Tuesday, December 5, 2006




Our notes from discussions on sensual pleasure
in response to an enquiry from the Paris group
the surrealist group in Stockholm 2005
(delivered long past deadline - as usual - and yet unacknowledged by the Paris group)

1° Comment décririez-vous la volupté ?

First of all, we ask ourselves: What is the point in analyzing sensual pleasure? The experience tend to dissolve in its bodily sensation. The difference between sexual gratification and pleasure is that in the course of gratification you are aware of
the need that you are satisfying so that you are ready to rationalise your experience, but in sensual experience - like vomiting - the experience is not rational.

We agree, however, that the sphere of sensuality is the privileged area for reconcilement of dual concepts. Some of us take the same pleasure in taking a shower as in having human relations. The hypnotizing effect of sensual pleasure can be an experience of fascination and openness to the senses, a bodily joy. Neither reflecting state, nor self-reflecting. A possible dissolving of the limits between self and other natural (unnatural?) processes in the world, a partaking in the weather. Shared sensual pleasure also temporarily making the contradiction between communication and non-communication disfunction. Silence. Sensual pleasure is in that sense a magical act, wherein the dichotomy subject-object disappears. Eating exemplifies this: Eating disgusting things but still feeling that it tastes good. Or the sensual pleasure in
humiliation, in vomiting: vertigo. Shared sensual pleasure: disappointments and the faith in the contradiction that exists between love and sexuality.

Some of us emphasize that sexuality (in acto) is a magnetic field, involving intuitive communication, a further increase of sexual desire, exhaustion, paralysis.

Some of us stress the imaginary aspects of physical contact. The seemingly intensified experiences of psycho-physical sensations within oneiric states; incubi/succubi, developing and exploring pseudo-corporeal states, "touching from a distance", hexed
glances, word magic.

Some of us stress also the undesired aspects of sensual pleasure: the restlessness and laziness that can be one of the trappings of a narrow hedonism. The attitude of (although not the typical behaviour of) consumerism. We don´t think that well-being has a given place as a normal state in our mental topography. General well-being is an old repressive myth that haunts us in the mechanisms of control of social democratic state versus its citizens, and of parents versus children. Wherever well-being is held up as a superordinate goal, justice, truth, passion and curiosity are sacrificed. Hedonistic pleasure and common-sense well-being may have appeared as conflicting forces before; but since the breakthrough of the market mechanisms regarding our physical bodies in the early 80s (exercise, fitness, skin-grills, spas, sadomasochism, hygiene) they≠ve successfully joined forces almost everywhere.

Some of us hold that labour can be sensual pleasure. Not labour in its dead, wage-dictated form, but the living labour of producing both mental and material objects. Depersonalization appears during sensual pleasure as well as during labour, where
the primary actor resides not necessarily in the consciousness, but in some bodily function.

Some of us entertain the idea of the experience of non-contradiction between the body parts inside the body.

Some of us call to mind the states where sensual pleasure fails to trigger a corresponding motion (emotion) in the mind and becomes some irrelevant or an absurd background, establishing a duality between mind and body of another order than the usual disengaged alienation.

Some of us stress the metaphysical aspects of sensual pleasure; as concrete experience of Heideggerean "outholdedness" in "being" and of the irrelevance of good and evil.

(Love and sensual pleasure are not the same thing. It's stupid to talk about psychology.)

2° Pensez-vous que, par delà le plaisir, l'orgasme et sa jouissance, il y a des conditions particulières pour que l'acte sexuel engendre la volupté ? Lesquels ?

We are interested in the dynamic relationship between desire and sensual pleasure, in the romantic sense. It's a form of desire where the actual movements towards the object of desire is more important than the object itself. This specific dynamic can be said to be essential when answering this question. The object of desire is unreachable. A stress on sensual pleasure often connects with a depreciation of the dynamic forces of desire. We
may crudely summarise the romantic method as postponing the fulfillment of desire, not in the Freudian sense of derouting libido for socially useful means, but in order to savour it fully and reenchant reality by impregnating every aspect of it with obsessive imagery (and paranoiac-criticism, mythologisation and objective chance). Some of us see this as a fundamental surrealist and personal strategy. But then again, only inasmuch
as it doesn‚t totally refrain from the dynamics of transgressive behavior!

The imperative is to strive to be perfectly visible.

Where distraction disappears. Peaks. That is, multiple peaks or general leverage instead of single peaks and linear regression. Pansexuality! Love, passion (confusion).

3°) Que nous dit-elle sur notre condition de vivants ?

The non-fourierian organisation of pleasure, the industry of simulation closely linked to the society of the spectacle, the scandalous physical laws of the universe as resembled by the market relation, social-democracy, the repressive sublimation, the repressive tolerance, the poverty of social relations, the organisation of misery and its rationalisation etc etc. And its dialectical transgression.

4°) Quel éclairage vous apporte-t-elle sur le sens de la vie, de la mort, et de leurs reproductions ?

The ephemary nature of sensual pleasure not only resembles, but is closely linked to the ephemary nature of life itself ˆ as exemplified by death.

5°) pensez-vous pouvoir la considérer comme un bien absolu ?

To accept the notion of sensual pleasure as "absolute good" we have to consider to what extent its "absolute" value would be intrinsical (demarcating for or against certain problematic forms of amoralism) or relative (as a part of a the whole of the human experience, which tend to be our general attitude). To reconcile these modes of the absolute is perhaps only possible by adopting an entirely practical point of view, being aware of the arbitrariness of the operation, as did, for example, Eckhart by splitting the absolute into God and Godhead. Are there any practical advantages in uniting a multitudinous field of esteemed experience under the monicker of "sensual pleasure"? Or would such an attitude become hopelessly entangled with the demoralizing atmosphere of logical formalism and celestial hierarchies? Our strategical answer to that question would be: yes. But in the realm of speculation, the idea that sensuality is the only fundamentally real and what characterizes reality actually raises a non-nonsensical onthological question, far from adhering to any onto-theological absolutism. Intuitively it´s hard to reject the hegelian notion that man could experience the absolute in sensual phenomena in line wih how he imagines it in art, conceptualizes it in religion and thinks it in philosophy. But isn't "good" mostly a secondary category which in specific historical contexts are ascribed to imaginations, inventions and initiatives; who needs it to make poetry and revolutions?

6°) Participerait-elle au centre d'une conscience et/ ou d'une inconscience approfondies, du point suprême de l'esprit tel que l'a exprimé André Breton.

On a philosophical level, we could agree to the proposition. But we are quite uncertain, and haven't discussed it enough.

7°) A-t-elle pu inspirer plus ou moins directement quelques civilisations, quelques traditions, quelques utopies ?

The political-economical organisation of keynesianism would probably constitute the most dialectical example of this. While reducing sensual pleasure to its consumistic, commercial base, it nontheless succeded in co-opting it to the incitament of increase of production and social peace. The model of the welfare-state and its organisation through socialdemocracy also implies this kind of structuring of sensual pleasure on a repressive basis for social peace. The current situation is however puzzling: while the industry of simulation have on its own basis succeeded in recuperating and producing the simulacra of pleasure as a means of diverting potential subversive desires into the world of commodification, it can nevertheless not withhold the standards of social peace that keynesianism so successfully could provide during the decades after WWII. Perhaps it doesn't have to. Perhaps the crisis itself is a productive aspect of capitalist recuperation. And thus, we might have to ask ourselves: on what terms is the crisis of pleasure today being founded? How is it used by the capitalist machinery as a means of not only producing commodities (and facilitating their circulation), but also of organising the libidinal desires of modern society. How might this be linked to the fact the sensual pleasure because of its direct, unreflected state of perception is a guarantee of authenticity, while at the same time being the most heavily guarded trophy of the industry of simulation? Can the contemporary crisis be written in the diverted, but yet authentic language of sensual pleasure?

8°) Pourrait-elle, sans pour autant être banalisé ou exploitée, être assumée par une société et à quelles fins ?

Every individual act is hostile to society. Therefore, the democratic organisation of sensual pleasure implies a banalisation of its potentials. True pleasure is undemocratic in
a simple sense. But again, the opposite might also be true. In the unrestricted operations of the pleasure principle during dreaming, a level of collectivity might be attained during waking-life that directly corresponds, or gets enhanced by this operation. By collectivity, we here mean a state of intersubjectivity, where the desires and extensivity of eachsubject is interlinked with others through channels that are not normally controlled by consciousness. However not under democratic control, the conditions for engendering or augmenting such a state might be improved by the collective and democratic efforts of society. In essence, you could say that democracy should be concerned with conditions rather than substance. The substance itself is a collective or individual adventure that could not be reduced to a democratic stature. In this respect, various utopian schemes often have very little to teach us in political terms, while on the other hand the attempts in the early soviet union (cf Reich: The sexual revolution) and in the practice of "radical psychiatrists" deserve to be further built upon.

9°) De l'infiniment petit à l'infiniment grand, concerne-t-elle les phénomènes cosmiques, dont nous appréhendons que la mécanique mais dont les mouvements forcent à l'analogie ?

Possible: However interested we may be in cosmic correspondences, we have nothing substantial to say about it apart from speculation and ephemeral poetic discoveries. The difficulty seems to be one of contexts, and of admitting real differences between separate disciplines of thought. Some of us tend to delve into the context of natural science. Others aremore inclined to intuitive epistemology. The accumulated "expertise" in each field represents of course not only complementary starting-points, but also partly overlap each other, and will do so even more after further research. Thus, we have yet to come up with a mythical scheme that neither vulgarizes scientific methodology nor discredits the scope of poetic sense. To begin with, both a Bataillian "general excess economy" and a model of cosmic passionate attraction (whether in its hermetical or Newtonian form) may be elaborated in both terminologies . Would the concept of sensual pleasure perhaps add something inbetween? Not at first glance, but perhaps we shouldn‚t rule out the possibility entirely.

left unsigned, but elaborated by Christian Andersson, Johannes Bergmark, Kalle Eklund, Jacob Emery, Jonas Enander, Mattias Forshage, Emma Lundenmark, Niklas Nenzén.

