Monday, April 23, 2012

Third lecture on atmosphere

"A midnight´s visit is grand. The paint shop nothing."

Hypnagogic phrase and image.

/ Christofer Dahlby

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First lecture on atmosphere

Atmosphere one

Let's hear a tale about the primordial atmosphere. Or, if that is taken specifically as the original atmosphere only, then rather the atmosphere during those emblematic prehistoric days, and then most emblematically that of the Carboniferous era, the rich and intoxicating air at the time, when dense warm forests covered earth, gigantic insects were flying around, bizarre reptiles and amphibians were crawling around, long before the dinosaurs. The transformations of the primordial atmosphere is largely the story about the cycles of oxygen levels.

Oxygen is a lethal substance. Very reactive, and therefore threatening for anything that wants to remain. For us, painfully adapted to life under these directly life-threatening oxygen levels, the very process of life consists to a large extent of spending very much energy on hindering and redirecting the amok of the inflammable oxygen on cellular level. We eat to cope with oxygen, to be able to retain physical integrity, to keep our body, and as soon as we fade or die we start disintegrating.

Just to make a long story short: For some reason we received water on earth (the reason is not clear); water is one form where oxygen is strongly bound and largely passivised. But in the water life emerged, bacteria that commenced photosynthesising and thus releasing the oxygen that had been bound in the water. Free oxygen, very reactive, then was bound largely by iron, forming massive layers of iron oxides all over the earth. After long times then more or less all available iron was bound with oxygen, and then free oxygen started accumulating in pure form in the atmosphere. This was quite dangerous, and the original bacteria were retreating to hidden, oxygen-poor environments. But then came the animals. Animals were a new, quickly evolving lineage that survived oxygen, and not only survived but were net consumers of it. But on a geological time scale the respite became brief: after the animals came in the Cambrian and made the earth far more pleasant, then already in the Silurian the plants came, incorporating photosynthesising bacteria offering such bacteria entirely new habitats and a new scale in their previously largely microscopic life; oxygen levels were increasing again. Especially during the Carboniferous, oxygen levels rise dramatically: plants form forests spreading out to cover all land. Hot, wet, oxygen-rich, thronging, crawling; the emblematic vegetation type of the period is a magnificent, infernal and uterine jungle; a grandiose fever hallucination. Huge animals, thick prosperous vegetation (tree ferns, giant clubmosses, cycads), massive forest fires on a continental scale; an immense supply of nutrients, incessant green growth, incessant biological production, dramatic increase in oxygen... But then a similarly drastic decrease during the Permian! This was mainly for reasons of plate tectonics; the continents drifted together to form a super continent, Pangea. This includes an increase of the proportion of land on earth, when all the shallow continental shelves are dried up. The warm parts of earth are more land than sea so much less water is evaporating into the atmosphere. The global air masses get drier, less land is situated close to the coast; the climate becomes dramatically drier: deserts replace jungles. During the Permian, oxygen levels in the atmosphere decrease from 30% to 15%! Then, during the mesozoic era, those more well-documented times when flowering plants, dinosaurs and others diversified, oxygen rose slowly again, and has for a very long time now been around 21%.

Atmosphere two

But let us begin in another end as well. If atmosphere can be taken in a strictly chemical-meteorological sense it can just as easily be taken in a phenomenological-spatial-existential. It is one of the characteristics of poetry that it generates atmospheres, and that this easily can become an aesthetic criterion: an image which does not generate an atmosphere is a lifeless and flat image, which is perceived as arbitrary or cerebral, mechanical or constructed; while an image which generates an atmosphere animates the senses and imagination, invites to revery and co-creation.

An atmosphere is a charged spatiality. It is generated by a presence. A presence which takes occupancy of a place and erects a sense of room. This presence is a trigger of psychic dynamics and thereby in some sense an image. But whatever becomes a poetic image is also a matter of flexible categorisation, and completely dependent on its effectiveness in concrete mental terms. It may even be the very currency of spiritual exchange...

