Monday, December 21, 2009

The Army of Dreamers

Experiments in collective dreaming, November – December 2009
Miguel Almagro, Paul Cowdell, Merl Fluin, Aniano Henrique, Patrick Hourihan

1. The collective dreams: Cut-ups of individual dream texts

As she reached the last line of the song, she put her hand over my mouth so she could sing alone. She looked at me to indicate that this was nothing to do with my singing. I was reading a newspaper with the headline that Julie Andrews was terrified to give the song a greater dynamism at its end. Friends sitting on large comfortable leather chairs looked as though they thought this was about my singing. I was inside a room with a nice naked woman in the bed, under the blanket. After that, some noise and movement near her stomach made me think that there was an alien inside her body, and then a very beautiful bird flew out from underneath the blanket, but the bird started to scream and say some words which I couldn’t understand. Black smoke had darkened the sky. I could hear the sound of flying engines, the sound of the fireworks camouflaged the noise. Behind the curtain of smoke I spotted stronger lights moving in our direction, getting brighter as they approached us. I pointed with my finger at the aeroplanes, thinking they were part of the show. Two projectiles made impact with a nearby building, blowing up everything. I could feel the heat of the distant flames on my face. More planes were bombarding the city. We all started running downstairs looking for protection. I ran fast down the four floors to the street covered with an oily film. Picking up a hammer, I smashed part of the body shell and was horrified to find it full of blood and shit. Eventually we turned right, into the heart of the building, and went through an arch covered with a curtain. When we came into the central room, there was a large group of people watching a speaker at a flipchart. They all turned to look at us as we entered. There were lots of rabbits running around in the grass and through the fences, which Alis managed not to run over as we went slowly along. The campsite owner referred to them as her ‘guinea pigs’. We heard small children. Each room was separated from the next by a kind of arch. We had a gone a long way round the building, speeding up. It was very strange that there were no people (some of whom may or may not have been my sisters). Suddenly I could see a flight of rickety stairs, winding and making their way around the branches and ever upwards. As I started to climb them, the feeling of wanting to get higher grew, and I could soon start to see the sky. Reaching the top, I was inside a lorry (truck) cabin, a really tall large-scale lorry, three or four times bigger than any normal lorry. I was not driving and beside me were two or more persons whose identity I can’t remember. I was really pleased to see them after all these years, and very amused to see them driving this massive rig which somehow suited them so perfectly. I was with a former workmate, Lisa, and another female friend. They were both pushing pushchairs containing small children. My hands were shaking but I tried to focus, looking through the viewfinder. I could see that the enemy was myself on the front getting ready to shoot us again. I had to decide to kill him or save my girlfriend. At the last second I shot and killed him, blowing off his head. I ran looking for Tessa. Now the creature had become even bigger, no longer an insect but something a bit like a schmoo, with a pear-shaped fleshy body. Many of its bodyparts, though, were also inorganic – it had a long hard curved plastic tube coming out of its mouth, and many metal joints, clips, small parts etc in its body and between its legs, which were weirdly conspicuous as my mother wrapped the creature up inside a piece of cloth. Some of them said ‘We are here because we are going to kill you,’ and I saw one of my old friends taking a huge knife from the back of his trousers. Very disturbing and scary at the same time. I just said afterwards ‘I’m going, if you want to do that it’s up to you.’ We left on the bike, my friend without a face and I, and when we arrived in front of my house he just said to me ‘Never trust in the mirrors.’ I had gone into a house just across the road from this spot. I was applying to look after an elderly woman’s house. I was looking out of a large window with a night sky and a powerful moon. The air was full of flying and screaming in the hall outside the door. A caterpillar was out there too. I went out to help the children, carefully closing the door behind me.

I was a child again, looking up amazed by the explosions of colours all about us. Fountains of light illuminated the dark night and the other roofs in front of us. The explosions were loud and I was afraid, then I noticed that my mother was holding my hand and I could see my father right next to her also looking up at the fireworks. Other neighbours were also around enjoying the show. I could smell the gunpowder, at the time unfamiliar to me, but my hands were getting covered with the oil and the smell was sickening. One of the beetles slipped from my hands and fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Every time we tried to lower our voices to speak discreetly, a workman brushed right up against us. He was stretching building site tape around a hole in the ground and a telephone box. I called through the door to my mother for help, because I was now too afraid to deal with this on my own. Mum came out and a doctor was looking at her surprised with a bullet in his hand. When I asked him if she was all right, he said that the bullet inside her came out through her bloodstream. She was laughing, telling me that I did not believe that she was superhuman in her dreams. A panic broke out when we spotted a large hairy caterpillar crawling across the floor. Afterwards I saw some other bizarre buildings and some highways open to traffic just ending suddenly in a river or something like that. I noticed that in the streets all the cars had no wheels, they were like snowmobile machines slipping on the streets at an amazing speed. One of the adults caught the thing with a pair of tongs. Everyone was horrified at the idea that we might have an infestation of the things. Upstairs, we looked out of the back window. She pointed out into the garden to a greenhouse, and told me that she kept a lot of her things out there. Then I noticed that the room I was sitting in had walls that were shelved with hundreds of brown shoebox-like containers. Feeling very panicky, I caught more of the insects and found a way of dismantling them, and started to store the body parts in the boxes. The picture showed a boy wearing a wooden tunic, while a stick struck him on the chest. The campsite owner was a rather sour little woman with short grey hair. Urban scene: I was inside a car going into this town, the only access road to which passed inside an old power station. All the time some street was passing inside and through some factory and past the window of my vehicle, and I could see some workers and the production in the factory. In the next second I realised that I was already outside the building. I was somehow able to walk on the treetops and view the new amazing landscape. The air was full of fantastic and exotic birds in flight. I was in a large open air carpark, riding an old lady’s bicycle with a friend whose face I can’t remember. He was seated on the back seat of the bike. In some corner of my home town, a guy just started to run after us and we stopped. It was my old friend with two more friends from different periods of my life. Dreadlocks were growing like a climbing plant from beneath the bottom of a closed door. They were growing so quickly that I could actually see them, writhing and climbing. Some of them had thick dark fingernails at the ends. I was looking at a black and white comic. I managed to climb up, open the door and get into the passenger seat. Alis drove out of the carpark and through the grounds of a massive camping site where I had been staying. I went out into the garden to have a look. Along the edges of the garden were huge stone walls, with open window spaces, like gothic church cloister walls. Through them I could see a school to the right of the garden.