Conclusions from Dominant Image of the Day game of this summers London festival of surrealist games

Mattias Forshage


(simple intrapolation:)
There are numerous missing eggs, as so many of the sites are occupied by other sphere-shaped objects;
armadillo-like ceratocanthid beetles, drops of mercury, toy footballs
bouncing back and forth in the middle of the street avoiding the football goals on the sidewalks
But the brain tumor in spain rests safely,
watching three romani girls calling for Clas Livijn and other exotic names.
It is not one of them but the woman who guards the tower who wears this breast face with sunglasses on her chest, which is reflected in the setting sun.
Danvikstull bridge is lowered to bridge the gap and madmen rush forth.
Some of them are caught by the crouching cats or hidden mantises.
East Kungsholmen is a pigeons head, and everybody’s playing in the stairs.
You can’t tell anymore who are the madmen.
It may be one of them who is a stunningly beautiful chinese woman,
waking up in the smoking pavilion
almost touched by putrefaction and pinched by portability
she manages to climb onto the roof of the pavilion and sits there,
in, as the roof blocks the noise of the other madmen,
a euphoric silence

(the predictable psychological-sexual interpretation:
Most of the images in this series and a lot of the associative material deals with fertility (but even more infertility), freedom, play, putrefaction, beauty, rest, transgression. It’s possible that any longer series of images chosen would converge on something like that, since they are issues likely to trigger one’s attention.
The eggs and pigeons are the two recurring or significant elements that stand out as more unlikely and thus more informative. On the symbolic level, both relate to peace; while the egg is more on the holistic and productive side, and the pigeon represents an individualistic-irresponsible freedom. Egg is reproduction and mystery, pigeon is lack thereof. Of course both are also associated with the overheated reproductive behavior of most birds (extreme stress, extreme overproduction, extreme mortality rates), and both produce several different associations to circular patterns of nature (involving putrefaction or not).
The notions of infertility and freedom are part of the bachelor machine concept, but other parts of it, such as the repetivity, are here lacking. A (relative) sense of isolation is also to be seen here, but one obviously conditioned not only by a deliberate relative isolation of my general living (the bachelor state as such, the devoted researcher) but also by the specific relative isolation brought about my my hard regular-hours full-time work this specific period. It is remarkable that the imagery of abstinence/impotence (not only the isolatedness in itself but specifically the missing eggs, the two different bags of garbage, the carcass, the armadillo defensiveness) related to this state do not trigger masturbatory imagery to a larger extent (only in the games in the stairs and in the football game over the road). There is one image sticking out it a little where it triggers a triumph fantasy infantile in its banality (the cat suddenly striking out). But in most cases there is an imagery of sublimation, which is always open for interpretation in a selfdestructive sense (castration) or a communicative sense (poetry). If the smoking pavilion is an indication of isolated homunculus-making in the athanor, it is nevertheless one sending out smoke signals! The individualistic-hedonistic pansexual joys of taking pleasure in remarkable beauty, peacefulness etc must of course be taken in their own right, but in this specific connection also related to my wishes of producing good stories for the game account, and thus naively communicative too. Finally, the drawbridge, the communication from Italy, the adventures in Spain, the playing in the stairs, and the general frame of the festival itself, unambiguously point to the communicative and potentially pansexual aspect of this.
Applied on the series of general themes, I conclude the series of images to depict a vague bachelor machine working and its implied transgression into pansexuality.)

some observations on living:
My results in this game, as well as my determination in sticking to carrying it out, is of course connected to the two weeks of the festival being two weeks which I had scheduled in advance as weeks of intense labwork where I would be learning a lot of new stuff and, adapting myself to the office hours of our department lab assistant, having to go up early every day, like in a normal job. So in a sense, the determination is very defensive, to ensure life a share in spite of full-time work. My tiredness (which is accentuated by the heatwave) and my lack of free walking play a major role in conditioning the results, as so many of the images themselves are from the walk between my house and the station or from the train rides, either in the morning or in the evening (at two occasions even in the very last minute, just before entering my house and being succumbed by the relative death of being indoors…).
I think this is one of the most important aspects of surrealist games, but one rarely discussed; how they represent another organising principle of everyday life. We all arrange different types of compromises with the need to work to make money and the need to fulfill different social duties. Just by any means keeping off that dead repetitivity (masturbatory only in a macabre symbolic sense) represented by the determination in the last instance by work hours on the stress to create ”creative” solutions how to fulfill achievements at work and at the same time social achievements in the field of domestic happiness. And as several of us have experienced, bohemic non-planning is usually not a solution, definitely not in the long run, but actually often not in the short run either, by drawing on and strengthening laziness, sloppiness and personal prejudices, rather representing a Charbybdis to that Scylla.
The paradigm of a solution is of course falling in love, which forcefully replaces any other superordinate perspectives on life on the whole and in the tiniest details, producing meaning in the most diverse activities and making almost anything doable out of mere curiosity in the specific context.
Extended surrealist playing is the experimental application of these mechanisms. As the spontaneous driving force transforming the world is absent, it will usually be less forceful. But it operates in exactly the same way, most things will be interesting to do, merely to see what information they might provide in the specific context actualised by the themes and the association chains of the ongoing game. Thus most of the compromises represented by work or social demands will be doable, because they too might provide something interesting, while they are not allowed to set the general agenda, to become the superordinate organiser of things. And on the other hand, other such work or social duties will be undoable, because they are so ridiculous in the relation to the issues involved in the game and the seriousness it invokes (ideally, we should refrain from those things outside a game framework too, but often do we lack not only the necessary determination but actually any particular reason). Correspondingly, we will also grab more small opportunities than usually, of actually really investigating that unknown street, cellar, cave, glade, starting a conversation with that stranger, going along on senseless initiatives, following up that clue or association, looking into that found note or book, etc; things that are the well-known details of surrealist life in general but which, in practice, always have to compete with the counteracting forces of other concerns, of stress and laziness and boredom and of course some accumulated negative experience – in the game context the question is not raised in the first place. The epistemological imperatives of the game tend to set aside all those mere practical limitations, all these nervous objections, all these psychological obstacles, all these prejudices, which constitutes personality, (which are usually given free reign under bohemic circumstances!) and make us take part in the great game of enjoying another sense of civilisation.



Guy Girard has sent us an ambitious and detailed criticism of our declaration "The Scream In The Sack" (see appendix 1 & 2 below). We would like to emphasize that Guy Girard – except for a couple of minor points – has understood the content and the spirit of it completely and extensively.
To reply to his criticism is therefore most relevant, because it exposes differences within the surrealist movement that we are happy to discuss in a wider context. Our admittedly deficient but nevertheless thought-out declaration, "The Scream In The Sack", has met with predominantly negative reactions within the movement – this pleases us immensely – but now, at last, there is someone who speaks out against us!

Defense of intelligible speech
Surrealism is the imaginary solution of the contradiction between Enlightenment and Romanticism. In the philosophical meaning it is surrationalist. From the beginning it has also had scientific ambitions (or pseudo-scientific ones, as it is situated outside all scientific institutions).
More than a few surrealists in the world have acquired an elementary humanistic education at universities or through other ways. They are consequently able to read Marx, Hegel, Freud, Sade, Lautréamont, Herakleitos, Nietzsche, Benjamin, etc. and understand their writings in a reasonable way. This basic knowledge, however, is not available to all. We live in a class society with unevenly distributed educational opportunities and literacy rates.
For sure, surrealism can never become a mass movement or a popular movement. But nor should it ever give up the ambition to intervene in the social struggle that permanently storms everywhere, to influence a larger number of people through its radicalism, its unusual perspectives, its spirit. This is not done through incomprehensibility. Guy's criticism on this point could easily be interpreted as elitist. It is not enchanting enough to speak intelligibly.
That surrealism puts becoming before being is obvious. A fundamental point
regarding surrealism is its refusal to reduce what it speaks about to the already familiar, to the easily surveyable and unambiguous. It is therefore not surprising if surrealism sometimes must sound unintelligible. But from there to assert that one never can express a clear and intelligible assertation about surrealism is idiocy.
We regret certain things in our declaration. Remorse is a truly surrealist virtue – one too seldom given its due by too many conceited surrealists. In our group we have always stressed the importance of taking risks. To subject oneself to the possibility of getting lost. Sometimes some have gotten lost so thoroughly that they have stayed lost and not wanted to acknowledge their crazy path; the other of us draw our conclusions with lighter or heavier feet.
Trying to write a short intelligible text about surrealism is such a risk. We know that it is much easier to agree on sweeping, lyric formulations precisely because they do not require any responsibility from us. That is why we have aimed at avoiding the seductive, the suggestive and the passionate.
There is another issue concerning intelligible speech that is more important. Guy doesn't take it up, probably because it puts much more at stake for the whole movement. It is the question of the relationship of the surrealist group to the public sphere. In the beginning of the history of our group were imbued with presumptuous secretiveness and the paranoic feeling of having penetrated all tricks of power. We rejected a priori a
public sphere – and a whole population – we were, in fact, lacking knowledge of.
Our overestimation of ourselves has decreased through the years and our desire to communicate has grown. We still consider the public sphere to be a deceitful, hostile and commercial alien who is always ready to exploit us for its own purposes. But we are nevertheless prepared to try the highways, the media and the latest internet connections. The desire to communicate leads us to expose ourselves to the risk of making mistakes even there. As long as we are watchful and serious, we will also be able to find accomplices through such channels. And we believe nevertheless that it is in the interest of surrealism to communicate and to be questioned in broader circles rather than becoming a sacred secret to be kept within a secluded brotherhood.
We deny the contradiction between thought and emotion, between reason and poetry. Often the difference lies in different speeds. Slow reflection breeds kinds of formulations different from enthusiastic frenzy. In a world of faster and faster information and image flows, we shun negligent texts and simple pictures. We demand an abyss of reflection. We can never be slow enough. Nor intelligent enough. That does not mean that one should stop writing. But the writing is conditional, which is a consequence of that surrealist attitude that is pragmatical and empirical in the midst of all
its dialectics.

