Thursday, November 5, 2009



Simultaneously with the contemporary approach to the animal from an ecological perspective, a perspective that proclaims the animal’s excellence as a living being (this necessarily implies the protection of animals from one of the worst human diseases: slavery), another attitude imposes itself as it seeks to exalt and perpetuate the animal, once again, as a real space of emanation and intervention of the marvellous.

The animal is a great unknown, and this transforms it into a geography of the unexplored. In the relationship with the elements and its analogues, through its rituals and games, in all its ways of behaviour, the animal contains an act of inspiration as well as being inspiring.

We condemn the paralysing and despicable inclination due to which the animal is presented with human attributes. The recognition of the animal goes inexcusable through a recognition of the beauty that the animal projects: the song of the whale, the love declaration of the penguin, the headlong flight of a kingfisher, the 180-degrees head turn of the eagle owl, the ‘innocent’ ardor of a nocturnal moth and the luminous trail left behind by the firefly during its courting dance. The animal generates a magnificient succession of alternative currents, ‘true emblems of all its splendour.’ (1) On the one hand, these currents constitute an example of generosity towards itself, an authentic demonstration of ‘passional attitude’, but on the other hand, they challenge every human logical system of relation, including that which complacently passes for human sensitivity. In any case, the animal denotes the notion of the particular and the concrete, which in the universe of the perceptible by the senses – and in its relations with every operation of recognition – configures a paradigm of the revealing.

In this sense everything indicates that the operations of extinction and appropriation performed on the animal, cause, simultaneously with the animal’s eradication, a kind of taming of our emotions, or in more brutal terms, a kind of castration of the human emotional capacity and disposition towards the ‘inspiring’. The criminal activity directed against the Amazonian rain forest and countless other actions perpetrated on a national, regional or local level, monstrously and hypocritically by all States of the world, without exception, leads to the gradual disintegration of an infinitely sensitive space of reality, where the intervention of the marvellous could be found in an unadulterated state. Therefore such operations implacable tends to deprive us of that which, inseparable from every activity of our spirits, corresponds to a horizontal and vertical dynamic of knowledge. Because the animal is wisdom! Its forms of existence include an authentic expression of an intuitive, emotional and passional life, which, as we enter into contact with the poetic thought, opens the true path of sailing towards that island which some beings agreed to call, after resting on its shores, the island of wisdom.

This attitude is not, in any way, that which appears in the Article 2, Section B of the Declaration of the Universal Animal Rights: ‘Man is obliged to put his knowledge into the service of the animal (sic).’ Such an appreciation – the ‘good will’ of which does not suffice – characterises the pathetic nature of general approach of man towards the animal being, exposing openly and unashamedly his determination rooted in a system of rationalist thought that places the faculties of the animal onto a lower existential plane. Far from resuscitating a new sensitiveness that would reactualize and reorientate our relationship towards the animal onto a plane of reciprocity, it continues to express the same obscure presumptions by which man strives to establish, now through declarations, the human capacities as superior to that of the animal. And nothing seems to indicate that in order to aspire to this reciprocity it is necessary to be in the field, or that its recognition would pass for such reciprocity. The contemporary difficulty is obvious of a recovery, under the present form of contact, of a relationship that existed as a result of an everyday contact with the animal in tribal, ‘primitive’ or entirely rural societies, and brought a form of knowledge of the animal being. It will have to reconcile the scientific information (which presupposes – principally objective – the absence of such a contact) with an attitude of longing and passion towards the animal, an attitude that responds to an incipient and fundamental recognition, transcending and overriding, at the same time, the limits installed by a restrictive and socially dissociating form of life (inseparably on the mental and the physical level). Moreover, the absence of practical conditions for the concrete recognition of the animal ‘is not incompatible with theoretical recognition, nor would it be incompatible with feelings.’ (2) What is proposed is a necessary change of disposition as a first step towards the breaking of the equivocal: a recognition of the animal? yes, by our recognition of the wisdom of the animal. Only by giving the latter a paramount significance we can place our knowledge at its service and thus establish the coordinates of a reciprocal relationship. As Mariano Auladén affirms, ‘this would require the placement of the operations of relationship between humans and the animal on the same level as the relationships which humans attempt to establish among themselves. Only a human effort departing from such a premise, independently from the result which we can obtain with our present strength, would enable us to leave the trite path of routine and mental lethargy towards the animal.’ (3)

