Surrealpolitik

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  1. "I help them understand it," she said. "They can make their own choices. The goal is to develop an awareness, from inside, of how dual cognitive systems form, how they function, how they respond to hostile or contradictory data. Threats to stability, inequal growth by one member. Cognitive dissonance. I'm sure these concepts are familiar."

    Source: As She Climbed Across the Table, p. 87-88
  2. A critical standpoint on aesthetics now suggested that the aim of art is not to depict the wrongs of society int elastic terms, offer platitudes about how things should be, or pander to the masses. Critical theory must redefine mimesis with an eye on montage, stream of consciousness, and other techniques that offer new forms -- new illusions -- for experiencing reality and eliciting the utopian longings of the audience. These longings are probably strongest when the conditions for their realization are most improbable. Herein perhaps is the meaning behind the famous words of Walter Benjamin from his essay on Kafka: "It is only for the sake of the hopeless that hope is given to us."

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 64
  3. And I think that restlessness is rarely torrential, and yet...the desired designation could never lend itself to so free a shape. To connect it, as André Breton has done, to certain freedoms of expression, certainly had more than one advantage; and automatic writing was more than a petty provocation. Insubordination, if not extended to the domain of images and words, is still no more than a refusal of external forms (such as the government or the police) when ordered words and images are entrusted to us by a system which, one thing leading to another, causes the entirety of nature to be submitted to utility. Belief -- or, rather, servitude to the real world -- is, without the shadow of a doubt, fundamental to all servitude. I cannot consider someone free if they do not have the desire to sever the bonds of language within themselves. It does not follow, however, that it is enough to escape for a moment the empire of words to have pushed as far as possible not to subordinate what we are to anything.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 49
  4. And yet, can the knowledge deriving from reason even begin to compare with knowledge perceptible by sense? No doubt the number of people crass enough to rely exclusively on the former and scorn the latter are sufficient in themselves to explain the disfavour into which everything deriving from the senses has gradually fallen. But when the most scholarly of men have taught me that light is a vibration, or have calculated its wavelengths for me, or offered me any other fruits of their labours of reasoning, they will still not have rendered me an account of what is important to me about light, of what my eyes have begun to teach me about it, of what makes me different from a blind man -- things which are the stuff of miracles, not subject matter for reasoning.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 9
  5. Art enabled the individual to resist society not simply by challenging popular tastes and perceptions, or so Lukács argued, but by intensifying experience through its allegorical and symbolic qualities...The artist in Lukács new and broader definition of the term now appears as a "problematical man." Not the political revolutionary but the erudite cultural radical with a bohemian bent -- like Nietzsche -- is the agent of the new: the prophet of an invigorated subjectivity, an emergent culture, and a transformed reality.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 79
  6. ASTRE: Do you believe that the ideal of surrealism is lucid consciousness?
    BATAILLE: The route of consciousness could not be avoided, it seems to me. If one envisages, beyond a narrowly defined surrealism, a larger surrealism, one immediately sees the precise possibilities of this lucidity appear. It seems to me that the time is ripe to speak about Maurice Blanchot's effort towards this lucidity, which is made concrete in an analysis of the position of Sade, who could be considered exemplary, who cannot be regarded as alien to surrealism, just as surrealism cannot be considered external to him.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 86
  7. Bataille had no time for the idea that surrealism was dead. On the contrary, it had barely come into being -- it was almost the embryo for a potentiality that could be realized only in the future. This above all marks Bataille's own surrealism: it was a potentiality to be realized. [from the Introduction by translator Michael Richardson]

