Attila Kotányi (1924-2003) was a Hungarian urbanist, poet, and philosopher, and the only professional architect in the Situationist International. Kotányi was an active member of the SI from 1960-63, and played an important and often overlooked role in the collective's decisive shift from experimental art to radical social theory.
Attila Kotányi Papers
We are against the dominant conditions of artistic inauthenticity. I don’t mean that anyone should stop painting, writing,... I don’t mean that that has no value. I don’t mean that we can continue to exist without doing that. But at the same time we know that such works will
be recuperated by society
and used against us.
The archive contains correspondence (including with Guy Debord), manuscripts, notes, notebooks, drawings, photographs, printed material, and filing cards. There is a marked evolution, traceable in these archives, from existentialist attitudes mixed with romantic ideas on the role of art and the artist, towards a radical social critique during his Situationist years and beyond, particularly with the ebb of widespread revolt in Europe towards the end of the 1970s. Cybernetics, information theories, the aesthetics of Bazon Brock, the thought of Michel Foucault and postmodernism, Eastern religion, and architectural pedagogy and practice are just some of the many topics covered in Kotányi’s writings and notes in this archive. The archive is in Hungarian, French, and German.
This archive has not yet been catalogued; the accession number is 2012.genm.35. A comprehensive Finding Aid is still in process.
Other Attila Kotányi material
"Nicht hinauslehnen," 1962, announcement by the central council of the Situationist International of decision to expel Gruppe SPUR; signed by members, including Kotányi.
Theses on the Commune, 1962, English publication of text by Kotányi, Guy Debord, and Raoul Vaneigem, originally titled Sur la commune, written March 18, 1962.
Aux poubelles de l'histoire, 1963, publication of Sur la commune, 1962, printed alongside Henri Lefebvre's article "La signification de la Commune," published by Situationist International.
Four Situationist Texts: To Create at Long Last a Situation which Goes Beyond the Point of No Return, 1971, English publication of "These on Unitary Urbanism" and Theses on the Commune, as well as texts by Debord and Vaneigem.
Viva la Comune, 1973, Italian translation of Sur la commune.
Material related to Kotányi
"L'Internationale situationiste prend l'offensive," 1963, fake pamphlet published by a Brussels group of neo-surrealists parodying the style of the Situationist International by excluding Kotányi.
Attila Kotányi grew up in Budapest, and in his youth he was part of an intellectual circle surrounding the philosophers Lajos Szabó and Béla Hamvas. Following the failed Hungarian revolution in 1956, he emigrated with his family to Brussels, where he studied architecture and urbanism. According to his wife, he preferred conversations to letters, and more than once, triggered by a book, Kotányi would locate the author, travel to his home, ring the bell, and present himself. This seems to have been the case with Guy Debord in 1960.
Kotányi became involved with the Situationist International (SI) in 1960, the same year he became director of the so-called Bureau of Unitary Urbanism in Brussels. He participated in the group’s conferences held in September 1960 in London, August 1961 in Göteborg, and November 1962 in Antwerp. During these years he became a close friend of Guy Debord, and was appointed to the Central Council of the SI; he participated in the first four sessions, held in November 1960 in Brussels, January 1961 in Paris, April 1961 in Munich, and February 1962 in Paris. Kotányi served as the main editor of issues 5, 6 and 8 of Internationale Situationniste, as well as the inaugural issue of Situationistik Revolution, published in October 1962. In October 1963, he was excluded from the group.
He contributed a number of seminal essays to the journal, including “Gangland and Philosophy,” 1961, “Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism,” 1961, co-authored with Raoul Vaneigem, and the most famous, “Theses on the Commune,” on which he collaborated in 1962 with Debord and Vangeiem.
Kotányi then relocated to Germany, where he taught for over a decade at the Dusseldorf Art Academy. During this period he continued to write political and philosophical essays, as well as poetry, and he developed small architectural projects and painted. In the 1990s he returned to Budapest, where he became a central figure in the intellectual life of the city. He elaborated his Sabbath theory, a call for a radical suspension of activity. A circle of students and young intellectuals gathered around him during these final years. He died in Düsseldorf in 2003.
The constructors of situations must learn how to read the constructive and reconstitutable elements of situations. In so doing, they begin to understand the language spoken by situations. They learn how to speak and how to express themselves in this language; and eventually, by means of constructed and quasi-natural situations, how to say what has never yet been said.
"Gangland and Philosophy,"
Internationale situationniste 4 (1960)
Architectural drawings, drawings, and photographs
"Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism," 1961, co-authored with Raoul Vaneigem, English translation on NOTBORED!, pro-situationist digital 'zine run by Bill Brown.
"Gangland and Philosophy," 1960, English translation on NOTBORED!.
"Is There Any Media Criticism That Isn’t Suicidal?," text of a lecture by Kotányi presented at MetaForum III: Under Construction, Budapest Content Conference, October 1996.
Letter from Guy Debord to Kotányi, July 1961, and Letter from Debord to Kotányi and Raoul Vaneigem, October 1962, English translation on NOTBORED!