When I looked back at the house, it was very narrow. This was odd, because the front had been of standard width. There was no text, just single frame portraits of Princess Diana as a wolf. I was in a sitting room, on a sofa next to the singer Lal Waterson. She and I were singing a duet. On the left of the garden were some lean-to structures, with workbenches. I looked briefly at these, then moved towards the greenhouse structure at the end of the garden, which backed onto some open scrubland. In a house full of people, including my mother, and several babies and children, I twice stopped at a page in a book showing wooden body armour for children to wear while fighting with sticks. The children were adults again when I got out and met Tessa. The city was covered with soldiers running everywhere, tanks, guns, helmets. We also ran, and we approached a soldier in charge. He told us that everything was under control, nothing to worry about. We were so superior that it was like a training exercise for future, more intimidating, enemies. But on the front I could see the enemy assembling a machine gun and firing at us. A soldier next to us, who was shooting at the front, died, and Tessa was hit by a bullet. I found myself taking the position of that soldier and pointing the gun at the enemy. We were on an escalator in Harrods. I said ‘Let’s go to the second floor.’ When we got off the escalator it opened onto a series of long empty rooms running in a circle around the edge of the building. My friend Alis pulled up to give me a lift in a huge lorry. She was sitting up in the cab drinking coffee. Inside there were many wooden drawers. These contained things belonging not just to the woman I was applying to, but to other local residents, too. After that, another similar lorry got closer to us. It was a police lorry vehicle and everybody was very impressed, not because it was the police, but because we couldn’t ever have imagined that another similar vehicle could ever exist. After that the lorry trailer of the police beside us was transformed into a level of a building with a row of windows. I was walking through a dense forest and started to climb one of the trees. There was a sudden urgent sensation of wanting desperately to get to the top of the tree, but after climbing for a while I still could not see any sky above and became very despondent. The person showing me the garden pointed out which drawers were hers. I opened one, and found a dark fur wrap. This movement I found frightening – it was like the out-of-control bumping around of a daddy longlegs. I could see men and women walking at the same pace close to the windows. Some of the guys gave me a silver revolver and I was shooting in the head every person walking in those windows, but even after a deadly shot in the head, the person would still walk five or six steps until they dropped dead and stayed out of my sight. I was standing on a street corner in Penge, talking to another woman. She was saying ‘I know you’re heavily involved.’ As we watched, the caterpillar turned into a large insect shaped like an enormous hornet, its body honey-coloured at the front and stripy behind the wings. It jumped up and flew low to the ground in short bumpy hops, as if it was too heavy to take off properly. An arrow pointed under the arm of the armour, and bore the caption ‘Elasticated Sides’. This we immediately recognised as a particular kind of creature, disgusting and frightening and very dangerous to babies. In a rather squalid crowded room containing several babies’ cots, beetle-type insects were casting large shadows on the ground below. But suddenly I noticed that the insects were quite large, about the size of a grapefruit. I caught one in a net. The body was hard and dark blue in colour and had a human voice, like an old witch, screaming and laughing loudly, and after that he started to attack me in the face, and then I woke up.

2. Portraits of the collective dreamer: drawings by Paul Cowdell, Merl Fluin and Aniono Henrique, and boxed construction by Patrick Hourihan

Paul Cowdell

Merl Fluin

Aniano Henrique

Patrick Hourihan
(photo by Miguel Almagro)

3. Tentative conclusions

The remarkable preponderance of eyes and/or goggles in our portraits of the dreamer – which were all drawn/constructed separately and without any previous discussion – leads us to the preliminary conclusion that our group egregore may take the form of an enormous disembodied eyeball, and/or have special optical powers.
Investigations continue.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A silvery darkness came into the room
He escaped by boat and calmed a storm
“The riding crop is for your next visit,”
And when I was seated on it,
He watched the obscure corners of the planet
And took out the trunk coated in velvet
“With the end of my breath, the beginning of yours,
You are at the position of the old sorcerers”.
And he never heard a philosopher farewell,
And whispered tender obscenities in my ear.

Elva Jozef

Friday, November 20, 2009

Belgrade 6 charged with international terrorism

News has been confirmed that the six anarcho-syndicalists from Belgrade, arrested and held in confinement since 5th September, are to be tried for international terrorism. They face 15 years in prison. They are accused of being the authors of graffiti painted on the Greek embassy on 25th August, and of having thrown a petrol bomb which only damaged a window. The fact that the comrades deny that they had anything to do with these events clearly does not worry the Serbian State in its obsession to find someone guilty. Indeed, from Paris to Belgrade, the international police are all very much alike… They must have had the same instructors…

So, the comrades are being charged with international terrorism. For the immediate future this means they will remain incommunicado in jail for at least several months.

Those comrades who are still free are trying to see if there is any way to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, the worst case scenario has now happened. The battle will be long and difficult and these comrades will need all our support.

Lawyers’ fees will obviously be extremely high, so anyone who wishes to contribute financially to solidarity efforts can send a cheque made out to the CNT AIT, with the words “Solidarité Belgrade” on the back, to the following address:

108 rue Damrémont
75018 PARIS

Information from the Free the Belgrade 6 website, which can be visited for continuous news updates on the case and information about the campaign.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

International Surrealist Declaration for the Imprisoned Serbian Anarchosyndicalists

We hereby declare our unconditional solidarity with the five Serbian anarcho-syndicalists who have been imprisoned since September the 4th, facing the charge of “international terrorism.” Tadej Kurep, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac and Nikola Mitrović, all members of Sindikalna konfederacija Anarho-sindikalistička inicijativa (ASI), were arrested some days after an action of solidarity with the Greek activist, and then-hunger striker, Thodoris Iliopoulos. The target of this action was the Greek embassy in Belgrade.

The Serbian authorities used the slight damages caused to the building of the Greek embassy as a pretext in order to exercise their repressive powers, labeling the members of ASI as “terrorist” and detaining them with no substantial evidence of their actual involvement in this so-called crime of damaging the façade of a building. It is not the building, of course, that concerns the Serbian police; neither is it the symbolism, per se, of an attack against the embassy of another state: the real impact of international solidarity and radical politics, with a view towards social emancipation, is what makes them transgress the limits of their supposed democracy, so as to imprison militants through farcical procedures.

Ratibor Trivunac, one of the accused, is a friend of the international surrealist movement. But surrealism is not an exclusive club of personal relations, any more than it is one of mere aesthetic affinities. We consider as our brothers all these five persecuted Serbian militants (and the sixth, Ivan Savic, who was arrested some days later) because their cause, their choice to live and to struggle for another, liberated life, is one that we share. When a state lays its oppressive hand upon one of us, we must all feel the threat to our freedom, we must all take a stand with those who risk being deprived of their elementary freedoms because they are determined to fight, here and now, for real universal freedom.

We demand the immediate release of our five comrades and friends!
The passion for freedom is stronger than any of your prisons!

Athens Surrealist Group:
Grigoris Apostolides, Giannis Golfinopoulos, Manolis Daskalos, Alexandra Halkias, Diamantis Karavolas, Vangelis Koutalis, Sotiris Liontos, Helias Melios, Lefki Mossou, Makis Perdikomatis, Nikos Stabakis, Theoni Tabaki, Marianna Xanthopoulou, Giannis Xourias.

Nicosia: Kostas Reousis.

Leeds Surrealist Group:
Gareth Brown, Stephen J. Clark, Kenneth Cox, Luke Dominey, Jan Drabble, Bill Howe, Caroline Jeffs, Sarah Metcalf, Mike Peters, Peter Overton, Martin Trippett.

Surrealist London Action Group (SLAG):
Paul Cowdell, Merl Fluin, Aniano Henrique, Patrick Hourihan.

