Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crawling the ice for a year

Now the original intention with the icecrawler blog was to have a forum for critical discussion about organisational and internal theoretical questions of the surrealist movement, starting out from the hellchoir text. Now some people, it turned out, strongly preferred to see that discussion not publicised, and others, perhaps as usual, didn’t really react at all or didn’t bother to communicate their reactions. So what we have been doing here during the last year is pretty much to throw out some minor updates and some scraps of raw meat for anyone to snap at while still waiting for more comments and suggestions to turn up, along with other departure points to adress similar questions as hellchoir did but perhaps with other means or specific focuses. It is ok for us to display the confusion and hunches of our own ongoing discussions, but we would be very much more interested in seeing others take part in those same discussions, either as commentaries here or through email or any other means. And for those of you who believe in keeping the “public” “at bay” just mark your comments “strictly for internal use” or similar and we will not post, explicitly quote or in detail refer to them in any open forum. We may have quoted from some letters or documents the status of which were not obvious, but then we should also remember that an exaggarated carefulness and politeness is not part of surrealist or any polemics, and the major question remains remembering who your comrades are, and respecting their differences but not their shortcomings, making critical confrontation a constructive challenge and not an aggressive or selfrighteous gesture. We still need to draw a lot more strategical and epistemological conclusions from these 80 years of experimentation, and we still need new suggestions more than anything.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Instead of the various previously announced (some repeatedly) discussions - december is apparently an innately bad time (the massive darkness perhaps the only good thing about it) - only a few whims are published here this time.

The cormorant council

The cormorant council (kormorantrådet) named itself after the avian oracle of Mattias Forshage's novel "Dreamgeography naturegeography" and launched a swedish-language blog for dreamgeographical projects. For your knowledge, here is translation of their inaugural texts (excluding a piece with irrelevant praise of the novel).

The cormorant council collects field notes, hunches and theories around the interface between dream and geography, wants to sharpen the attention towards this area through exchanging experience and theoretical deepening, breeds, publicises and coordinates dreamgeographical research projects, believes in conditionless enquiry but gladly and especially emphasise, in the spirit of surrealism, the poetic aspects of being.

With dream geography research we mean (for the moment):

a) Geographical observations in the dream and in dreaming.

More specifically observations on how places, events, experiences and relations are distributed in sleep-dreaming, active imagination and whisful thinking.
It should also be possible to make geographical observations in the unconscious habits and representations, that is, based on the activism of absentmindedness which can make us commit decisive dreamgeographical slips such as loosing our way, mistake one city for another, etc.
The basic question becomes in what way dream geography is distinguished from awake geography, both in a general sense (theory) and regarding how this exploration can enrich our ways of living, moving, looking at the world around us and within us (biopolitics).
Any definitive answers to these questions we will not willingly find. The section we place between dream geography and awake geography will necessarily be polyphonic and anecdotal.

b) Psychogeographical phenomenology in general

That is: whatever makes us perceive geography in one way rather than another, what maps show and what they don’t show, what desires and notions are tied or could be tied to certain places.
This means that the question arise what kinds of causal relations condition our activities, and where the decisive factors for such formative processes are to be found, and what possibilities and freedoms can be generated through making these conscious – and manipulating with them.
As a consequence of this we want of course to continuously develop and apply experimental methods making it possible for us to perceive the limitations and possibilities of geography.


An invitation to participate in this research is hereby issued. Participation is primarily attained by focusing on the dream-geographic spirit; sharpening the gaze for the dream-geographical experiences; taking notes, experimenting, communicating, involving others, modifying habits. Such discrete disturbances of behavior and perception will now occasionally (but far from always) appear trivial or pointless, but in the long run they can change the structure of everydaylife radically.

Mass mobilisation in northern Europe

I apologise in advance for this relapse into good old whining anarchism, but the times are a bit compelling…

When, in the upper teen ages, substiantial possibilities offered themselves of establishing a more serious sense of independence from the parents and their mode of life, the first things I abandoned was TV-watching and christmas-celebrating. I had theoretical justifications for it at the time, though not based on Marx and Debord, but rather on bottomline humanist individualism. The concrete experience was unambiguous, that regardless of how much you had managed to develop your interests, your means of expressions, your personal choice of perspectives, curiosities, preferences and opinions, when leaning back in the family TV sofa in the end of the day, all of this was in a sense reduced to zero, all souls were synchronised to standard settings, all thoughts, desires and knowledge were rectified with the conventional. And if this wasn’t enough there was also the annual brainwash where strict repetition of strange rituals combined with an overflowing conventional warmth convinced everybody that all personal development, all self-chosen lifestyles are just illusions and we all ultimately belong inside the bourgois core family and its caring conventions.

Now, some people claim they developed their own, creative, ways of watching TV. Perhaps.

Others have developed their own christmas traditions and pull off ordinary parties or other self-chosen rituals on the same day. In a sense we are free to choose what to celebrate, but only in a sense; and it must be noted that all these “alternative” christmas traditions are merely defensive, trying hard to make up something pleasant to survive in the midst of the huge void created by the unique mass mobilisation of the entire society in celebrating christmas.

And let us do away with these old illusions of what is being celebrated. Many people still believe christmas is primarily about christianity (well there is a clear increase in christian symbols and christian platitudes, but seemingly not a corresponding one in proselytising by christian sects or advances by christian ideology; and most of the celebrators here remain confessing atheists) or primarily about capitalism (well many parts of economy profits sweetly on this huge boost of consumer goods sales of course, but capitalism is a fairground all the year round and nothing is really dependent on this particular festival, and most of the celebrators are explicit that this commerce is just a minor part of the meaning). Well quite obviously christmas is primarily about family values. This is the only time of the year when society quits functioning, almost every single public function, including infrastructure, management, even commerce itself on the actual holidays, and more importantly almost all of urban sociality (in short: interacting with strangers) is just turned off. There is only the family. There is only the confined selfsufficient world of endless but narrowminded caring, of warm and unescapable maternal love, of absolute loyalty, of an immutable orderliness, of the perpetual repetition of the golden age scene of always being a child again never wanting anything else but the love and gifts of the parents. Of course christmas is one of the huge holidays of repetitive domestic conflicts despair (in Sweden invoked with the chamber plays by ex-surrealist writer Lars Norén) and domestic violence, of people eating and drinking themselves to death and of lonely people dying of loneliness, but that is just the other side of the coin of course. None of this, none of the frustration with being reduced to an infantile stage - a universalised under age, never any citizens rights, never adult responsability - leads to anything but refreshing the hope that next year it will all be good after all. Some may say in a structuralist sense that the volontary lack of freedom this day gives contrast and meaning to the relative freedom of the rest of the year; maybe so, and like typical structuralist models this means static, no hope of real change.

The celebration of the family is performed with equal fervor of those who are happily confined within a family, those who live alone but wish nothing higher than to be granted entry into this paradisical existence, those who don’t even try to reach it for themselves but still pay deep respects to it “for the sake of the children”, conservatives, liberals and socialists, homo- and heterosexuals, atheists, christians and nowadays even muslims (when they are finally realising that it isn’t about religion).

I still claim that TV and christmas are perhaps the two single most important vehicles of reproducing conformism, of creating a sense of unity of the citizens in the defense ot the current order, of creating a more or less bearable lifestyle without openended communication efforts, without adressing real problems, without facing uncertainty and possible change. But I know that this makes me a boring old moralist, straggling to escape the seductions of the conventional, seductions of that old death wish; and idealistically ascribing evil intents to social forms. Suggestions to any constructive views on this whatsoever could be appreciated.



For those who still believe the surrealist group in Stockholm lacks humor, we here present some excerpts from a recent philosophical debate within the group. The combattants are NN, CA and JE, and your editor here were among those who entirely failed to follow these out of context speculations borrowed from the highly specialised fields of neurophysiology, physics, consciousness philosophy, and some evolutionary biology and gnostic demonology. Chronology and authorship of parts is already quite difficult to reconstruct since most parts are insertions into earlier emails. So, just as obviously as this selection was made largely for entertaining and ridiculing purposes, the editor has been fooled himself since obviously some grand poetic thought experiments lie dormant waiting to unfold themselves in there, and one or other of the collective spirits of the group remain responsible for the madness of the unity of this strange brew.

Tuning in on living in another medium, could that be the core? A medium which doesn’t yet exist, which yet is but a graduated dislocation along a scale in one experiment or another. And o how easy it would be to reduce this thought to a mere metaphor-

It’s all about the extended network, the world, and in that case the energy utilised to nurture the organism carrying around an advanced brain, just as the population it is a part of and the biotope they inhabitate, plus all kinds of substrates and energetic processes, must all be accounted for in the grand total sum. It is difficult to create a private economy here!

Then if we in some fourierian intoxication would like to push the human system beyond its current compromises, for example by evolving bioluminescence, then we need more energy than a contained system can provide, we need the direct injection of the combustion engine, a transformator system which takes the detour over certain biological obstacles, perhaps matter as such, why not death if it happens to be in the way, obstacles which are nothing to fourierian verve.

In my worldview consciousness is physical, there are no discrete transfers in its locations, while it is actually located everywhere; where the nervous system ends other aspects pick up (yet unclear but just because too little research has been devoted to it).

Nervous movements in the brain are just as qualitatively distinct from the appearance of phenomena as the aerial vibrations mediating the sound of thunder are from the physical occurences in the aerial ocean, and in that way it is stupid to localise consciousness in the brain rather than localising consciousness in the occurrence in the air. Consciousness are where things happen, I have both Heidegger and Deleuze on my side in this question!

Last but not least, entropy only describes the appearance between starting point and endpoint, and not the way inbetween. The latter would be the task of kinetics, that is how fast processes are. So speaking about shift of medium in order to avoid entropy is not to speak about time as concretion, which is the same as speaking about abstract archetypical conditions, eternal states.