Defense of the attack on the individual
Guy Girard defends Stirner's and Freud's bourgeois individual subject and claims that it is only on the ground of the individual that the "utopian" can be built. He may be right. We don't know and are not particularly interested. To us, utopia is but a literary genre among others, often especially appealing as it comprises the fantastic and a kind of freedom of thought. But we deny utopia as a political instrument. On that point we
agree with Marx.
In our view the individual and the subject are the fundamental myth of our time. We are not content with rejecting "one-dimentional man" – the consumer – but want to get at a deeper illusion. We deny the individual subject as an essence and a fundamental unity. Kantianism sucks. Our loneliness – a vulgar materialist fact – is contradicted by the collective character of our thinking. That is also why we enjoy being wrong. Neither
do we consider that a surrealist group is a "freely chosen collectivity". Natural right thinking was already obsolete in the 19th century even if our times' neoliberals still hold on to that idea.
We do not believe in the lonely genius; it is but a signature behind which a wilderness of collective energy is raging. Thus: fight against the subject and everything that looks like it. Related to that is our hatred for charismatic leaders who readily spice their empty texts with dusky metaphors.

Defense of a surrealist scientific mind
Surrealism was from the beginning inspired by both natural and human sciences. A break took place after World War II. When Breton, who for tactical reasons wanted to rally the movement around diffuse manifestations rather than around theoretical discussions or conflicts within surrealism, personally became fond of certain occult phenomena – not the latest fields of science – a certain obscurantism took root, which to a greater or lesser extent, still marks us today. We try to turn away from that, and maintain instead the ambition to carry out a critique and a practice animated by a
scientific spirit – without sharing science's stiffened forms.
The self-evident surrealist stand for wildness and passion includes a terrible desire for more reality. We do not want to transform reality (including other people) into base materials for our thought or into object of our desires (as has often been the case with the surrealist view of Woman, for example). We demand that surrealists be permanentely being shaken by the sight of the reflected participation of their own deficient persons in the dynamic magnetic field of materia and meaning that allow
them to exist.
That is where a scientific attitude is important. We mean that free questionning, systematic investigation, critical inquisitive thought, passionate love for knowledge, in short scientific mind in its fundamental and best form, is superior to any religious or sacred occupation. But we do not want to degenerate to idealism and raise some contradiction between "science" as an idea and the science we see around us today which too often serves the most repulsive interests in an oppressive way. The science that exists is the science that is meaningful to relate to. Long live astrophysics! Long live /evolutionary biology, geomorphology, linguistics and meteorology! Death to religion and the charismatic leader!

Short about art
Guy interprets our attitude towards art as a "constriction of the imaginary for the benefit of a shrinkage of critical reason". He possibly aims at our critical attitude regarding the image and its function in society and our subsequent suspicions concerning the surrealist image. We would hardly constrict the imaginary; rather, we would smash the images that stand in its way. The surrealist image is all too often but a hobby, a masturbation, a self-confirming ritual. One may call us the Zwinglians of the surrealist
movement – rather that than its papists.
Art has its possibilities for freedom and its oppressive mechanisms, both within the market-sensitive contemporary art sphere and within the more traditional, noninstitutional and hobbylike surrealist art sphere. Fruitful exceptions can be found in both spheres. The surrealist art sphere can be much more fun to devote oneself to. But we can neither accept nor understand a contradiction between these two in which the surrealist art sphere would constitute a reserve for the true essence of art and the contemporary art sphere the opposite.

A few semantic issues
Our standpoint on morals and Guy's on ethics is probably only a question of semantics and/or personal preferences. Everybody knows that the collective within surrealism has always been an arena in which to examine consistency or inconsistency, risk taking, consequences of and responsibility for actions.
Guy's criticism of point VI in our declaration is on the other hand totally correct. The surrealist tradition does not consist of themes. Instead, it is a form of a historic continuity of the spirit that links given themes into a kind of totality. We have corrected our text and thank Guy for his remark.

The issue of surrealism in general
One of the deepest surrealist insights is that most dangerous and most criminal in everything human is free thought. What we need to ask ourselves is how that free thought – which works according to that real functioning of thought that we readily want to be able to represent and also actually learn to use for the benefit of mankind! – can express itself in our mad, pluralistic and tolerant time, a time that cuts both ways as signs tend to lose their meaning.
During the from serf to lord self-evidently religious Middle-Ages, atheism was the expression of unrivalled free thought. But today? In the 1910s, it was an unrivalled free action to expose a urinal an art gallery and call it art. But today?
These and similar issues are what surrealism should devote itself to. The issues of freedom, thought and imagination in relation to history and contemporary times. Instead many of us seem to grasp at any kind of diffuse invocations that can inspire and cheer them up, either "the sacred" or "the magical image". Are we really that depressed? Well, perhaps.
We are tempted to issue a moratorium, a temporary but absolute halt to all nauseating "surrealist poems", those fusty "surrealist pictures", those conformist "surrealist theoretical texts", those always-alike "surrealist journals". Turn off the surrealist TV-set.
This doesn't mean that we aspire to a negative poetry. We do not believe that silence is the best poem or emptiness the best picture. Neither do we think that destruction is the only creative act worthy of the name. We would not be surrealists. Rather, we want to listen more – curiously, ardently and critically – to listen to the new words, to search for the new images and to feel the new movements like a vibration in the asphalt. No more my-desire-like-a-rabbit-in-the- pocket-of-your-onion-that-is-flapping-in-the-moonlight-with-the-scaly-thighs-of-the-marvellous-etc-etc."
Moreover, the distressing lack of the surrealist movement's presence in our
epoch is astounding. The feeble attemps at criticism of "post-modernism" for instance that have been glimpsed within the movement, and which for certain are totally legitimate, reveal at the same time a fundamental lack of knowledge and perspective. What would the surrealist critique of the 20s and 30s have been worth had surrealism not stood in the world without screening off against everything and everybody that did not want to call
itself surrealism?
It is time to seriously confront the following question: where is the surrealist spirit to be found today? It is up to the international movement to furiously throw itself into the adventure of that question, or else it will look like a philatelic association or anything else, a social network without crime.

September 1999
The Surrealist Group In Stockholm
Aase Berg, Carl-Michael Edenborg, Mattias Forshage, Bruno Jacobs,
Riyota Kasamatsu, Niklas Nenzén, Sebastian Osorio.
Reservations: Kalle Eklund, Maja Lundgren