Grupo Surrealista de Madrid:
José Arias Taboada, Eugenio Castro, Manuel Crespo, Javier Gálvez, Jesús García Rodríguez, Vicente Gutiérrez Escudero, Bruno Jacobs, Lurdes Martínez, Julio Monteverde, Noé Ortega, Antonio Ramírez, José Manuel Rojo, María Santana y Ángel Zapata.
and its friends:
Sonia Ayerra, Rag Cuter, Andrés Devesa, Jesús González Gómez, Paul Hammond, Inés Mendoza, Emilio Santiago, Leticia Vera and the Anarchist Group Al Margen.

Groupe Surréaliste de Montréal:
Jean-Maurice Brouillet, Dominic Tétrault.

Le Groupe de Paris du mouvement surréaliste:
Michèle Bachelet, Alfredo Fernandes, Jean-Pierre Guillon, Michaël Löwy, Marie-Dominique Massoni, Dominique Paul, Michel Zimbacca.

La Vertèbre et le Rossignol (ville de Québec):
Enrique Lechuga, David Nadeau.

on behalf of Grupo Surrealista del Río de la Plata/Buenos Aires-Montevideo:
Juan Carlos Otaño.

on behalf of Skupina Českých a Slovenských Surrealistů:
Frantisek Dryje, Katerina Pinosova, Bertrand Schmitt, Bruno Solarik.

Surrealistgruppen i Stockholm, Johannes Bergmark.

Sürrealist Eylem Türkiye

Chicago Surrealist Group:
Penelope Rosemont, Paul Garon, Beth Garon, Gale Ahrens, David Roediger, Joseph Jablonski, Joel Williams, Jan Hathaway, Irene Plazewski, Janina Ciezadlo, Renay Kirkman, Tamara L. Smith.

Brandon Freels, M.K. Shibek.

The St. Louis Surrealist Group:
Richard Burke, Susan Burke, Andrew Torch, M. M. Morose.

Eric Bragg (

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Marvellous is popular

This weekend saw the launch of Black Lightning, our aggressively lo-fi new zine celebrating the Marvellous in popular culture. In issue 1 we present our cheerfully plagiarised manifesto "The Marvellous is Popular", alongside other delights including edible teeth, limbs on the loose, and a long-overdue appreciation of Jackie Chan as popular cinema's greatest poet.

Most Surrealists are understandably reluctant to evangelise for the movement, but we believe that the practice of occultation – the refusal to seek fame or success, or to turn one's work into commodities for the cultural market – should not, must not, mean a denial of the powers of the popular imagination. Some of us have perhaps been a little too fond of repeating the mantra that "Surrealism will never be a mass movement" when the late-night TV schedules (especially, in the UK, on Five and ITV4), the cheap grab-bags in mainstream comic shops, the world of straight-to-DVD movies, and even the pick-and-mix sweet stands in pound shops and supermarkets, all attest to the public's unconscious but insatiable appetite for the Marvellous. How can convulsive beauty be regarded as a minority interest, when Prison Break averages over 9m viewers a week in the US alone, and Harper's Island is broadcast in almost 40 countries? How can hypnogogic landscapes be regarded as Surrealists' special domain, when Igglepiggle and his friends are at play in Night Gardens all over the world, every night of the week? We know scores of Surrealists who lionise the silent films of Feuillade and the Gothic paroxysms of "Monk" Lewis, but outside of SLAG's own meetings we never hear any paeans to T-Bag, Michael Scofield, John Wakefield or Henry Dunn. We find this neglect inexplicable, and with Black Lightning we want to go some way towards putting it right.

If Surrealists these days are sometimes too quick to dismiss current popular culture – especially when it's made for TV, especially when it's from the US – then conversely, of course, the public is usually too quick to consign Surrealism to the gallery, arts cinema or prestige documentary. Friends and acquaintances learning that we are Surrealists are more likely to ask us our opinions on Buñuel, Švankmajer and indeed (sigh) David Lynch than on DC comics or Wilkinsons sweets. We cede to no-one in our love for Buñuel and Švankmajer, or for that matter for the other "classic" Surrealist heroes like Fantômas, the Marx Brothers or Looney Tunes cartoons. But the Marvellous is popular remains our watchword in the face not only of (some) Surrealists' disdain for TV's plebeian pleasures, but also of (most) people's assumptions that Surrealism is for art buffs and cinéastes, or that poetry is none of their concern. Poetry is everyone's concern, always and everywhere – and we Surrealists can help to bring that concern to consciousness by highlighting the extent to which poetry is, if not exactly commonplace, then at any rate present, and alive, and astonishingly beautiful whenever its black lightning flashes, which is still more often than most people think. The entertainment-industrial complex undoubtedly seeks to stupefy the public's imagination into consumerist docility. But as it grubs down towards the audience's lowest common denominator, it must inevitably also grub down into our unconscious commonwealth – of beauty, terror, desire, passion, and the longing for freedom. In that sense the entertainment industry is constantly sowing the seeds of its own destruction, and Surrealists can help to germinate them in the heart of every consumer.

We are optimists, but not idiotically so. Of course we know that the overwhelming majority of commercially-produced popular culture is irredeemable shit; of course we will never stop repeating that poetry must be made, and not merely consumed, by all. But the dialectics of culture, even under the depredations of the most advanced form of consumer capitalism – especially then – means that sometimes, at least, the slickest and/or stupidest productions are also those which fail most conspicuously to conceal the raw bones of desire moving behind the screen. Poetry, like lightning, must ever appear, to some men hope – and to other men, fear!

Special thanks to our friends in the Leeds Surrealist Group for their help with the distribution of Black Lightning no. 1.
To receive a copy of Black Lightning no.1, email us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Demonstration in defence of Rata Trivunac and comrades, Monday 28th September

Serbian authorities have arrested and detained five anarchists, including our friend Ratibor Trivunac. As well as being a prominent anarcho-syndicalist, Rata is a long-standing supporter of the international Surrealist movement with a wealth of knowledge about the often-neglected history of Surrealism in Belgrade. Members of SLAG who had the pleasure of meeting him in London two years ago are horrified at the news of these arrests.

Details of the five's arrest below are from Libcom.

The five, Tadej Kurep, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac and Nikola Mitrovic, are activists in or associates of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, the Serbian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA).

The arrests are allegedly related to a direct action which took place at the Greek Embassy on Aug. 25. Negligible damage was done; a crack in one window, a tiny burn mark on the facade and a circled-A graffiti on the embassy as an act of symbolic solidarity with Greek hunger-striker Thodoros Iliopoulos. The prosecutor however imagines this as an act of “international terrorism” and would like to charge our comrades with such. If the state allows such charges to be pressed, they could be facing 3-15 years in prison.

As it is, the five were arrested, harassed and are to be held in custody for at least one month while the case is organized.

Although one of the accused, General Secretary of the IWA Ratibor Trivunac, clearly and publicly declared that he knew nothing of the action, he was arrested. It is not the first time that authorities have come after him or his comrades for no other reason than the fact that they are radical critics of the state.