A glowworm probably has what we might call with a semi-archaic vocabulary the energy budget of a spirit.

This type of transcendence is reached mainly with meditation or drugs and is mostly a kind of experienced state which we can be impressed by or which we can ridicule.

The transcendental is the syntheses and the translations making up the happenings of the network so to speak. The process constituting the subject from one second to the other.

It's possible that energy consumption could be reduced more than what evolution already spontaneously managed, but in that case it must be remembered that the openness, which our involuted brain was involuted for, may get lost in the process.

I hadn’t thought about that, it makes me worried. So we should tiptoe carefully here, so the cake slice isn’t further narrowed? But if it becomes the question of an atrophying regress according to a zero sum principle, so that the reduced complexity of the brain is counterweighted by other archibraic innovations? Or if the openness is just turned in other directions than we discern now? In that case nostalghia will be unfitting, look a death urge of alchemical/hermetical kind, not without worry of course, but still.

I find it difficult to see the experienced mental autonomy and the more or less wild activity of the imagination as possible in a networkless and energy-parsimonious vacuum.

On the contrary, our mental autonomy has increased keeping pace with the involution of the brain having occurred paralell with the development of cybernetic networks, from an evolutionary viewpoint.

Talking about evolution is talking about transcendence in the concrete!

So instead of celebrating bioluminescence I hail the cosmic power differentiating matter, creating and annihilating structures, gives time a direction and slowly disintegrates all information in the universe: friction.

Friday, November 30, 2007


This is the very last opportunity to make a november update, so we basically add a few minor scraps, and express our hopes that we in December will see more of NN:s revised ideas of “concepts of wholeness” (religion debate) and MF:s translations of his speculations on walking and epistemology, as well as some reports from collective discussions on anti-violence campaigns and on rereading Breton’s surrealist manifestoes again. Those who read swedish are encouraged to take part in games and dream geography projects at kormorantrådet.

In what sense is surrealism urban? (sketch)

Surrealism is indeed a fundamentally urbanistic endeavour, not at all in that it would be inconceavable in a rural setting or uninterested in extraurban environments (as the situationists tended to be), far from it, but in that some urban attitudes lie at its core.

1. Urban identity
Based on flow, overflow, absurdity, on both fast variations and real ambiguities concerning responsibility versus irresponsibility, and loneliness and company. Fundamentally urban is that more or less dynamic notions of cosmopolitanism-humanism-liberalism-individualism-selfrealisation replace the static notions of kin, trade and caste and “place in the order”. Family is distinctly inurban, freedom of association/ organisation exclusively urban; only in an urban setting can nonconformism, radicalism, divergence and refusal be a point of departure and not have a fulltime defensive occupation!

2. Fundamental heterogenity
a) of people in terms of demographics (age, origins, occupations, attitudes & behavior)
b) of environments, architecture and atmospheres (from luxurious and/or official to shabby/decomposing or unstructured/wild along different axises)
c) of supply of commodities, entertainments, information and signs
The urban environment provides not just a wide variation but is dependent on a deeper sense of heterogenity in a lot of factors (many of these are occasionally empirically weak, which is experienced as distinctly inurban and smalltownish (which is a personally important to me as I am working in a horrible narrowminded-conform conservative university small-town, parading as Sweden’s fourth largest city but lacking all sense of urbanity).

3. Abundance
a) of signs (nivellation of signs)
b) of encounters (flexibility, anonymity, abundance of encounters)
c) of possibilities (chaotic patterns, unpredictability, abundance of signs)
providing a ceaseless and in itself meaning-generating flow, within which we make associations and selections making up poetry and chance phenomena, and eventually situations (in the sense of the situationists), opportunities where the usual inauthentic habits and reactions obviously not are valid anymore and the field of possibilities therefore suddenly vastly opens, which might be socially explosive.

4. Mobility
The city provides a concentration not only of people and messages but also of structures (architecture and city planning), all of which makes a unique background for psychological mobility and dynamism. The possibility to move between different spheres of heterogenity, which is the hedonistic pleasure of all urban walkers, and provides the basic psychogeographical data for anynone interested in such questions. As an experimental setting, this is incredible: any random walk will provide you with a chain of messages (anarchistic knowledge) and potentially make you lose your way (with some sense of danger but usually not mortal danger). There is a text about this (walking and happiness from a surrealist perspective) which the author has been trying to translate for quite some time but just never got enough time…
The city is also the only environment where we have trustworthy public transport, making it possible to extend this mobility, go far on sudden associations and clues, into surrounding areas and ambiances; in a convenient form which itself provides exposure to new people, new possibilities, new atmospheres to savour and/or interpret.

Three fundamental negative corrollaries of surrealist urbanity:
* No family
* No regular hours fulltime job
* No car for regular transport
(Having to deal with only one of these factors, it is very often possible to design a personal compromise that makes many aspects of urban lifestyle still available, but anyone leading a life circumscribed by more than one of them usually finds himself/herself excluded from embodying true urbanity)

Or is surrealist urbanity/walking just bachelor bohemic?
No, I don’t think so. Isn’t bachelorism an individualistic organisation of comfort? Isn’t this opposed to flexibility and true curiosity? Isn’t bohemism primarily the absence of planning and commitment? Aren’t both opposed to any systematic experimentation, and thus the very opposite of surrealism?


Poetry in fetters?

If we postulate POETRY as being a shared core, certain characteristics and above all a potential, of a rather heterogenous class of phenomena, then this immediately leads to the view that among other things many elements in the religious sphere (magic, mysticism, demonology, pantheism, alchemy, synchronicity, dream interpretation, escatology, telepathy, and in general generation of meaning, mythology and reenchantment) must be regarded as an real or potential forms of unconscious poetry, rationalised into a sphere of systematic power exertion and stupidification. It has actually been one of the major pastimes of surrealism to pick up such scattered elements of poetry (from different contexts including religion not the least) and place them in a new connection, which often has been artistic and sometimes political (both designations in a wide and formal sense, referring to language/ means/ forum rather than aims/ spirit) but ultimately primarily surrealist: for the moment we may characterise that as pertaining to profane reenchantment of the world by means of cultivating the specific dynamics of the poetic phenomenon.

In that sense then, it is a surrealist thing to highlight and utilise such elements from the religious sphere as poetic materials, with dedicated respectlessness towards the servile hodgepodge usually surrounding them. It is not a surrealist thing to believe they carry scandalous truths revealing deep secrets of higher powers; anything of the kind is just naïve mystification and as overenthusiastic as sloppy metaphysical fantasy.

Nevertheless, we should also be cautious about regarding our own conceptualisation of poetry as poetry as necessarily more true and less self-deception than all other rationalisations. Paradigmatic for the concept of poetry are single aesthetic products by individual non-anonymous creators for an aesthetic sphere in the widest sense (not just the clique or guild of professional artists or the cultural market, but the whole world of aesthetic objects within a culture which regards them as a particular sphere, proofs of the cultural level of the society in question). We work hard to emphasize that the only thing interesting about these aesthetic objects are whatever part they take in poetry as a universal category, which is to be found just as much (or actually far more) outside that cultural sphere. But we should be aware that for many phenomena from other cultural contexts, acknowledging them as poetry may in a sense actually just seem like imposing on them certain cultural standards alien to them, even though what we intend is of course the revelatory condensation of their whole point.

Well, practically speaking there is a width among surrealists regarding to what extant they feel comfortable in this type of sacral atmosphere, enjoy reading such texts, and keep track of the theoretical connections. To find the poetical elements in there does require exposure to start with. But as it concerns voluminous systems, entire subcultures, and particular mechanisms for generating meaning, it is also obvious that the harvest may be somehow proportional to the effort. Superficial juggling with such mere semiotic signs for secrets and wholeness is of course very often unbearably banal. And in this field just like others, there are hordes of stupid followers, hordes of dull academics, smaller amounts of intelligent scholars, and large chunks of mythology and philosophy which may be poor or rich but regardless of which demand some provisional acceptance without faith in order to reveal its perspectives. Of course there is the risk of “going native”, of becoming carried away by ones acquired overview and special reading skills, fascinated by stuff which lack any sense outside the system, and happy about futile subtleties, the well-known process of turning knowledge into ideology. On the other hand, those who feel discomfort in the same sphere may systematically and morally refuse to see any nuances, denouncing any such study as “cuddling with religion”. Such pie thowing duels are probably not the interesting part of surrealism’s perspectives on religion.

My suggestions as to the paragraphs of major issues in such a discussion, listed in an order which is my own, just one temporarily preferred of the several possible orders of importance (which I’m not sure I’m willing to defend myself):

Religion as a theme for surrealists:
1. to identify and snatch loose poetical elements from the religious sphere (see above)
2. to understand how religion remains paradigmatic for many concepts, and even more many forms of systematisation and manipulation, of ideology, doctrine, faith, community, engagement, solidarity, profoundness, inspiration, intuition, possession etc, also for the occurences of these themes within other widely different spheres (some of these may have a fully operational and fully acceptable profane application available by simply removing the religious context, while in some the religious implications will not be that easily shook off; what is the difference?)
3. to understand how religion is a complex and dual-edged weapon among others in everyday life politics and geopolitics
4. not to back the least from a total refusal of god and church
5. not to choose to get satisfied by any humanistic-rationalistic platitudes in this sphere, and instead keep insisting on freer thought, playing on the loose, unrestrained quest for knowledge, richer mythologies, surrationalism and reenchantment.


Monday, October 15, 2007


As previously announced, we now post a few of the thought efforts, individual positionings and discussion contributions to the ongoing discussion about religion in the surrealist group in Stockholm. They are only to a minor extent put in a logical order, and definitely not a chronological one, which would not make sense anyway since many of them have been revised.

