Members of La Sirena (Left to Right: Taya King, Darren Thomas and Doug Campbell) met up in London yesterday to attend the ‘Curious and Curiouser’ exhibition on Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books at the Victoria and Albert museum. We went for a meal afterward, and glasses were raised to our comrade Daina Kopp, who sadly couldn’t make it this time. Proper scans of the Exquisite Corpses we made together to follow.
We devoted a recent meeting to a simultaneous collage workshop, having prepared ourself with images relating to the theme of the forthcoming issue of the Surrealerpool group’s magazine ’Patastrophe: “WHO AM I? Masks behind masks. Dolls within dolls. WHOM DO I HAUNT?” The results are shown above.
Prior to this, Daina and Doug had attended a games session with members of Surrealerpool. This was a most convivial and productive evening, with the proceedings and results recorded for possible future publication.
Any, all or none of this material may appear in ’Patastrophe #4, scheduled for 7 January 2022 (Russian Christmas), but the marvellous may be depended on! In the meantime, we recommend their many other publications, all beautifully designed and produced, and available from https://surrealerpool.home.blog/surrealerpool-publications/.
What is the special power of collective creativity?
JGF: The imagination is always collective. We can either accept it as it’s imparted to us by a collective outside ourselves, or we can collectively create our own imagination. Since society is as imaginary as its imagination, collective creativity is also the creation of society. We should do it, and try to do it right.
BF: I think what makes collective creativity special is that it disrupts the participant’s ego. Working with others challenges our control, and makes us let go of the hold we have on our own work. There is a social exchange happening, a process of giving. It fractures identities into a greater mass, and, at its best, levels the playing field. With multiple creators working blindly, there is a greater degree of chance involved. Even if the participants aren’t working blindly, another person can edit or revise what another has created in new and expanding ways. A painting, a drawing, a story, a poem, can become something completely unintended by the originator.
SI: Collective play, whether it be in the form of creative ‘art’ or just, you know, playing, pure playfulness without needing to have a ‘work of art’ as an end result to justify it, breaks with that reified identity, shifts to non-identity and shared identity, breaks with who and what we thought we were, opening us to what is beyond our own ability because it allows the other into our own sphere. Intersubjectivity is thus restored, at least for the duration of the game. Collective creation is therefore a kind of laboratory both for experimenting with new ways of creating (what you know may be new to me and in any case your subjectivity is different to mine) and of living (a different way both of co-existing and of communicating).
If how we communicate is enhanced, expanded and altered, allowing greater consciousness and openness, then also the bonds between people are enhanced and our resistance to control by power increases.
LM: Collective creation it´s a catharsis of emotions and feelings where the automatic freedom respects the other and they merge in an unique act of creation.
The power of collective creativity simply exists in the magic formula from the equity power.
JR: It is the revelation – better put, the potential revelation – of what Ron Sakolsky has described in his recent book as the, ‘dialectical expression of collective desire’ (Dreams of Anarchy & The Anarchy of Dreams, p171). The collective activity of two or more people can, in this sense, be understood – to borrow Breton’s illuminating image – as the communicating vessels of collaboration, where what is latent and possible becomes manifest and realised. It is this play, this ludic activity, which may provide the possibility of the spark to the emergence or uncovering, the revelation of the marvellous, of poetry, of the collective unconscious.
RS: The special power unleashed by collective creativity resides in what I call the Bounce Factor. Bring together kindred spirits that can spontaneously bounce off each other’s individual creativity, and the poetic ingredients have been provided for exciting collective discoveries to unpredictably materialize, take shape, blossom out, or disappear only to re-emerge in new incarnations. Like the uncharted sensibility that is at the root of jazz improvisation, so too with the most marvelous forms of surrealist encounter where there are no confining maps to inhibit the collective creativity of the waking dreamers.
NS: Collective creativity has more than one special power ! Thinking collectively stimulates the imagination, it makes you go out of your comfortable artistic universe. It is the meeting of several worlds to create a new one !