A demonstration in support of the five was held outside the London Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro on Friday 11th September.
There will be a second picket of the Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro on Monday 28th September, 12-2pm.
The embassy is at 28 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8QB. Nearest stations are Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge.

Click here to send a message of protest to the Serbian government.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pareidolia in the boudoir

Two different people's interpretations of the figures appearing on the same patch of a roughly painted bedroom wall.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chance Report

In the middle of July, our comrade Nikos Stabakis came to London for a visit, bringing with him some new publications from the Athens Surrealist Group, including the latest issue of Klidonas. Two of us met him for a drink in the evening. We didn't really have time to look properly at any of the publications he gave us, because we were up very early the following morning to catch a plane to Stockholm.

Almost three weeks later in Stockholm, we went with some of our friends in the Stockholm Surrealist Group to a book launch party, and during the evening we proudly showed off the copy of Galerie du Mystère's Guide de Paris Mystérieux (1966) which we had found in a charity shop the previous afternoon. Flipping through the pages, Mattias Forshage suddenly stopped at an illustration on page 230 and exclaimed "But I saw this image somewhere else yesterday!" After a few moments he worked out that it must have been in the copy of Klidonas we had brought him as a present from Nikos, and which we still hadn't had time to look through properly ourselves.

In Guide de Paris Mystérieux, the image is subtitled "L'homme volant" de Restif de Bretonne, and is an illustration for the Guide's entry on the Quai de Conti, where in 1580 an Italian man constructed a set of wings and attempted to fly across the Seine (he ended up in the water, apparently unharmed).

In Klidonas the image appears on page 96 as an illustration to a text by Sotiris Liontos – which, because we cannot read Greek, we are unable to decipher, apart from the English epigram from Shelley's Ozymandias.

(For one of us, the symbolism of this image is perfectly clear, particularly in light of another coincidence which took place the day before we found the Guide in Stockholm but which we did not find out about until after we returned to London. But that final stroke of objective chance must remain unpublished, "to protect the innocent" as the saying goes.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Aussies in Alaska

Yesterday I packed a bag full of newspaper and hitchhiked to Alaska, where awaiting my arrival were eighteen perturbed Australians.

“You should have been here three weeks ago,” one of them shouted as I walked into the bar and ordered a pepsi.

“So should you,” I retorted, to which he seemed to want to say more, but he shut his mouth and parked his butt on the seat of the stool.

“What you got for us, then?” he finally asked, clearly having decided that my tardiness negated the need for small talk.

“Money first,” I said, equally blunt.

“You’ll get it. Let’s see the shit.” I sighed. There were eighteen of them and one of me. I had to trust Onca’s word that these gentlemen would pay up and not rob me. I opened the rucksack a peep. The talking Aussie peered on and gasped. He grabbed his groin and ran out the room, seventeen pairs of Aussie eyes, plus mine, following his progress. I shrugged.

“You couldn’t have chosen someone with a bit more reserve?” I accused them, and no one spoke.

“You,” I said, pointing to a small one, who looked not unlike an Irish featherweight boxer. “Come and look. I haven’t got all fucking night, I’ve got a trucker coming back in an hour.”

The Irish Aussie sauntered over, trying to look all casual. He didn’t speak but looked down into the bag. I saw the breath hitch in his chest but he managed to swallow down his reaction.

“All right?” I asked. He nodded mutely. “Money?” Irish-Aussie clicked his fingers at two of the Aussies standing by a trunk. They heaved it over and plonked it at my feet. One fiddled with the lock, his attention drawn by my bag which still laid open a tad, so I shut it and the trunk lid was lifted.

“What the fuck is that.”

I looked accusingly at the trunk-opener. He looked helplessly at his mate, who looked at the Irish Aussie, who looked in relief at the groin-grabber, as he re-emerged, looking distinctly dishevelled.


“I don’t want that shit.”

“It’s all we got.”

“Then I’m outta here.” I swung the rucksack back over my shoulders. I turned my back on them, knowing they could easily jump me, take my shit, and, if they fancied it, murder me and throw out my corpse for those who love the carrion. Bears and such. Irish-Aussie called:

“Wait. We must have something you want.”

I whipped back around. “I’ll take an Aussie. I don’t care which one.”

He glared. “What in the hell for?”

“That’s my business.”

Irish-Aussie exchanged looks with his seventeen pals, each of them looking longingly at my bag. Maybe they assumed I was armed, and they weren’t. I don’t know why they didn’t attack me. After a few more silent exchanges, all eyes fell on one Aussie. He was thin and pointless-looking. The Aussie nearest him nudged him, and soon all seventeen of them were jostling and pushing the thin one forward, till he was at the front of the pack, looking at me in fear.

“Deal?” I asked the Irish-Aussie.

“Deal.” I chucked my rucksack on the floor, and jerked my head at the thin Aussie, my think Aussie, who, with a final look at his mates, forlornly followed as I led the way out of the bar.


But the truth was I didn’t want that fucking Aussie for any reason, prurient, wicked, or otherwise. I just wanted to test those fuckers, to measure their desperation. What sort of clan, I figured, would give up one of their own number for a little hit? Because what I’d given them was little, insignificant to what you could get back in the States proper – but this was Alaska, they were hooked, broken, and broke. And stuck there, probably until they all died. And they just given me, exchanged with me, a life, a comrade, for a hit. It sickened me to my core. I had some real trouble getting my trucker to take him on board, too.

“He’s an addict.”

“He hasn’t had a hit in weeks.”

“So he’ll be getting them attacks soon.”

“Withdrawal symptoms?”

“Yeah, them.”

“It’s possible.”


I hesitated. “Probable.” Our own form of haggling.

He grunted. “I’ll take you to Vancouver.”

My heart sank. Just an hour ago he’d agreed to take me to Nevada.

“I can get you whatever you need in Nevada. Anything, Mick.”

“I ain’t taking no addict over the border back into the States. Do I look crazy to you?”

The question was redundant, because Mick, with his huge goggle eyes and is thick glasses making them appear even bigger, looked as crazy as they came. I didn’t bother to answer, but sighed and agreed to Vancouver.

I sat between Mick and the thin Aussie. Mick treated him like a ticking bomb. He refused to put music on, whispering loudly that it might set him off. The thin Aussie remained mute, either by volition, or necessity, or perhaps it was one of the withdrawal symptoms. He just stared out at the road, his thin white hands limp in his lap, his staring, fearful eyes fixed on the tarmac, but perhaps seeing something else.

Josie Malinowski

Monday, July 13, 2009

THE RETURN OF COFFIN JOE: a review of Embodiment of Evil (2008)

Here I am, back in the world ....