Cependant, sur le fond même du texte, et sur sa forme je persiste dans ma
rude critique. Bien sûr, je ne suis pas en Suède et ne puis mesurer par
rapport à quel abîme d'incompréhension vous vous trouvez placés, pourtant
je ne pense pas que ce genre de déclaration catégorique – je disais
catéchisme, et cela ressemble à des articles fait pour être appris par
coeur dans une impensable école de formation surréaliste – soit digne
d'intérêt. Car avec un tel texte, à qui parlez-vous, à des poètes inconnus
ou à des épigones? Le surréalisme ne s'apprend pas point par point selon un
quelconque code, mais il se reconnait et l'on se reconnait dans sa
complexité en devenir, et sans doute par le sensible et d'imprévisibles
mouvements d'exaltation, d'imagination et de révolte qui font se dire que
c'est par là que ça se passe, et que là sont les amis avec qui l'on désire
partager et inventer quelque chose d'autre, c'est le surréalisme, une déjà
longue histoire certes, et des légendes, qui ont leur force justement parce
qu'elles ne peuvent se réduire à cet arrêt sur image/sur idéologie qui me
parait être le plus grave défaut de votre texte.
Ce n'est donc pas une bonne lanterne que vous allumez là. Trop simpliste en
effet, au risque de faire fuir les gens véritablement intéressés et
intéressants qui, je les imagine selon les surréalistes que je connais,
n'auraient surtout pas envie de voir un tel esprit enfermé dans un corps de
doctrine écrit apparemment par souci pratique de donner des réponses et non
par désir de poser des questions. Et j'avoue que l'idée d'imaginer ce texte
publié et diffusé de surcroit sur internet m'agace terriblement: s'imaginer
logé à si peu inventive enseigne!
D'autant plus que de çi de là, il y a des points sur lesquels je suis en
désaccord. Croyez-vous vraiment que, point I., l'idéologie bourgeoise
condamne, méprise (contempt) la pensée humaine et son pouvoir d'invention?
Le moindre documentaire TV sur les prestiges de la science par exemple,
dira le contraire, au nom justement de cet anthopocentrisme mi-idéaliste,
mi-matérialiste qui s'estime être le plus performant rejeton de la «pensée
humaine», en cette fin de siècle à Wall Street et partout ailleurs qui lui
Point IV. Je dirais «éthique» plutôt que moralisme. Problème de traduction
sans doute, mais l'éthique implique une réflexion, une conscience de soi et
de ses rapports à l'autre, perfectible; tandis que par morale je n'entend
que soumission à des lois, et donc reconnaissance de la légitimité des
tribunaux et des polices.
L'égo individualiste: quoiqu'il en paraisse à travers le «moi» aliéné des
citoyens consammateurs, la question de l'individu, du moi comme du sujet,
de sa formation et de son devenir ne se traite pas ainsi en deux phrases.
Que l'on se reporte plutôt à Stirner comme à Freud pour s'interroger tout
d'abord ce qui constitue le sujet, son aliénation et sa possible libération
au travers de l'enrichissement des rapports avec l'inconscient comme avec
une collectivité librement choisie dont en effet l'esquisse peut être cette
du groupe surréaliste. En cette époque propice à toutes les psychoses et
états «borderline», je pense qu'il faut affirmer que rien d'utopique ne
peut se construire qu'a partir de l'Unique, qui me paraît être la négation
créatrice de l'homme unidimensionel.
Un scientisme critique? Si bien sûr un plus large intérêt parmi nous est
souhaitable envers le domaine scientifique et ses alentours dits
para-sciences, je n'attends rien d'un quelconque scientisme, critique ou
non, dans la mesure ou en tant qu'idéologie de la science, le scientisme
s'estime seul à détenir les clés de la connaissance, par un usage
d'ailleurs aux antipodes d'un véritable projet émancipateur.
Point V.: Désolé, mais les surréalistes se sont beaucoup occupés d'art, et
s'en occupent encore beaucoup, puisque – toute critique sur le rôle de
l'artiste et de l'art comme marchandise étant toujours à remettre à jour –
le domaine de l'art est d'évidence domaine d'invention et de réalisation
(symbolique si vous voulez) du sensible. Je parle bien sûr de ce qui de
civilisation en civilisation, jusqu'à notre utopie se réalise comme art
magique. Ce n'est pas parce que l'art contemporain officiel est l'ignominie
que l'on sait, c'est à dire un instrument hélàs bien rôdé de censure du
sensible et des enjeux libérateurs et poétiques du sensible que nous allons
abandonner dans sa totalité l'expression artistique véritablement créatrice
à une critique iconoclaste qui développe un refoulement de l'imaginaire au
profit d'une hypertrophie de la raison critique, l'échec des situationistes
pouvant à cet égard nous servir de leçon.
Enfin je m'arrête au point VI (car il me manque la dernière page de votre
texte!) Attention aux glissades de mots: le surréalisme n'est pas la
tradition surréaliste, (laquelle n'a aucun sens s'il n'est précisé qu'elle
se fonde sur une série de ruptures) qui n'est pas un répertoire de thèmes
maintenant classiques (horreur!) à décliner selon l'humeur ou le programme
du jour. Il ne s'agit pas de thèmes (l'amour: un thème!) mais de ce qui
oriente la vie, qui fait tenir, réponse formulable ou non, face à l'envie
de se flinguer. Et vous en parler, l'air détaché, comme d'une collection de
manies intellectuelles, à peine plus conceptuelles que les techniques
qu'elles appelleraient inévitablement pour mieux noircir du papier! C'est
avant tout cela qui me gêne dans votre long [mot illisible], c'est en
apparence – car je ne doute pas que vous l'ayez en vous – le manque de
passion, la froideur clinique poussée sous le joug de l'agit-prop, à parler
si doctrinement de ce qui nous bouleverse, et qui bouleverse ceux à qui
nous choisissons de parler.
Car tu me dis que la rédaction, pendant de longs mois, fut parmi vous
l'occasion de débats passionnés, mais pour aboutir à ce compromis
apostoliqué. N'y aurait-il plutôt moyen, selon une écriture plus vivante,
d'exposer ce qui fait vivre votre groupe, autrement la puissance poétique
de poser des questions, plutôt que la mince certitude de faire se
trémousser une charrue idéologique?
Guy Girard 6 juillet 1999

Appendix: The Scream in the Sack (1999)

We denounce capitalism. Capitalism is a system of exploitation and
oppression poisoning the social relationships in every meaning. Bourgeois
ideology is polluting the mental climate with its enstupiding and
mendacious image of reality and its contempt for human thought and
inventive powers.

We reject everything that restrains the full realization of human life.
This life is being stolen from us before we learn to know it. We only
vaguely discern it through traces of freedom, beauty and excitement.
Surrealism is split as it is inspired by split experiences. We want to
expand these fragments and place them in a context; more reality. It is
also a struggle against the narrow-minded thinking that only pays regards
to that which is utilizable in short terms and superficially well-known.
This thinking separates us from each other and from imagination. We find
glimpses that inspire to action in evil, the incomprehensible, utopian,
mad, raving, contradictory, etc, but also in the good, the banal and the
It is not a question of ranking, but rather to open up for the totality of
all possible wishes.

Surrealists have devoted themselves to philosophical, political, artistic,
moral and scientific preoccupations, but surrealism cannot be reduced to
any of these. Surrealism is a tradition which is mediated by people
organised in a movement. A movement which has a specific spirit and
experience. Throughout its history it has always devoted itself to the
poetic phenomenon and its problems, and it has always strived to make
poetry something which is to be found everywhere.
The aims of surrealism take shape in its direction of movement. It thinks
in a utopian way; it tries to imagine all that is desirable. There is a
liberating function in this conjuring and poetic activity: when the
established order is criticized, thought acquires life and the habitual
modes of thought are thrown over. The desirable demands revolt.
Surrealism always begins with the very experience of life. In the tension
between feeling the whole pain of misery and experiencing the marvellous,
surrealism subsists in its entire ache. A permanent concern of the movement
is to explore, with all means, man with all his creativity, misery and
freedom, his social and antisocial inclinations.
Surrealism instigates and plants new mental disturbances.

Surrealism may not be original in its radicalism, its enlightenment or its
romanticism. But it has four characteristics that may be unique: its
collectivity, its counsciousness of tradition, its moralism and its
Collecticty, consciousness of tradition and moralism all attack the
individualist ego. By placing oneself in a certain connection one disturbs
and puts aside the reign of the ego. In that way surrealism is the very
opposite of an individualist culture where associations are made only to
serve the personal interests of the individuals.
The surrealist community wants to constitute an embryo of a society. This
sociality is based on the fact that the combined individual energies can be
surpassed and what is more also take genuinely unexpected routes. What the
critique against the individualist ego is all about is letting loose the
revolutionary creativity and poetry that arises between people, not
discipline and schematic solidarity.
Surrealist culture is marked by attention, filled with desire as well as
conflicts, on the lines backwards. It is about assimilating experiences
from about thirty countries and eight decades of creation, research and
activism in the framework of the surrealist movement. And also to
continously discover an ancient tradition of profound spirit of liberation:
the "presurrealist" tradition of artists, thinkers, prophets, poets and
movements, possessed with imagination and radically romantic. Not the least
it is about tracking such a tradition within ones own linguistic and
geographical area.
Various stands taken during the history and daily life of surrealism make
the collective a moral instance. Not in the way that the group dictates the
actions of its members. But group activity offers an opportunity for a
basic repudiation of the established order, for greater radicalism and
acuteness, through support and criticism; it offers a chance to preserve
decency and dignity.
This is particularly difficult and interesting when it comes to the sphere
of culture in its narrowest sense. Art, litterature, music or criticism are
mere expressions among others that some of us devote themselves to –
expressions in which we place a great deal of the specifically surrealist
hope. However, as a market and a structure this cultural sphere only
disseminate a more prestigious variety of the same indifference, the same
illusory alternatives and the same publicity for the established order that
mass media do. In relation to this individual surrealists of course choose
different alternatives of acting. But surrealism itself remains in total
opposition to bourgeois culture with its ballyhoo and campaigns, its
institutions, its prestige, colleagiality and pie-throwings.
On the moral-political level surrealism to a great extent is about
restraining daily politics from becoming the only politics. Revolutionary
struggle contains much more than the most short-sightedly burning
questions, which often lead to propagandism, censorship and social realism.
By stressing morality surrealism also constitutes a base of resistance
against the moral reaction: against family, against nation, against
religion, against puritanism.
The epistemology of surrealism attaches much importance in retaining the
ambiguous in opposition to both common sense and common knowledge that
strive to make the world unambiguous. In combining dialectical and
analogical thinking surrealism sees the most human, playful and lively path
to knowledge.
Analogical thinking: interpreting the world and existence through
comparisons in line with old mystical patterns. Yet still to do it without
metaphysical pledgings; to make oneself available to experiences,
systematically explore, only not believe (in god, transcendent realities,
the soul etc).
Dialectical thinking: to cultivate a historicizing conflict perspective. We
also advocate a critical scientism (or rather pseudo-scientism since it is
a question of taking up characteristics of science without partaking in its
culture), i e experiments, analytical mentality, carefulness in observation
and interpretation, matter-of-fact documentation, self-criticism. But all
of this together with anti-academism, moralism, poetic sense, activism and
a respect for peripheral, enigmatic or accidental ways of knowledge.

(Art has never been a major concern for surrealism, least of all today when
art as a sphere is obviously degenerative and devoid of poetical spirit,
and furthermore exploits human freedom and creativity. We turn against the
institutionalisation of human creation for the benefit of the few, and
instead want to put forward the possibility of art forming independant
collective research projects. Facing the inflated artist role we react as
the man in the street: the stupid, the sterile and the pretentious doesn´t
get better just because it is called art. The feeling that the world is
richer than we see is a concern of everybody, and of art. We would like to
be able to describe our standpoint in relation to today´s art, but do not
succeed in summoning enough interest.)

The surrealist tradition can be regarded as the continuation of a spirit
uniting a set of traditional themes: mad love, the strange content of
dreams, the glimpses of poerty in everyday life, chance phenomena (meagre
ones as well as gracious). Other important areas are automatism, games and
experiments, eroticism, drifting.
Can we expect something today from these classical surrealist themes and
techniques? Previously for several of us they appeared as magical machines
with the power to replace the entire economic, philosophic and esthetic
spheres. Today however we take care not to see them as solutions, even
though they keep conjuring up unexpectable and marvellous things.