So, we often have reason to return to the formulation of the poetic image as defined by Reverdy and examplified by Lautréamont from Breton's manifesto onwards. Maybe some people haven't heard them to boredom or learned them by heart. It's about the image as "a creation of the mind /arising/ from the rapprochement of two more or less distant realities /.../ the more /.../ remote and accurate /.../ the greater /.../ emotional power and poetic reality"; "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella". This concerns the spritual dynamics in a suggestion of an unusual relationship, an unusual displacement, an unusual constellation. On the one hand it has a polemical side, the dynamics of freedom itself, the width of the field of possibilities as soon as one abandons those relationships dictated by utilistic concerns, by realistic assessments and by old habit. On the other hand, not everything is poetic and it concerns very specifically those concrete connections, intercourses and possibilities that are revealed in the specific suggested relationship, which might be able to take us somewhere or not. It is this latter aspect that makes the criterion functioning as a criterion. Atmosphere is a field of possibilities, but not only in the formal, technical sense, but it is also a substantial part of the explanation why an atmosphere is poetic, that it is a sensorily tangible condensaiton of the field of possibilities, moving us with the weight of its yet unrealised dynamic. It is not just the case that we don't know what will happen, but unusual things will also feel tangibly possible; while the outcome is notably uncertain the very act of opening is so directed that the climate prevailing in this beyond entangle ones face with sticky tentacles, poking and blowing on the spirit. And this presence, which in some sense is an image, does not need to be ab image in the classical sense with two separate identifiable elements being connected; it could also be an image emerging from some more metonymical suggestion: a self-reference becoming a vicious circle, a very distinct absence, or something. Anything that is capable of generating an enigma. Because actually it is only when an enigma, only when there is a certain measure of spiritual fuel in a place, and then also a tendency to not be exhaustible by all the interpretations and guesses it gives rise to, and this elusiveness in itself becomes tangible; only then does this producitivity reach its actual gas generation and creates a real atmosphere, a concrete measure of room on its own conditions.

Etymologically an atmosphere is a "breathing ball". A circular room where we could possibly live and breathe. A bearable environment. A poetic bubble. The visualisation of this point where things can start happening, the sensorily tangible extension of the field of possibilities, the charged spatiality, is actually the alpha and omega of a substantial part of surrealist art.

 (CO Hultén)

 (Kay Sage)

Atmosphere in art

Historically it is entirely due to Chirico that atmosphere assumed such a central role in surrealism. Chirico was crucial for the direction of several of the pioneers of the surrealist adventure in pictorial art; Tanguy, Magritte, etc. But note also how strong this tendency is in some of the other immediate sources to surrealist pictorial art; Atget, Rousseau, Moreau. Or? In surrealist art, this is clearly one, but still only one, of the main tracks.

But in the beginnings of surrealism, literary sources were more frequently acknowledged and cited. Only through these we can say that atmosphere is a topic in the manifesto of surrealism of 1924. Of course concerning the image, in the already mentioned orchestration of Reverdy's thoughts and the cultivation of the autonomous and dynamic image, but even more with the launching of the specifically surrealist sense of the Marvellous. This is actually introduced with a discussion of the gothic novel and especially Lewis. So here we find support that atmosphere has an affinity for the gothic, for the fairy-tale-like, immense, occult, for romanticism, for grandiose nature and grandiose decay. But the early surrealists also took part in the exaltation of modernity, and not in its most plain and disgusting forms like the machine, war, the factory, commerce, money; but in its most profoundly and dynamically contradictory or ambiguous aspects. More than anything, atmosphere resides in certain zones where the gothic coincides with the modern in a dismissal of time, or continue wrestling in raging contradictoriness, of a kind actually becoming a lever for the spirit: natural science, the fleamarket, adolescent-boy-literature adventure, film, criminality, utopia, revolution. And of course not everywhere in those.

But we were still in the origins and constitution of surrealism. Equally interesting is to see how the "Chirico track" in pictorial art continued to be productive, and now finds two prominent representatives, magicians in staging such spatial scenery, in my own closest environment in John Andersson and Niklas Nenzén.

But also that other main tracks in surrealist artistic struggles has come to revolve in relation to the very same questions and mechanisms; psychological morphology – as it expressed the eagerness to abandon all the conventional (in the sense of art history) representation of projecting three dimensions onto two, momentarily framed selection, central perspective, middle-sized objects represented by contours and coloured surfaces; preferring an investigation of a realisation inspired by modern physics of an inner space beyond kantian categories and realistic school tricks, – also becomes atmospheric in how it associates to dramatic and threatening weathers and thereby atrmospheres in every sense of the word, and equally much by generating an ambiguity in scale and in the spontaneous interpretational efforts in spatial terms, staggering moving from microscopic worlds over oceanic and atmospheric systems all the way to galaxies, nebulae and other cosmic entities, and back again. Abandoning the compulsion to represent opens a manifold of possibilities, not the least in how we in the appropriation still expect representation, and spontaneously interpret by means of representing potentialities, and then since all unambiguousness on that level have been abandoned in the abandoning of the convention, the spectator is actually forced to real productivity in this sense.

