Thursday, May 01, 2003 

You Say Museum, I Say Mausoleum

The pillaging of André Breton’s studio at 42 Rue Fontaine was finalized in April with an auction of Breton’s possessions, despite the efforts of various demonstrators who called for the French government’s intervention on grounds of cultural preservation. Fortunately, the government declined these misguided invitations, perhaps due to Breton’s reputation as an enemy of the state. Unfortunately, the auction endured. While it is tempting to oppose this dispersal, what should be emphasized is not a nostalgic attachment to the collection, but the way in which Breton lived his life: as a seeker of the poetic eruption within the real. The walls of our personal cathedrals will only be adorned with the seditious gold of time, not ancestral relics.

Brandon Freels


Chance Report

Sometimes words on the radio, in print, in the dream-ear, or in overheard conversations will dialogue with great humor or insight. Any mouth can play unknowingly.

In April, while listening to war news on community radio, and looking through Penelope Rosemont’s Surrealist Women, my eyes fell upon a Meret Oppenheim collage entitled “Paradise is Under the Ground.” As if echoing, a radio voice said “Underground” a moment later. Then Haifa Zangana’s assertion that “Profit is made for profit’s sake” coincided with “...going to war for economic reasons” on the radio. Finally, the radio’s “All the while to bring them Christianity and Western Civilization” was followed in print by “A symbol of sin and evil thoughts.”

Another recent experience began with the hypnagogic phrase “Barbara Automatism.” That day I encountered the name Barbara twice, as authors, and three or more times in conversation or on the radio. Each mention of this name was like an intrusion from the background of my experience. At the end of the night, a guest anxious to speak to someone called a woman named Barbara on the telephone.

MK Shibek


Black and Red Vision

In a time when, slowly, surrealism is becoming more and more commercialized, it is good to see a new surrealist-oriented zine appear. Communicating Vessels is a much-welcomed reprieve to the incessant whining of those who see surrealism as an art form rather than a movement for liberation.

Published in standard zine format of photocopied pamphlet, Communicating Vessels combines its editor’s writings and poems with an interesting assortment of articles from the political libertarian left. It is in this combination that Communicating Vessels stands out. At their best, surrealists have attempted to bridge the gap between anarchists and Marxists, and pushed beyond a superficial unity. At worst, they have fallen into individualist anarchism, Stalinism (Aragon, Tzara), or crypto-fascism (Dali, Stephen Schwartz).

It is said that Germany’s first Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, applauded the split of the First International, but warned against any future union between the Red and Black. Having heard that warning as a young man gave me the goal to bring the dire unity about. Communicating Vessels reminds me that goal is possible. In a time when surrealists in the US are focusing on our anarchist sympathies, I can only applaud that the other side get some hearing. If we all pay attention to both sides we become stronger.

I have no negative criticisms of Communicating Vessels, only words of encouragement. I would encourage them to explore more the intersection between their politics and surrealist experimentation. How does surrealism apply to the lives of working people? Or better still, how do surrealists participate in working class struggles? But these are questions for all surrealists.

Morgan Miller


No More Murderous Necrophiliacs

In the recent lead up to Bush’s war many radicals referred to the entire enterprise as surreal. Though well intentioned, I paused to contradict my comrades. Fascist, phantasmagoric, horrific: yes. But surrealist: no. It is easy to forgive their confusion, however, as an entire industry has been built from the marketing of murdered surrealism. Academics, critics and professional artists, the peddlers of the pablum obscuring this miserable spectacle falsely called life in late capitalist society, have built careers assassinating surrealism’s revolutionary content. In its stead, they offer yet another plastic aesthetic, a cheap psychedelia, devoid of revolutionary impact, another faux rebellion to coat the walls of Pearl District lofts and designer handbags.

These cops of the imagination serve alongside their blue-jacketed counterparts. While the police shoot us down in the street, the aesthetic vultures hover to repackage the corpse as the latest hip accoutrement to modern living. Thus the cultural commissars willfully represent surrealism as little more than silly nonsense and Salvador Dali.

Those of us not seduced by the spectacle’s lethal sway know better. In our hearts, armored by our imaginations and powered by our fury, we assert again that surrealism stands in total revolt, complete insubordination to the current order. Despite the best efforts of the culture vampires, their conjuring tricks will no longer conceal surrealism’s revolutionary tradition, nor the hollowness at the center of modern life.

In response to their obfuscations we hold up two examples of surrealism at its most potent:

Benjamin Péret, poet and revolutionary. When approached by a priest, he spat in his face. When presented with the opportunity to live his poetry, he traveled to Spain to stand by the working class, and address lead poems to the fascists.

André Breton, poet, theorist, guide. When a petty capitalist meant to profit from the popularity of Lautréamont by opening a Bar Maldoror, Breton and his associates, warmly welcomed on opening night, promptly laid waste to the establishment. In this tradition, in opposition, surrealism’s living descendents declare total war on the forces of recuperation and the order they serve. You attempt to rob and enslave us in the present, but from our history and dreams we will fashion weapons to collapse this society in on itself. You have been warned, your necrophilia and recuperation have been noted, and you will share the fate of all cops, be they religious, political, economic, or artistic.

Andrew Daily


War Dance

Just prior to invading Iraq, Captain Phillip Wolford led US troops in a Seminole war dance. “We will be entering Iraq as an army of liberation, not domination,” he said, “so it would not be right to go in with the American flag flying.”

Was Wolford trying to honor Native American heritage, or did he think that a Seminole war dance performed by the same US military that helped conquer the North American continent would be a great morale booster? Did he think to declare independence from the official motivation of the US regime that has possibly sent him to his death?

The ambiguous latent content, fallacious reasoning, and uncertain intention of this gesture is a perfect example of the devaluation of language that has reached war fever pitch. Does removing the flag change the nature of this platoon’s mission or does it help them harbor necessary illusions?

Let us not forget, Iraq—and the world—has every reason to be skeptical, since the US has intentionally bombed Iraq’s water supply, enforced deadly sanctions that have killed as efficiently as bullets, used depleted uranium that causes birth defects, and alternately supported then condemned their dictator president over the past 20 years.

This imperialist war dance only furthers murderous global-financial chess on behalf of an arrogant capitalist empire, which hungers for the new markets and strategic leverage that the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields will give it.

As the Christians whose ancestors aided the genocide of Native Americans have prayed for the troops, perhaps it reveals their intention to appease their war god with the spilled blood of Iraqis and whomever else opposes US global supremacy. Though I doubt such God-fearing scum as Bush and Pat Robertson would admit it. It is the ultimate insult to Turtle Island that a tribal dance would be used by the US military as it invades another country. We need a different war dance, against global capital, before the poor and conscripted of all nations can fraternize and refuse their deadly duties.

MK Shibek

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