LS: As a film director, I do a lot of rehearsal and extensive design meetings in pre-production. This allows us to feed off each other in exploring our story, characters, metaphors, subtext and settings. Listening to the ideas and inspirations of my cast and crew often brings a new perspective to the script I’ve written. There are even times when alternate meanings for scenes emerge based on one person’s experience that make the tale even stronger.
CW: The power of collective creativity lies in ‘the collective experience of individualism (Andre Masson).’ Each person gets to take part in something larger than themselves, without being subordinated to a repressive intention. Exquisite corpse, question and answer, game of opposites, the dice game, free-form storytelling, etc. help a person mobilize their creative energies within a shared context. It can be both fun and revealing to see the end results of these processes. One might learn a little bit about how to engage people into other group pursuits in different contexts. There is a liberating feeling when a person realizes that collective processes can boost their imaginative freedom. Each person takes part for the pleasure and revelation involved. Play overcomes the guilt, duty and shame that are so often used to press people into the typical conformist pursuits of a miserabilist society.
What are the dangers of engaging in collective creativity?
JGF: If we accept the collective imagination as is, we won’t create it, but will only reproduce it. Most automatic writing is, unfortunately, a reproduction of collective clichés. Making collective creativity automatic takes a lot of practice.
BF: Dangerous to whom or what? If there is a problem with collective creativity, it’s that the collaborators can often turn into competitors, or that one person can dominate a project. Instead of working together, they work to outshine each other. This is why I think the best kind of collective creativity should remain anonymous and unsigned. Anyone who is attached to their own contribution as written in stone or a representation of their personal self is going to have trouble doing things collaboratively. Collective creativity challenges and confronts our narcissism.
SI: I don’t honestly think that there are any dangers in collective creativity. To somebody who relishes their own alienation, it might seem threatening, but the only real danger is of a failure of the collective, for whatever reason. While I suppose that a collective creative endeavour could be enforced, like a sort of arty collective farm, that does seem a bit far-fetched, and the work of a group, circle, association, whatever, is voluntary. We choose to be with other people or not, according to our desire, and theirs. While a successful collective effort is likely to reveal to us things previously unknown, we are perhaps less likely to find that unknown threatening to us if truly shared.
I suppose that a focus on collective creativity could, theoretically, take away from the individual effort and thus damage a promising career, but that is not, to my mind, a very serious threat, possibly because I have never had enough of a career to feel threatened! On the other hand, the failure of the collective, regardless of reasons, can be damaging to all members.
LM: I can’t really see any problem in a collective work.
If, by chance, the work intention is created for a specific public or for future publication, I think that the collective of arts must define coherence in the work and also think about different parameters for the message – social or political- which must include the possible repercussion in the public judgment and they must be prepared of the eventual consequences of these messages.
JR: The qualifications given above – ‘the potential revelation’ and ‘may provide the possibility’ – tell us that the collective act of creativity itself is no guarantee of success or revelation. As to whether or not this is a ‘danger’, a risk or simply a price that one inevitably pays I am unsure! Perhaps more significantly, I think insufficient or incorrect knowledge of your fellow collaborator(s) and their relationship to authentic surrealism can be a danger too.
RS: The “dangers” are real (but not surreal). The quest for marvelous mutual interaction really does mean that each individual collaborator must be prepared to give up singular control of the end result. However, the voluntary relinquishment of one’s personal authority over final outcomes can often unleash exhilarating collective possibilities. In this expansive sense, the interplay of chance and creativity becomes the interactive driving force for the shared sense of adventure involved in acting on the anarchic “desire to open wide the floodgates” which is what Breton once called the “generative idea of surrealism”. The practice of throwing aside inhibiting gatekeeping constraints can allow one to not only bask in the supportive embrace that can accompany collaborative situations, but to benefit from the kinds of creative tension that can challenge one to take risks in imagining and exploring “dangerous” new ideas and processes together.
NS: The main danger is to lose your own identity, to be nothing more than star dust instead of a galaxy.
