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!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Alchemical Bust Card

Dreamt by Merl on the night of 31st March – 1st April