Other subjects will remain waiting until next posting, as it seems we have been able to return to monthly updates.

Atheism as the metaphysics of experience

The purely logical distinction between absolute and relative is not present in our experiences. That is why any notions of sacred and profane must be seen as conventional constructs, whatever ones particular experiences may indicate. Neither can these concepts, relative and absolute, according to traditional metaphysics, be completely separated from each other, as christian theology have stressed for so long, namely by subjugating mans influence to a higher all-powerful god, relativizing the realness of our experience, aggrandicizing a speculation. This means that the relative is present in the absolute (for example: the relative manifests as endless variation, "endlessness" obviously being an absolute trait, not a relative) and that the absolute can be found in the relative (for example: since the relative is a part of the absolute, or the whole, the one, this part-whole relationship logically connects the absolute to the relative).

So much for logic and metaphysical distinctions. Do we need them to understand atheism? And how do they relate to the immediacy of concrete experience? We can surely see and experience the world in its endless variation, as a heraclitean flow, in its inherent relativity. The relative is today associated with individual choice, freedom, tolerance, while the absolute has become associated with the opposite traits; perfect control, discriminative authority, qualitative optimums, binding necessity.

Contemporary atheism seems to a large extent to be upheld by moral relativism and scientific rationalism. These attitudes, whether combined to form a liberal standpoint of humanist common sense or not, can be effectively aggressive in addressing religious forms in society and thought. Or can they? In its reactive moralism and in its linguistically hygienic praxis respectively these attitudes could be more ineffectual than is generally recognized by the evangelical atheists in question, both in expressing logically the profaneness of fully experienced living and in the core of any honest atheist intentions; to challenge religious thinking, not just religious forms. For example; instead of developing a discourse where God is no longer necessary, as intended, the impulse of scientific rationality in this century have left this idea somewhat outside of its scope, where the God-notion then is continually being re-interpreted as, instead of a unifying principle as in former times, a complementary entity. The idea of this positive enlightenment has taken on the rhetorical structure of a suppressed correlative, maintaining a verbal distinction between religion and science that is only partially an accurate reflection of history. In europe scientific rationalism and christian religiosity were never mutually excluding forces, but co-evolved and depended on each other for ideological support, especially during the birth and growth of an extractive economy in the 17th century, where a radical desacralization of the world was a crucible aim for both parties involved, thus they would at that time rather combat natural philosophy and magic, the institutionalization of alchemy, the egalitarian fringes of protestantism and folkish animism in general than each other. This seems to me to be the background for the suppressing outlook on on faith and beliefs as "superstitions" defining religion rather than as the simple psychological facts they are, relative in essence and phenomenologically universal, useful or not, even worthy of a science (as they are in the psychology of religion, and in the indian devotional science of bhakti). There is nothing wrong with scientific rationalism in itself, it just seems to be an insufficient basis for an active atheism, as natural science is an insufficient basis for evaluating religion. Surrealism tend to anchor exceptional states such as temporary confusion and mad love in lived reality, in the heraclitean flow of vaguenesses, dialectic play and preliminary discoveries. If an issue at all, doctrines is a secondary one. One could hardly defend the irreligiosity of surrealism by adhering to a scientistic dualism of nature and psyche. The spiritual element exists only within the individual psyche, but with the open experimentation of surrealist ingenuity, for example by elaborating the notion of sacredness in direct opposition to monotheistic modes of sacralization, towards enrichening experience rather than directing it (which is what religion does) there begins an experiment to interconnect the spiritual with the material world, and this would have little to do with a world-view of beliefs built on scientific rationalism, where matters are either subjective or objective. Neither would it suffice with the discriminative sensibilities of individual hedonism. (Is not in fact hedonistic atheism an unwittingly christian attitude, where the inherited dualism between creator and creation is maintained on several levels, particularly in merely emphasizing the separation of creator and creature?)

Since we still very much live in a christian society, the very logic of its metaphysical language continues to structure the dialectic of experience, now in the artificial paradise of a consumerist environment. God is no longer Absolute, the necessities we fetter ourselves by are. Ignorance does not save us from absolutes. If we do not notice this in daily living, it is the more visible in periods of crisis, when the stable network of habits and meanings that once sustained us become replaced with a state of affairs more in accordance with the godless theory of a purposeless, neutral, meaningless universe. God never was more than this guarantee for harmony.

So the modern claim: "There are no absolute values!" has a dual answer. No, they are constructed. Yes, they are constructed. Or: Are absolutes quasi-absolutes, were they always?

With Hegel the christian god, an unattainable absensce, incarnated as world spirit while the holy ghost became an active agent in history, which meant that the incomprehensible absolute of the pre-romantics legitimately could be found in the timely world. And it has been searched there ever since, further and further down. "Je cherche l'Or du Temps ..."

This world we live in is all there is, it may not have meaning, as reason tends to demand of it, but as man is not perfectly loyal to reason anyway, we tend to evaluate through other faculties than reason and abstraction, and according to other principles than moral opposite-pairs from another time, another language. Reality is felt as something like a transparent manifestation of sensuality. The void sometimes glimpsed beyond it could be something best not to pay attention to, or it could be a blinding layer of further sensuality, too bright for our present senses, it could be a reflective screen for unconscious desires and fears, as common sense will have it, or it could be something entirely different, or maybe all of these, who knows. It is hardly relevant to have consistent viewpoint. Our inner sense of beauty and meaning never give us certainty, but increased intensities of experience that do not convert us to new values, only deepens our knowledge about and gives concretion to values we already know about, like authenticity, goodness, right, truth. And while our sense of competative ego is taught as a required absolute in today´s society, that make social personality so much of an hindrance in attaining hitherto unknown cognitive situations, personality can reassemble itself from unforeseen directions, as unforeseen unities in the poetry of evaluating sensual rearrangements.

Metaphysics was/is the science of origins. When we were told by religion that god created the world we were merely fed with mythology taken literally, then dressed up as metaphysics. Man´s moral honesty, not science, nor sophistry, eventually did away with the concept of god in this lingustic mess, where mythology could not be discussed as mythology and metaphysics suffered badly under theology until the two now often seem inseparable. Science of today have some cosmological hypotheses that still need to be verified, but replacing a mythological origin with an attitude of common sense is not the issue here. Like the objective world, mans cognitive reality, his experience was never willfully created once and for all at some given point, it is continually being created here and now by ourselves. This reality in its endless or "endless" unfolding is the only spiritual dimension, the only eternity, the sole unimaginable ideal an atheist acknowledges.

Is there a healthy way to utilize beliefs? If so, we will have to recognize that beliefs are not meant to be realistically representing experiences and that they are not always voluntary. So although they are expressed by individuals theyt are not necessarily individual matters. There are many types of beliefs, but let´s stress the psychological aspect and just distinguish passive from active beliefs here. If we only percieve dead nature around us, "dead" as in in some fundamental and important way less living than ourselves, there are plenty of others to act out our beliefs for us if the issue seems irrelevant to us (and they will speak of natural resources rather than dead nature). Those beliefs would be passive, even unconscious. If we on the other hand would value the world as sacred, it is not hard find ways to act this belief out. Beliefs could be born out of necessity and strategical choice rather than as "being true to experiences" (obviously a limited field anyway). Beliefs are motivating, so this could make a difference.

/Niklas Nenzén

The question of god (as if it was a question)

Anyone can choose to name their demons, inner voices, characters of personal mythology, moral instances, unusual experiences, chance oracles, intersubjectivities and personfied abstracts (and the concepts in a philosophical system, for those equipped with such) whatever they want, and those insisting on the name “god” (or “elvis” etc) then only gives a proof of poor imagination. Outside a social or a sociomythological context these designations remain largely arbitrary, and private religiosity is however you look upon it little else than a personal neurosis.

I fail to understand what religion may be other than a type of social metaphysics, and a common ritual practice manifesting it, and a frame of interpretation with which it delimits a larger or smaller part of the realm of the “spiritual” in either sense. Neutrally, objectively, even more or less behavioristically, with a potential of having widely differing moral and political sense in different connections. (that is, if we are not going into the ideological question, where religion, via self-comforting interpretations of eventual serious experiences whatsoever within such a spiritual sphere, then also becomes a banalising brand-name for everything looking beyond, and as such an imprisoning of the unknown). And in all of this we are here and now only lambs in the quasireligion of spectacular late capitalism, and the positionings of individuals are mere phrasemaking.

Those who really join extreme sects in the present situation (christianity, islam, what else? new age? should we count marxism? surrealism perhaps?) hardly actually moves out of this fundamental position shared by all of us, but rather sumperimpose a new, largely purely mythological identity on top of it, as in role playing (both in the sense of old universal spontaneous role playing and the newer organised variety!) – it is simultaneously true and not true – it is purely spectacular pseudo-alternatives on the market and at the same time genuine resistance pockets – in different proportions, in different aspects, with different potentials.

The relationship to mythology, to the unknown, to each other, to matter, and to the whole of the spiritual sphere, can of course then be more or less intense, more or less creative, either repetitive or inventive, etc etc, and it can be argued that this possible intensity would be the core of religion. But why? Those things are so hopelessly mixed up with imagination, poetry, regression, love and different types of madness that it hardly allows getting talked about, at least not without deciding to be extremely careful with terminology and logic, or else without suspending the metaphysical judgment and focusing on the processes, both of which are highly untypical of the religious perspective.

Of course, epistemologically speaking, faith is nothing else than to what extent someone defends a system of prejudices instead of daring to abstain safe conviction and remaining curious about something new, and this is of course a sliding scale which doesn’t coincide with the circumscription of the religions: stupid everyday atheists are in this respect often among the most faithful, and religious mystics often among the least so (by all means, even within surrealism we see a width between thickheaded selfdefense and excited novelty-hunger).



