The Origin of the movement

The OULIPO was created in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François le Lionnais as an attempt to explore methodically the possibilities of literature and, in general, of language.

OULIPO stands for "OUvroir de LIttérature POtentielle " (Workshop for Potential Literature). OU, the workshop, produces LI, but what kinf of LI ? LIPO, potential literature, one under constraints, both new and old, exercises in style, some difficult, some less so, aiming at assembling and reassembling letters and words according to certain forms and patterns, like the recomposed images of a kaleidoscope.
An Oulipian author is "a rat building up the labyrinth it wants to go out of". Labyrinth of what? Of sounds, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, libraries, prose, poetry and all at the same time...

This vast project firstly gathered writers, mathematicians, poets and logicians (Calvino, Pérec, Marcel Duchamp and many more...) and was used as a way to create new forms of literature.

For example, we could name "A Void" (1969) in which Georges Pérec endeavours to write a novel without using the vowel "e" or "Exercises in style" which tells the same story over again by using a whole range of different narrative forms.

"Oulipo is the opposite of chance"
Claude Berge.

"Oulipo is not a school, it is a crèche where, hidden from parents and supervisors, we play at trying to squeeze cylinders into square holes and cubes into round ones. And it works. Some days."
François Caradec.

Fortified by its success and originality, Oulipo begot a series of OU-x-PO such as:

L'OUPEINPO:Ouvroir de Peinture Potentielle, Workshop for Potential Painting.
L'OULIPOPO:Ouvroir de Littérature Policière Potentielle, Workshop for Potential Crime Literature.
L'OUTRAPO:Ouvroir de Tragi-Comédies Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Tragicomedies.
L'OUCA(TA)PO:Ouvroir de Catastrophes Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Catastrophes./td>
L'OUPHOPO:Ouvroir de Photographies Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Photography.
L'OUBAPO:Ouvroir de Bandes Dessinées Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Comics.
L'OUMUPO:Ouvroir de Musiques Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Musics.

All these Ou-x-PO varying in degrees of seriousness and development.

We could also refer to the Dogma cinema, which was greatly inspired by this principle of creation under constraints. The Dogma was created in 1995 by two Danish directors, Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Its manifesto establishes a set of rules running counter to the standardised format of American cinema by putting great enphasis on chance, improvisation and a minimal amount of equipment (e.g. "The Idiots" by Lars Von Trier or "Festen" by Thomas Vinterberg.)


"I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by Dogme 95:

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in ( if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. ( That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.
Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste ! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a "work", as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY."

Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995.

You could easily draw a parallel between these "Exercises in Style" and the world of hip hop music where rivalry is the rule, where what matters is to find the right scratch, to have a good flow or to be the best MC... It is this principle of challenge, deriving from this notion of artistic creation under constraint, that Ici d'ailleurs... offers you with its OUMUPO.

The OUMUPO Rules - Ici d'ailleurs...
"OUvroir de MUsique POtentielle" (Workshop for Potential Music)
  1. The potential musical reservoir is the collection of Ici d'ailleurs... and its electronic subdivision 0101. Its catalogue shall therefore act as the framework of each track. Up to the artist, then, to appropriate it and add whatever he wants. Voice, mc's, instrument, sounds recordings, loops, it's up to the artist to steal the music, to divert or appropriate it! Any sample used shall be free of copyrights or reported to the label for clearance.

  2. An iteration of at least 30 seconds shall appear at least two times. It shall act as a theme or a slogan, mixed or not, and shall be coherent with the rest of the album.

  3. The exercise shall be 42' long precisely.

  4. The album shall be playable continuously, the beginning following on from the end.

  5. It shall be impossible to choose more than two tracks from the same album. After having chosen the first track, the artist, should he wish to use a second one, shall use the one which is two tracks away.

  6. The artist shall use works of more than 5 artists of the label.

  7. The artist shall impose on himself his own constraint and make it known.

  8. The artist shall not use the words of Dominique Petitgand's compositions out of their musical context so as to avoid using them as a mere jingle or gimmick. The sample shall not last less than 20 seconds.

Nancy, the 7th May 2003.