it. Medico-sociological banalities on the 'pathology of housing projects, ' the emotional isolation of people who must live in them, or the development of certain extreme reactions of rejection, chiefly among youth, simply betray the fact that modern capitalism, the bureaucratic society of consumption, is here and there beginning to shape its own setting. This society, with its new towns, is building the terrain that accurately represents it, combining the conditions most suitable for its proper functioning, while at the same time translating in space, in the clear language of organization of everyday life, its fundamental principle of alienation and constraint. It is likewise here that the new aspects of its crisis will be manifested with the greatest clarity.
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Byproduct of the circulation of commodities, human circulation considered as a form of consumption, tourism comes down fundamentally to the freedom to go and see what has become banal. The economic planning of the frequenting of different places is already in itself the guarantee of their equivalence. The same modernization that has withdrawn the element of time from journeying, has also withdrawn the reality of space.
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So many problems we will get to the bottom of later, but whose spatial aspect we must grasp right away. If the space of the industrial economy dominates the social space in which the Parisian worker or intellectual develops, to what extent could residential space, cultural space, or political space be planned without it being necessary to first intervene in economic structures?... In short... : to what extent can we freely build the framework for a social life in which we might be guided by our aspirations and not by our instincts?
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Moreover the present abundance3 of private cars is nothing other than the result of the non-stop propaganda through which capitalist production persuades the mob-and in this case is one of its most confounding successes-that the possession of a car is specifically one of the privileges our society reserves for its privileged members.
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Because of this false idea, they devised an aesthetic belief in making the exterior of an object a reflection of the practical functions of the interior and of the constructive idea. Yet these analyses of utility and necessity that, according to their beliefs, should be the basis for the construction of any object created by humanity become immediately absurd once we analyze all the object being manufactured today. A fork or a bed cannot come to be considered necessary for humanity's life and health, and yet retain a relative value. They are 'learned necessities.' Modern human beings are suffocating under necessities like televisions, refrigerators, etc. And in the process making it impossible to live their real lives. Obviously we are not against modern technology, but we are against any notion of the absolute necessity of objects, to the point even of doubting their real utility.' Asger Jorn
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We are leading as thorough a study of 'alienation's positive pole' as of its negative pole. As a consequence of our diagnosis of the poverty of wealth, we are able to establish the world map of the extreme wealth of poverty. These speaking maps of a new topography will be in fact the first realization of 'human geography.' On them we will replace oil-deposits with the contours of layers of untapped pedestrian consciousness.
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The new towns of the 1950s and '60s were nothing less than the spatial translation of alienation and control and in these cities power increasingly could relinquish the old forms of advertising in favor of 'the simple organization of the spectacle of objects of consumption, which will only have consumable value illusory to the extent to which they will first of all have been objects of spectacle' - to the extent, that is, they have first appeared on the television screen, which henceforth had to be seen as an urbanistic tool in its own right.
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8. Conditions of Dialogue The functional is what is practical. The only practical thing is the resolution of our fundamental problem: the realization of ourselves (our uncoupling from the system of isolation). This is useful and utilitarian. Nothing else. All the rest represents only trivial derivations of the practical, and its mystification.
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the assessment of psychological drift, that is the way in which an undirected pedestrian tends to move about in a particular quarter of the town, tending to establish natural connections between places, the zones of influence of particular institutions and public services, and so forth. It may well be objected that these techniques are un-scientific, disorderly and too subjective, but the fact remains that the Situationists are studying the actual texture of towns and their relationship to human beings more intensively than most architects and in a more down-to-pavement manner than most town planners.
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Couples will no longer spend their nights in their houses dedicated to habitation and reception, the customary social reason for banalization. The chamber of love will be more remote from the center of the city: it will completely naturally re-create for the partners the notion of ex-centricity, in a place less open to the light, more hidden, in order to return to the atmosphere of the secret. The contrary move, the search for a center of thought, will proceed by the same technique.
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Unitary urbanism's point of departure is the changeableness of our aspirations and our activities. We know that neither eternal truth nor absolute beauty exist and that, for this reason, ideal form does not exist. Form that is in constant modulation and in agreement with the unceasingly changing aspects of our existence, such as we will produce it. The environment in which we live influences our activity, but reciprocally this environment is a product of our creative activity.
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All that remains of the garden city in our own day are traffic-free enclaves, islands in a sea of traffic where the pedestrian leads a legally protected by languishing existence, comparable to that of the North American Indians on their reservations... In reality the modern urbanist regards the city as a gigantic centre of production, geared to the efficient transport of workers and goods, to the accommodation of people and the storage of wares, to industrial and commercial activity. The rest, that is to say creativity, life, is optional and comes under the heading of recreation and leisure activities.
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