Coffin Joe, undefeated as ever by the forces of either death or narrative logic, is back on the big screen, in the final part of what turns out to have been a trilogy. Shamelessly falsifying the ending of the previous instalment (and unrivalled masterpiece) This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967), Coffin Joe emerges from the bowels of darkness to continue his frenzied search for a perfect woman, a son, and the continuity of his own blood. Relocated this time to the favelas of São Paolo, his delirium rages against everything in its path – his lovers, his followers, his tormentors, his own soul, and above all the cops and priests who rule the filthy world against which he hurls his unstoppable fury. The mayhem alternates between new scenes of inspired brutality – particularly, as always, against women – and horribly beautiful hauntings by both his previous victims and the afterlife whose existence he so vehemently denies. Snakes, spiders, cockroaches, rats, cannibalism, necrophilia and an Aladdin's cave of torture provide sumptuous confirmation that Coffin Joe can still work the old voodoo. Embodiment of Evil, it has to be said, feels at times a little like a greatest hits compilation; but it's hard to be churlish about it when the hits are so dazzlingly great.

The first part of the Coffin Joe trilogy, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963), has been hailed as Brazil's first horror film, and according to the film-maker himself came from the real world of his nightmares. But perhaps inevitably, in contrast with the pure fever vision of the earlier films, Embodiment of Evil bears some minor scars from the 40 intervening years of popular culture. Before, when the audience laughed, it was with exhilaration, amazement, and sheer Sadean delight – not just at the feats Coffin Joe could get away with, or at the ways in which he was punished for those he could not, but also at our own voluptuous complicity in his crimes. Now, in this new film, the exhilaration and complicity remain, but there are also a few unexpectedly knowing and easy laughs; scenes which, instead of poetically delirious images (glowing fingernails emerging from cell door), serve us with mere signifiers (a depraved priest's tattoos and nipple clamps); moments when we suddenly feel that we are not, in fact, experiencing a demented vision of blood, but merely watching a horror film. Such moments are still relatively few and far between – José Mojica Marins has not degenerated into Wes Craven – but they ultimately prevent Embodiment of Evil from ever quite reaching the same heights, or depths, as its predecessors.

But despite the lapses, the compromises, the occasional pauses for a breather on his own laurels, Coffin Joe's Gothic imagination still blazes with the same black light – spurting with lust, incoherent with rage, thrilling, beautiful. As he tells his assembled lovers in the film's final scene, he knows as well as any of us that true creation lies at the "pole of tension" between good and evil. His own pole of tension bears up pretty well too. By the end of the film his superiority might not have proven quite as immortal as he had hoped, but it's made for a very fuckable corpse.

With eternal thanks to Sparty Mills for giving me my first introduction to the world of Coffin Joe

Friday, July 03, 2009

OPEN WINDOWS: an exhibition by Patrick Hourihan

6th – 12th July 2009
11 am – 6pm daily

5 Blenheim Crescent Gallery
Notting Hill, London W11

Fantastic Duet
(acrylic on canvas)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Manifesto for Surrealist London

'The matter of our work is everywhere present', wrote the old alchemists, and that is the truth. All the wonders lie within a stone's throw of King's Cross Station.
~ Arthur Machen, Things Near and Far.

The SURREALIST LONDON ACTION GROUP (SLAG) is not simply a group of Surrealists who happen to live in or around the London area. SLAG is a group which celebrates the Surrealist city, and actively seeks the SURREALISATION of London and of the lives of all who live and work in it.

The Surrealist approach to London is psychogeographical first and foremost, but it is NOT the pseudo-poetic, romanticised, nostalgic, all-too-fashionable – and ultimately conservative – approach of, say, Iain Sinclair or Peter Ackroyd. ‘Psychogeography’ in the commoditised form has become indistinguishable from tourism, and ‘secret London’ just another current in the constant stream of images which alienate us from each other, ourselves and our surroundings in the Society of the Spectacle: a vision infected with what André Breton in the Second Surrealist Manifesto called ‘a cancer of the mind which consists in thinking all too sadly that certain things "are,'' while others, which might well be, "are not".’

Under this regime of the Spectacle, with its tourist ‘experiences’ and its media image-fetishism, many people feel that they know what to expect of London, just as they feel they know what to expect of Surrealism. Superficial aspects of London have been turned into media images, just as the superficial (‘mannerist’) aspects of Surrealism have been adopted by the media and culture industries- this is ‘surrealism’ reduced to style (i.e. 'surrealism' with a small ‘s’), with little or nothing to do with Surrealism as a movement. Genuinely Surrealist London, like the Surrealist Movement itself, is in constant flux, just as reality itself shifts, mutates and so reveals its inconsistencies: ‘a world that some call reality but which is only an incessant discovery; a mystery reborn indefinitely’ (Pierre Mabille).

Surrealist psychogeography is in an altogether different vein. Our expeditions through space and place operate not at the level of the image, but at the level of the encounter, at once more fleeting and more visceral than the mythopoesis-lite of tourism and nostalgia. The city for us is not a passive background or external world to be mapped, recorded, classified, and ultimately rationalised in the spirit of Augustan taxonomy; something to serve us with the illusion of gaining control over the uncontainable, but an active subject, to be conjured as one might conjure an egregore and explored as one might explore a lover. Our encounters with London are not just with its physical locations but also with its dreams, desires, fears and loves, its premonitory horrors and revolutionary hopes: in short, with its SURREALITY.

In London we station ourselves on the periphery of the comprehensible and are taken to the realms of the improbable and beyond, to encounter Imagination grappling with Reason, or to be more precise, Imagination avenging itself upon Reason, joyfully and without mercy. In our 'elective places' - fixed points, multiple magnetic poles in the space-time continuum around which (r)evolve Surrealist place and Surrealist life: the secret roads, ancient subterranean rivers, plague pits, those tear-jerkingly poignant junk shops of the Holloway Road and stalls of Cheshire Street, the murky waters of the Serpentine, the reality-check architectural contrast between the Square Mile and Bethnal Green, the soon-to-be-defiled loveliness of the Lea Valley; and such street names as Bleeding Heart Yard (EC1), Cornflower Terrace (SE22), Black Lion Lane (W6), The Ring (W2), Crutched Friars (EC3), Gothic Road (Twickenham) and Candy Street (E3) - we embrace perpetual correspondences and submit to objective chance, conduct an archaeology of the present and future, discover points of departure into the infinite depths of London's erotic universe. We haunt the city and are haunted by it: we love its absurdity, its sublime kitsch, its artificiality, we delight in its playfulness, no less than its fevers and migraines, capricious cruelties and abominable debaucheries, tantrums and seizures. Marvellous phantoms haunt London: a stroll in the park can become an event of eternal significance, an unfolding of myth, marked by strange encounters, talismanic found objects and chance provocations.

Of course our methods are not confined to London. They can and should be copied and adapted to reproduce the encounter with Surreality in any environment, in any city, town, village or field, elsewhere, anywhere or (with the Surrealist atopos) nowhere. But the SLAG takes London as the centre of its Surrealist explorations and experiences. It is the place where we live Surrealist life. Marooned on the city’s rocks, we dive into the ‘mystery and melancholy of the streets’, and moving like a ‘blind swimmer’ (Max Ernst) we seek out the wonders, the signs and portents, concealed behind the surfaces of the everyday. Ever in pursuit of the ineffable, something that lies just over the horizon of the visible, the habitual, the predictable, the banal – something that endlessly mutates and proliferates, something that ultimately is not a ‘thing’ at all but is movement itself, analogical restlessness, the permanent revolution of metonymy –the Surrealist is like the hero of Georges Limbour’s Le Cheval de Venise, ‘never lost, for the path he takes is always towards what he does not know.’ The Hunting of the Surrealist Snark, the pursuit of Surreality, ought not to be undertaken in the shallow, tainted pools of art books, of paintings in galleries or objects in museums, but in the city streets, in the very heart of the demonic angel where desire is paramount and ‘dream’ and ‘reality’ are indistinguishable, become one. Here we may be privileged to observe the transfiguration of the ordinary into the fabulous.