LS: The most dangerous thing for me is that the voice of one of my cast or crew members may not be heard. We can get so taken by one idea brought to light that we forget or never hear others that may be sitting inside someone’s mind. It’s important for my “creatives” to be creative during the production. If I were to just dictate, rather than direct, I would surely miss out on a moment of genius coming from another artist. While I can’t include every idea, the ones that best fit the story will settle themselves into our process, but even then I wonder about the one vision that got away…
CW: It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes one person is inspired, and others are less so; sometimes a collective work does water down or destroy a brilliant individual contribution. Not everyone is always on the same page. I’ve seen exquisite corpses unfold and fail to surprise or spark joy. Often this is from one person making a detailed, complex drawing and someone else doing little more than a scribble connecting the lines, which leaves the drawing imbalanced. Other times someone turns the paper, and their contribution is in effect, upside down. Only rarely does that work out well, in my experience. It’s best to go into surrealist games without any expectation. Then there is still a chance of being surprised.
Does collective creativity require collective improvisation?
JGF: All creation involves an element of improvisation. When we improvise together, we obstruct each individual’s tendency to reproduce her favored socially given clichés, and we force one another to be creative. Creativity, after all, is never really a matter of purely negative freedom. It’s always also a matter of creating new positive potentials by turning obstruction into challenges.
BF: If it’s premeditated, isn’t it just work and not play? Many things are collectively created that aren’t improvised (collective think-tanks write the newest pop songs and build the tallest skyscrapers), but as surrealists, the goal is always to find the Marvelous. I don’t believe that can be done in a premeditated way.
SI: I don’t think it necessarily does all the time, but sooner or later, yes. What one person does must, if we are awake to what is going on and not just working by habit along our own tiny mechanical groove, influence another person in that collaboration and change direction, method and meaning.
The nearest analogy might be that of jazz in which a theme might be the spine of an infinite range of variations and improvisations, not just people soloing, but picking up on what the others play and bringing a different focus to it that has already been changed by what has gone on before. (I am not trying to invent any radically new analogy here!)
LM: I´ve no doubt about it!
If the improvisation is absent while an automatic collective, it will make no sense for me.
Also, in the collective works previously studied and programmed, it should be ready for improvisation such as programmation errors and also some project failures. From my modest experience as a Plastic Worker and member of “Cabo Mondego section of Portuguese Surrealists”, I had the privilege to accomplish several collective works in different environments, interior and exterior different places in urban natural spaces.
The evolving spaces count a lot, not only influences the forms but also shapes the colours, as a possibility of the use of diverses materials disposable in the local environment, natural remains from nature, urban garbage, …
About the execution duration for the collective works , it depends on the layout defined, the wellness of execution and some physical strength from the intervenients. I can also include in this case, the materials and the instruments available to the execution, when the plastic art does cross poetry/literature and music.
I also think that when we are in a perfect symphony, enjoying the pleasure of the moment, there is no time to end, it flows on her one.
JR: Improvisation is often taken to mean ‘unplanned’, ‘unprepared’ or ‘spontaneous’ and, arguably, provides something of a parallel to automatic writing where the unconscious mind free from any control has free rein. The debate within surrealism about the success or otherwise of automatic writing is well known and, I think, relevant here. It seems to me, in practice, that there is a dialectical relationship between the conscious and the unconscious in the creative process and this operates both individually and collectively.
RS: Collective creativity is a process that can imply a diversity of improvisational forms. For instance, in jazz, there is certainly a difference between the immediacy of the musical energy generated by the simultaneously improvised collective creativity of “free jazz”, and the more conventional improvisational energy released by mainstream forms of jazz improvisation. Musical situations in which everyone is improvising at once differ in both listening intensity and performing fluidity as compared to the formal confines of the more conventional “theme-variation-return to theme” format. The practice of freewheeling improvisation can liberate the creative imagination in the moment, and the more that such improvisational freedom is exercised, the wider that the most dynamic forms of musical expression can “open the floodgates” of both individual and collective creativity. In this regard, individual and collective forms of improvisation can be viewed as complementary rather than mutually exclusive.
