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Profile: Asger Jorn
Affiliated Movements: The Situationist International, DaDa, Abstract Expressionism

Affiliated Artists:
Guy Debord
Andy Warhol
Marcel Duchamp
Jeff Koons

* The placement of other artists in the same category is purely for didactic purposes - any number alternate criteria could result in a different choice. This list is chosen by suggesting other artists, mostly working at the same point in time and whose work might evoke similar questions in the reader.

André Breton- condensation cube

Asger Jorn- POUSSIN - Defiguration, 1962
Asger Jorn, Poussin,1962. Defiguration.

Asger Jorn and the Situationist International
In 1954,  Jorn met Guy Debord, who would eventually become an intimate friend and collaborator. Like Debord,  Jorn participated in the consolidation of COBRA, the Lettriste Internationale, and London Psychogeographical Association, thus forming the Situationist International (SI) in 1957.

Situationist principles were employed by Jorn in his paintings. This was quite probably more a matter of Zeitgeist than blind discipline. Like many subcultures and 'movements' that are organized in some fashion, The general tenets of the Situationists were as follows:  a criticism of capitalist exploitation and the abasement of human life, the promotion of alternative life experiences, construction of situations, unitary urbanism, psychogeography, with the union of play, personal freedom and critical thinking. Jorn used his scientific and mathematical knowledge, influenced by Henri Poincaré and Niels Bohr, to formulate his 'Situlogical' technique. His philosophical system 'Triolectics' was given a practical manifestation through the development of the 'Three Sided Football'.

Jorn believed that Situationst ideas were not solely artistic, but inseperable from political activism. Debord and Jorn similarily shared revolutionary intentions.  While continuing his ideological support for the SI,  Jorn quit his participation in the SI in 1961. He felt that the new approach of the SI was ineffective; although he continued to contribute funding for Situationist publications.

The 'Defigurations'
Jorn's 'Defigurations' (normally pronounced in the French based on the origin of the word), are deeply rooted in the concept of Détournement, a mechanism central to the thesis of the Situationist International and also Lettrism. The concept of Détournement (also the Dérivé) is as follows:

"... detournement of pre-existing aesthetic elements. The integration of past or present artistic production into a superior construction of a milieu. In this sense there can be no Situationist painting or music, but only a Situationist use of these means."
                                                                                                                               -Internationale Situationiste issue 1, June 1958.

The concept of 'defiguring' or 'defacing' existing cultural constructs is clearly here a political act - and clearly one that is irreverant in nature. This is perhaps the essential (most important) fingerprint of the SI and Lettrism in general - a growing dissatisfaction with and dissent agaist established structures of authority - a sentiment that was continuous with the May 1968 riots in Paris. That is to say - that the SI was a seed that, short of fomenting cultural revolution - most certainly supported it and gave it structure.

Jorn's defiguration paintings, both skilled in execution and surprisingly witty, both forge new formal/political territory and are lithely subtle with respect to their cultural referents.This is especially true in the context of the 'baseness' of the gesture itself upon first gaze.

asger jorn - the avant garde doesn't give upThe Avant-Garde Doesn't Give Up., 1962. Defiguration. Asger Jorn - The Fisherman, 1962.Defiguration
The Fisherman
, 1962.Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Mater Profana, 1960. DefigurationMater Profana, 1960. Defiguration. Asger Jorn - Top of the world or Gay Day, 1960. DefigurationTop of the world or Gay Day, 1960. Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Troll, 1959. DefigurationTroll, 1959. Defiguration. Asger Jorn - Temptation, 1960. Defiguration
, 1960. Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Wallflower, 1958. DefigurationWallflower, 1958. Defiguration. Asger Jorn - The Barbar and the Berber 1960-62. DefigurationThe Barber and the Berber 1960-62. Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Big Fuck to the Cardinal of America, 1962. Defiguration.
Big Fuck to the Cardinal of America
, 1962. Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Choux, 1962. Defiguration.
, 1962. Defiguration.
Asger Jorn - Souriez Rue Froide 1962. DefigurationSouriez Rue Froide 1962. Defiguration. Asger Jorn - Paris by night, 1959. DefigurationParis by night, 1959. Defiguration.




written and edited by JWD


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