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Fassio (Juan) pataphysique collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Juan Fassio pataphysique collection
    Date (inclusive): 1948-1978, undated
    Number: 930091
    Creator/Collector: Fassio, Juan (Juan Esteban)
    Physical Description: 9.1 Linear Feet (16 boxes and 1 flatfile)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The pataphysique collection, compiled by Juan Esteban Fassio (1924-1980), offers a rich resource for the understanding of this movement and its ramifications outside of France. It features a wealth of correspondence with the most active members of the Collège de Pataphysique, research files, as well as a collection of rare ephemera and publications.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is primarily in French with some material in Spanish and other languages.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    "Pataphysique" (or, in English, "pataphysics") is a term coined around 1889 by a group of high school students in Rennes, and later appropriated by one of them, writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). Although deliberately obscure and absurd, the term was supposed to designate a science beyond, and on top of, metaphysics. Pataphysics has been variously described as the science of the detail and of the individual, as well as of imaginary solutions. It is devoted to the total acceptance and celebration of paradoxes and nonsense in every aspect of human life, and is based on the principles of universal equivalence (according to which, everything is the same) and of inversion of the contraries. Ultimately, pataphysique is not describable, as it constitutes a strenuous form of resistance towards any kind of systematization, and any attempt to make sense of the universe.
    One of the main objectives of this science without objectives seems to be to ridicule and laugh at every form of power and authority. The Parisian Collège de Pataphysique, founded in 1948, came to play a fundamental role in the understanding of pataphysics itself, as a delirious structure in which the cult of hierarchy and titles is manifested in an organizational chart with no end and no meaning, in which the administration of the institution is everything. Among the satraps, or personalities of the Collège, some of the most relevant figures of twentieth century culture are to be found, including Marcel Duchamp ("el más brillante patafísico contemporáneo," according to Fassio in 1954), Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Raymond Queneau, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Baudrillard, and Umberto Eco.
    Juan Esteban Fassio, born in Buenos Aires in 1924, was close to the most active avant-garde circles in his home town from a young age, particularly thanks to his friendship with poet, art critic and painter Aldo Pellegrini, a key figure in the development of surrealism in Latin America. Fassio enrolled in the Collège of Pataphysique in 1952, and on April 6, 1957, on the 50th anniversary of the death of Alfred Jarry, founded together with Albano Rodríguez the Instituto de Altos Estudios Patafísicos de Buenos Aires (IAEPBA, now Longevo Instituto de Altos Estudios Patafísicos de Buenos Aires), the first ever pataphysical institution after the Collège.
    An enthusiastic researcher and collector, Fassio, who worked at the Centro Editor de América Latina (CEAL), translated for the first time into Spanish some works by Alfred Jarry, among them Ubu roi ( Ubu rey , Buenos Aires: Ediciones Minotauro, 1957, together with Enrique Alonso), and invented peculiar machines for reading specific novels. His Machine à lire Roussel was meant to help the reader to navigate the complex structure of Roussel's Nouvelles impressions d'Afrique (1932), characterized by continuous divagations and stories within stories. Julio Cortázar in his La Vuelta al día in ochenta mundos (1967) writes about Fassio sending him sketches for another machine, the Rayuel-o-matic, designed to mechanically assist in the reading of Cortázar's Rayuela (1963). Made up of a bed and a mechanical system of drawers offering the reader the different chapters of the book according to three different orders (among which, one completely random). The machine, most likely never realized, would have featured amenities such as a cabinet with groceries and a toaster, and a self-destruction button.
    With the advent of military dictatorship in Argentina in 1976, Fassio started feeling that he was in danger, due both to his activities within CEAL, and to his associates. He managed to leave the country for Switzerland in 1978, and settled in Barcelona, where he died in 1980.
    Sources consulted:
    Enrico Baj, Che cos'è la patafisica? (Salorino, CH: L'Affranchi, 1994);
    Isabel Cadenas Cañón, e-mail message to author and "La 'Patafísica en Argentina 1957-1986" (unpublished manuscript, Microsoft Word file), March 20, 2016;
    Julio Cortázar, "De otra máquina célibe," in La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos (México: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1967), 79-88;
    Juan Esteban Fassio, "Alfred Jarry y el Colegio de Patafísica." Letra y Línea 4 (1954): 2-4;
    Ruy Launoir, Clefs pour la 'pataphysique, rev. and enl. ed. (Paris: Seghers, 1969; Paris: L'Hexaèdre 2005).