Later the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk, then the ritual required the two young men to laugh.
After a sacrificial feast, they stripped themselves naked and put on a "loin skin" from the skins of the slain goats.
Holding strips of the hides, they ran around the walls of the old Palatine community, hitting or snapping at all of those they came close to, especially women; an action which was believed to bring fertility, even to barren women, and a safe delivery in childbirth.

what about atheism

(...) But while the question of god is entirely uninteresting, it is still an important task to summon, deduce, create or revive a particular surrealist atheism. Mechanistic-rationalist atheism, and especially the academic-leftist uninspired-didactic defense of it, is more or less entirely uncapable of arousing enthusiasm and seems to have very little to do with the ambitions of surrealism. I don’t think surrealist atheism has very much to do with reviving Sade, Hume, Holbach or de la Mettrie. A totally different lineage of thinkers would be more likely as the principal sources of inspiration here, those heretics, pantheists and romanticists whose hunger for the marvellous, for love, for blossoming mythologies and for poetry couldn’t leave them satisfied with any organised religion. (I don’t know: are the classic attempts to replace god with something richer and more real, like those of Robespierre, Feuerbach and Haeckel, actually as much poor rhetorics as contemporary humanist atheism or not?)

I don’t want to take any definitive position at this point in the discussion on the validity the alleged universal need for sacredness, but I can unequivocally state that the connection where I am most inclined myself to use a more or less religious terminology is regarding nonconformism, which seems to me the most relevant and concrete expression of sacredness amongst us. To see all these systematic campaigns for deterioration, for imprisoning and mutilating people, bodily, spiritually, socially, replacing own thinking with fettering religious, political and common sense banalities, replacing curiosity and experimentation with ethical and political dogma, to identify them AS THAT EVIL WHICH THEY INCARNATE, and therefore see that they demand an open radical denunciation; this is taking on a responsibility which can be sacred because it brings to its edge what it means to be a human, in relation both to one’s own thinking and to other people, and it can be sacred because it could possibly be that (you never know) which makes a certain situation turn, hinders one person from getting stuck, plants doubts, makes other people do something else than they used to, etc, and this lack of certainty is fundamental in dissolving the surrendering notion of a total distinction (lack of link) between individual acting and history, and therefore might be able to make individual action that which might concretely make something new possible, and not just any something new but specifically that something new which negates that evil reacted against and which more or less unexpectedly promotes those wishes that the current situation either breeds or lets through intact. This is totally independent of whether such actions are imagined as primarily individual or primarily collective, perhaps it’s easiest to imagine a simple interplay between them, but I would like to emphasise that resistance movements in many situations are privileged candidates for being carriers of that historical refusal and holy wraith, and this is also one of the reasons to romanticise the workers movement of the previous century turn, which sort of just opened its eyes and straightened its back in a maelstrom of evil where this with a few simple truths came to oppose a whole world order.

And in those many concrete connections where religion has a role of concrete evil, atheism can still be that equally concrete holy refusal. Outside these connections it seems to lack this immediate overwhelming relevance, but probably these aspects can be cultivated and it could retain that type of dignity, admirable clarity and authority based on consistence, crime register and teasing promises, which makes it a beacon, and a negation in a truly dialectical sense.


Surrealism and the holy crap

Surrealism is a revolutionary poetical movement that strives for the liberation of mankind in all its aspects. This is not a simple task, and we see that the surrealist movement often suffers from weaknesses in making this understood. As we know, this has been a constant problem throughout its history, especially as regards its relations to art and "culture".

Here, we'd like to focus on the problems of unclarity regarding the supernatural and its ideological companion, supernaturalism, and also about some related surrealist hookups which seem to be lacking an honest and critical approach.

It is (more or less!) known that surrealism is actively and explicitly against religion.

Other beliefs of dubious character also occur though, e.g. that surrealism, inspired by the psychoanalytic ideas, sees as its mission to liberate the unconscious from the repression of the superego; that surrealism accepts and likes everything that defies rational thinking, including not only dream and chance but also, for this reason, spiritism, esoterism, chaos, the "wild", "primitive" peoples, everything non-Western, sadism, perversions, crime, serial killers ... all this in opposition, of course, to the prevailing capitalist order, but also in opposition to rationalism itself.

We are sorry to say that the reasons for these miscomprehensions are not only misunderstandings from art scholars or journalists, they are often caused by texts written by surrrealists themselves. In the worst cases, these surrealists appear to be little more than art-producing new-age apologists. In better cases, they are inspired writers that somehow have a difficulty of explaining the limits and circumstances of the surrealist appreciations of dreams or of primitive peoples, for example. Maybe they are actually confused, or maybe lazy. (We're not in the business here of judging who is a surrealist or not - but regardless of the label they might put on themselves, they hold attitudes that we find important to confront and that we think surrealism doesn't benefit from. In some cases we think it's obvious they misunderstand basic concepts of surrealism, in others it might be necessary to modify or clarify the surrealist standpoint. We don't mention names because it's better for those concerned to recognize themselves instead of feeling that they need to defend themselves. If someone should be mentioned, why not Breton himself? Isn't it obvious how exaggerated his trust in Freud was, or that he had an uncritical belief in the abilities of (certain?) clairvoyants, mediums and even astrologists?)

In many surrealist texts, the uncritical repetition of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts is embarrasing (or to say the least outdated). Freud's ideas can at most be taken as an inspiring and fascinating attempt to make a theory about the mind, but not as indisputable truths or undoubtable scientific discoveries about it. It must be admitted that they consist of non-scientific specualtion and partly also of falsifying evidence. Freud's writings have in many ways also been contradicted by later research and discoveries. This might therefore not have been possible to know at the time and the surrealists were also apparently lacking in knowledge about scientific methods and the necessary rigour demanded of scientific investigation. The psychoanalytic "case studies" are of no more scientific value than the many observations of UFO landings and their accompanying "conclusions". The tendency to regard the Freudian concepts as holy and unquestionable, whatever they are, does no good to surrealism.

Alchemy and other occult, esoteric or mystic currents, dead or alive, are other subjects that need to be approached more critically. If they historically could be described as "precursors" to science as well as to surrealism (even though many of them still prevail or have been reintroduced), it must also be clarified in what way they have been doomed to be abandoned: their supernaturalistic (often religious) world-view made (and makes) it impossible for them to significantly advance human knowledge and understanding of the world. (The development of science and critical thinking does this, though.) What remains, at best, is a poetical practice misunderstanding itself as anything else. Their beauty and fascination, then, is also tragic.

To hail alchemy as a watchword, like so many surrealists do, is obscurantistic. Alchemy had certain interesting elements, while others are examples of superstitions and the primitiveness of thinking that we should fight today as ever.

The double tool of surrealism: dialectics (or, why not say "critical thinking?") and analogy can only be useful if they are kept apart but also taken to the extreme. Superstition and supernaturalism are failure to do so.

Esoterics and psychoanalysis have been getting an exagerrated attention from some surrealists also just because they to a large extent are symbol-makers. The mere listing of these conventional symbols in accounts of dreams or "objective chance" experiences are not of specificly surrrealist value. Symbols have no truth value and surrealism is not a symbolism. Symbols, just as anything else, can of course be of poetical value if they appear in a personal mythology relating to actualities in the individual desires. But symbols, looked up in a book in order to write a more juicy text to impress the reader, are just anthropological anecdotes, and to base observations on those is a false drama. There is a literature based on the concept of objective chance, that sometimes seem shallow and fake in the sense that they don't really tell about the poetical value for the individual, they list a number of encounters such as every person has now and then. Chance encounters are valuable to people not because they reveal telepathy or other psychic powers, fate or signs of a higher truth (they don't!), but simply because they consist of coincidences that involve elements who talk to the memories or desires of the persons involved or create a certain kind of beauty or adventure. It's no mysticism. It's a heightening of the sensibility in everyday life.

Among the exaggerated hailings are the ones of "primitive peoples" or anything not belonging to the western civilization. This seems sometimes to have a tendency of a blind embrace, disregarding everything that wouldn't fit into the picture. According to this attitude, primitive peoples have a closer non-exploitative relation to nature, they have a poetic relation to the universe, their art is integrated in all of their lives etc; but it's never mentioned that they might have superstitions, they never have a limited understanding of the world, they don't repress women or children and are never violent. A criticism of western civilization doesn't need this one-sidedness. Maybe it is a misdirected solidarity that comes from the fact that primitive and non-western peoples certainly are repressed groups. That surrealism is against workers' chauvinism is clear and obvious since the 30's confrontations with stalinist "workers' culture", but it's time to abolish also "primitive" or "non-western" chauvinism. Neither they, nor us, benefit from it.

We're not new agers or exotists. We have to be more clear about our relation to magical thinking as a world view. As with alchemy, we have to distinguish things. Magical thinking, stripped of its supernaturalism, is no longer magical thinking. It is poetic sensibility.

Magical thinking has to be replaced by personal mythology and poetical thinking. Magical thinking creates superstitions, conserves lack of understanding and blunts critical thought. It enforces gullibility and authoritarianism. Next step is religion and capitalism. Magical thinking did not die with the development of civilization, it's at the base of capitalist ideology and teams up with its "rationalism". (Isn't it enough to look at commodity fetishism and advertisement?)

Some surrealist writing shows a more or less plain opposition to science in general and might scorn its strict rational methods. This is absurd. What is the point of attacking the scientific method? Surrealism has never been an irrationalism, absurdism, anti-intellectualism or denying rationality. (If it ever had tendencies to it, they should be abandoned!)

Science and the scientific method are among the greatest achievements of the human mind, and are enormously valuable to the understanding of the world and, at least potentially, a great vehicle against human misery; material, social, intellectual as well as spiritual. This doesn't mean that science would be the only source of knowledge or of inspiration, but it can certainly be one of the sources, alongside other expressions of the spirit that are more likely to be mentioned by surrealists; love, desire, creativity, play and curiosity: activities outside of, but not necessarily in opposition to, science.