With such a mutual affinity in mind, it is interesting to note that Dutch anarcho-surrealist visual artist, Rik Lina, not only creates collectively improvised murals with the CAPA (Collective Automatic Painting Amsterdam) group, of which he is a founder and participant, but that the process that he uses in doing so has been inspired by free flights of jazz improvisation. On a similar wavelength, he is a maker of vibrating kinetic line drawings that can visually tap into the sound energy that is being created by improvising jazz musicians which he experiences first hand at their live performances at a local jazz club. Moreover, these in situ drawings involve an active form of listening in which he as an individual visual artist becomes a collective co-creator with the musical artists on stage in a mutually serendipitous explosion of poetry made by one and all.
NS: It’s like any game: artists must be sincere and spontaneous while respecting the rules of the game. As originally defined with John Richardson and John Welson. The flow direction of exquisite corpses has been defined beforehand.Everyone has thus found his place. And it works ! (Show the pics)
LS: Performing is a living, breathing, ever changing form of art. We can prepare in pre-production but when we’re out on set, before the camera, a new breath fills the lungs of the production and we’re once again improvising – but with a grounded knowledge of the story and character arcs. Something such as a bird flying overhead or a sudden gust of wind can affect a scene profoundly. A change in the light can define a line anew, or stir a moment of silence as never imagined in rehearsal. The elements of a shoot day always provoke a new improvisation.
CW: It depends, but generally I feel there should be a degree of collective improvisation. Even with games that have certain rules there is a wide area of application that a person can explore. They need to free their own minds in the process to keep things fresh. There are some situations that don’t require improvisational means; for example, if you send a collage to someone in the mail, that person isn’t really improvising when they add a piece, although improvisation may play a role in how they choose what and where to contribute. That is a different kind of collective creativity that doesn’t have to take place around a table.
What are the effects of space (location) and time (duration) on collective creativity?
JGF: Space and time provide obstruction, limitation, and thus form, within which and against which creativity operates.
BF: Usually, when I think of collaboration, I think of multiple people working together in the same room. So, I love the idea that two people (or more) in different locations can collaborate on a project. I feel this can add to the chance element of the work, almost as if the further the distance, the greater the possibilities. But what I find most interesting in this question is the idea that people from different generations, or different moments in history, can collaborate. Did Leonardo Da Vinci and Marcel Duchamp collaborate? Is consent important for collaboration?
SI: This is a difficult question to answer in several ways. First of all, these factors are going to be experienced differently by each person, although the more one gains some kind of intersubjective bonding, the more there might be a flow of experience between people, a shift from the purely subjective to the intersubjective, which seems to be a major concern of my comments here.
I have spent a lot of time considering what the surrealist experience of space and time might be, and my original attempt to surmise this began with the question “What is the Gold of Time?” Again there is a draft, albeit an advanced draft, of an essay/research paper on this, and I seem to have developed a bad habit of writing advanced drafts more often than finished essays. Ideally, the players share a physical space and that space is conducive to play, but we can’t guarantee it. I’d suppose this question is asked in relation to this current situation of the pandemic, we have all existed in a greater degree of physical isolation than most of us have ever experienced before, collective activities have been at a distance and without the simple sensuality of human presence. I do find such an activity lacking to a degree, incomplete and yet wholly necessary. We have become aware of the possibilities of distant communication, not just phone calls and emails, but online conferencing allows us, however imperfectly, to share some kind of ‘space-time’ together.
Time is in some ways a different kind of question in that it begs the question of the nature of time itself, not so much the quantitative as the qualitative. In the essay I previously mentioned I suggested taking Bachelard’s Instant as opposed to Bergson’s notion of a continuous flow of duration, initially for no better than the early surrealist “Read/Don’t Read” list stating “Don’t read Bergson”! But Bachelard seemed to me to effectively dismantle Bergson’s thought (which has become a fashionable intellectual staple, in part through Deleuze’s “Bergsonism”.) What he essentially did I think was a kind of mimicry of Bergson that then undid the basis of his thought, saying something like “We accept all of Bergson’s theory except continuity” and continuity is the basis of Bersonian duration. If the duration of a meeting or a game is not a flow, but an endless succession of instants, we might have a very different experience of that time. Clearly we still have a duration, but each instant is an utterly new and fresh universe and this allows sudden insights to break through.