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Juan Fassio pataphysique collection, 1948-1978, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 930091

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1993.

    Processing History

    Processed by Pietro Rigolo between February and March 2016.

    Related Materials

    The Harald Szeemann papers (2011.M.30) contains correspondence with Fassio regarding loans for the exhibition The Bachelor Machines in Series I. Project files, 1836-2007, bulk 1949-2005, as well as an extensive collection of pataphysical artworks, publications and ephemera. The University of Miami holds a Pataphysics collection, 1957-1978 (ASM0118) containg 254 letters by Chapman, addressed to Fassio between 1957 and 1978, as well as correspondence addressed to Fassio by other individuals, Fassio's school reports, and other ephemera.
    More than 110 publications were transferred to the general collection of the Getty Research Institute. They can be found by searching the library catalog   for the phrase "Juan Fassio pataphysique collection."

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection offers an insight into Fassio's network of correspondents, the activities of the Collège de Pataphysique and other pataphysical institutions.
    Series I. Correspondence contains letters sent to Fassio by many members of Collège de Pataphysique, and other intellectuals interested in the movement. Correspondence from Stanley Chapman constitutes by far the largest part of the series, with approximately 500 items. Chapman (1925-2009) was a London-based architect, stage designer, translator, writer and theatrical critic, and one of the founders and president of the London Institute of Pataphysics. His letters bear testimony to an intense epistolary relationship for over twenty years, touching on daily life and relationships, discussing publications, theatre productions and films, and are suffused with explicit homoerotic content. Correspondence from Chapman includes drawings, theatre and gallery ephemera, press clippings, photographs, poems, collages, and sketches of a set design for an Ubu roi production. Some of the dates of these materials have been calculated by converting the year according to the pataphysical calendar into the gregorian one.
    Series II. Research files includes press clippings, magazines, photographs, publications, notes, correspondence, book drafts and translations related to some of the authors relevant to the pataphysical movement. Most notably, the Raymond Roussel files include drawings by Fassio for his Machine à lire Roussel and index cards which were components of the machine itself.
    Series III. Artists' books, ephemera and Collège de Pataphysique publications includes a collection of various materials related to pataphysics, its members, and activities. Series III.A. Artists' books contains a small series of artists' books, for the most part by Stanley Chapman. Series III.B. Ephemera includes a collection of ephemera from the Collège de Pataphysique and other pataphysical institutes such as IAEPBA, founded by Fassio. Among the charts and maps about the structure of the Collège and its international offspring, some maps drawn by Fassio are to be found. Series III.C. includes approximately 100 limited-run and small-format publications by the Collège de Pataphysique, some of them "secret," meaning they were published only for internal circulation among the members. Publications include board games, songs, calendars, transcripts of lectures, bibliographies and unpublished fragments by various members of the Collège and other authors, together with statutes, charters and other institutional documents, and much more. Issues of Cahiers du Collège de Pataphysique, the official magazine of the institution, later called Subsidia Pataphysica and then Organographes du Cymbalum Pataphysicum, have been transferred to the Library, as well as other larger and more widely available publications by the Collège, and all the publications issued by others.


    The collection is arranged in three series: ; ; .Series I. Correspondence, 1952-1978, undated Series II. Research files, 1948-1976, undated Series III. Artists' books, ephemera and Collège de Pataphysique publications, 1949-1977, undated

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Roussel, Raymond
    Vian, Boris
    Jarry, Alfred

    Subjects - Topics

    Authors -- Argentina -- Correspondence
    Authors and publishers -- France
    Publishers and publishing -- France
    Literature, Modern -- 20th century
    Surrealism (Literature)
    Theaters -- Stage-setting and scenery

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Artists' books
    Drawings (visual works)
    Color photographs
    Black-and-white photographs -- 20th century
    Manuscripts for publication


    Szeemann, Harald
    Chapman, Stanley
    Ionesco, Eugène
    Fassio, Juan (Juan Esteban)
    Cortázar, Julio