We also find it self-evident that surrealist activity today and in Sweden
cannot be just anything offered by the tradition. In the same time as we
try to problematise our conditions, spontaneously the things we do have a
certain direction, that may appear in part original in comparison with
other surrealist groupings. Still it´s rather different emphasizes and new
conclusions from the tradition than with breeches with it.
Above all we have a strong inclination towards the concrete and material,
the sensuous and documentary. Not the least our eagerness to shun all
religiosity and estheticism has made us focus on the materally given. More
reality; discovering what there really is in the streets. Searching details
and connections, now in a notoriously systematic way, now intoxicatedly and
inspired, now clumsily random, emphasizing the inexhaustability and
liberating potential of reality.
The same hope we place in the imaginary images; just because they too are
concrete, sensuous and obsessive. But we also want to emphasize that these
images are not necessarily visual, which they usually are in surrealist art
and writing, but just as well audial, tactile, or in the form of a
participation in the matter of objects and even more in the matter or
physics of languange.
Our aim always to emphasize the materiality and immanence of the poetic has
made us put a stress on that cornerstone of the surrealist tradition which
is games and drifting, and on the interest in objects and in the city.
Furthermore we turn with curiosity to nature and to a base materialism
emphasizing the useless and worthless. While the achievements of the
surrealist imagination and imagery easily have permitted themselves to be
used by official art and litterature, and even more by the advertisment
industry, we know turn our eyes towards the remains, the totally alien and
the useless.
Most concretely this has been manifested in an exploration of the worthless
places of the city. But its also connected with the emphasis on more
reality in a stress on the human. As an answer to the extension of the
personality market, where we are encouraged to design our personalities and
lead our lives as business concepts, we find today greater reason than ever
to threaten, deceive and harass the ego, expose ourselves in our human
contradictoriness, unmanageableness and why not ridiculosity, to expose us
to the play of coincidences, the emptiness of laziness, the anxiety of
deviation, the imperatives of collectivity, the compulsions of creativity
and the aberrations of reality.
The formula will be, first as last, more reality.

(left unsigned by the surrealist group in Stockholm, published in LUCIFER, Stockholm 2000)

Monday, November 13, 2006

VOICES OF THE HELL CHOIR - aspects of contemporary surrealist activity, its modes of rhetoric and its ludicism

The history of the postbretonian surrealist movement (1) disenvelops through historical contingencies and particular conditions which are partly common for surrealism on the whole and partly particular for the different cultural/ regional contexts.
It seems like the least common denominator of most contemporary activities is an on-going playing/ experimentation and critical/poetological/methodological/political discussion. In addition to this, greater or smaller effort is made in a spectrum of other activities, which are still rather fundamental but still more or less optional in each different context. They are * critical positioning visavis contemporary art, literature, science, politics etc * organisational questions/ democracy/ securing information availability/ internal updating, * international contacts/ discussions/ collaborations/ initiatives, * investigating, evoking, evaluating and/or defending surrealist (and pre- and parasurrealist) traditions, * keeping contacts/ collaborating with progressive political and artistic forces on the home ground, * endless walking/ dérive/ urban exploration/ mingling with the underground, * keeping each other updated in the fields of everyone’s individual creativity, * publications, * public performances, poetry readings, exhibitions, concerts, soirées, etc, * political initiatives, all kinds of sabotage, agitation, leaflet distributing, disturbing or obstructing normal order, detourning the urban environment, etc. The list could be made longer or shorter. Most groups will spend time with a lot of these but not all.
But international communication does not regularly account for all of this, and a lot of it is usually very difficult to discern in groups elsewhere. It’s very much channeled through a certain rhetoric, which may seem to dominate the external picture of the group. This rhetoric apparently usually conforms to one of three preponderances; a propagandistic mode, a subjectivistic mode, or an analytical mode. Each of them can be important part of an integrated surrealist project, and each can become more or less sterile when overemphasized or exclusive. It seems like the ludic sphere, and the determination to give the ludic activities their rightful central place, can offer cures for such imbalances or at least the arena for such a cure.
I will discuss these rhetorical modes, and it is important to remember that I am trying to discuss them as objective modes, and not the communicational strategies of specific groups. Each group will be able to draw upon the different modes and employ them for different purposes, typically in different textual genres, but it’s quite evident that for each group one rhetoric mode appears to dominate their output, or at least that part of the output which is internationally available, giving each group a sort of ”strategical image” in relation to the other groups. In spite of this objectivity ambition, some critical remarks on specific examples have been grouped under the relevant headings.
Admittedly, these rhetorical modes are all useful in different circumstances, and they also provide a lot of the obvious objective differences between groups. Thus they should not be evaluated in terms of some being legitimate and some not, regardless of whether in order to disregard certain groups as pseudo-surrealists or revisionists, or to complacently regret the lack of spontaneous affinity with some. Our solidarity should be solid enough to span over these differences and be able to recognise them among the conditions for communication, but also a continuous topic for any kind of critical discussion between us. Thus, the intention is to pinpoint some of the obvious pitfalls of each mode and some issues that need to be discussed; that is, to provide some input to a multilateral critical discussion on concrete topics within the movement; not to slander or point out anyone specifically, perhaps this time not even to consciously provoke… Unfortunately, in the Stockholm group we have given priority to other things than international communication for many years now (to an extent that at least I deeply regret), but it turned out that only very few were inclined to respond to our international letter of january 2004 at all. Recently, at least two new contacts were surprised that we were still active, having heard the opposite from the french group. So, we haven’t had much substantial correspondence with the french for some years, but as far as we know we have been sending each other the usual amount of polite, impersonal, forwarded information and similar, that could be considered the pessimistic baseline of international communication. (The fact that the rumour of our death has been spread by other sources and in other fora too is a partly amusing and partly frustrating but perhaps not too interesting issue.) Several times the idea has been proposed by different groups to collect that kind of general information (with a dose of sifting) into regular reports from each group, and some groups have occasionally tried it as well, but the lack of response (and sometimes the considerable effort of editing it or agreeing on it?) has made this mere occasional outbursts. Then a lot of discussion will go on between individuals who have developed parti-cular bilateral discussions, and a lot of discussion will go on between those who have the time to hang out on internet forums and bomb mailinglists on a regular basis – a lot of time will certainly be needed, not only to formulate your own ideas and keep defending them against all kinds of misunderstandings, but even more to sift the gems of serious discussion from the piles of mere frustration, ignorance, personal contradictions, personal opinions and other personal expositions. Sometimes ludic invitations and more anecdotal or subjective questionnaires have it easier to produce substantial response, but for a long time we have been feeling that even though such inititiatives are generally important to promote, they do also feel a little ”loosely hanging” and possibly even having a false ring IF we are not able to discuss critical issues, our fundamental commitments and strategical choices, similarities and differences in these, simultaneously.