In any case, that phrase “the gold of time” is relevant to how we play, create and communicate with each other, if it is authentic, because it becomes a distilled essence of time if you like, we discover an alchemy of time and experience, however briefly, which makes a complete break with the established order of things, and free time must stand at the opposite pole of the time of the endless cycle of production and consumption.
JR: In my experience the passage of time, the thrill of seeing a work (image or text) arrive through the mail which has been added to/is for further work, has been overwhelmingly positive. These collective explorations into the labyrinth of creativity, chance and the imagination never fail to provide me with the deepest feelings of surprise, astonishment and wonder!
RS: Open-endedness is the key to fomenting and enhancing collective creativity with respect to space and time considerations in relation to each collective group and for specific projects undertaken collectively. The effects of location can ideally vary from the intimacy and/or warmth of a gallery space to the global immediacy afforded by the interactive possibilities of online creativity. Moreover, for musical situations in particular, temporal considerations must be elastic enough to not only address the external concern with duration but the specific internal demands of tempo. Accordingly, an evening of jazz poetry by Moor Mother would require quite a different tempo of creative engagement than would be the case with a Mozart string quartet recital even if the longevity remained the same for both performances. Moreover, rather than insisting upon a rigid blueprint that blankets creativity within a managerial framework, collective creativity can be most fully (sur)realized by allowing ample room for what Ornette Coleman once described as “beautiful accidents” that can magically appear out of nowhere or unexpectedly loom into view as poetic manifestations of “convulsive beauty”
NS: The further away artists are in space and time, the more difficult it is to be connected and spontaneous. Waiting for the other artists, the inspiration dies, the idea is lost. Sometimes you don’t know if your creation has come or lost. I initiated an exquisite corpse with a collagist I met online, I’m still waiting for a comeback…
LS: Time and space play a unique role in my film project, TITANIA. We’ve been working on this story – in various parts – for more than a decade. The cast and crew have moved to new places, we’ve aged and had different experiences – and when we come back together to tell another chapter, we find the journey of our characters more reflective than before. We’ve been singing the same song to each other for years and each time we reconvene we add another stanza to this collective work of poetry.
CW: Some may enjoy being in a bustling café, playing the dice game for example, which is easy enough that total strangers can get involved. This happened during one memorable Portland Surrealist Group meeting circa 2003. In this case, people saw how much fun we were having, that we were doing something off the beaten path, and several people began to play, testing their own creative process to come up with a quickly evolving group story based on the number of words corresponding to numbers on the dice. At other times, being in a busy place could create interference, hinder someone’s ability to focus. Some may love doing collective art and poetry to live music; others may find the music distracting. Collective processes taking place in unusual locations such as caves, mountaintops or abandoned factories are bound to be influenced by the ambience. If one is playing games with maps or hunting for objects placed by others across a city, the location is key to what unfolds.
Regarding duration: Sometimes people need a little practice, they need to warm up. There may be several throwaway results from any given surrealist process. It may take a few tries for people to figure out how to best work in a group. Another aspect of this is that it’s easy to ‘lose track of time’ when you’re deeply engaged in such pursuits. It brings to mind the Situationist phrase about ‘living without dead time.’
“Cabo Mondego Section of Portuguese Surrealism” (2008-2021)
In general, when someone starts making something, they direct their thoughts, systematically applied towards a certain goal (supervised thinking). This is something we avoid. So something is not performed together, or put together (as a collage or montage), but something is discovered together that was not previously imaginable.
Collective automatic painting is experimental, it is something like collective improvisation with music (free jazz). We go to work aimlessly, simply grab materials that are available and do whatever comes to mind at the time. Coincidence has its own law, what we do is manipulate chance. Not everyone is suitable for this research, everyone is full of plans, but the only rule is: no rules!
The work begins and proceeds randomly, because any idea that occurs to us is immediately put into effect. Without hesitation, without reflection, and certainly not in mutual consultation. People often talk about anything and everything, except discussing the work!
