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