Two modes of visions. Two classes of suggestions. And there are no sharp dividing lines. Not the least as the common usage of architecture as a structural element in the chiricoan tradition to raise a frame for the invoked spatiality to take place in, or between or beyond, also fills the function of establishing a grid addresing the basic questions of space through resembling the architectural organisation of the sponge or the coral, or the arrangements of vertebral columns on the submarine cemeteries. And not the least since the slowly condensating atmosphere becomes pillows of clouds and then a landscape of shrubs and crowns of deciduous trees and rocks and waterfalls (remember Gainsborough's tricks when painting a landscape!) and that particular uncanny opening in the forest. And the very creeping-thronging of organic shapes from here and there turns out have a growth algorithm and an interactive chaos factor, and is in itself a jungle as well as a simple city scene. We wil expect something to be coming down this particular street. The street vendors barricaded in the monumental flowerpots today are offering the ingredients of a completely new disease. What an absurd bathing suit, what an interesting sky of stars! It was for that reason the window was left ajar, but the rat trap remains suspended, while the neighborhood is quickly decaying and sea birds are recolonising.

But why are we talking about art? Atmosphere as a phenomenon is, just like other allegedly aesthetical phenomena, even more relevant for an offensive approach to life than specifically for art. Recognising, deepening, creating atmospheres in everyday life. Which isn't isolated from artistic activity. Maybe it is just a matter of what kind of artifacts one leaves behind. Pictorial art is one of several useful ways of generating and investigating atmospheres.

So atmosphere belongs in surrealist aesthetics, whenever the word aesthetics is taken in the wide sense necessary in order to not make surrealist aesthetics a contradiction in terms.

Surrealism keeps confounding morals and aesthetics. Refuses not to. Entirely focused on poetic effects and their deeper content and connection with everything else. Inseparable from a moral perspective and a whole-generating framework. The part which is actually subordinated is the formal, superficial, stylistic aspect – since this is merely the means of the particular individual, or the particular experiment, and couldn't have a central role. They are means for sensibility, sensibly chosen and sensibly exercised, regardless of whether experimentally or calculatingly, incidentally or insistently. The little tools of the spirit and the small ingredients in an alchemical recipe for conjuring an atmosphere. Not to be ignored.

And let's skip the discussion of the spirit here.

Yes a pictorial creativity with a core point in the sensible realisation of atmosphere generated by the presence and sensitivity of the spirit. A series of unheard of suggestions of bubbles in which it would be possible to breathe. Uncanny thought.


(Thomas Gainsborough)

Surrealism and Philosophy III

The recent appearance of Sebbag's Potence avec paratonnerre – Surréalisme et philosophie did not - unfortunately - make my own ideas of a serious scrutiny of the conjunction surrealism and philosophy redundant (it is still open for someone else to do the broad historical synthesis). A serious and solid work, Sebbag's book nevertheless focuses entirely on the philosophical background and possible philosophical project of French 20s surrealism. If coming from a less reliable author, this could be interpreted as an attempt to confine surrealism to France and the pre-war era. But Sebbag was an activist of the French surrealist group 1964-69 and never supported schusterian liquidationism but at numerous occasions has acted as a sympathiser of the international surrealist movement and as a knowledgable writer on surrealism. Indeed, this is the kind of thorough yet reasoning empirical study that we often miss in what is being written about surrealism, and if we accept that the subject of the book is limited, it is in fact very useful and appears in parts quite brilliant; demonstrating a remarkable effort in source research as well as in thinking, based in solid knowledge about what surrealism is, it appears not just recommendable but very instructive. 

So there is not much about Bachelard, about Bataille, about the 30s objectivity craze including objective chance, about the sublime point, about the trajectories of Freud and Hegel and Marx and hermeticism, about inspiration from and controversies over modern physics, about gestalt psychology, about phenomenology, about symbols and imagination, about opposition to existentialism, about non-oidipal reinvention of everything, about the Alquié controversy, about the 60s rejuvenation and the thinkers and topics it brought into the discussion, about complex contradictions with structuralism and poststructuralism, about conjunctions with philosophy pulled in by Czech, North American, South American, British surrealists, etc etc – everything from the 30s onwards, including many (but not all) of these topics are mentioned on a few pages, in the book's third section of smaller essays on "Concepts surréalistes" and in the very loosely coherent chapter of lists of philosophers called "L'homme est un flamme parlante", but they are not fully discussed and not integrated into a general discussion of the relationship between surrealism and philosophy.