French Surrealists have seen Paris as both a 'soluble city', and as a woman; the late, Leeds-based Surrealist Anthony Earnshaw saw his city as a slattern; we see our city as a multi-headed OVERLY-EMOTIONAL HERMAPHRODITE, with putrescent erogenous zones, vulvae gaping wide in tunnels and doorways, clitorises in the street furniture, arseholes in alleyways, dildos throbbing and phalloi bursting from the erectile-gherkin architecture. With its myriad snapping jaws and delirious mouths kissing itself with cannibal tongues, London is a city continually devouring itself, digesting itself in an unstoppable act of MAD LOVE.

Monday, June 22, 2009


THINK THE WORLD OWES YOU A LIVING? You’re not far wrong. The bosses and politicians owe you for all the things they’ve taken from you: the intelligence and curiosity they bored out of you at school; the adventures you should have been having when you were stuck behind a desk or a counter, or standing on an assembly line or a dole queue; the food, housing and “free” time they made you sweat to pay for when they should already have been yours by right. Now they’re offering to give it all back to you – money, education, job security, housing, even a sense of purpose for your aimless life – but on one condition. Before you can get your hands on what’s rightfully yours, you have to be willing either to kill or to die for it. And now that they’ve wrecked the economy and destroyed the job market, they’re banking more than ever on working-class kids joining the army – so that they can keep making money from oil, gas and the global arms trade while you’re dodging their profitable bullets.

START THINKING, SOLDIER. Think about all the things you knew when you were a child, back before they started trying to make you stupid with the National Curriculum. That sense of magic and wonder – a whole world ruled not by violence or profit, but by the powers of play and imagination – it’s real. It’s infinitely more real than their lies about peace and security – as real as the love that claws at your heart – as those glimpses of elsewhere that come to you in your dreams – as that late-night yearning for something you can’t name but which you know MUST BE. It’s a reality which refuses to separate work from play, day from night, dreaming from knowing, sleeping from waking, necessity from desire… and it’s yours for the taking, if you can only find the courage to leave behind your timidity, conformism, pessimism and simple fear of ridicule.

DON’T GET US WRONG. It’s not that we’re against war. We were born in a war, and we’re fighting to win. It’s just that joining the British Army is not the way to win it. The ruling class want you in the army so that they can make a profit from your body, dead or alive. But that body of yours is a multiverse. It’s made of the same stuff as the all the suns of the galaxy – and it blazes just as fiercely, across light-years of desire. Don’t just fight with it, fight for it, because it’s more real than anything they can offer you.

So are you going to fight to live, or will you just make do with survival? Stay alienated from yourself, or face up to the reality of your own desires? Your dreams are an arsenal. Start dreaming, soldier.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Inspired by the ‘exteriority’ concept from the Madrid Surrealist Group, from their response to Mattias’ letters, and from the phrase 'Surrealists as Urbanists', I felt compelled to write this:


 Let me tell you of a case that is happening right now where I live, and that started long  long ago. A couple of thousand people included me live in the last town of a row of three. My town, that I call the Village of the Eastern Bay ends very beautifully with the shores of the ocean. The other two towns that go inland are the Arty Town, the one next to mine, and the other that I call The Sleepy Town. They go inland until reaching the city of Providence through a highway.


 The three towns link one another through the bridges built in between them. So, we have a bridge  that links my town to Arty Town, and a second bridge that links Arty Town to Sleepy Town. Two bridges. But not really.  When I leave the Village of the Eastern Bay every morning with the bus to go to the city, I cross a bridge pointed as in use and temporary according to urban legends, because a second one right next to it is under construction, naked yet with wooden ribs.  The urban legends move from mouth to mouth and reach my ears often and they tell that that bridge, that second one, appeared taking form ‘ since I first started smoking. I was 17 and now I am 35’- said a woman long ago in a bus ride. The papers and the internet also talk about it. There is a blurred suspicion about the whole construction project. The peoples all look at the sky and wonder when the bridge will be finished. I can see that is true: riding on wheels over the bridge in use, the busy one, I look at the unfinished one to my left when I leave the town, to my right when I return, and I see everlasting stillness. I see stop- ness. I see ‘nothing happens’. I see trails of working and construction intentions, like yellow signs ‘ under construction’, and very rarely, really, two or more men eating doughnuts standing still, some sitting on bricks. But mostly, that mysterious bridge that resists growing to touch the other side is left alone, solitaire.


 But the story goes on with the ride towards the second town and towards the other bridge that allows the kissing between the Arty Town and the Sleepy Town. Here the case of resisting bridges triplicates.  One rides over the middle bridge, again, the one in use, the busy one, and if one is heading towards the city, can see the sophistication of the claim of resistance of movement, construction, creation…. when turning the eyes to the right. There is one bridge, the villagers call it the original bridge. It is considerable smaller, as the water in between the land runs in narrower space. It is made of dark wood. It is pretty and no one can ride a car or anything besides bicycles and rolling skates. It is the bridge for the feet. And for the fishermen. Then, turning the eyes to the left, one can see that sort of path of cement that sustain itself with grey, solid short columns above the water, and one more time, that thing from memorable times. So, we have the old bridge, the one in use in the middle and the one that will be for the future.                         Days after days, mornings and evenings for half a year I have looked and now I wonder what that all mean.  I am certain that I have come to hear what the bridges under construction say out loud and their thoughts have pushed me hard to put it on writing. They say they are not needed. They say they are the picture that titles ‘creating needs’. They say that the towns want to have their space, and indeed, they shout the towns want more and more water in between them…only if they could be lost inside the ocean! The bridges say they don’t want to be finished, that there is nothing to be built or to complete as they are already what they are. They are, they say, the question. And this is the end.



Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dreaming Squires

You, Ruth! are rather insolent, you know
At being disappointed in your wish
To supersede all warblers here below,
And be the only Blackbird in the dish;
And then you overstrain yourself, or so,
And trickle downward like a stream of pish,
Still able to render service to your class,
By beating your padel on its flatulent arse.

Charles Darwin swoons at the discovery
that genetic stock can go down as well as up.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Which way to the Outside?

For several years now our comrades in Madrid have seeking out ways to re-arm Surrealism in the face of the Spectacle. Beginning with their controversial and difficult tract The False Mirror (2000), they have pursued a number of critical lines of thought, from poetic materialism and the critique of the image, to more recent experiments such as Eugenio Castro’s “inactions” (one of which he contributed to the 2007 SLAG Festival). The new book The Exteriority Crisis: From the City Limits and Beyond (Oyster Moon Press, 2008), co-edited by Eric W Bragg, Eugenio Castro and Bruno Jacobs, presents a series of essays and reflections on “exteriority” as another such line of thought.