The work starts by itself and stops by itself, it seems as if it determines this itself. This feeling is so strong that it seems as if an unseen “person” is interfering with it (“The Third Painter” or “The Third Mind”). Sometimes, when the work stops and one of us continues (a little) later, the others join in again. A completely different thing arises. It often happens that one of the others makes exactly what you are about to do. The collective subconscious cooperates.
So the intention (if there can be any intention here) is to be surprised, to allow the miraculous to happen, something that is captivating in an unexpected way. Whether it stays that way – possibly as a resulting work of art – is completely unimportant. What matters here is the experience itself, the joyful event of discovery.
An uncontrolled collective work process is something contradictory. Rarely are participants on the same page. They respond to each other’s input, either cooperatively or against it. It is cooperation and struggle at the same time, and not only because of the different handwriting, also the working methods are fighting with each other (the term used by jazz musicians is antagonistic cooperation) and visually speaking there are usually quite a few punches. For example, something that one of the participants is working on very precisely is sometimes wiped away with one swipe. If you can’t stand that, you are unsuitable for this adventure. There is no room for ego games in the collective unconscious.
It is the very process of mixing the various approaches that makes this experience so fascinating, because individual possibilities are expanded, you are confronted in a harsh way with completely different ones.
There is not only mutual influence, but also synergy, something new is created. All these ways of thinking and working come together in the deviant newness of collective automatism. It’s a starting point.
Usually, work is done in one of the participants’ studios and the resulting works are left behind as wreckage on the beach. When possible we love to work in the natural environment, which therefore has a strong influence on what is created. There have been periods when we met very frequently, and also when there was rest for a long time, that too is random.
When an audience is present, for example during a performance at the opening of exhibitions of the collective work, or of the exhibition of one of us, this can have an influence. A danger is that it becomes more or less theater and sometimes the audience interferes in the work. This in itself is not bad, it then becomes a cheerful joint game. But that’s something else.
The surrealist collective creation goes beyond the usual and self-sufficient framework of individual artistic and literary expression. A single gesture can generate open chains of games, discussions and metamorphoses, in a rigorous and selfless spirit. If the experience is taken seriously enough, frequent efforts at synthesis should make it possible to clearly situate where we are in relation to the double watchword: “to change life” and “to transform the world”. With the advent of the Internet, the collective dynamic has changed and more and more, it seems to me that networks are formed and broken down through work, games, surveys, in association with surrealist groups that are organized around a geographic location, and with isolated individuals like me.
Is the idea of a surrealist group still viable?
In a recent period, “surrealist group” practices have most often provided the occasion for not very exciting personal conflicts (yet in the absence of any new thinking, one has to spend time one way or another), but they also provided the foundation for the refusal – or even exclusion – of all forms of ideas and practices that seemed or were somewhat innovative. However above all, in its classical form, the concept of a “group” – may it be surrealist or not – has become obsolete – and quite probably harmful – for more than 20 years and this for several reasons.
On the one hand, because the www irremediably allows anyone to publish what he has to say – assuming that he has anything to say, which has become a rare thing and not only in Surrealism. The fact that what is said or written may ordinarily be without any consequences is by no means a peculiar feature of the www, and the long litany of surrealist “declarations” that were published on true and real paper has been equally exempt from the slightest practical and intellectual consequence, just like what was expressed more freely on the www.
What has definitely changed is that the appropriation of the means of production by the individuals and groups “leaders” of the “movement” has simply become impracticable. Despite the desperate attempts by some “groups” to defend their hereditary privileges of awarding labels of surrealist quality and legitimacy, the result was a fairly good global dispersion of the real movement, as Alain Joubert rightly noted. This has not led to a smaller quantity or even weaker quality of the associated results if one is to compare them honestly14 with the results of the activity of the “groups”.
Another reason for the collapse of the groups resides – with a few exceptions – in their now notable historical sterility. Again, this is by no means a peculiarity of surrealism, but of a much more general order.
Simply, a group in the sense that the word had in surrealism is automatically founded by its own activity — practical, theoretical and experimental (by theoretical I mean the production of new ideas adequate to the action in the historical period).
There can not be a group – surrealist or not – where nothing happens15, where little is produced, and where for these reasons there cannot be any common action.