Instead, it is mostly about the concepts of the pre-surrealist and earliest-surrealist project of determining the "modern spirit" and the nonconformist postsymbolistic poetical idealism that fuelled that notion. It is about what is being illuminated when posing the introduction's pseudoquestion whether the poetic idealism of the early surrealists was novalisian, schellingian or berkeleyan... (why not hegelian or hermetic or gnostic? but primarily: why would there necessarily be a contradiction?) It is about exactly how much those authors or Kant or Nietzsche meant, and to what extent Bergson and others actually played a role for the surrealists in spite of their denial, and the ambiguous but enthusiastic use of French moralists and rationalists. It is about the philosophical implications of Lautréamont's Poesies, about the discussions with the "Philosophies" group, about Janets versus Freuds concept of automatism, about the notion of surreality, about the concept of the spirit and the defense of it. It is about the metaphysical and epistemological projects sketched in the earliest surrealist manifestoes.

So, if there just would have been a subtitle saying something about "the philosophical outlook in the origin of surrealism" or similar, rather than the somewhat misleading "surrealism and philosophy". And if we all do remember that surrealism is in fact an objective entity, international, historical, ongoing, which we contribute and relate to, which was successively revealed by the first surrealists in the 20s and later and which we are responsible together for the current meaning of – rather than a contingent doctrine constructed by those first surrealists which we can just sympathise with and perhaps try to apply as closely to the original form as possible...

It will be a standard reference, but with 650 pages in French (even though it is mostly clear academic French rather than obscurantist rhetorical French) it will hardly be one of these remarkable interventions that will, locally or globally, change our selfimage or educate the general public what surrealism is about. And my own knowledge of French is clearly insufficient to go into any detail and interpret, highlight or debate any of the conclusions (so please regard all my comments as very preliminary).

Lecture #2 on atmosphere

This image by Niklas Nenzén was posted at the terrestrial cephalopod some time ago, but is here put back into context so to speak.


The recent argument about the surrIV initiative (surréalisme-au-service-de-la-4ème-internationale?) produced no further discussion about organisational or political issues. Some applauded the tracts entirely; one surrIVist and a few other surrealists went on entirely about manners and hurt feelings; while yet others couldn't but agree with our point but were also concerned about our lack of courtesy in tone. This is an undesirable digression.

Indeed criticism (even when far more timid and careful than ours) leads to hurt feelings. Hurt feelings are a poor guide for behavior, and will create a focus on ego-reinforcement, an insistence on irrelevant details and abstract generalisations at the same time, unless held in check by some constructive machinations or participation in some dynamic process that will facilitate the focus on essentials, such as an ongoing surrealist activity.

It is not about not caring for individuals and their feelings. But caring for individuals and their feelings in terms of mere short-term tact, carefulness and respect for people's compromises and rationalisations, means respect for conformist individuality, manners and lifestyle, respect for the obstacles against creativity, knowledge and freedom. It appears more congenial with surrealism to care about individuals and their feelings in terms of sublation; of challenging and provoking ideological concepts such as prepsychoanalytical psychological fictions and liberal concepts of life, behavior and society; terms of uncomfortable truths, unknown triggers of creativity, liberating refusal, radical criticism and long-term strategy. Since most of us are still struggling with oidipal-defensive fears and defense strategies, still struggling with systems of compromises of everyday life, struggling to "keep it together", we will often feel uncomfortable with any addressal of critical or complicated issues. We need to have a framework of holding such gallopping defensiveness in check, and I claim that surrealist activity is such a framework. Surrealist activity with its extremely immodest focus on essentials, on nonconformism, and on emergent overindividual subjectivity, has – hooray – a potential to make us disconsider our boring old defensive emotions. In a surrealist context, we are focusing on truth and poetry so much that we may even be enthusiastically curious about any actual critical issues in even the most rudely formulated criticism against us, anything that could teach us to stop repeating some irrelevant clichés and defences, to avoid stopping just short of new discoveries, and avoid getting carried away by our own reasoning to the point where we accidentally miss some of the essentials ...