The propagandistic mode of surrealism is one of the strongest elements in postbretonian surrealism. It contains hyperradicalism, aggressivity and rash theoretical simplifications. Actually it seems to have borrowed very much of its rhetorics from Vaneigem, whose situationist agitation in itself is little more than a populistic-light-surrealism. In reintegrating that part of the situationist arsenal into surrealism along with the other, more interesting parts, we have definitely bought back our own pig in worse shape. This tendency might have been there in at least some tracts of earlier surrealism too (from 27/1 1925 onwards), but far less before the 60’s, far less before Breton’s death and before the general leftist upheaval of the late 60’s widely disseminated the situationists’, Marcuse’s and others’ simplified or simplifiable theories.
If for a moment we don’t refrain from invoking cultural stereotypes this strategy could be considered an americanisation of surrealism, integrating into surrealism elements of the loudmouthed, shallow, un-selfcritical voluntarism typical for the american stereotype. But even though several american surrealist groups have been active in employing this rhetorical mode for a long time, it must be noted that: * they are certainly not alone in the world in doing that, * they have also carried the banner of a (necessary but admirable) antiamericanism, and * that from an analytical perspective it would seem highly unsatisfactory to refer to such stereotypes and not look for specific historical explanations.
One such is obviously available, to the extent that the death of Breton did put the surrealist movement in a sort of legitimity crisis. With Breton as the living embodiment of the heritage, there was never a doubt (at least not internally) who was the carriers of the torch, but without him, there were definitely a lot of different ideas around regarding how to carry on, and who was the more legitimate, the truer to the spirit, etc. In some cases it was a matter of conflict between different alternatives as to how to proceed, in other cases it was more about how to establish a sense of exclusive authencity without there being anyone around with the authority to entrust you with that. Not unexpectedly this rhetoric is common in new/young groups who are eager to establish their right of speaking in the name of surrealism and claiming its whole heritage in spite of their own lack of experience and ”credentials”. Aggressivity and ”raptured selfconfidence” (as a swedish tract actually pro-claimed) is certainly a rational strategy in that context, even where it is also one potentially destructively dominating over other modes in the surrealist activity, and one leading to a number of fatal oversimplifications in the general outlook.
Common flaws intimately intertwined with this rhetoric is of course the general tendency to see things in black and white, including putting a totally unproblematised faith in individual creativity and urge for freedom, in for example eroticism, desire and/or love, and more generally in a given spectrum of valueladen concepts, and a corresponding unproblematised belief in the intelligent design of the conspiracy of all kinds of domination, sometimes even a general depreciation of objective reality as such, and also including the grotesque overevaluation of the revelatory nature of one’s own creative and critical work, as well as the identifying of one’s own activity/ rhetoric as a sufficient lithmus paper – so that anyone attracted to one’s ranting is better than others, while everybody repelled by it thereby proves themselves to be objective enemies of surrealism without any significant contributions or opinions to make. The mechanisms of recuperation are often imagined as a conscious conspiration of silence and active marginalisation against living surrealism and its revolutionary aspirations. It tends to fuel a practical focus of speaking a lot more about surrealism than speaking surrealism, and so merely defending rather than inventing surrealism.
So, in this mode there exists an obsession with legitimity as the ”true voice of surrealism” versus everybody else who represent falsaria, and an aggressive selfdefence versus all of these. In fact, most inaugural declarations of new surrealist groups starts with (and sometimes spend most of the text with) complaining over the general contemporary misunderstanding of what surrealism is, instead of presenting what their specific visions/ contributions/ sensibilities might be. This is a bit selfcontradictory; of all the things the surrealist project might consist of, the task of correcting misapprehensions of surrealism cannot be considered a CENTRAL issue if the grand revolutionary and creative ambitions are not chimerical.
Art and literature history and criticism (both academic and popular) presents surrealism as if it was a movement and/or style in art and literature. Not surprising, because otherwise they would have no reason to talk about it all, since a surrealist project grasped in its entirety goes way beyond their jurisdiction. If they would grasp it they would be less likely to be content with being historians och critics within art and literature, but even if they were, it would still be the artistic or literary output of surrealism which would be most relevant for them to discuss within their professional field. So what? And then they often do not take a big interest in contemporary surrealist activities, and often deny it in any way they can. But what we do is in no way aimed at getting confirmation and good grades from them, in fact it’s only good if we can pursue the core of our activities in peace from the public eye, and only intervene in the public sphere when we choose to do so ourselves from particular strategic angles, without illusions of being fairly represented, isn’t it?
Then furthermore, a lot of people present their creative output on the internet, some in local low-brow art events, some in advertising, some in official art. In all these places, some people call their work surrealist without knowing too much of the history or theoretical part of surrealism. For most, the association will be very shallow or arbitrary. A lot of them won’t produce works that are of any interest whatsoever for us. Some of them will, more or less independently of how much they actually knew about surrealism.
All these people, employing the term surrealism in the sense that makes it meaningful for their own activity, will often be way off mark and part of objective recuperation – but objective recuperation will work regardless of how we judge single voices. Apart from errors of historical facts (which may not be our task to correct) it will always be only inner criteria that draw the line between relevant and irrelevant conceptions of (comments on, contributions to) surrealism. Anything officially represented in the consensus knowledge of present society is objectively a part of its ideology. In my opinion, the only thing that would make it matter what the marketeers of that ideology say about surrealism is whether it might scare off people that could make substantial contributions to it. And certainly, most people could probably make such contributions under very radicalised circumstances. But probably not at present. We have no interest in followers. In the present, surrealism is factually (and has no particular reason to regret it) a minoritary endeavour, carried on by those who are interested/energetic enough to have found it and found a way to practice it by inner necessity. To some people, the particular spark of imagination and reenchantment and diehard curiosity towards all kinds of marginal phenomena of objective reality, and/or the desire for revolt against the narrow concepts of rationality, sociality and life on the whole, will be something they recognise in surrealism from their own insatiable thirst; and these persons will probably find this to a larger extent in an academic book of surrealist paintings than in a tract yelling at misunderstandings (examplifying the notion of the two-way working of recuperation; a ricochet). They will probably not trust the contemporary surrealists of being the foremost fighters for freedom, imagination and love simply on our word for it; they will expect to find it manifested in remarkable works and remarkable investigations.
So why don’t we just step down from this struggle over who’s a surrealist and who’s not. For historical purposes we’ll only need a technical definition (like the one Penelope Rosemont elaborates in her Surrealist Women), and for practical contemporary purposes it will suffice for each group to choose with whom it wants to collaborate and with whom not! The only substantial way of establishing sur-realism as a presence in its totality in the relevant sectors/ substructures of present society is through the sincereness, energy and intelligence of ones own activities. The only substantial way of establishing oneselves within surrealism is by contributing innovation and poetry, sincere critical questions and suggestions. Polemics over legitimacy, over rights to designations, are rather uninteresting even where the causes may be entirely just.
For the sake of comprehensiveness, let’s recognise at this point all the merits of polemical aggressivity as well; inherently, it 1) serves to scare off a substantial lot of polite or recu-perative interest or pseudointerest (along with some of the serious interest, for sure), 2) serves to potentially radicalise exhanges of ideas and courses of events as mere provocation, and 3) serves to remind of the fundamental radicality of surrealism and the necessity of ”absolute divergence” (which of course, must be reinvented in each specific connection and never relied upon as mere safe abstentionism from risktaking), and furthermore 4) can be simply really fun. Not inherently but historically it has also in recent decades been the preferred forum for * assessment of the potential of real insurrections/ dynamical courses of events (very much in the tradition of the situationists), * critical use of (and thus not only traditional allegiance to) the theories of Marx and Freud.
So, of course it’s not wrong with a good rant now and then, but let’s try to focus a little more on true enemies and a little less on harmless and uninteresting academics, journalists and home artists, and let’s not confuse this ranting with the core issues of surrealist activity.

(1) ”postbretonian” in a temporal sense. But not only temporal, as we will see further on.

hell choir pt 2

Several groups in their rhetoric instead utilise a subjectivistic mode, work hard to emphasize the poetic aspect of surrealism through suggestion and invokation, through poetic visions, personal mythologies and radical subjectivity, and through more or less mystification. Within this rhetoric there is sometimes a tendency to regard either or both the propagandistic and the analytical efforts as degrading or compromised. There is very little conscious concern about the reader, and instead the heroic ambition of trying to express ones sensibility in its full content at any price.
In a sense the latter is the mechanism of poetic communication. However within this mode it is also often established a notion of the fragility of the poetic, thus regarding the propagandistic and even more the analytical mode not only inadequate but actually dangerous. The individual creativity and the surrealist tradition are cared for like precious gems, evoked and hailed, and exposed mostly in safe connections (own, more or less slick, journals and other highbrow, peaceful fora); never questioned, confronted, scrutinised. This type of defensiveness was a major conflict line in that old polemic between the french and the swedish group over ”The scream in the sack”. The original tract was an attempt at stating the direction of the swedish group in clearest possible terms. Guy Girard responded with sharp criticism and seemed to mean that this attempt was 1) necessarily destined to fail to convey anything of the spirit of surrealism and 2) actually contrary to and dangerous to the ambitions of surrealism. It turned out to be an issue of controversy even within the swedish group; we all agreed for sure that surrealism and poetry in general in a sense is about expressing that which is not yet intelligible, a sort of utopian communication, a way of letting the irreducible speak without compromise. This is one thing. We can never reduce poetry to formulae, and have no ambition of doing so. On the other hand, simple logic tells us that poetry cannot be IDENTICAL with surrealist activity or surrealism on the whole (neither as a movement nor as a spirit). Real existing surrealism is rather a cluster of activities/attitudes celebrating poetry, cultivating poetry, investigating poetry and confronting poetry in various constellations and with various methodologies (2). Anyway, about the real activities of surrealism, it is definitely a matter of choice at any time whether to speak in a suggestive/ invokative, ”poetic”, more or less mystifying and/or unintelligible way OR an intelligible way. It’s possible that a lot of important information gets lost in the concentration of these circumstances into simple sentences, but the majority of the swedish group thought, and still thinks, that it’s at least worth a try.
The individual sensibilities and the nonconditional importance given to these by a very general surrealist attitude are often, within this rhetoric, stressed to the point of denying surrealism its current historic particulars, the set of standpoints and themes reached through the historical experience so far. This type of rhetoric appears to be most common in countries where organised surrealism has had a very long presence, and there may be a wide variety of positions more or less derived from surrealism. To prove in this situation that one’s own brand of surrealism is the true one could perhaps best be argued through the objective historical organisational/personal continuity with the bretonian movement and its accumulated plethora of themes, and not with any particular characteristics of the direction of that surrealism? (On the other hand, the close ties with the rest of the international movement is an alternative legitimating factor, but this was clearly more relevant in the 80s before information technology made it easy for any homegrown artist to take part in an international movement…)
A small amount of mystification can be poetically fruitful in creating uncertainty about certain things taken for granted; but any larger amount of mystification is always manipulative, charlatanic and/or selfdeceiving. (It is necessary to keep in mind the distinction between mystification and mystery. There is a very real sense of mystery in the world which it is a fundamental tenet of surrealism to recognise. But not only to recognise, but also to investigate, experiment and play with. The sense of mystery, wherever it is essential, withstands that. It does not require pious carefulness, avoiding all risktaking and all questioning.) The ”poetic” rhetoric, and the attitudes of those who employ it, frequently are overprotective concerning the individual visions so as to not really contribute them to interfertilisation, to collective ludicity, collective intelligence, collective critique, instead admiring them from outside as reified exhibition items on piedistals. This protection of the individual imagination as if it was an endangered animal could in a sense be considered contrary to the methodology and spirit of surrealism, in which collectivity, play and experimentation are fundamental.
Nevertheless, this subjectivistic mode is of course also a greenhouse for real poetic discoveries in the subjective sphere, and is capable of conveying a particular coherence and intensity both collectively and individually. Surrealism would be a lot less convincing if it wasn’t for the some classic cases of creators having fearlessly cultivated their personal mythologies and imaginary universa; often these have become part of our collective experience.

