Originally appeared in Aspekt No.3 (Copenhagen, 1963). Translated by Jakob Jakobsen
Co-ritus Interview with Jorgen Nash and Jens Jorgen Thorsen

Art is Pop - Co-ritus is Art - Divided We Stand

Nash: Situationism is not another new 'ism' within art - it is a form of action and a way of life. A command of the moment and a utilisation of its possibilities.

There is still yet no situationist art, but there are situationists working artistically with the problems of life, attempting to find a new and sharper art. When situationists are being lumped with people establishing new artistic movements it could be explained by the fact that international situationism in particular has been attractive for people from the three categories: image makers, writers and architects. It is a result of the situationist's attempts to change the conforming and sterile environment which can be found, for example, in the cities.

Q: How do the situationists relate to society?

Thorsen: Any potential change of society is conditioned by the cultural possibilities. A classical example is Marx and Hegel. The essential in situationism is the relationship of human beings to the forces of creativity; it is the intention to realise these forces through moments of creativity. The situationist idea is based on utilisation of art and the forces of creativity within art being used directly in the social environment.

A French and a Scandinavian Situationist International are active: the 1st and 2nd Situationist International. The 1st International wants a unitarian organisation of the city and believes, via a Freudian method, that it is able to create possibilities for a new city plan; an architecture constructed according to the inner desires of human beings - desires they believe they can evoke by a quick passage through various unfamiliar environments and then expressing themselves. They claimed that no situationist art existed. We believe that situationism is art and the creative human being (the artist) has to get involved in the social situation. We do not believe that the organisation of life is a matter of statistics (statistics are used within advertising as well), but a question of artistic creation - the reorganising of the situations. That is why we claim that situationism is art. Art can only be produced through experimental activity (Co-ritus, the concert in the spiral maze at Malmo Town Hall, Co-ritus at Aarhus Student Society and various wall painting actions are some of our experiments).

The Parisian Situationists believe that, as with dialectical materialism, human beings are produced by their environment. Contrary to this we believe that the continuous realisation of new possibilities of inter-human activity are the source of life. Our relation to Marxism and the radical-liberal Western concept of society is that we are working on a reconstruction from the inside of both systems at the same time. This is because both systems are on the threshold of entering the same phase, which consists of two elements:

1. A conformification, which in the East is a political and cultural regimentation, and in the West is a schematic commercialised consumerism.

2. An increasing wealth, which gives the human beings increasingly more economic freedom. (This development is not a result of either Marxism or Liberalism, but a result of technological progress).

Q: You are publishing the magazine Drakabygget for art against atom bombs, popes and politicians?

Nash: It is an organ where the anti-authoritarian tendencies within situationism are expressed. It has been said that we have turned against the Catholics and the welfare state. That is not the case. We have been fighting against the enemies of total freedom of expression within culture. By popes we mean not only Pope Paul in Rome - the guy with the piles pillow - but also Pope Knud at Louisiana in Humlebaek - the guy with the big soft cheese. The Scandinavian version of the welfare state has the social sympathy of the situationists. It is wholly a good thing that the work hours have been made shorter. The grotesque consequence of this is that problems with free time have arisen. According to the situationists this is a result of both the artistic freedom of expression and the human freedom of expression being given over to the systems of monopoly. In the communist countries the workers did take over the means of production, but the free artists got kicked in the ass by the commissaries. In Western Europe and America it is the cultural entrepreneurs (the pop cultural stronghold of Gutenberg House and it's cultural commissioners at the police station in Antoniegade, Jens Frederik Don't from television and the careerist Peder Norgard with his top job at the National Radio Centre), which are controlling the publishing houses, film production, newspapers and art exhibitions. These latter are again categorised into those authorised by the state and those which do not suit the authorities.

We have asked, who is going to take over the artistic means of production? - all the wonderful technological innovations such as radio, TV, film, rotary press, off-set printing machines, etc. They should not exclusively become the artist's toys, which they were then taught how to use. All these things have been invented to be utilised by the spiritual intelligence, and not by a bunch of cultural entrepreneurs or commissioners, which both in the East and the West are mouthpieces for a enormous control apparatus filled with mentally deaf-mute and colour blind fools. Our recent action at the pedestrian street Stroget had the motto - 'the uncontrollable art' - and it shows what potentials there are when artists' utilise those rights which are normally occupied by advertising. Erik Knudsen's campaign against Radio Merkur, the advertising industry etc, was an indication of sympathy towards everything authoritarian e.g. the National State Radio. I believe if an artist is not allowed to express himself through a program in the monopolised radio, then it should be possible for him to work with the technological intelligence - the radio amateur - as a pirate on the air. And if he can not express himself in the authorised magazines without being subject to censorship, then he must start his own magazine. It is of utmost importance that he is not giving up nor shutting-up with what he would like to communicate.

Q: What role has the audience in Co-ritus?

Thorsen: The position of the audience is non-existing within Co-ritus. Co-ritus wants to abolish the notion of audience - not like Fluxus that bores them into leaving or makes fools of them by making dry caricatures of European theater - but by making the audience co-creators. By realising the idea that art is not something which unfolds either inside the artist or inside the spectator, but is a game unfolding between people, we are contributing to the renewal of the terms art, process of creation and social basis. The basis of art at present makes it a more advanced evolutionary step than pop. That is the reason why we have made the controversial slogan (which of course is not totally correct): Art is Pop - Co-ritus is Art. To make a human being into a spectator is like cutting off his balls. We have nothing against pop or advertising, I love milk even though it is promoted in advertising. We are against those forms which are allowing freedom to pop and not to art. This is our weapon against pop, which the anti-pop people do not have, and it became clear at Stroget and in Montergade where the police used all their powers to stop us. The anti-pop people are lame theoreticians and the advertising business (eg. the newspaper Politikken) have cashed in on them.

Q: Should art be ethical, aesthetical or a way to activate?

Thorsen: The term ethics is part of a problematic about ways to activate oneself and, at times, other people. The term aesthetics has been discussed in so many versions that it could mean either ethics or a way to activate. I cannot understand the question in another way as it indicates that the interviewer himself believes that art is a way to activate. Therefore we are agreeing on this: art is simultaneously an ethical and an aesthetical way to activate human beings.

Nash: Divided we stand. It is of importance in cultural life that space is given to people with alternative ideas. Other rules than those within the Trade Unions must be applied within art. On the Trade Union banners it was stated: "United we stand". This lead to victory within many areas. If we are to produce a prosperous cultural life, and not the present day version limited by the authorities, then the slogan must become: "Divided We Stand".