Again, the "human aspect" that is interesting here is all about finding ways of igniting, transforming and collectivising subjectivity for the cause of poetry, more or less the opposite of respecting people's egos by delving in hurt feelings and questions of manners. Indeed, how this very focus on essentials through surrealist activity made the early surrealists sublate bourgeois ethics codes is one of the constructive and lasting achievements of the movement. We shouldn't take the step back to excavate them again and lose sight of more farreaching aims.


Of heaven and hell, and good life

A long dream April 2012:

I am in a hurry rushing through Western Stockholm to keep an appointment with JE, supposedly at half past five, I'm going to be late (the landscape is a hybrid of several parts of the outer city and inner suburbs of Western Stockholm; it's occipitality is supposed to be indicated by its hilliness, in fact a poor indicator). I should have taken the metro instead. I see the platform of Thorildsplan station, a lot of people are standing waiting, but all the signs are unlit. Finally a train comes, but just rushing through; the station is actually closed, but they have failed to keep eager passengers out.

South of the main street the style is more continental, small irregular streets and picturesque small stores. I am climbing a steep hill where JE's school is supposed to be on top (I remember plenty of schoolyards on tops of hills). I find him up there and it is somehow part of my mission to drag him from courting a female colleague or student.

We go on a walk with the surrealist group. We find a strange old tower, some kind of medieval museum (like the alchemical tower on the west end of the Charles bridge in Prague), but the only thing they exhibit is toy cars of iron scrap. Apparently I'm distracted and lagging behind, CA comes back to drag me along, encouraging me to come along "out on the other side" to look how NN and JE "are fooling around and making laughing-stocks out of themselves for the whole city". The "other side" thing refers to the fact we pass under a valve, a small tunnel, to come out on the seaside (like those London tube station just north of the Thames, where you get out to the riverwalk on the south side). Not very eager to see NN and JE fooling around, I still come along.

And it's actually a sensational view. It is just like a large back alley, but one which is a part of the sea, a fiord arm, but the sea isn't there just now, the tide has drawn back. It is all just like an open cave, the ground is fantastically amorphous, delving organic forms mixed together like in a surrealist painting – the colours are dusky yet obscene, it looks a bit like internal organs but nevertheless mostly like modelling clay covered with drying slime (or when excited furniture architects have gone wild with a plastic spraygun...); just like in a normal maritime scene it is all evenly seasoned with small pools, tufts of seawrack and mixed human garbage like shopping carts, old dolls and plastic containers.

It makes me wonder if maybe these dramatic tide landscapes are in fact a condition for surrealist mentality, and this is why there never could have been a surrealist group in Sweden, only in for example Norway and Galicia, because there has to be a fundamental vision of a landscape without homogenity or onedimensionality, based in the experience of the tidal coast, where one had to wade around and collect mussels and stuff as a poor child laborer, in order to be a surrealist...

So I am standing in awe, thoughts and admiration before this landscape (remember that even if grandiose it is not bigger than a larger back alley or a theatre prop); only after a while I notice NN and JE have climbed up the gushing rock- and wrackformations and are sitting squatting each in a small niche, I think they are trying to imitate birds, skuas or albatrosses, or maybe dodos. CA stands laughing next to me, he finds it unambiguous that their squatting positions proves the've gone aside for a dump and actually are sitting there each in their little cave pushing. Admittedly there are single turds to be distinguished in the richness of shapes and litter around us, and just like any "worthless place" of more or less remarkable beauty it's unavoidable that one of the most popular "uses" will be to simply dump waste of one or the other kind, which will contribute to richness of forms, and to the deep emotional ambivalence for the place... Still I am not convinced by CA:s interpretation, I think our friends look philosophical and simultaneously blank as they crouchingly look out over the little alley, indeed with the same combination of wisdom and utter lack of thinking (with a dash of cruelty) as a big bird...

Then I find a dead dog, it arouses much compassion in the other tourists, because they think it's a harmless pup, they can't see that it's on it's way transforming into a sea monster which will be a crime against its phylogenetic position, in fact it already started to demonstrate some characteristics of a sea urchin, and others of an octopus...

We should continue our walk, I'm lagging behind again, thinking I should go to the toilet in the museum in the tower first. Toilets are upstairs, but when I get there the whole floor is empty, it feels like an old bomb shelter, a homeless person's lair, but there is nothing at all there, no toilet, no furniture, just empty. Maybe it is just an obsessive thought but I think I can hear them turning the key in the door behind me; so have I finally ended up in my prison on water and bread for the rest of my life?

