The Alba Platform
September 2-8 a Congress was held in Alba, Italy, convoked by Asger Jorn and Giuseppe Gallizio in the name of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, a grouping whose views are in agreement with the Lettrist International’s program regarding urbanism and its possible uses (see Potlatch #26). Representatives of avant-garde groups from eight countries (Algeria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands) met there to establish the foundations for a united organization. The tasks toward this end were dealt with in all their implications.
Christian Dotremont,(1) who had been announced as a member of the Belgian delegation despite the fact that he has for some time been a collaborator in the Nouvelle Nouvelle Revue Française, refrained from appearing at the Congress, where his presence would have been unacceptable for the majority of the participants.
Enrico Baj, representative of the “Nuclear Art Movement,” was excluded the very first day. The Congress affirmed its break with the Nuclearists by issuing the following statement: “Confronted with his conduct in certain previous affairs, Baj withdrew from the Congress. He did not make off with the cash-box.”
Meanwhile our Czechoslovakian comrades Pravoslav Rada and Kotik were prevented from entering Italy. In spite of our protests, the Italian government did not grant them visas to pass through its national iron curtain until the end of the Alba Congress.
The statement of Wolman, the Lettrist International delegate, particularly stressed the necessity for a common platform specifying the totality of current experimentation:
Comrades, the parallel crises presently affecting all modes of artistic creation result from general, interrelated tendencies and cannot be resolved outside a comprehensive general perspective. The process of negation and destruction that has manifested itself at an accelerated pace against all the former conditions of artistic activity is irreversible: it is the consequence of the appearance of superior possibilities of action on the world. . . . Whatever prestige the bourgeoisie may today be willing to grant to fragmentary or deliberately retrograde artistic endeavors, creation can now be nothing less than a synthesis aiming at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life. . . . A unitary urbanism — the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies — must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate. . . .
The Congress concluded by expressing a substantial agreement in the form of a six-point resolution, declaring the “necessity of an integral construction of the environment by a unitary urbanism that must utilize all the arts and modern techniques”; the “inevitable outmodedness of any renovation of an art within its traditional limits”; the “recognition of an essential interdependence between unitary urbanism and a future style of life” which must be situated “in the perspective of a greater genuine freedom and a greater domination of nature”; and finally, “unity of action among the signers on the basis of this program” (the sixth point going on to enumerate the various specifics of mutual support).
In addition to this final resolution — signed by J. Calonne, Constant, G. Gallizio, A. Jorn, Kotik, Rada, Piero Simondo, E. Sottsass Jr., Elena Verrone, Wolman — the Congress unanimously declared itself against any relations with participants in the Festival de la Cité Radieuse, thus following through with the boycott initiated the preceding month.
At the conclusion of the Congress Gil J Wolman was added to the editorial board of Eristica, the information bulletin of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, and Asger Jorn was placed on the board of directors of the Lettrist International.
The Alba Congress will probably one day be seen as a key moment, one of the difficult stages in the struggle for a new sensibility and a new culture, a struggle which is itself part of the general revolutionary resurgence characterizing the year 1956, visible in the upsurge of the masses in the USSR, Poland and Hungary (although in the latter case we see the dangerously confusing revival of rotten old watchwords of clerical nationalism resulting from the fatal error of the prohibition of any Marxist opposition), in the successes of the Algerian revolt, and in the major strikes in Spain. These developments allow us the greatest hopes for the near future.
1. Christian Dotremont: Belgian poet who participated in the Revolutionary Surrealism movement of the 1940s and in Cobra (1948-1951).
“La plate-forme d’Alba” originally appeared in Potlatch: Information Bulletin of the Lettrist International #27 (Paris, 2 November 1956). This translation by Ken Knabb is from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.