Who We Are

Digital collage by Doug Campbell

Doug Campbell works primarily in collage, enjoying the immediacy of cutting through the detritus of the spectacle to the marvellous. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he still lives. Asking about the word ‘surrealist’ after finding it in a science fiction novel as a child, he was given a small book of Surrealist paintings. This was the first step on an adventure that continues until this day. 

His first encounter with living Surrealism was a second-hand copy of the Chicago Group’s ‘ARSENAL 4’ in the mid 1990’s. In response to a letter, Franklin Rosemont directed him to the recently-formed Leeds Surrealist group. This led to an on-going engagement with the international Surrealist movement through correspondence, collective games and contributions to publications and group shows. 

In 2017, he took part in the ‘Archaeology of Hope’ a large-scale Surrealist game concluding with a show and solstice ritual on the Isle of Wight. This was a significant transformative experience for everyone involved. Since then he has published a continuing series of collage novels in weekly instalments online at ‘The Cabinet of Major Weir’. He imagines ‘La Sirena’ as a monstrous kraken of collective creativity rising from the COVID era’s icy depths of social isolation.

Hand cut collage by Taya King

Taya King is a visual artist who works with mixed media materials to create both collages and assemblages. She was born in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea in England, which features prominently in many of her artworks and films. In 2020, she graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a First Class Honours degree in BA Film Studies. In 2021, she graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London with a Merit in MA Film and Screen Studies, where she not only created experimental films, but continued to develop her original ‘mirror gaze’ (2020) theory in her postgraduate dissertation. Her research interests include: feminism, psychoanalysis and queer theory.

Within the seven years that she has been a part of the surrealist movement, Taya has produced automatic poetry, collages, assemblages and films. She is a co-founder of La Sirena Surrealist Group and has worked on various projects both nationally and internationally. Most recently, she has contributed to the articles, ‘The Reinvention of Travel’ (Peculiar Mormyrid, Fall 2021) and ‘WHO AM I? Masks behind masks. Dolls within dolls. WHOM DO I HAUNT?’ (’Patastrophe! February 2022). In November 2021, she presented a pre-recorded roundtable for the ISSS Surrealisms Worldwide Virtual Conference Event entitled, ‘Poetry Made by All: Collective Surrealist Activity and Surrealist Practice as Research’. In February 2022, she presented her films, La Femme (Re)trouvée and La Femme Automatique at the International Exhibition of Surrealism (Cairo/Saint-Cirq-Lapopie).

Assemblage by Daina Kopp

Daina Kopp is a Lithuanian-Colombian artist, musician, and costume designer. She is originally from NYC and she speaks five languages (German, Russian, French, Lithuanian, and English) and is studying Spanish. She started designing and altering costumes in the Underground NY Club Kid scene (hosted by Michael Alig, et al.) She studied fashion design and music at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany before coming to Chicago. In 2019, she graduated from Columbia College Chicago with an honours degree in Theatre Costuming. Her creative endeavors cover a wide assortment of media: photography, calligraphy (medieval manuscript style), sculpture, collage, painting, illustration, murals, poetry, and dance. Her creative vision is inspired by bygone eras, early film & photography, and dreams. Her designs focus on sustainable clothing, as she repurposes and alters vintage and modern attire. She has designed costumes for productions in Germany, NYC, and London, as well as TV, film, and theatre productions in Chicago. She worked on costumes for “Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook” based on the Haymarket Affair of 1886 (Edge Theatre, Chicago, 2016). She has been a member of the Chicago Surrealist Group and the London Surrealist Group, as well as the Lewis Carroll Society UK. Her band, “Hypnagogic Telegram” performs electronic cabaret, where she sings in multiple languages and dances as “Daina Surrealism” in period clothing of her own designs. She has been writing her dreams down since she was a child. She divides her time between Chicago and Germany. Her work has been published in “Surrealist Subversions” (Ron Sakolsky, Editor, 2002) and the “Maintenant Dada Journal”, and she has performed with her music in New York, Chicago, and Germany. Interests include science, chess, motorcycling, skateboarding, linguistics, travel, and all things Fortean. As a polyglot, Daina enjoys linguistic anomalies and peculiarities, as well as symbolic logic games. 

Hand cut collage by Darren Thomas

Darren Thomas’ entry into surrealism was initially through his experiments with automatic poetry and painting, partly inspired by Freud’s ideas relating to free association and developed further through his discovery of surrealism, whilst at college. He studied surrealism in literature, film and drama, whilst at university, and worked collectively and individually on several surrealist films, as (co)writer and director: ‘Bees in a Glass Hive’, ‘Bees in a Polythene Bag’, ‘Bees on a Soft Trail’ and ‘The Seven Chocolate Kisses’. Darren also wrote and sang in several bands, utilising an automatic approach. In The Men From Del Monte, he played various forms of percussion as well as the Hoover. According to Darren, regrettably “The Hoover was never accepted as a musical instrument.”

Since university, Darren has continued to engage with surrealism – both as an artist and academic. His film Jesus and the Astronauts, combining documentary and fiction explored the dreams of those he encountered on an Inter-Rail journey across Europe, which was screened at The New York Film Festival (1991). He ran a gallery in Cadaqués, working and exhibiting with local artists, where he wrote and directed his film-poem: ‘Cadaqués: Portrait of a Surrealist Town’ (2000), exploring Cadaqués’ links with surrealism. 

His PhD: ‘Border Crossings: (Re)presenting Gender Identity in Surrealist Film’. (Queen Mary University of London), utilised an interdisciplinary approach, combining film, collage, assemblage and a written thesis. He has published widely. Articles include: ‘Man (Ray) without a movie camera or the object as cinema’, (‘Patricide 7: Surrinema’, 2014). ‘Gender transformation in ‘Un Chien andalou’’, (Melusine, 2016) and he is currently researching a book ‘Convulsive cinema: surrealism and the (still-)moving image’, which develops his notion of ‘convulsive cinema’ in the work of, Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell, Dorothea Tanning, Jan Švankmajer, Kati Horna and Francesca Woodman, considering a range of media: collage, objects, paintings and photography. He has taught various aspects of surrealism and the visual arts, particularly surrealism and cinema.

Darren was a founding member of The London Surrealist Group, in 2002, and has participated with various national and international surrealist groups, on group activities and exhibitions, publishing poems, tracts and other works over the years. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, including London, New York, Copenhagen, Barcelona and online. In 2019, Darren screened and discussed ‘The Dream Key’ film trilogy at ‘Surrealisms/2nd annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism’ (University of Exeter). He is currently collaborating with several Welsh surrealists (Jean Bonnin, Neil Coombes, John Richardson and John Welson on various projects (including the surrzine ‘Once Upon a Tomorrow’), and delighted to be included, alongside his Welsh comrades in the two volume: ‘Surrealism in Wales’ (Jean Bonnin, 2020), which discusses his films, collages, assemblages and music and features many images of his work.

Darren views La Sirena as a collective journey through the looking glass of identity, that both reflects and transforms the self/Other convulsively, in a state of eternal becoming.