It is an american house where I live together with a woman and her brittle old parents. Just for fun we have hidden the telephone in a cookie jar, so when it's ringing the signal comes echoing eerily from an indeterminate place in the room: the old man can't find the phone, looks through the entire house in panic, he's losing it and going mad in the process. In the interrogations much later I said he could have ignored it, if it was important they'd probably call back on his mobile later anyway. My dead grandfather, apparently interrogation leader, soberly explains that old people do not always have cell phones.

An old girlfriend of mine comes home in the evening, I'm telling her enthusiastically that I am going to bed early because it is a very important day tomorrow. And I tell her about the closed metro station at Thorildsplan. I try to explain to her that I would prefer to sleep alone, but I do it so politely that I actually happen to suggest that we should sleep together; so I push together two plastic sofas so that they together form a big square pink plastic bathtub, and I start making the bed; it's always a little uncomfortable to sleep in bathtubs. Actually I was planning to go to bed very soon, so I go down to the kitchen and order some pancakes separately before dinner.

So it's some kind of hotel? or rather a holiday village? at least some kind of holiday resort (a bit like the main tourist building on Stora Karlsö island). In the main part of the building there is above all an art exhibition, an installation that makes no sense, but it is also the major dining hall. It's not half past five yet, long before official dinner hour, I have to go to bed, I dont know when my pancakes will be ready. And since I didn't remember to tell them it was only for me, I will probably get pancakes for the entire family, and I will have to ask for a bag to bring the rest with me – in fact I've never asked for a "doggie bag" in my entire life (I can't remember that I would ever have not finished my food) and it's going to be slightly embarrassing and quite exciting. The artist and some suspect character (the hotel manager?) are sitting talking very quietly in the middle of the installation/restaurant hidden in a labyrinth of sheets of transparent plastic. If I am the only one eating at this hour I suppose they deliver the pancakes to my room instead. I go out, and find the surrealist group again, and my brother. My brother is getting into a fight with NN about the artwork, my brother claims he understands it because he knows the artist, NN says he understands it because he knows something about art. It's just two ways of approaching the matter.

I return to my living quarters. This time the apartment is not directly in the corridor, instead the doors in the corridor open towards a big porch facing the forest edge where all private quarters are in the form of small cottages. And the pancakes have arrived. What pancakes! They cover the ground, they fill the entire space between the porch and the cottage. Each pancake (rolled) is big like a log, and I have got at least twenty of them (difficult to say because it seems my neighbor has ordered some too). This is food for a whole polar expedition. It is incredibly beautiful. What does it matter that the pancakes are lying directly onto the ground, it is a fresh forest landscape, there are just twigs, leaves and needles, it's not like that formless and dirty tidal landscape, in which you would not want to eat food straight from the ground. I'm sitting looking at the pancake landscape for some time. The pancakes are glittering, their patterns of moon landscape and the interference in the transition between individual rolls where they are lying pressed against each other, it is so beautiful and at the same time so profound. They are sorted in rows according to filling. Strawberry jam seems to dominate, but some are more golden in colour, I tear of an endpiece to taste, as small as I can, a little piece the size of a grilled chicken – it is full of apple sauce and it's trickling with syrup, and the taste is exquisite.

Later I am walking on a country road in a dull autumn landscape (looking entirely like southeastern parts of Swedish province Sörmland), realising it is a long way back to Thorildsplan. Some cars pass, yes indeed during the long and actionpacked way here it happened a couple of times that people stopped their cars because they found it suspect to see someone walking and thus offered a ride, just as a social control measure masked into "plain decency" – as usual in the countryside. So maybe I should actually hitchhike back. If I can do it without raising too much attention.

I have to turn across an open ruderal field with tiny sharp edges, probably a small household quarry turned into a parkinglot turned into a junkyard. There I meet an american family, I am a bit nervous that they would find me strange and report me to the police. But I can keep a superficial conversation going in the american manner, yes I can. But as we go through the sparse grass someone bumps into an old hay bale, and under it there are a lot of beetles. I even find a bolboceratid (horned fungus dorbeetle), fantastic! And since we are in eastern US it cannot be the single north european species Odonteus armiger. I get very excited and demonstrate the creature's horns for the ladies; who react with alarm and disgust. Ok, maybe I lost my chance to interact smoothly and unsuspiciously there...