In fact, the propagandistic and the subjectivistic modes both tend to evoke a kind of INFALLIBILITY of surrealism, though very differently phrased. If in both ways it is important to state that surrealism has the solution to all problems and that there are no problems within surrealism, in the propagandistic mode this may appear like a strategical point of strengthening one’s argument by not admitting any weaknesses, in the subjectivistic mode it would be more of explicitly actually putting one’s whole faith in the possibility of miraculous solution to everything in this sphere. In a sense this contains the fundamental mechanisms of mystification. As a long as one speaks ”vaguely”, in the sense of ambiguously, prophetically, rich in images and adjectives, mythological markers and bold arrogance/ selfreliance, in a way the solution to all problems will probably lie within this. This is true not only for surrealism but also for astrology and all kinds of religious prophecies. It is only when this is boiled down to less ambiguous sentences that start ruling out things and not only suggesting infinite possibilities that it will be part of a theoretical framework which can actually unambiguously forward our knowledge on our means and of the landscape we are acting in. (3)
It also makes it a lot easier to agree between groups, whenever communication is reduced to mutual hailing some basic concepts, ranting about some others, allowing everybody to address them as themes in games, polemics and poetry any way they like, never really asking what someone else actually means by them, never asking for clarification, never exposing differences, weaknesses, totally new areas of investigation or even of agreement…
This is one of the most important factors in the evident lack of theoretical progress in surrealism in general after the second world war, and also the failure to rally to any newer more radical movement as Breton proclaimed; since a mutually agreed vague surrealism indeed infinitely contains the solutions to all problems there is no need to look for any new developments or new insights, and since a vague surrealism is ABSOLUTELY radical there can not logically be any movement more radical. Surrealism keeps containing the most radical possibilities in every single field, and all of those who actually try to formulate actual theories or new strategies within specialised fields will always have the disadvantage of being particular and not drawing upon a poetic totality framework, so they can easily be dismissed as sterile academics or activists, and whatever is useful in their theories (if it becomes too evident that there is something at all) can always be claimed to have been present in surrealism all the time anyway. Yes, in a sense it was probably there, quite implicitly and undevelopedly. In the same sense it was probably present in Nostradamus’s prophecies as well. In a sense, it’s somewhat embarassing to see how much homage is still payed to authors of classical great theoretical breakthroughs like Freud, Marx and Hegel, occasionally also to Böhme, Dee, Swedenborg, Darwin, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Fourier, Tristan, Kropotkin, Sade etc, while almost no attention at all is the payed to those who scrutinise and forward, synthesise or parallel, their ideas in our own times. A lot of surrealists actually take pride in maintaining their distance to various currents like contemporary hermetism, natural science, feminism, any strand of post-structuralism, cultural studies, queer theory etc, just because these are not surrealism. No, obviously they’re not, but whoever allows them a serious study might find out that they may have a lot to teach us in spite of that and partly even just because of that.

There is of course a certain danger of blindness in evaluating the analytical mode of rhetoric within a pre-dominantly analytical/ critical/ objectivistic framework such as the present. But the analytical is very much capable of biting its own tail, and a number of difficulties or dangers with it are easy to point out from within.
First of all, the simple fact that this a dominating mode of speech in several fora outside surrealism, and for several participants in surrealism thus prepares the ground for their desertation into for example academia. And like all other established rhetorical modes, it often degrades into a means for itself, into habit and complacency. It may breed the regressive pleasure of being able to ”crush” others’ positions and initiatives; actually we are surrounded by examples of how the exertion of this critical assault not only is a forum of a certain pathetic selfreassuring sadism but also an excuse never to really consider anything apart from the already known, so typical in many marxist and situationist-inspired intellectuals, as well as in more or less intelligence-aristocratic supposedly apolitical critics of art and literature etc. Also the lust for selfcriticism and critical scrutiny and ”updating” of our heritage often connected with this mode may be blinded by superficial fashions and insignificant spectacular phenomena, thus potentially disrupting internal coherence and becoming severely eclecticist.
From psychological, democratical and group-dynamical perspective too strong an emphasis on the critical will inevitably turn out to be psychologically restrictive for a lot of people with insufficient selfconfidence, creating an atmosphere where ever fewer people take initiatives, and those supposedly fragile themes (emotional or poetical) take an ever-decreasing place. Even if surrealism on the whole is non-utilistic and therefore spurns effectivity and rapidity, an overcritical attitude may serve to slow down output to virtually nothing, which is not necessarily bad in itself except for that one of the things thus strangled is external communication and communication within international surrealism.
Even if it can’t be properly accounted for in an analytical context, there is of course also a critique of the analytical perspective from the viewpoint of ”pure” sensibility and emotion – it may often FEEL like it misses the point.
The groups and individuals that have been stressing the analytical rhetoric, often have been active in countries where surrealism failed to recently establish itself as an organised movement during classic times. The present agents in these countries thus may find it natural to ask themselves how this came about; if there are any particular discrepancy in the conditions visavis other countries. Those questions are very interesting. Potentially they are also quite misleading if they tend to overemphasize dissimilarities between national cultures in modern capitalist countries, and refer to national characters as explanations. With or without theoretical arguments they may lead to decreasing interest, decreasing communication and decreasing solidarity with other surrealist groups. In the worst case they may even end up in seeing a need to develop separate national surrealisms.

The games of surrealism inherently counter a lot of the restraints and dangers in each of these rhetoric modes. Playing brings about collectivity as such, openness towards intersubjective phenomena, at the same time a recognition and a surpassing of the specific conditions brought in by the individual. At least ideally games provide confrontation with the truly unexpected, with entirely new possibilities, and with a new intersubjective subjectivity and communication, and thus elements of a new sense of civilisation. All of this is from a methodological perspective. In fact it is also an important experience in the ludic sphere that the results of our games often turn out unfortituous and predictable. Sometimes it will do little else than create a superficial feeling of solidarity, or confirm the individual’s personal directions, or, which is more interesting to note here, reinforce the dominant rhetorical mode of the group, integrating that rhetoric already in the design of the game.
There are polemical games: which merely in a playful way pay homage to our basic concepts or our heroes, or derides/ridicules central concepts of miserabilism or certain classic enemies or politicians etc (examples would be either the typical or just the uninspired rounds of for example Time-Travellers Potlatch, Ouvrez-vous, For/Against, etc, and a lot of uninspired individual contributions to all kinds of games). Such games are, I would say, not surrealist games in a strong sense, in that they do not employ any actual creativity, do not let the unknown play any part, do not create any particular ambiances or any new knowledge.
The way of playing that corresponds to the largest degree with the subjectivistic mode is mythologising games, functioning through gathering any objects or themes and by any ludic means integrating and cultivating them in a poetical or mythological framework, creating as endresults potentially fruitful ambiances, not the least for the purpose of creating a sense of belonging, cohesion and personal meaning. In that, this mode can be referred to as a quasi-religious mode. It tends to partly collectivise the individual emotional response and develop the shared mythology. A lot of these themes, like central concepts (love, desire, marvellous, night etc) and major sources of inspiration (lautréamont, marx, hegel, freud, breton etc) will then confuse the spectators (and some of the participants) by appearing to be analytical concepts and tools, while they are actually filling the function of mere mythological signs.
The reverted mirror image of that mode would be the objectivistic stance connected with the analytical mode of rhetoric. This will take as its starting point any objectively given phenomena (including as a subclass subjective fantasies!), gather and develop these by experimental/aleatory means (including subjective associations), and then collectively interpret them within an analytical framework. The endresult will there typically consist of the new aspects and new possibilities revealed by the specific chance constellations, and so it may be called a quasi-scientific mode. It tends to focus on the poetical-epistemological potentialities, the new knowledge objectively produced by the ludic and intersubjective development of the arbitrary distribution of meaningful elements.
In spite of the different games’ firm basis in either mode, they do (more than anything else) still retain the potential of superceding their limitations, merging and producing genuine novelties on either level.

(2) Oops, now we’re getting into those tricky spheres of semantics where Guy was actually able to snub us effectively when we had said surrealist tradition was a collection of themes, which is obviously wrong, and so we corrected it into saying that it is the spirit uniting these themes.
(3) The philosophically educated reader will find this argument very popperian. The fact that I agree with this fundamental epistemological point of that boring old fart does not mean that I defend other philosophical views of his, and certainly not his political ones.

hell choir pt 3

The crisis of legitimacy for postbretonian surrealism remains and does not remain an issue.
In a sense the easiest way to motivate continued surrealist activity is that it is a timeless endeavour. It corresponds with or innermost desires and critiques, and we feel affinities with the surrealist tradition, and so we go on forever whatever happens. In a sense, this is hopefully a part of the driving force for several of us, but note that it is perfectly compatible with for example a Schuster’s view of the surrealist movement being objectively dead while the surrealist spirit survives eternally, or on the other hand with any wellmeaning cultural snob seeing surrealism as a perpetual reminder of the imaginative sources in art and literature.
So, on the other hand, surrealism still claims to be a progressive movement, some kind of a contemporary force, a historical agent, the present face of a specific real historical movement.
Surrealism has definitely developed before. Early 20’s surrealism differs from late 20’s surrealism differs from middle 30’s surrealism etc in themes, in methodology and in strategy. At least from the second world war on, we see that a lot of the development of surrealism takes place partly outside surrealism or in undercurrents of surrealism (but probably before that as well, with for instance Bataille’s circle and Le Grand Jeu), while an ”official surrealism” was actually constructed not only by art and literature historians but actually by the french group themselves, most obviously in choosing to organise the great all-integrating partly-retrospective timeless 1947 exhibition instead of (as another suggestion at the time was) organising a conference for surrealists to develop the movement’s direction based on a confrontation and comparison of the very different experiences made during the war. In a sense, surrealism as a unified historical agent died exactly there, where for the first time the forum for coordinating/accumulating surrealist experience chose to develop not the sum and its implications but actually something else than the combined individual energies/ experiences, actually thus creating this ghost (or if you will spectacle) of ”official surrealism”. The major tracts of the late 40’s focused on RE-instating timeless themes of anti-colonialist freedom, anti-stalinist freedom, anti-religious freedom, and very consciously did not adress themes or experiences made during the war years (the journals of the same period do contain more than usual of occult-mediumistic themes and display some new artistic themes, but in the spirit of additions rather than developments).
This is NOT to say that the surrealist movement nor the french surrealist group died or reverted at that point. I’m only saying that from 1947 on the surrealist movement was definitely DIVIDED and without a historical focal point. The french group and Breton himself kept up an admirable organisational, creative and critical output and represent the single most important activity center throughout that period, but that is as one group among others, with its specific limitations, rather than a coordination center, focal point or something like that. In a sense, surrealism became ”timeless” in 1947 because it became infinitely inclusive, came to consist of the total sum of themes, works and activities that had ever been a part of it, in an indiscriminately accumulative way, instead of moving forward through new discoveries superceding and changing the meaning of the older ones, that is, without historical breaks, without coupure, without aufhebung. So the legitimity crisis of postbretonian surrealism is actually a problem for the whole postwar period, it was just that the inspiring living presence of Breton made a lot of people unaware of the fact for a few decades until he died. (4)