The scientific method is nothing more than an extension of critical thinking. That scientists are often bought and sold and used for commercial and repressive purposes - much in the same way as artists - is an altogether different affair. Science might be done mainly by experts, but is in its philosophical base egalitarian. (Science should be made by all!) Science's theories about the world can in principle be tested by anyone, provided he or she does it in controlled circumstances and with relevant methods. Anyone that have claims about some part of reality will fail to convince scientifically if the claim can not be confirmed through repeated experiment or (in relevant cases) randomized, double-blind observation. Scientific rigour, thus, is above personal interest and a moral question.

The scientific world is not lacking in self-consciousness about its scope and limitations. We want to draw special attention to the international movement of so-called Skeptics in this matter. Robert T. Carroll, author of the Skeptic's Dictionary ( calls skepticism a "virtue" rather than a philosophical system. The different groups and individuals related to this movement fight frauds and pseudoscience and debunk supernatural claims, in an ongoing fight to protect the mind from charlatans, spiritists, healers, fakirs, astrologers, psychics and other liars, robbers and swines, and defend the status of the scientific method. Many sceptics also fight religious superstitions and their preachers' absurd claims about reality.

There must be no doubt that surrealism whole-heartedly supports these struggles, although with (at least theoretically) a wider and complementary understanding. This is not only a fight for the defence of science. Those "healers" (protected by the freedom of religion, i.e. the freedom to fool and be fooled), can destroy people's lives giving them false hopes, false treatments, false beliefs, false understanding of reality and obediance to false authorities besides giving them stupidifying entertainment and wasting their time. In this way it's also a fight for the defense of the freedom, power and understanding of the human spirit.

Surrealism should be in a special position to properly embrace the whole scope of the reasons to fight supernaturalism: the scientific, political, ideological, moral and poetical reasons. We don't need any mystical, esoteric or psychoanalytical concepts to explain that the human mind by itself (interacting, of course, with the "outer world") is capable of its deductions, productions and inspirations, that the poetic sensibility is not divine or supernatural, but purely human.

Surrealism should be able to appreciate the discoveries and the achievements of the rational and intellectual minds, at the same time demand the same liberty for the imagination and see them as one and the same quest. Surrealism should see the repressions of free inquiry (scientific investigation, research and knowledge), of the freedom of expression and the freedom of imagination as one and the same. The liberation from capitalist and state repression, commercialism, work ethic and careerism is the same as the liberation from priests, superstitions, healers and psychics.

If surrealism will have any significance today, it is still in the struggle for the liberation and expansion of the totality of the human potentials; fighting all the repressions of the mind: from stifling symbolism and stupidifying supernaturalism to repressive ideology and downright ignorance; for the expansion of rational thinking as well as of inspired thinking.


Surrealism and the holy 'nuff

While the text Surrealism and the Holy Crap addresses important issues concerning an uncritical appraisal of esoteric, mystic and symbolistic traditions, it tends to display that same amount of one-sidedness that it intends to critize. Rationalism and science are not in themselves something good, something that advances our struggles. Another problem is that what is needed is not to launch another battle in the field of ideas. Rationalism versus supernaturalism, skepticism versus hoaxism, etc. What is needed is an investigation into the material conditions that give rises to such ideas, their geneaology and relation to existing power structures. Our critique should not be aimed at the ideas as such, but their material base, the suppressing environment that surrounds them, the specific practices which sustain them. How interesting is it to be against an idea? Who cares about ideas anyway? Doesn't the very idea of being able to fight an idea necessarily involve a commitment to a bürgerlicher Öffentlichkeit, to a tradition no more than 200 years old and seriously integrated with capitalist ideology?

Let’s discuss the specifics.

Two quotes from the text:

"Science and the scientific method are among the greatest achievements of the human mind."

"That scientists are often bought and sold and used for commercial and repressive purposes - much in the same way as artists - is an altogether different affair."

The scientific method is a great achievements when it comes to understanding the mechanisms of nature, yes, but while some might argue that it is a great achievement of the human mind (what does that mean?), it's main achievement is as a tool for developing the productive forces of capitalism. And these productive forces are not neutral; the capitalist mode of production has an internal drive to maximize the productive forces in order to subdue more of mankind under the toil of labour. There is no such thing as a neutral discovery, a neutral science, a neutral machine: the capitalist relations of production imbues science with its specific logic. Thus, while science definitively has increased material wealth in society, it has at the same time been instrumental in intensifying labour, repression and global domination of capital. Let me stress this one more time: there is no such thing as a 'pure science', there are specific practices, by specific institutions in specific historical circumstances. Science is one such practices, and while it's method might be very sound, it's employment is not. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with this or that scientist being bought up and used for commercial and repressive purposes. On the contrary, science itself is an internal affair under capitalism, and the individual scientist is completely irrelevant in the broad picture. What is needed is not a naive and uncritical praise of science, but a vision, outline and practice of what the science of the future, i.e. communist science, might look like: how is its method employed, how will it be related to other practices of knowledge, what is its epistemology and most important, what will its relation to rest of society look like?

The same naiveness shows itself in the one-sided praise of rationalism. I'm not sure what rationalism is exactly - perhaps a specific mode of thought related to logical investigations of causality, perhaps a practice in society related to the construction of a public sphere where debates and critical analysis could be conducted, perhaps a philosophical tradition which places emphasis on the ability of the human mind to grasp the totality of nature without empirical investigation - but I'm quite convinced that rational thinking is not bestowed upon us by the grace of our own mind to critical analyse our surroundings and concoct how society best should be constructed. Rational thinking is - just like science - employed through the practices of the capitalist machinery as a means to repress, subjugate and intensifiy the exploitation of mankind. This is of course the dialectic of enlightment, the darkness that springs forth from the back-alleys of rational thinking, where fordist production, colonial enslavement, concentration camps, IBM, the modern HSB-kitchen and such all are based on the same mode of thought.

In the text, one gets the sense that there is a confusion about causality. How can one state that fighting priests is the same as fighting capitalism? While the priest serves ideological purposes, capitalism is not an ideology. Committing oneself to ideological battles is a dead end. If one could gladly choose ones enemies from the realm of ideas, I for one would pick a more interesting and worthwhile opponent than supernaturalism. And if teaming up with other ideological fighters was important, The Skeptics homepage would not be my first alliance (aren’t they just scientific Sverker Olofssons?). When it comes to ideology, the first and foremost task of surrealism is to not become ideological.

Let us not forget who is the real enemy. While local schamans and charlatans might hoax people into bying their useless medicine and miracle potions, it is the major medical companies who on a daily basis exclude a major portion of mankind from vital medical supplies. It it is the major medical companies who put a large portion of the citizens under the spell of pharmaceutics which deterriorates our senses and holds us in a state of chemical conformism. It is the major medical companies who are the chemical landlords of modern capitalism and dominating agents in the sphere of biopolitics. Oh, and it's the major medical companies who use science and the scientific method as their chief productive force.

Therefore: while rational thinking and the scientific method are important practices in the formation of a surrealist mode of thought, they should not be uncritically appraised outside of their historical context. What we seek is the surrational (what the hell is that?), the transgression of the boundaries between rationality and irrationality, and the deployment of specific techniques of attaining knowledge of our surroundings that are neither exclusive nor instrumentalizable. What we don’t need is boring, common sensical, debating this-or-that, one-sided rationality. We are not Noam Chomsky.


Yes it's not about ideas

Jonas’s reply to the “holy crap” was heartwarming. I do not feel that I necessarily share the hardboiled materialism he defends, but the major point, that it is not ideas which are the enemy, felt immensely fresh, and it can be defended without any commitments to metaphysical articles of faith. Mistaking ideas for enemies, and in general opionions as at all very relevant on the interpersonal level, provides the basis for much misery; the categorisation of people based on rhetorical choices of opinions does not only grotesquely overvalue pure personality market strategies, but also stands in the way for a large part of the spectrum of human interaction and regularly leads even to socially meaningless violence (if there is such a thing, perhaps I mean socially misdirected violence?)

On one hand, it is present in the unbearably liberal-panting Öffentlichkeit concept (as Jonas points out), where we are all good citizens if we don’t touch each other physically but only verbally abuse each other, since that somehow is supposed to be the ideas rather than the human beings standing against each other, testing their robustness and supposedly thereby truth value by way of their rhetorical power, which also is the rationale behind these unbearable popular education campaigns from above, including these moral campaigns where journalists, politicians and intellectuals borrow the whole verbal arsenal of political activism, the aggressive-pragmatic and simplifying-militaristic rhetorics, applying it outside the political sphere making it conceal rather than crudely reveal the social contradictions, in this supposedly wellmannered and highly civilised sphere of public polemics, while reifying all these bad ideas in a systematically mystifying way-

And on the other hand, it is also present in counterpart within the little private sphere to this public power exertion; in the secondary-school-like, pub-brawl-like, tv-debate-like mode of discussing through raising arguments against each other; as if it was logical stringency that determined peoples concepts and as if people were happy to retreat facing better arguments, as if it was meaningful or fun to “battle” with opinions, as if it was important to object when not agreeing to something said and refrain from objecting when agreeing, as if a person had more affinity with and more personal interest in those who have chosen more similar statements to defend than others-

Against this bizarre faith in ideas, I want to emphasize three points repeatedly made by different members in the group:
1) that ideas are figures of thought, simply more or less fruitful in how they are able to create more or less advantageous atmospheres and continuing thoughts and fantasies (NN),
2) that dialogue is primarily about finding unique ways of communicating rather than about the explicit statements made (CA)
3) that ideas can be dynamical (not the least in the shape of objections, questionings, wondering about obvious things or things taken for granted) to the extent that they open up for unusual ways of thinking, unusual courses of events, dynamical obstructions, fruitful collapses, unusual experiences and curiosity-breeding bad faith (SS).