Nothing may be declarative in such a matter, the spirit has never blown elsewhere than where and when it wanted and it does not lie within the reach of any group to decide about its own real existence, which is never proven elsewhere than in its actions and by the historical efficiency of its activities.
To this must be added a noticeable shrinking of our playgrounds, which gradually have come to look like a Peau-de-Chagrin. Yet they used to include, for instance and rightly, some interests of the ethnographic type, which have disappeared from the spectrum, whereas for a moment they constituted an exciting and productive domain (see Leiris, Péret, Breton, Jean Benoît, etc.).
How can it be that what once had the purpose of reforming the human understanding may now have exempted itself of the requirement to understand the minds of other men, may they be distant or marginalized, but certainly not less “definitive dreamers” than we are? Did the journeys suddenly become more difficult than in the 1930s, have the tracks turned muddy, or thicker the jungles? And even so! Who among us had the mere curiosity of walking the paths of a shantytown?
Or would it not rather be that the surrealists who travel now show a certain absence of mind – a quasi-tourist absence of mind – of which our predecessors do not seem to have been as deeply afflicted?
The same applies to the sciences of the mind – on which Surrealism originally used to feed – an area where deep (r)evolutions have taken place without any work – even superficial – to have been undertaken on our side on this subject. Given the magnitude of the task, the number of books to read, the number of theories to study, one might have thought that a group effort – quite precisely – would not be excessive. But quite often the effort of the groups consisted, on the contrary, in avoiding undertaking the study of such a sulfurous domain.
On the contrary, esotericism, which in essence – like psychoanalysis, moreover – can hardly be anything other than the transmission of a non-evolving knowledge, of an historical and a de facto anti-historical knowledge, continues to be the object of a sustained attention – or of its Spectacle.
And is it not blind enough too to persevere in an attitude of “occultation” of surrealism – which certainly had its justification in the historical moment when it was pronounced, but that the means implemented by the Spectacle grant us anyway in the 16 strictest rigor, and this without the slightest effort required on our part.
Similarly, no joint effort has been made to investigate what has been established over the past 40 years in the life sciences. Deeply unfaithful to the thought of Sade, standard surrealism intends to speak about Life and to celebrate it without having cared the least for the trouble to understand what Life actually is. “The Republic does not need scientists.”
While Marx had recognized the springs of human history in the evolution of the 17 productive forces, of which he had had no difficulty in establishing their scientific and technical roots, standard surrealism now professes to despise them with the height of view authorized by its remarkable and highly voluntarist ignorance in such 18 matters. Here again a collective effort would not have been superfluous.
Is it necessary to point out that technical knowledge being what makes it possible to do – and hence for sure to do everything as well as just anything , to cultivate contempt regarding technical knowledge, as we have been doing for so long, obviously means to deprive ourselves of all possibilities of action in the real world . Is it necessary either to remind that in the word poiein which is the root of the word poetrymight still lie something like a remembrance of to make and that history does not care the slightest for the ones who do not care for history.
One last point deals with our obvious gerontological disease. If, as Bertrand Schmitt rightly points out, Surrealism may only exist when incarnated, then it is clear that it will likely soon be incarnated only by retirees and within coffins. We urgently need to search for new “surrealizable” minds 20.
It may be thought that this recruitment effort should be undertaken in a few areas where we have practically lost all competence – including, for example, science and ethnology, but certainly not only. Experience has shown that it is easier to “surrealize” a scientist – or even a technician – than to reconstruct a somewhat encyclopedic21 culture in many artistic and poetical ones.
We are haunting the same shores again and again without noticing that the sea left the shore long ago and that the faint noise we still perceive is no longer that of the surf but that of a historical babbling that attempts and hopes to find some pride into the dear old cherished awareness of being outdated.
14 Which is not very probable as long as the “official” group judges are judges as well as parties
15 « Je cherche l’or du temps » [Breton]. « Ingénieur du temps perdu » [Duchamp] . « Notre patrie est dans le temps » [les Situationnistes]
16 A representative of Pataphysics recently noted that the College of Pataphysics is not a secret society, but a discreet society.