The collection contains 15 essays in all, with a short introduction by the editors. Most of the essays were originally written and/or published in Spanish and are made available here in English for the first time. The essays are presented in roughly chronological order, starting with Mattias Forshage’s 1997 essay on “Worthless places” and culminating in Castro’s essay “Surreality and exteriority”, which in some respects can be seen as a summation of the questions raised across the whole book. The chronological presentation allows the reader to trace the recent development of certain Surrealist approaches to space and place, from the first explorations of the atopos onwards. The notion of “exteriority” as such starts to make its appearance about half way through, perhaps beginning with Manuel Crespo’s “Garraf”, an essay first published in Spanish in 2005-6.

“Exteriority” hardly emerges as a stable or coherent notion as one reads through the book. At times one might be forgiven for thinking that there are as many understandings of “exteriority” as there are authors using the term. It refers variously to a direct sensual experience or encounter with reality (Manuel Crespo); “the brute force of the Marvellous” as discovered out-of-doors (Noé Ortega Quijano); the outside of the city boundaries, with the city understood as being coterminous with capital itself (Julio Monteverde) and/or as a space whose poetic possibilities are being systematically erased by capital (José Manuel Rojo); a hybrid space between the rural and the urban (Vicente Gutiérrez); or even the unknown as such (Ángel Zapata). These different takes on “exteriority” are not just disparate, but in some cases even seem to contradict each other, especially in their evaluations of the city and urban life. Nonetheless they all take as their starting point a shared conviction that the current phase of capitalism is enacting an aggressive mediation and homogenisation of everyday life, more or less totalising in its scope and effects, and that “exteriority” – whatever that means to each of the authors – offers a form of critique of and/or resistance to it. Most of these later essays also share the assumption that the specific form of that critique/resistance somehow lies in direct experience, uninterpreted encounters, unmediated reality – in the words of Castro’s closing essay, in “the delirium of absolute presence”.

Thus in effect there are two very broad senses of “exteriority” in operation of the book, not often clearly distinguished, and each full of its own internal nuances and contradictions. On the one hand, there is exteriority as the “outside” of capitalism and the mediation of the Spectacle; on the other hand, there is exteriority in the more literal or geographical sense of being out-of-doors, especially in non-urban or so-called natural environments. In a small number of essays (Crespo, Quijano, Monteverde, Castro) these two senses coincide, although the exact relationship between them is not always thought through or explicitly acknowledged.

Insofar as the book seeks merely to chart the development of notions of “exteriority” to date, the concept itself remains a work-in-progress, and the collection as a whole stands as an invitation to further thought and experimentation rather than as a definitive statement. Nonetheless there are points of weakness and obscurity which the editors could well have addressed, either in their joint introduction or in their own individual contributions. For example, both Castro’s final essay and the editors’ introduction state that exteriority is “not comparable to” the Romantic Sublime, but they do not bother to explain why, and there are certainly moments elsewhere in the book, such as in Gutiérez’s account of the Norwegian fjords, which do indeed seem comparable to the Sublime. This cryptic remark by the editors about the Sublime also raises another major flaw of the book as a whole, namely the sloppiness of the editing and, in many cases, of the translations themselves: what the English text actually says is not about the Romantic Sublime but about “the sublimation of the romantic absolute”, just one example in a long list of incorrect or fudged translations, basic grammatical errors, botched references and frankly embarrassing spelling mistakes (“Shopenhauer”, “hypocracy”) for which there is really no excuse, and which do great disservice to the contributors.

As well as the notion of “exteriority” itself, which remains to be developed, the book also raises other important Surrealist questions. One of these, of course, is the plausibility or otherwise of the understanding of capitalism and the Spectacle on which so many of the contributions rest. Many Surrealist readers will disagree that the Spectacle is quite so totalising, all-encompassing or straightforwardly triumphant as some of these essays assume; indeed one is sometimes left wondering just how any Surrealism can still be possible at all if the capitalist annihilation of culture and psyche alike has been so utterly relentless. Another issue which haunts the book is that of anthropocentrism, a term which is never explicitly invoked but which hovers behind many contributors’ evocations of the “outside” of human understanding and/or civilisation. At times the contributors’ encounters with the non-human “outside” seem to reach out into the non-human dimensions of the Great Transparents. At other times the rejection of what passes for civilisation under capitalism veers uneasily close to a rejection of technology as such and perhaps even of civilisation as such – a suggestion of the primitivism which has lurked in the background of a number of recent Surrealist discussions of civilisation and/or environmentalism, and which it may now be time for us to tackle head on.

So questions remain at the end of the book, both about the contents themselves and about their wider implications. The editors’ claim that “the abandonment [sic] to exteriority […] is one of the most urgent objectives at the beginning of this century” seems overstated, not least because there is still too little clarity about what exteriority is for it to constitute an objective just yet. But even if some of the book’s questions may be poorly formulated or posed on the basis of debatable premises, it is still valuable and perhaps even necessary to ask them. Open questions can lead to open spaces.


For other viewpoints on “exteriority”, click here for Merdarius's meditations on exteriority; here for Merdarius's meditations on "nature" and landscape; and here for the Madrid Surrealist Group's contribution to an ongoing debate about the book that has been unfolding, mostly by email, in the last few months.

POSTSCRIPT ADDED 5th JUNE: Having read this blog posting, the Madrid Surrealist Group emailed me to say that they now consider their collective letter to Mattias Forshage as a reply to my comments too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009



Baby baby listen,

This mule or black defiant horse, whatever the way you see

Went one day to dig a city, the city of the Dead and of Music

To find the Mystères that feed the life.

Very happy the first day but not for long

Because emptiness had, the horse felt, overtaken the streets

No Mystères anywhere to be seen or heard

Instead cowardice and bla bla blas….

Oh! How sad the horse really felt! And she shouted: They are gone with the glorious past!


But our horse kept looking

The roots of the essence

Of the place that bore music and magic


And not much waiting needed, only the passing of a dark night,

That the next morning to a house the horse went,

The almost forgotten house of an old wise creature that happened to know

About the Mystères…and that they weren’t gone,


Hidden yes, but never gone! Yes, one must look hard


And then the horse very happy went, feeding and feeding the belly with

Stories of orgies around a fire, of Snakes Gods,

Of Beautiful Women courting the married,

Of eternal memories written on bones,

Of knocking at the doors in the City of the Dead,

About wishing and pledges,

 Of rythms’ birthplaces….. and our horse got the Feast!


That night happened that our horse got to know

That she and her party have been watched  and awaited

By a Queen, a descendant

Who opened the door of The Temple

Who called out the Elders, dancing with her voice and a drum,

And The Snake

Initiating our horse to the New Highest Life!


Details of how everything occurred

Are the Mystères.