From these three perspectives, which largely coincides with what Jonas says but with a micro perspective to complete his very macro, it does not matter whether the ideas are correct or not, it simply does not have the ultimate importance for the choice between them or the confrontation between them, it does not have the ultimate importance for their social, historical, poetical function.

The battle over ideas feels very much like a highstrung 18th century-liberal doll house world. I believe what we are doing rather concerns the battle over sensibility, the battle over everyday life, and the battle over history. Or perhaps something else?


Monday, September 3, 2007


The march posting on the icecrawler blog was intended to be notes from the discussion within the Stockholm surrealist group on religion in contemporary times, as explicitly requested by the Paris surrealist group, and originally triggered by how many surrealists thought Guy Ducornet’s major atheism initiative required a deepened collective discussion. Niklas Nenzén drafted a text, which to other members seemed to address just a minor selection of questions involved. At a meeting we had a tough but clarifying discussion on current ideological, sociopolitical, geopolitical aspects of religion, which made everybody exhausted and no one was inclined afterwards to sum it up in written form. At that point the Paris tract “To have done with the spectre of God” appeared (read it in french here), and seemed to cover in an acceptable and partly very good form some of these questions, even though it was also suspiciously reconcilient in explicitly preferring western societies to islamic countries (isn’t than a cretinisingly banal and pragmatic question which is entirely irrelevant from the viewpoint of surrealism?). At that point, contributions was starting to appear within the Stockholm group by people who had not taken part in the discussion up to then and/or regarding questions that had not been included up to then. Surprisingly, a defense of oldschool rationalistic atheism turned up alongside a defense for a leibnizian redefinition of the concept of theology. At that point, any call to return to order and to restate what ought to be the focus or circumscription of the discussion was regarded as purely hostile, and the following brawl left no agreements entire. This is the reason why the icecrawler blog has not been updated since then, and why the Stockholm group has not produced a joint statement in the question. At this point, it seemed we are starting to feel detached enough to display some of the statements, and when the editor of this blog threatened to do so several persons (including himself) started very eagerly to revise their texts, so hopefully they will be displayed here within a few weeks.

Until then, a few minor items have been added now in september:
- a short notice about surrealist boxes, from the documentation of an exhibition/event in Stockholm in may 2007 (with a few images)
- a technical note on definitions of surrealism
- an account of the analytical labors triggered by the innocent suggestion of “randomly picking an animal” in this years London surrealist game festival

forthcoming themes along the religion texts:
- fundaments of urbanity
- walking and happiness
- critical examination of the concept “poetic materialism”
- poetic materialism as research program


- Excerpt from a documentation/evaluation of an exhibition/event in Stockholm in May; exhibiting works by John Andersson, Mattias Forshage and Niklas Nenzén, including performances by Christian Andersson, MF, Micke Lundberg and Emma Lundenmark, for the event of the release of four books by MF at Styx publishers. The whole documentation can be downloaded as a pdf, and the books (in swedish) can be purchased from styx

SURREALIST BOXES are confined arrangements of surrealist objects. Primarily it is about invoking and/or investigating the poetical accomplicity and non-utilitarian autonomy of the objects. Thus the individual objects included are selected (or rather present themselves) to the extent that they produce real encounters (taking part in chains of chance events as well as mere glimpses of dynamic and elusive meaning-production and in the end in the radicalisation of living) first with the finder/ boxmaker when they are found (trouvés) and then with each other within the box. (Philosophically, in the process the subject/ object-relation is addressed and challenged. The box format also brings in the notion of portability with everything relating to it regarding notions of freedom, repetivity and male sexuality at the same time as the box itself (Büchse) remains a traditional female sexual symbol and an obvious site for secrets, enigmas and treasures.) Thus, surrealist boxes can be characterised as snapshots of, or experimental setups for, the secret lives of objects in a portable arena. (...)

"Giorgio de Chirico was a painter" (painting by John Andersson)

"...and his own morphological reverbations..." (painting by Niklas Nenzen)

Biological time (box by M Forshage)

What is Surrealism?

(The following short text is a note from a larger manuscript in the area of scientific/ poetic/ revolutionary epistemology by M Forshage, where the abundant references to surrealism seemed to necessitate at least a technical note regarding the definition of surrealism. This is certainly neither the most enthusiastic nor the most practically necessary of texts, but since it relates to a lot of things touched by the hell-choir text and a theoretical discussion on present positions of surrealism in general, it has been added here.)

The apparently easiest way of defining surrealism is to resort to a purely historical definition; surrealism is the movement founded by André Breton and his comrades in Paris during the years following world war 1, which was publicly announced 1924 and then has spread over the world and been developed in many different forms. Such a definition is obviously unsatisfactory since it in itself does not exclude anything at all of the uninteresting rubbish that in many circumstances have been associated with the term, it is just the most sweeping of ostensive gestures.

Many active surrealists would like to try to draw a dividing line by putting themselves into equation, and say for example that surrealism is anything that falls within the collective and individual activities of the active organised partakers in the surrealist movement in each historical collection. As a definition this does even worse though. Not only is a lot of the things that organised surrealists do quite obviously not surrealist (many of them are a lot more general and inclusive activities, and/or rather pertaining to their specific social or cultural forms and habits, and/or to neighboring fields of interest like politics or art) but the definition also does not the job expected from it until the surrealist movement is defined in some qualitative way, and some difference between “real” surrealists and purely nominal surrealists have been accounted for - such a distinction is often very easy to make on a spontaneous basis (sometimes admittedly far too easy and thus misleading) but very difficult to do in an explicit and objective way. Furthermore, if surrealism really is anything at all, a definition which relies on both an extreme formalism which resembles circularity (surrealism is what surrealists do) and on authority as epistemological source (surrealism is what the surrealists say it is) is intellectually deficient.

Many (not the least me and my friends) have tried to abstract forth the most fundamental content of surrealism with flowery language and hyperradical phrases (“the total liberation of man” and all that) but that remains just suggestive characteristics of a content, and still nothing which makes it possible to objectively identify what is actually included and what is not. Such phrases quite simply can not distinguish surrealism from a lot of other things, other forms of revolutionary politics, everydaylife activism, psychological experimentation, imaginative creativity, mysticism, etc – all these things which between them may possibly have a shared core which surrealism reveals (or, if not, rather a virtual core which surrealism constructs), but which taken one by one is definitively not identical with surrealism in any meaningful sense.

(In the connection from where this text is taken, it was relevant to refer, for additional examples, to a sentence from the Stockholm group’s declaration “The objective situation of life june 2002”: “The activities of the surrealists really only pertains to investigating the means of exalting life beyond personal happiness, carreer, money, wage labor, family and common sense” or to the whole tract “The scream in the sack” (elsewhere on the icecrawler pages).)

Well, to start with, we have to bake into the definition a circumscription of its range, admitting a specificity to surrealism, meaning that we can never reduce it to any easier or more complex theory or selection of themes, and that while possibly trying to make such a formulation still never expect it to be exhaustive, and see that surrealism can only be the realisation of any such content in a particular historical form which keeps attracting, is expressed by, and is further developed by, real human beings in concrete social historical connections throghout the world. So here I would like to sketchily characterise the contents by a structural analysis of its themes and activities inspired by Imre Lakatos model for analysis of “research programmes” (with a “hard core” which can’t be questioned, a “protective belt” of more flexible corollaria, and an imbedding in “positive and negative heuristics” which tells how to go about in practice).

For surrealism, the innermost core is obviously POETRY, the concern for which is largely untouchable. Around it are the fundamental attitudes towards poetry, still not negotiable; simply CREATIVITY and NONCONFORMISM. It is NOT the case that creativity is the inner, individual and/or esoteric side while nonconformism is the outer, social and/or exoteric side. On the contrary, they are both equally important as basic pillars in intrapsychic, intersubjective and social aspects.

Level 3, surrounding creativity and nonconformism, are their most important forms: EXPERIMENTALITY (curiosity in methods and in results; no superordinated aesthetic criteria or trusted formulae), NON-CARREERISM (non-utilism in the social sphere) and PERMANENCE (this is not a phase or a game to walk in and out of). Those are what is needed to distinguish between surrealism and all it’s laughing-mirror images, which usually lacks one or more ot these, thus transforming the poetic content to a mere means for one or other form of temporary transgressions, nostalgic roleplaying, philatelism or clowning, moments in an eclectic and utilistic personality development, tools in one or other desired or ongoing cultural carreer or academic carreer. Let us say that anything that fits this far is actually an instance of “objective surrealism” of one kind or another.

Then we can say that the next layer, level 4, are the historically determining forms for this activity; all that which characterises the activity of those who have regarded themselves as surrealists: COLLECTIVE, TRADITIONAL (of course in the sense of actively investigating and shaping a tradition and using it creatively, not in the sense of nostalgy, lack of experiment, reliance on doctrine, habitual behavior), POLITICALLY REVOLUTIONARY, LITERATE, ODD-EDUCATED. These five are in practice indispensable for any organised surrealist activity, but not for each individual surrealist subjectively, and they are not at all necessary for fulfilling an objective surrealism.

