The Liberation of Wilderness

Today, environmental action is both essential and urgent.  Even world leaders are quite happy to mouth the words, while their actions continue the downward spiral towards environmental catastrophe.  There are imminent ecological dangers that must be faced, climate change and its consequences being, perhaps, the most terrifying.  As the rulers of capitalism prevaricate, more afraid of falling profits than of human extinction, it is at least some small encouragement that the awareness of this has become more widespread, no longer the preserve purely of ageing hippies and backwoods radicals.

Yet for us as Surrealists, even a triumph of environmental activism would not be sufficient to turn humanity aside from millennia of conflict with nature.  Our own radical ecology, our quest for the poetic unification of the human imagination with the lived and living environment, is not a matter of salvaging whatever we can from the wreck, nor is it dependent on a sentimental re-visioning of nature.  Rather, we demand the absolute liberation of wilderness.

The civilised bourgeois hates and fears the wilderness, damning it as evil in its untamed vitality and eroticism, even as he builds civilised killing machines and uses them to fight civilised wars.  For us, on the other hand, wilderness is essential to the creation of a truly complete humanity.

And where is wilderness to be found today?  It is in the spirit of rebellion and of revolution, it is in human desire, in the forests of the imagination and in a fully liberated sexuality as much as it is in mountains or oceans.  The Surrealist vision sees our world not simply as a physical, environmental, unity but also as a poetic unity.

Thus when another species is extinguished by the vaulting greed of capitalism, the destruction affects the ecosystem outwardly and at the same moment it extinguishes a part of our humanity.  Whether the victim is dodo, redwood or wolf, the loss inevitably resonates through the deepest levels of our own being.

We want to bring back the wolves.  We even want to bring back the dodo.  Only this will bring us back to becoming fully and irrevocably human.

There can be no true victory for the ecological movement unless and until we are able to bring about the rebirth of wilderness in the most profound sense.  This, beyond the prevention of climate change or the preservation of ancient landscapes, is a central objective of the Surrealist revolution.

London Surrealist Group


A door open and closed

Door, 11 rue LarreySince the London Surrealist Group was formed in 2004 we have issued tracts, played games, gained new members, published two paper issues of our journal Arcturus and a more frequent bulletin, Communique; and twice given an evening of readings to an enthusiastic audience in a packed room.  We have also seen a period of disruption leading to some members leaving the group.  After a period of regroupment we found we were still a surrealist group committed to the surrealist adventure.  The word “adventure” assumes great importance here because as our first tract made clear, surrealism is conceived of as a collective adventure.  There are many who do not understand this point and wish to categorise surrealism as an art or literary movement, definitions that have always been strenuously resisted by the surrealists themselves.

Fantastic Realism, so-called “surreal art”, and “Visionary Art” are genres of visual art which have nothing to do with surrealism as such, any more than strange versifications, seemingly irrational film images or any aesthetic production considered apart from the aims of surrealism.  Surrealism in terms of poetry is also something other than the literary art of poetry. It is an expression of freedom, of desire breaking the bonds of oppression.  It is the fusion of imagination with reality, not literature.  While the absurd, weird or dream-like may describe the quality of a certain kind of work, this again has nothing to do with surrealism.  Surrealism rejects or is indifferent to the art world and the literati, when these so often tend towards making writers or artists into lackeys for the consumer-capitalist regime.  Surrealism overthrows all limitations imposed on the reality of the human condition in every area of life.

Surrealism is a passionate adventure into the unknown territories, both of the mind and the social fabric of the everyday.  Its revolutionary nature, both poetic and political, is founded on a collective experience far beyond painting as an art form or the individual vision of a painter.  Surrealism, as a “collective adventure”, is a community in which the collective forms one pole and the individual the other.  Neither is sacrificed to its complementary opposite, but each plays an essential part in the understanding of surrealism as a movement.  Surrealism ventures into the unknown territories of the mind, of the everyday, into new states of being and of ways of living.  Situating surrealism in the early part of the twenty-first century and in the now does not entail revivalism or nostalgia.  On the contrary, it frees up the present and propels us towards the future.  We understand surrealism as a way of experiencing the world, and the “real” world as the world of surreality.  Surrealism returns us to a revolutionary new vision of the world and reveals that which will be.

Surrealism moves between both the inner and outer worlds, in both public and private spheres.  As such, it is dogmatically attached to no party or doctrine, although it is capable of joining forces with other revolutionary movements when necessary or desirable.  Surrealism is inclusive of anarchists and Marxists, drawing from both, as well as those who are not connected to either of those political traditions.

It is the Great Negative; the negation of the capitalist, consumerist society that has covered the globe.  Surrealists are the enemy within.  Among the weapons is surrealism’s armoury are all the forms and manifestations of poetry, not merely as verse, but as a lived poetics; analogy, dialectics, eroticism, play.

Commentators on surrealism have, for the most part, only started very recently to wake up to the fact that surrealism did not die in 1939, 1945, 1947, 1966 or 1969 or whenever suits their ideological framework; and that it is not a merely Parisian phenomenon but a worldwide movement.  There are currently active surrealist groups in Argentina, Brazil, Greece, the USA, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Holland, France, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and in Britain.

Surrealism has always eschewed the notion of a closed and elitist movement, yet at the same time it has needed the “occultation” (hiding) that Breton mentioned in the Second Surrealist Manifesto.  As such, perhaps, as has been suggested by Richardson and Fijalkowski, the surrealist movement can be best understood as Duchamp’s door that is both open and closed.  It is open to everyone who shares our conviction that surrealism is necessary and desirable.  It is open to everybody who is willing to understand surrealism as it has been defined by the surrealists themselves rather than by the enemies of surrealism.  It is open to everyone who refuses the dominant ideology of our age.

Consequently, we have decided that, given that our own activity has been comparatively closed – something that was necessary in the early stages of our existence, but is redundant now – that we should issue an invitation to all those who are in general agreement with our stated aims and ideas to make contact, to meet with us and to join our collective adventure.

London Surrealist Group