 Gotska Sandön

Røst (in the foreground)


Ok this maybe contributes to atopos theory, to clarifying material factors in the geopolitical distribution of surrealism, to the analogy between beetles and horses (which IÖ also dreamt about in response), and provided an elegant one-sentence-shortstory. "Just for fun we have hidden the telephone in a cookie jar, so when it's ringing the signal comes echoing eerily from an indeterminate place in the room: the old man can't find the phone, looks through the entire house in panic, he's losing it and going mad in the process."

But the major point I see myself is the two surrealist landscapes, and their relationship based on primitive dualism: back and front, hell and heaven, anus and genus.

Maybe I should say that I recently reread the great recent Marvel comics miniseries where Dead Girl and Dr Strange do a teamup heading down into the deepest regions of hell to fight a band of dead villains (lead by "the Pitiful One") who found a way to take revenge on the living. Dead Girl and Dr Strange get romantically involved, and Dr Strange cures his painful hemorrhoids. In this story the anal morphology of hell is emphasised, and the bad smell is frequently mentioned.

Thus it is not difficult to see the fiord arm/ back alley as hell/ anus. As it's obviously among other things an alley in London (declared by more than one author to be "hell on earth" and likened to a rectum) and being "on the other side" as CA emphasised. There is a lot about crapping and turds. The morphology of the place is gushing, thronged, endless, surrealist, even the dog cadavers are transformed and transgress their conditions.

Equally beautiful and surrealist but in quite another tone is the pancake landscape. Being in a forest edge is significant, as is my association to the Baltic island Stora Karlsö. In fact, in my associations, Karlsö is just a more biographically recent available standin for Gotska Sandön, a more isolated island, just a little flat sand area in the middle of the Baltic, which more than one author has likened to a pancake. So have I, even though I've been interpreting Gotska Sandön as the more domestic variety of Røst, the outermost island in the Lofoten chain of northern Norway, which is also one of these flat, pancake-like islands, but with a quite labyrinthic outline, like a maze or a failed pancake, I did describe it as a pancake in a novel, and there and elsewhere I have attached hopes to it as the "dream landscape on earth", a sort of utopia in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. Now of these three islands it is in fact only Gotska Sandön which has coniferous forest, but the forest in the dream is probably a generalised forest representing the dream landscape as such, the forest as well as the isolated island is simply a privileged dream place. The origin of the particular conjunction of the forest and the pancakes was the anecdotal conclusion from my recent experience of calling in sick from all meetings an entire weekend on the verge of collapse - by cancelling all appointments I finally had an occasion – o so long wished for – to 1) take a walk in the forest and 2) make pancakes. Especially in its imbecil simplicity it becomes a rather beautiful image of good life (eudaimonia). And in contrast to the unambiguously anal character of the fiord bowel, the sexual symbolism of the pancake landscape is interesting. If we shouldn't refrain from picturesque clinical details we can acknowledge how the the hairyness of twigs and needles do not stand in the way for the exquisite pancake taste as a cunnilingal fantasy. Yet still the rolled pancake is hermaphroditic in its sexual symbolism (it is obviously a log, and at the same time a soft juicy nexus of folds) and may transgress simple sexual dualism already there? By being "contradictorily" genital it is nevertheless reinforcedly genital and non-anal, yet still it foremostly contrasts something celestial and utopian against the infernal and dystopian in the bowel fiord alley.

But also, once again, that the two landscapes are equally beautiful. But I recall now that it was only the tidal inferno that was called surrealist already within the dream... pancake heaven was perhaps more dreamy, more romantic, certainly surrealist but less specifically surrealist? Is this just the old fundamental aesthetical question from Milton onwards? Why did Swedenborg become such a bore, and who gave a shit about heaven when there was hell to sing about? Already as romantics and hegelians and even more as surrealists we would already initially dismiss the sterile choice between the two poles in a given dualism? Both do indeed seem equally productive, and the contrast between them more like forcing a blunt logical structure onto two actually autonomous fields, like one between earth and air in bachelardian terms? Not the least to point out that aerialness is still a material category and nothing "pure", mental, cerebral or abstract; and it is obviously here in the heavenly world that one focuses on banal earthly pleasures like good sleep, being in a pair, exquisite food, jam and sex. Yes indeed. Just not take sides. "It's just two ways of approaching the matter."

Mattias Forshage