And what then are the objective advances of surrealism after Breton’s death? First of all, I don’t know if it’s needed or not to point out that the term ”advance” is intended as ”irreversible development” (and not necessarily ”progress for the better”, whatever that would mean). Contemporary surrealism in a sense only consists of a very wide spectrum, but for those who have chosen to link up with each other in an organisational/activist framework (what we like to refer to as a movement) there may still be some themes and some experiences that are shared. Well, we’d probably need nothing less than an international con-ference to establish that. I do NOT consider, neither as advances nor shared experiences, as some seem inclined to do, the tactical or local retreat from revolutionary politics in france and some other places in the 40s, nor the rhetorical autodissolution twists of the liquidationist faction of 1969, and probably not (but I’m open to suggestions from someone who studied – or experienced – it closer) the scattered local outbursts of enthu-siasm and optimism about more or less superficial occult, drug, humanism, mass campaign politics, or sexual themes. Instead, my suggestions for shared advances are:
* A more effective and more explicit network structure,
due to two mutually reenforcing factors:
a) Changed communication infrastructure, to which the movement has only partially responded but that partial response is still sufficient to alter our organisational framework, with in several sectors a far more effective networking, new transversal alliances, etc
b) Recognition of the lack of an organisational center and the need to base collaborations on voluntarity and mutual interest, thus creating a non-hierarchic free-association-based structure (and if you will, democratic and anarchic).
* reintegration of ”parasurrealist” traditions;
most notably the situationist movement and the work of Bataille and his circle, but also Cobra, various groups of Phases and a number of individual artists and writers. However the experiences of several other such efforts remain for the movement to suck up; for example Mass-Observation.
* a hardcore insistence on the ludic
as the core of surrealist collectivity and surrealist experience
* a renewed focus on urbanism and walking,
partly inspired by the reintegration of situationist psychogeography. (there have been tendencies to forward surrealist focus on rural and natural environments as well, but these have been much more isolated, and usually mere minor parts of more generally focused interests in either geography, biology or so-called ”ecological awareness”).
* a successive (but still far from fulfilled) re-abandonment of official culture.
In a way this was the starting point of surrealism, but rather soon the antagonism softened, and it was for many decades (and sometimes still is) nothing out of the ordinary to have members ”double-organised” contributing more or less the same type of the work to the art market, literature market or academia on the one hand and to the surrealist movement on the other hand. Of course this involves partly tricky questions about the nature of work, and about the ability of poetry to function even in coopted settings, where different groups and different individuals will keep assessing the priorities differently. What I’m suggesting here is merely that after Breton’s death the pendulum has been on a backstroke, with more new surrealists keeping the distance to official culture than striving for recognition and market shares…
* a recognition/appreciation of the surrealist aspects of popular culture,
which of course was partly present for a long time, but first made an irreducible part of the surrealist sphere of interest by the comprehensive investigation and agitation by the Chicago group in the 60s and 70s.
* Music,
a sphere made impossible to keep dismissing with a lazy quote of de Chirico’s and Breton’s (partial) lack of interest, by the number, scope and frenzy of surrealist interventions and investigations in recent decades. These concern the surrealist aspects of popular music (part of the previous point), to a lesser but still significant extent the surrealist inspiration of many 20th century composers, but most of all, the musicking of surrealists themselves including emphasizing the analogies between automatism and musical improvisation, between musical and poetical communication, etc. (Apparently, the partly analogous field of dance remains a minor topic)
* Politics.
Most surrealist groups have made some bad experiences in this field and ended up in defending the good old baseline of emphasising the politically revolutionary aspect of surrealism together with the movement’s autonomy visavis all purely political revolutionary organisations, and the freedom to associate with such in a non-sectarian manner to a lesser or greater degree in accordance with one’s own assessments of present necessities. This is fine, especially in comparison with all these mostly isolated and more or less bitter individuals who think that surrealism abandoned revolutionary politics on the whole; but still not sufficient. A lot of us have also seen the old quarrel between the two classically available alternatives of anarchism and trotskyism as totally fruitless and these alternatives in themselves clearly insufficient or even entirely outdated, and that a non-sectarian revolutionary attitude today must include an openness towards new means of struggle and more recent original theories.
* Critique of the image.
Again partly as a result of the reintegration of situationist critique, but also as a part of the general retreat from official culture and a direct response to the present overflow of all kinds of imagery stemming from the commercial sphere but effectively colonising larger part of the mind and the social; several groups (but not all) have been emphasising the need for vigilance and suspiciousness in this area and the futility of merely contributing to this flow as if nothing happened.
Some of these may not be part of the development of surrealism on the whole but belong to only certain cultural contexts, while on the other hand there may be things which I have omitted, either simply not being able to discern them or believing them to be confined to only certain cultural contexts while they are actually better regarded as parts of the development of surrealism on the whole.
Some controversial issues require more international discussion; I did put the critique of the image on the list because it appeared to be a dynamic force that united several points of activity a few years ago, but the discussion appeared to halt prematurely, just like the discussion over religion and notions of sacredness at the same time, which was perhaps even less conclusive but partly recently made topic by Ducornet’s initiative of reissuing the 1948 antireligious tract and the subsequent call for new positionisngs from the Paris group. At the same time, there is a whole field of ”anticlerical (or even profane) mysticist” practices paralelling and even tangenting surrealist focus on the imagination which is largely unexplored by the movement. I’m sure there are individuals in the movement who are more oriented than others in this and have suggestions for what currents and writers of recent or contemporary occultism/magic, unorthodox psychoanalys/ psychology etc that are more worthy of studying than others.
The attitudes towards science remain to be thoroughly discussed. There are two types of questions there. First the fascinating perspective on reality and the immense number of startling discoveries and poetic details made available in, for example, particle dynamics, spacetime theory and the whole of quantum physics, scientific cosmology and astronomy in general, metereology, systems ecology and microbiology, evolutionary theory and genetics, plate tectonics and geomorphology, quaternary geology and palaeoecology, cladistics and probability theory, cybernetics and general linguistics, etc (as I’m personally able to gather many examples only from the biological and geological fields and not other ones, I’ll leave that for some other occasion). All fascinating, but also partly coming into conflict with con-victions held dear in the surrealist tradition.
Second the focus on methodology and epistemology. How many remember today that the surrealist watchword coupure is actually Bachelard’s description of the leap from prejudice to scientific thinking? Actually there is so much to gain in adopting the methodological stance; to design ones projects specifically to be able to give results regardless of ones prejudices, to always ask how things can be known and investigated rather than if they feel true or false, to abandon faith and custom to be able to identify anything novel, unexpected, counterintuitive etc. In a sense this has always been a part of the core of surrealism, but there is very often a distinct sloppyness in methodology, a tendency to stop halfways and jump to conclusions from there, very often in order to artistically or literarily exploit the investigation and then leave it behind. I’m not saying we should all become scientists (though it would be fun!), simply that there is a lot to gain from straightening up the methodology and pose epistemological questions.

The nature of the traditional allegiance to hegelian philosophy and freudian psychology (despite their continuing relevance!) and the superficial rejection of the whole poststructuralist sphere (despite its many deep flaws!) is something that seems partly shaky and demands a critical discussion in the movement, also being the perhaps most concrete aspect of an the apparent lagging behind in theoretical issues. Antihumanism is actually one of the most radical pillars of modern poetry on the whole, present in surrealist ludic/collective/”mediumistic” practices but very often discussed on only the most shallow of levels or even denied; it remains a critical issue for the surrealists to develop a relevant understanding of specifically in this period. Issues posed by for instance feminism and queer theory, of intergender power relations, microlevel democracy and social domination issues on the whole, have certainly advanced and reshaped the movement during the period, but in these issues the surrealist movement very often seem to be lagging a little bit behind other parts of society, in spite of having some extremely radical perspectives to offer; why it is so certainly demands a discussion. Partly this overlaps with the necessity to refocus on eroticism and its potential and pitfalls in present society where the configuration and role of sexuality is partly much different from in the days of classic surrealism. While we´re at it we could also need some fresh perspectives on the role of love.
In all these questions surrealism should have something to say, and possibly a lot of us would be capable of reaching some common understanding of the present necessities. In several of them there appeared to be a broader discussion on its way a few years ago. The difficulties at the time of organising the publication of the international surrealist bulletin seemed to postpone the discussions. (Of course it’s possible that the discussion kept on, only we were much out of circulation; in that case, we’d be happy to see the developments!) Anyway, during the years, digital communication has become increasingly available and reliable, so we should be able to carry on a serious discussion more swiftly now, shouldn’t we?

Mattias Forshage (5)

(4) We were very happy to find this course shift acknowledged and emphasised in Michael Richardson’s and Krzysztof Fijalkowski’s anthology Sur-realism against the Current.
(5) The text has been thoroughly discussed and largely approved (but not necessarily in its entirety) by the Stockholm surrealist group and also incorporating important comments from Merl Storr of the SLAG group