The outermost layer, level 5, the purely protective heuristics, sometimes decisive for belonging, the establishing of a typical or normal, recognisable form, is the whole surrealist tradition and everything it suggests, teaches and warns for; including the good and bad experiences made, as well as any shared vocabulary, set of techniques, particular habits and social attitudes. This is the background against which we link up with each other, communicate, and an important part of how we suggest and evaluate initiatives and how we evaluate and criticise them. You can be a surrealist without all of this, especially if you are in a collective surrealist activity where you leave much of this to other members as some specialised field of activity and knowledge (stressing a hierarchy in the group which may be fairly neutral as a mere spatial distribution in center and periphery - hopefully multidimensional-complex rather than unidimensional - , but potentially dangerous). Any objections to surrealism formulated exteriorly to this can be dismissed (and sadly will be dismissed by many surrealists) as simply not relevant because it is not surrealist. At the same time any part of this can be considered outdated, irrelevant or in need of revision by any active surrealists, as long as you do this from the perspective of the more central contents of the concept and don’t start dispensing with these, which would constitute objective revisionism and usually personal renegadism and obvious non-surrealism.

In spite of this attempt, distinguishing between surrealism and non-surrealism remains in some cases difficult without reference to the surrealist experience. However, as far as that can not be explicated in analytical terms, a definition is not the right place to determine its status.

Animal Walks

One of the games suggested in this years London International Festival of Surrealism (16-29.vii.2007) (the festival before and after and who were the participants) was called “Animal Farm” (rules were simples: pick a random animal and identify with it when taking a walk) and had some appeal to the Stockholm group, but first a good dose of critical remarks on the analytical difficulties…

The major difficulty of doing the animal walk with a zoologist in the group is the part of randomly picking an animal. What is random in this connection? The suggested method of picking one at random from a book relies heavily on what kind of book it is, and most popular books will be subject to the same particular bias as most people’s intuitive choices. Other books will be subject to other biases.

First of all, being mammals and genetically programmed to react empathically to things resembling possible mates and/or possible offspring, and having a strong tendency for complacency, narrowmindedness and chauvinism, most people display a strong mammal-chauvinistic bias, preferring middlesized more or less furry things with large eyes. Childhood programming by toys, popular science and TV entertainment (and usually very little by direct personal experience) make us imagine most ”typical animals” as belonging to either of two categories: domestic animals of farms, and wildlife of (african-indian) savannah (this may be slightly different in other parts of the world and even more in other generations). A few birds and perhaps an occasional reptile will come along with the mammal lot there. But in many everyday language situations, many people actually use the word animal as synonymous with mammal, as in the phrase ”animals and birds”. If pressed such people would probably see two different meanings of the word, animals sensu lato and animals sensu stricto, because otherwise it is a bit difficult to conceive what would be the more inclusive term for the whole animal kingdom – creatures? beasts?

Thus, for people without a well-developed zoological imagination or zoological education, picking an animal by random from a book or from one’s own mind will probably conform to this bias.

Systematic attempts of picking a random animal would have to be based on some assession of animal diversity. Potentially there is an infinite number of ways of doing this, but the ones readily available are species diversity or phylogenetic diversity.

If random picking an animal is based on an assessment of overall diversity of animals in terms of species numbers; then almost all animals are insects. There are some significant portions of crustaceans, arachnids, molluscs and (admittedly) vertebrates too (predominantly fish though) and all other groups are close to zero fractions. This will produce a species diversity bias, which thus is strongly in favor of entomological choices.

It is notable that one readily available chance method, that of picking an animal by closing one’s eyes and then opening them and picking the first animal seen will, unless it becomes a human (many people will not count humans as animals) or unless the person has poor eyesight, most probably result in an insect.

But the other option in assessing overall animal diversity is the systematists way of imagining the animal kingdom in the representation of a phylogenetic tree showing out hypothesis of the evolution of the group. In this way, an extremely species-rich lineage such as insects, and an extremely subjectively important lineage such as mammals, will only be individual lineages among large numbers of others. As this perspective tends to give dominance to lineages that have been separate for long times, it sees an animal kingdom strongly dominated by (often species-poor groups of) marine invertebrates, usually more or less wormlike. This is a phylogenetic diversity bias.

With the zoologist in the group being a systematist, there was no option but to base the selection on the phylogenetic diversity bias prespective. Starting from a random point picked in a strongly schematic tree of the animal kingdom, each player described an imagined walk with left and right turns, back and forth movements, occasional leaps, etc, which were followed by someone else on a more detailed tree of the particular region in the tree. So it was simply a blind walk in a labyrinth, the topology of the labyrinth being a phylogenetic tree. Whenever the persons walk led to a terminal in the tree, and the person did not retreat from there, the animal represented by that terminal was the result.

In this way, EL became a crinoid (sea lily, featherstar, ”hair-star”, including the medusahead, gorgonhead etc) – marine echinoderms, easy to imagine as starfish with long and strongly branched arms, often stalked and sessile, otherwise slowly crawling on the ocean floor. A crinoid had played an interesting part in a dream by MF involved in the collective ”moon novel” project where it was mythologised into the character of the ”evolutionary runneress”.

KF became a shark. The night before he had been telling an anecdote of meeting potentially threatful reef sharks while scuba diving in Belize.

EB became a centipede, in popular culture (like in Burroughs’ Naked Lunch) usually represented by large scolopenders, extremely swift and venomous predators, sometimes with phosphorescent colors and sometimes with poisionous cuticular exudates substantiating the ghost stories of people getting bad rashes when scolopender had been running over their body at night.

JE became a nemertine, a ribbon worm, a very common group of marine slimy, flat, simultaneously extremely fragile and extremely flexible worms, one species being able to stretch out to 30 m length.

MF became a siphonophoran, a ”state medusa”, one of Ernst Haeckel’s favorite animals (in Kunstformen der Natur and elsewhere), a kind of jellyfish made up by a large colony of hydroids showing spectacular degree of specialisation into ”swimming persons”, ”prey-catching persons” (with the nettle cells), ”sex persons” etc, often producing a gas-filled sailing bladder (for example the famous portugese manowar, probably the most famous but certainly not the most spectacular siphonophoran).

If someone would have ended up with an animal that didn’t make sense to them even after having learnt about it, it would have been considered a false hit and the process repeated, but as it were everybody felt quite happy with their results which all seemed very significant.

Now this was only the first step of the game and the point was to take a walk as that animal, and see what alterations and novelties it suggested in sensory input, body awareness, social relations etc. So the rest is up to the different participants.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Re: surrealist groups and publicity

The decision by certain surrealists not to disseminate their contributions to the discussion ”publicly” on for example blogs, instead wanting to restrict the discussion to taking place among surrealist groups, is a perfectly legitimate though problematic one, which highlights some of the themes from ”labors of existence” and provides us with a pretext for revisiting them.

What is the public sphere?
It is not the size of the audience which defines the border between the public sphere and the rest, but the ideological implications of the type of communicative act. Very often spreading rumours and idle personal communication will reach more people than printing stuff or exposing it on the Internet. But ”going public” IN A SENSE automatically (but in practice in different ways and different amounts) means offering oneself as an exponent of public ideology (and of the ideology of publicity), as a free laborer for the spectacle, making sure that whatever one might have had to say will be contorted into a ideologically packedged twisted mirror image of it, primarily fulfilling a utilistic purpose of entertainment or cultural investment. Some will say even that it will primarily mean advertising the spectacle of the present order as such, and/or that the intended message or any other ”subversive” content impossibly can ever be mediated, and/or that the medium absolutely determines the message, and/or that the ideology of the society absolutely determines the message, but that appears to be more or less armchair exaggerations of more or less professional pessimists. No such system can be monolithic, closed, absolute, but must always be a product of the struggle between different objective interests, between the needs and compromises of real people, and is always subjected to the effects of ineffectivity, entropy, immense differentiation, chaos factors, chance effects, clinamen, the unpredictable, etc. The most effective subversion may take place, almost by definition, where we least expect it. Recuperated elements backfire, for those who are used to the situationist terminology. If we don’t jump onto the ”squirrel wheel” bandwagon of competing for media exposure, and if we don’t host illusions of ”fair” ”objective” representation, any public appearance can be a part of a strategy of simply sowing potential subversive elements beyond our control. This of course brings us back to the image of the message in the bottle.
”Surrealist publishing thus always remain a case of ”messages in a bottle”: eternally scattering messages in the hope that they will somewhere invent their target, that is, finding someone bold, openminded, depraved and/or desperate enough to respond to the challenge in a way unimagined by us, which may or may not be the same thing as simply bringing in their individual sensibilities to our common causes.” (Labors of Existence)
Now, underground printing as well as Internet publishing are publicity activities which are RELATIVELY low in inherent ideology simply because they are simple, cheap, easily available, they are not dependent on external financiation or on pleasing ”experts” editorial choices - it’s possible to direct almost the whole process oneself. And they usually have moderate circulation. Nevertheless, messages there do take unexpected paths, and especially on the Internet it can turn up in anybodys home due to weird chance phenomena or mere determination in seeking. Obviously, this is a fairly good field for planting whatever the entities of poetic subversion are; but in this connection it is also dependent on how we determine the borders of who we are ready to speak openly to, which makes us return to the question:
What is a surrealist group?
”To draw a sharp line between groups that fulfill the requirements of the narrow sense /of surrealist group/ and the rest, or even to merely work hard to define criteria for the former, will today seem strangely conspiratory or nostalgic or both.” (Labors of Existence)
But, ok perhaps such ”strange nostalghia or conspiratoriness” nevertheless is not unnecessary, if we should establish an ”internal” discussion. Then we could suggest, purely technically, that a surrealist group is an association consisting of a collective of physical persons (on one level, though remember the ”Intersubjectivity” discussion), more or less regularly physically meeting, keeping up a collective surrealist activity on at least a few different fronts (thus ruling out mere artists groups, discussion groups etc), communicating/ collaborating with other surrealist groups and individuals over the world, the group and a large part of the participants designating themselves surrealists (though they need not all be friends among themselves, and need not be approved from Paris or Chicago). Associations fulfilling some but not all of these criteria would constitute the traditional looser bordering category of ”surrealist groupings”. Many such groupings will experience similar dynamics and similar problematics as the surrealist groups, and some may take an equivalent effort/ responsibility in continuing, further developing, defending and/or reinventing surrealism.
This emphasises the difficulty in drawing the line to establishing the participants of an ”internal” discussion. But we are not entirely insensitive to such a need. There are some of these infamous ”internet artists” who simply advertise their personal works and even more their personal neuroses by calling themselves surrealists and occasionally enter into comunication with surrealists through the ease of digital communication. There are fairly large numbers of more or less well-meaning gravediggers who strive for reaching, or maintaining, positions as experts, critics and commentators on surrealism. Also, in certain countries, under certain circumstances, the police will be interested in getting some overview into the movement, particularly its conctact networks but also its organisation and psychology. Now most of us don’t have much taste for the boy adventure games of activist secrecy, but there is certainly a point in trying to reserve a lot of the actual insight for those who are seriously interested (”seriously” here both literally and as a eufemism for non-policiary, non-careeristically, non-spectacularily), and not readily handing in our protocols, membership rolls and detailed agendas to those who will accumulate and/or represent them by mechanisms and for purposes which effectively situates them on the opposite side of our cause.
The compromise we lean towards is using the ”public” means of open debate fora for planting themes, initiating discussions, but still somehow demanding personal contact to reveal too much specified details. That is for example probably the rationalisation of the scarcity of examples in ”Voices of the Hell-choir”, which some may find frustrating or mystifying. At least partly, because there appears to us to be a general rhetorical point of trying to avoid at least some of the knee-jerk defense reactions in that way too, whenever it can be done without a sense of withholding information within a discussion.

