“The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognized the Jews for what they were… I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the church and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”—Justin Bieber, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone (via cameronr)
The Letterist International (LI) was a Paris-based collective of radical artists and theorists between 1952 and 1957, who provide the link between Isidore Isou’s Letterist group and the Situationist International. The spelling ‘Lettrist’ is also common in English, but ‘Letterist’ was the form the French group (Internationale Lettriste) themselves preferred, and used in their 1955 sticker: ‘If you believe you have genius, or if you think you have only a brilliant intelligence, write the letterist internationale.’ With regard to that second word, however, most scholars prefer ‘International’ to ‘Internationale’. Such authors and translators as Donald Nicholson-Smith, Simon Ford, Sadie Plant and Andrew Hussey all agree on the ‘Letterist International’ spelling.
The group was a motley assortment of novelists, sound poets, painters, film-makers, revolutionaries, bohemians, alcoholics, petty criminals, lunatics, under-age girls and self-proclaimed failures. In the Summer of 1953, their average age was a mere twenty years old, rising to twenty nine and a half in 1957. In their blend of intellectualism, protest and hedonism—though differing in other ways, for instance in their total rejection of spirituality—they might be viewed as French counterparts of the American Beat Generation, particularly in the form it took during exactly the same period, i.e. before anyone from either group achieved any real fame, and were still having the adventures that would inform their later works and ideas.
Besides the Charlie Chaplin protest, some of the more noteworthy/startling activities of the LI include:
Ivan Chtcheglov’s plan to blow up the Eiffel Tower, on no other grounds than that its lights were shining through his bedroom window and keeping him awake at night. He was subsequently confined to a mental institution.
Debord’s legendary 1953 graffito, “Ne travaillez jamais!” (“Never work!”), inscribed on a wall at the corner of the Rue de Mazarine and Rue de Seine. The slogan would later reappear in May 1968, and summed up the ethos of both the LI and the Situationist International after them.
Although pre-dating the formation of the LI (but directly involving Serge Berna, and inspiring the others), one might also mention:
A 1950 letterist attempt at the liberation of a Catholic orphanage at Auteuil, causing a small-scale riot in protest at how “youth suffers in slavery, or is super-exploited by the seniority system.”
My personal favorite Lettrist derive is the Notre-Dame Incident, where Michel Mourre went up to the Notre Dame pulpit during Easter mass and proclaimed that “God is dead.”