17 No one outside the religious has so far questioned the centrality of science and technology as being the core engine of history as it was highlighted by Marx
18 and no. There is no shame for a surrealist to study topics that he yet does not know anything about
19 A real world where what some persist in naming “the surreal” is of course included
20 according to the beautiful expression of someone whose name I blush to have forgotten.
21 with the meaning that the word Encyclopedie had in the work of Diderot and d’Alembert
Exquisite Comics is a game of the familiar ‘exquisite corpse’ in comic-book form. There are four players and eight comic-book panels. Each player starts with two blank panels in which they write and/or create an image, leaving space for the other three participants to add their contributions. The two panels are mailed separately to two of the other players, who then add to the panels and mail them on. The players exchange the part-completed panels with each other through the post until all have contributed to each panel. None of them sees all the other panels in progress until the eight are complete. Finally, the panels are randomly assembled into an order that reveals the previously unconscious storyline.
The Surrealerpool group produced five editions of Exquisite Comics in 2020, with different participants in each issue.
Collectively known as The Warble-Aires during this one-shot experiment. Like many of the instruments used here, the Warbler was a musical instrument William invented, like Johannes Bergmark often does, for instance.
It consists of a tape recorder, of which William took out the tape head to screw around with, at random, when and how he chooses, applying the tape head directly on the tape as it runs normally in the device. Hence, a sequenced ”warble” gets created, or other sound effects.
Basically, the Buried Sun Studio was the attic in William and Sherri’s apartment building, located in ChinaTown, we could say, so we went inside a nearby shop, as we were walking around the neighborhood, and found Chinese music for kids. We used those for this recording.
“Poetry Must Be Made By All”
John Welson and Patrick Lepetit in Tenby
John Welson exquisite corpse with Conroy Maddox and Them Burns (Chicago Group)
Alistair Brotchie, Conroy Maddox, Eileen Agar, Salah Faiq, John Welson and Michael Richardson – 1980s. Blonde and Birch Fine Art Gallery.
“A Flight of Metal Fancy” Rik Lina, Fredy Flores Knistoff and John Welson
Rainer Wichering, Rikki Ducornet, Guy Ducornet, Tony Pusey, Philip West and Rik Lina
“Shortcut to Cavalry” John Weslon, John Hammond, Conroy Maddox, Gerald Stack and Peter Wood
Rik, Gregg and myself call our joint project (begun in 2010 and still going, we must have created over 100 works of differing shapes and sizes) “Cornucopia”.
We are excited to announce that La Sirena Surrealist Group will be taking part in the ISSS Surrealisms 2021 Worldwide Virtual Conference Event, where we will be presenting a pre-recorded roundtable entitled, ‘Poetry Made by All: Collective Surrealist Activity and Surrealist Practice as Research‘, chaired by our very own Dr. Darren Thomas.
The proposal is for a pre-recorded roundtable discussion (30-60 minutes) of the importance of collective surrealist activity and surrealist practice as research, with members of La Sirena surrealist group. We will consider the above in relation to past and current surrealist groups, including our own, focusing in particular on some of our recent films, games, poems, collages and assemblages and explore how each project was created and how it has contributed to and enriched our ongoing research.
It is our view that the artistic activities, such as films, paintings, collages, objects and so on, associated with surrealism are not seen as separate, different or special from its other activities but as evidence or residue of an ongoing process, documenting the surrealists’ experiments and investigations – as forms of research, ultimately connected to a much wider political, philosophical and ultimately revolutionary programme, immortalised by Rimbaud’s ‘Change life’ and Marx’s ‘Transform the world’. In this sense it is argued that surrealists past and present have created/utilised an array of media (as research) in pursuit of their investigations, in the hope of enlarging, and transforming their own (as well as the reader’s) vision of reality.
We will utilise the results of an enquiry, sent to other surrealist groups and members of the ISSS, prior to the roundtable, considering the importance of collective surrealist activity. Above all, we believe that collective activity is crucial for surrealism, and the notion of surrealism as a community of artist-researchers rather than an artistic school has gained more credence in recent discussions of surrealism.