There is definitely some sense of transparence and indefensiveness that we struggle for which we are not interested in exposing to the public sphere but only to our serious collaborators, and there is a kind of "etiquette" we should stick to, and some formal expectations we should try to demand from ourselves, but to us it seems to be a very important thing that we should not limit our perspective to whatever conforms to these formal requirements; there is always going to be a "grade" of more or less relevant phenomena in the surroundings, and there is always substantial contributions that might come from unexpected directions.

Biological time

(Short discussion of timescales from a biological perspective, a contribution to a discussion no longer remembered about something else, Mattias Forshage, early 2006)

Of course there are a great number of different biological timescales, some of them fairly constant throughout the realm of life (speed of nerve impulses, annual cycle, daily cycle), some widely varying in acordance with the lifestyle of the specific organism, some more long-term and dealing more with development of lineages rather than individual organisms (that is, phylogeny rather than ontogeny).

The most important time unit in evolution is the generation time, which ranges from minutes in bacteria to decades in large vertebrates like man (a good median is perhaps one generation per year in most insects in temperate climates, annual plants, most birds, etc). Over a number of generations evolutionary change can occur. It is very difficult to specify how many is needed. Only in bacteria we can directly observe evolution, and what we see there is obviously very different from what goes on in most animals as there is no sexual reproduction, meaning that there is neither any recombination of the genetic material (thus less change) nor any spontaneous ”censorship” in simple non-fertilisation or spontaneous abortion (thus more change). Evolutionary timescales is one of the questions in the 70s-80s debate between more leftist-hegelian ”punctuated equilibrium” (”saltationism”) and more rightist ”gradualist-adaptationist” views of evolution. From a poetic viewpoint it will suffice to imagine evolutionary time as vastly longer than human experienced time. If we stick to the gradualist stories it’s all extremely slow, if we try the saltationist version it will vary between millions of years of practically nothing happening and then sudden bursts of activity in response to certain threshold geological events like forming and breaking of land connections, elevation of mountain ridges, major volcano eruptions, drying of wetlands, rivers making new turns etc.
Experienced time is a totally different thing, and of course it’s often far easier to spontaneously vividly imagine when watching different animals. Obviously heartbeat rates, metabolism and speed of thought vary even within our own species, but within a fairly narrow range. Small endothermic animals (like sparrows and mice), as well as larger herbivores under heavy predation pressures (all those deers and antelopes etc), generally live faster, with faster heartbeats and shorter lifespans. A lot of the former hibernate when living in cool climates, meaning that they drastically slow down all bodily processes, and thus time as such, during the winter. Large ectothermic predators (like crocodiles and large snakes) have perhaps the most dramatically fluctuating sense of time, being able to strike incredibly fast if they are hungry when a prey is near, but then wait and actually do nothing at all for a year or more. Also for smaller ectothermic vertebrates like fish and lizards, it’s quite obvious that they spend a lot of time doing nothing whatsoever but when they move they do it real fast. This truly fluctuating sense of time is a totally different thing than the mere monumental laziness required by those mammals that just sleep throughout the whole winter rather than truly hibernate (like bears), or the more humanlike sense of variation, creating a continous interplay between leisure/boredom and enthusiasm/stress, that we see in most primates and carnivores.

Speed is obviously one of the issues connected with the endothermy, the internally regulated, constantly high, body temperature of birds (and we don’t know which ones of the dinosaurs preceding them) and mammals. A consequence of this is that the capacity for speed is the plesiomorphic (inherited) state in birds and mammals, so that slowness is the phenomen requiring a particular explanation wherever it occurs. Slow birds are very rare, and even rarer after the extinction of the dodo. A heron is certainly not slow but a murderous parttime freezer of the same kind as other stalking hunters like praying mantises. The only slow bird I come to think of just now is the south african ground hornbill, slowly walking about investigating the world and not fearing anything. Among the mammals only few, like the leisure-pleasure swimmers manatees & dugongs and the truly timestopping canopy grazing sloths, are perpetually slow. Most others, be it pangolins, armadillos, cattle, elephants, rhinoceroses or hippopotamuses, just prefer a slow pace manifesting that they don’t have to be afraid, and they’re all quite capable of swift movement whenever needed.

Experienced time of non-vertebrates is a different affair. As most of them don’t have a rhythmically beating heart, or a really information-storing brain, time becomes more of an automatic, but chaotically complex, interaction between temperature, nerve impulse speed and external stimuli. (often leading to dead ends, like flies at a window or moths at a lamp). So much more difficult for us to get a picture of what they actually experience. In dung beetles, speed is mostly a simple product of surrounding temperature, they behave exactly the same but quicker when temperature rises. Common large predators like spiders, ground beetles, centipedes, ants and dragonflies have the same rush and rest dualism as in the vertebrate predators. The movements in the rushes are way beyond us but the pattern is simple. Worse are insects like the common house fly, extremely fast for reasons that don’t appear obvious to us, making pointless rushes and inbetween that sit and brush themselves in a strangely jerky and ritualistic way. However, apparently lacking a sense of time themselves, they keep manifesting these endless repetitions and vain labors that make human spectators so extremely frustrated. And the mayflies have no anguish whatsoever about the fact their adult timespan will be prolonged further than a mere few hours only if weather is too bad for flying. Other animals like social wasps (bees, ants etc) and octopus do obviously do more complex information processing and have some sense of time, but while the hymenopterans always turn out to be disappointingly boring whenever some aspect of their language is interpreted, the cephalopods remain simply unintelligable.

And once into weird examples, let’s cite the the north american prime number cicadas, with a larval development time span of strictly 13 or 17 years. Some vascular plants will blossom more rarely than that. And the pantopods (sea spiders), marine stalkers of the extremely wary bryozoans, who pull their tentacles back into the shell immediately when something happens nearby, so the pantopods can’t rush on them but just walk real slowly and devour them just as slowly! And of course the tardigrades (water bears), slow crawlers in most habitats and weathers, but whenever temperature drops below zero or all water evaporate they just fall into a deep coma, without any life signs whatsoever, and stay that way until environment becomes suitable again, when they just resume business as usual, even if they were as dead for centuries inbetween!
Vascular plants are rather mysterious too whenever you try to think into their worldview. Even though all fast movements of plants are mechanical processes requiring no nervous input, they do have a well-developed fast nervous system, they do detect pain etc, only no one knows what it really means to them.

But, whither we wanted to get was the timescale of creativity and dynamism in habits. This depends mostly on the type of lifestyle. Both genetic evolution and cultural evolution are about unique historical events, but the general conditions for genetic evolution are far more restraining, as most events in the life of the individual organism simply don’t affect it. Cultural evolution can be far more dramatical. Some traits are of the cultural evolution type (not genetically handed over, and thus either phylogenetically constrained or not) without necessarily having anything to do with culture, like geographical distribution areas, habitats, food and host-parasite relationships. Just like behavioral traits, where it’s ususally unknown to what extent the basis is genetical and indeed very often meaningless to pose that question at all without recognising the fundamental interdependence of environmental and genetical conditions, we can only determine the mode of inheritance, and thus the timescale and the amount of phylogenetical information involved, a posteriori.

So, several organisms have a lifestyle which requires them to be curious and inventive and seek variation and novelty. There is certainly a genetic basis for this openended flexibility, and it may perhaps even be described as a paradox, to be genetically programmed not to stick to any programming! In mammals and birds, this is true for non-specialised predators (cats, dogs etc) and omnivores (pigs, crows, rats, bears, a lot of monkeys & apes including man), and it’s also true for social species with a fair amount of cultural evolution (and thus dynamic societies rather than the static ones of ants, bees and termites) (examples being dolphins and other whales, horses, elephants, and again dogs and many monkeys & apes including man). Thus the notion of natural creativity is closely linked to what we usually call intelligence, but it only partly overlaps the notion of eusociality. (There are also weird animals who developed these creative traits for totally different reasons, usually rampant sexual selection (nests of bower birds, song of starlings and other improvisors, etc)). So humans is among those who have dual reasons to be curious-dynamic. This natural creativity is certainly situated on the timescale of the experienced time of the individual organism. A sudden discovery or invention one day may change ones life and affect the lives of ones successors. Again if we like paradoxical statements we can say that it’s natural for human beings to be unnatural.