In all its categories, the animal awakens an intricate web of correspondences in their highest degree of transparency. The poet will make them his own; surrendered to a state of metamorphosis the poet will establish with the animal, ‘in contrast with the scientist and his methods of enquiry based on plain descriptions of the animal’s physiology and his habits’ (4) a relationship animated by a dialectic between the unknown-marvellous-revealing that leads him to a new magic recreation. The poet will employ means of analogy and poetic imagination as a vehicle for translating his knowledge of the animal, from a perspective which would exalt, once again, the animal’s totemic and symbolic role. The animal has not lost its fabulous essence seen by travellers in past times, an essence confirmed by the tradition of the imaginary. Similarly, the image of the animal as an instructor and inductor of his wisdom has not disappeared. This role surfaces in indigenous cultures (‘…we have been here for thousands of years and long time ago the animals instructed us.’) (5) It is the modern and the contemporary man who has rid his spirit of the awareness of these phenomena that were traditionally consubstancial to him. The reestablishment of relationships based on the principle of the marvellous entails an attitude by which the faculties of the animal are to be recognized.

As an eagle over the forest, as a sheldrake on a female shelduck, the animal accelerates a reunion with the lost mythogenic consciousness of life. This will become the foundation stone in a construction of a bridge, the determination of which implies that the desire of Joseph Jablonski that one day man should know, again, how to identify the animal world as his totem, will begin to be fulfilled. In any case, such a provision does not cease to incite a form of reconduction towards that being (it remains to us to place and contemplate that day in our time). In this way, the end of the false fascination expressed in the condescending vision of the animal, a vision that predominates at the present time, would begin; the end of a vision that turns against him ‘the double stigma with which the modern man tries to defend his enslaved reason: the useful-the harmful.’ (6)

Neither a perverted action (appropriation, murder) nor an obscene one (the animal as entertainment for the masses, i.e. circuses, zoos, art exhibitions…) can lead, in spite of man, to a decimation of the animal. At the same time, no such actions can prevent us from seeing in the spiral of its forms of life a space of enchantment from which to reenchant what we vaguely take as the Human Condition.

As Mariano Auladén asserts, ‘…the animal is not property, it is a REVELATION. It is not a cultural object, but a CREATOR OF ACTS.’ Such manifestations will open for us the source of a true recovery of sensibility regarding the animal world. In their critical consideration, these manifestations proclaim the absence of awareness that the modern and contemporary man holds of the animal world. The repercussions of such an absence are omnipresent: man projects his base condition on the animal and extends it over the animate and inanimate continent of new references. To this attitude we, surrealists, would like to respond with a formula to convert the historical time that restricts it to a mythogenic time that would transcend it.

The creation of a Surrealist Bestiary corresponds to these ideas. As long as the surrealist thought will demand a mythogenic perspective of life, it will communicate an attitude of exaltation and recognition of the animal’s behaviour (way of life) and its own morphology from the view point of a dialectic of imagination that would transmutate it onto a totemic level.

The animal, a being whose existence is inseparable linked with a total sense of the marvellous, and whose majestic presence fabulously completes and presides the universe of the imaginary, contributes here to the realization of the immanent attraction that exists between the desire for a myth and its satisfaction. It offers to our sensitivity and knowledge an invitation in a way of challenge:

Let the flight of thousands hummingbirds create through the agitation
of their wings an equal number of air currents which will surround man
and erase him, return to him his absolute presence that would irreversible
identify him - this was for Marianne Van Hirtum already a practical condition -
with the perennial image of the Enchanter.

The Surrealist Group in Madrid
Madrid, 1993


1. The Anteater’s Umbrella. A Contribution to the critique of the Ideology of Zoos, The Surrealist Group in Chicago, 1971.
2. Claude Levi-Strauss, La Pensée Sauvage
3. Mariano Auladén, “Quiyi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi”, Luz Negra, Comunicación surrealista nº 2, Gijón, 1981, p 5.
4. Mariano Auladén, ibid.
5. Claude Levi-Strauss, ibid.
6. Mariano Auladén, ibid.

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