I recently discovered that my business shares its name with a decidedly unique artist collective from the 1950s and well…if, as they say, nomen est omen…I can’t say that I mind.
The Letterist International (LI) was a Paris-based collective of radical artists and cultural theorists between 1952 and 1957. It was created by Guy Debord and went on to join others in forming the Situationist International, taking some key techniques and ideas with it.
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 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 notoriety, and were still having the adventures that would inform their later works and ideas.
The official base of the group was at 32, Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviéve, Paris. This was in fact the address of a bar, Tonneau d'Or, and indeed most of their time was spent either drinking in a number of bars in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, principally at Chez Moineau on the Rue du Four, or else simply walking the streets.
There was a serious purpose behind their ambulation. They developed the dérive, or drift, where they would wander like clouds through the urban environment for hours or sometimes even days on end. Among their most important texts on these matters were Debord's "Theory of the Dérive" and Ivan Chtcheglov's "Formulary for a New Urbanism.” In the latter, Chtcheglov advocated a new city where, as he wrote, "each person will live in his own personal 'cathedral'. There will be rooms that produce dreams better than drugs, and houses where it will be impossible to do anything but love."
This article is borrowed (and a little abridged) from Wikipedia. I have great intentions to one day research this deeper and write my own piece…but until then feel free to visit the full Wiki one here.
Image gratefully borrowed from this article on The Spectator which is also an interesting read.