The end

 Carolina & Tobias

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Franklin Rosemont 1943 – 2009

Franklin Rosemont met André Breton in 1966 and this became a turning point in his life. A celebrated, poet, artist, historian, editor, and surrealist activist, he died on Sunday April 12 at age 65. With his partner and comrade of more than four decades, Penelope Rosemont, he cofounded in 1966 an enduring and adventuresome Chicago Surrealist Group, making the city a center in the reemergences worldwide of that movement of artistic and political revolt. Recently, he has been editing a series on Surrealism for the University of Texas. Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situationism, Utopia by French intellectual Michael Löwy was just published this spring.

Rosemont was born in Chicago October 2, 1943 to two of the area's more significant rank-and-file labor activists, the printer Henry Rosemont and the jazz musician Sally Rosemont. Dropping out of Maywood schools, he managed nonetheless to enter Roosevelt University in 1962. Already radicalized through family traditions, his experiences with the miseries inflicted by the educational system and his intense study of momentous political works and comics, prepared him to enter the stormy left culture of Roosevelt.

The mentorship of the African American scholar St. Clair Drake and his relationship with Penelope led him to much wider worlds. He "hitchhiked 20,000 miles" even as he discovered surrealist texts and art. Soon, with Penelope, he found the surrealist thinker André Breton in Paris. Close study and passionate activity characterized the Rosemonts' embrace of surrealism as well as their practice in art and organizing.

In the 1960s when he was in his 20s he was active with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Rebel Worker group and Students for a Democratic Society, Rosemont helped to lead an IWW strike of blueberry pickers in Michigan in 1964 and began a long and fruitful association with Paul Buhle in publishing a special surrealist issues of Radical America in 1970 and later Cultural Correspondence. Lavish, funny and barbed issues of Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion began to appear in the 70s.

The smashing success of the 1968 world surrealist exhibition at Gallery BugsBunny in Chicago announced the ability of the Chicago surrealists to have huge cultural impact without ceasing to be critics of the frozen mainstreams of art and politics. This show led to a host of regional exhibitions, culminating in the World Surrealist Exhibition in 1976, an international exhibition of unparalleled breadth, with 141 contemporary surrealists groups in 33 countries.

The Rosemonts soon became leading figures in the reorganization of the nation's oldest radical publisher, the Charles H. Kerr Company. Under their leadership, the Charles H. Kerr Company became, once again, a major publisher of leftist works, from C. L. R. James and Paul Lafargue to Edward Bellamy and Lucy Parsons. That work continues today. In this and in providing coordination for the surrealist Black Swan Press, Rosemont helped to make Chicago a center of nonsectarian surrealist creativity.

A friend and valued colleague of such figures as Herbert Marcuse, Studs Terkel, Leon Despres, Arturo Schwarz, Mary Low, and Clarence John Laughlin, the poets Philip Lamantia, Diane di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Dennis Brutus, the painter Lenora Carrington and the historians Paul Buhle, John Bracey, and Noel Ignatiev, Rosemont's own artistic and creative work was almost impossibly varied in inspirations and results. He was close friends with Guy Ducornet, Rikki Ducornet, Nancy Joyce Peters, Michael Löwy and many other artists and writers.

He also worked closely with fellow-surrealist Paul Garon, author of Blues and the Poetic Spirit and the historian of racism David Roediger, author of Wages of Whiteness. Without ever holding a university post, he wrote or edited scores of books while acting as a great resource for a host of other writers.

He became perhaps the most productive scholar of the hidden history of labor and the left in the United States. His spectacular study Joe Hill, The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture began as a slim projected volume of that revolutionary martyr's rediscovered cartoons and grew to a giant volume providing our best guide to what the early twentieth century radical movement was like and what radical history might do. The French edition of this work on Joe Hill appeared earlier this year in Paris. His coedited volume with David Roediger Haymarket Scrapbook stands as the most beautifully illustrated labor history publication of the recent past. His books on Chicago’s hobohemia The Rise & Fall of the Dill Pickle Club and From Bughouse Square to the Beat Generation sparked a renewed interest in that era. With Archie Green who was last year honored by the Smithsonian he edited The Big Red Songbook.

In none of this did Rosemont separate scholarship from art, or art from revolt. His books of poetry, include Lamps Hurled at the Stunning Algebra of Ants, The Apple of the Automatic Zebra's Eye and Penelope. His activity at with the Wobblies at Solidarity Bookshop were illustrated in cartoon format in a book by Harvey Pekar edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman. The SDS activity of he and Penelope were illustrated in another cartoon format book by Pekar and Paul Buhle, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. His marvelous fierce, whimsical and funny art work graced countless surrealist publications and exhibitions. A memorial will be announced.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the blue water vodun

Game 1: Hunting the Blue Water Vodun

On the Saturday 22nd of February, along with the warmer weather, we were determined to know more about a Vodun of Nature and we ended up meeting the Elemental, whose name is the Blue Water Vodun.

While in the car, we prepared the game asking questions about The Elemental and its characteristics. We used the form of the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why/how).

We concluded that it lives mainly in our world where the blue color dominates within the landscape. It is small, minute and hard to see. It is silent. It changes forms and when it gets older, it renews itself every few months.

We are driven by our instinct and it took us to the south, to the nearby forests and beaches (Gooseberry Island, Westport, MA). We thought that Blue Water Vodun does not eat, yet it produces proteins for the soil instead and in return loves to be nourished, touched, and admired. The search expedition taught us that it indeed eats…crab!

From our mediocre assumptions that we have heard about this Nature Vodun, we know that it changes form and likes to play hide and go seek. We were hoping to get a glimpse of it.

So there we went and on the way to the island, we noticed that the forests of birch became increasingly thick. On our right, one of the trees wore the sign: No Hunting on this side of the road.

We knew we were outlaws if we were having in our minds a catch. We found a thermometer measuring the potential danger of entering the Vodun’s realm. We also found an Old Tree Trunk, at the door of the way, an elemental Guardian and more signs:

Messages, Hand Prints & Crab Remains…

Footprints changing form from canine to arrows…

We followed these signs to a mysterious tower on the horizon. On our path, we ran into a cage with a pile of shed skin next to it. More cages, ropes, and nets followed afterwards. Is somebody trying to catch it, or is the Blue Water Vodun trying to catch something…?

Then we found a piece of dread wood, with nails and drilled with holes. In one of the holes we found that there were two shells. We found it erotic. Can it be a pleasure form for the Blue Water Vodun? Interesting enough, we met a tiny creature, which happened to be fornicating with another piece of driftwood. It looked at us very surprised and we went on our way.

And sundials…

And finally, we approached the rocky and tedious path towards the tower. On the way, we found yet another sign of danger, a branch in the shape of a hangman’s noose. Then we ran into two more guardians in the form of dry grass. To our discovery, we found two towers instead of one. On the first, on its walls we saw spiritual flight paths, and on the second tower, a sign that read: This place is haunted.

We left, and the rear pass there was a gate and not far beyond the toilet, or more possibly, a point to sit and view the ocean.

Afterwards, we sat down to discuss our findings and came to the dramatic conclusion that the strange creature which we found enjoying itself on a piece of driftwood was in fact our Blue Water Vodun in one of its many forms. In that form, it seemed to resemble a kind of mechanical crab with bright yellow eyes and having only four legs. Our mission was indeed a success with photographic proof!