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 3
  8. Because its representations are closest to a commonsense, consensus notion of reality, Dürrenmatt sees a realistic art as potentially dangerous...The dangerous illusions of realism have more specifically political implications. F.'s "total portrait...of our planet" would indeed be that kind of totalizing, totalitarian art that Lyotard deplores. In The Assignment, the political terrors of realism are seen at their simplest in North Africa when the police chief steals F.'s film of the execution of the Scandinavian prisoner and replaces it with an official "documentary," complete with shots of cheerful cadets at a police training academy, which might be equally convincing to a European audiences. Such documentaries seem to carry out the logical implications of nineteenth-century realism...Indeed film, while clearly an art form for F., often associates itself directly with the police and with surveillance in The Assignment.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 116-117
  9. Better than any political analyst, Dürrenmatt draws us close to understanding the emotional and intellectual costs of living in the late twentieth century, when even terrorism cannot be counted on to correspond to our conceptions of it. Otto von Lambert's insight that "Auschwitz...was not the work of terrorists but of state employees" is well supported in this novel. Terrorists serve the need to believe that there are centers of resistance against a well-established order, yet as the novel amply demonstrates, the very notion of a center is illusory. The new physical terror of computerized bombing and the old one of rape correspond to a condition in which contemporary human beings live and move, their identity fragmented by new philosophical conceptions of memory and the self but also by new technologies that violate their privacy or reduce their importance in traditional roles, such as that of the warrior. Surveillance and observation, intended to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war or successful terrorist attacks, are oppressive but desired.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 119
  10. Breton based his argument in the Manifesto on a critique of the model of human agency that prevailed in bourgeois society. The basic flaw with this model was that it limited the scope of human behaviour to acts that conformed to an arbitrary model of rational action and which encouraged a thoroughly pragmatic approach to life. Yet rationality foreclosed the possibility of imaginative engagement with the full compass of human experience. Unlike the child, for whom the imagination 'knows no bounds', in the adult the imagination was 'allowed to be exercised only in strict accordance with the laws of an arbitrary utility'. In this way the imaginative liberty of childhood was subordinated to the arbitrary authority of culture.

    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 6
  11. But the quality of a writer's political engagements, [J.M. Coetzee, author of The Master of Petersburg] told an interviewer, should not be measured in the simple way Gordimer suggests [i.e., how direct it is]; a naive realism only reproduces the injustice it describes, licking wounds rather than offering a critical alternative to the mind-set that produced injustice in the first place. In place of such realism, Coetzee offers a more sophisticated, ironic narrative, one capable of "demythologizing history" (Attwell 15). Such narratives, he says, are not "supplementary" to history; that is, they cannot be checked against it, as a teacher might check a child's homework against the answer book; rather, they are a rival, sometimes even an enemy, discourse. Thus the point of an ironic narrative is not so much that it substitutes a more accurate version of history and politics for the received one as that it lays bare the unacknowledged assumptions that shape both stories.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 96
  12. But what is truly radical in Theory of the Four Movements and Incoherent Industry is precisely that they are both wonderfully weird reads. It is their outrageously and unabashedly unfeasible criticism of capitalism, repressive family values and Western civilization -- not their prescriptive acumen -- that make these texts so revolutionary. Practical policies like Five Year Plans, Monnet Plans, and Marshall Plans would never correct the most damaged and miserable features of human existence; that could only be addressed by redefining the very terms of the problem, by opening new avenues of alternatives, by contemplating the unthinkable and doing the unattainable. 'Poets and artists in particular would be inexcusable if they tried to guard against "utopias"' solely on the basis of their supposed viability, Breton told Patri in the 1948 interview. Imagining the unimaginable is the responsibility of all creative people, often requiring them 'to draw, at least initially, from the vague realm where utopia reigns'. This may be escapism, but as one underground newspaper [note: Harbinger no.4, November 2001] of late has explained, those who most forcefully discourage escape often turn out to be prison wardens of one sort or another.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 276-277
  13. First there is Marcel Noll, who brought with him from Strasbourg to Paris last year an enormous capacity to promote confusion, a quality which I find entirely admirable.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 16
  14. He knew that surprise does not become the magician, and is indeed apt to be fatal, for in that momentary loss of guard any attack upon the adept may succeed.

    Source: All Hallows' Eve, p. 92
  15. Herbert Marcuse has identified 'the surrealistic effort' as one that asserts that there are forces operating in the world '[with] which we refuse to come to grips. We are subject not only to the causality of reason, as explored in the natural sciences and in common sense, but also to "irrational," surreal or subreal (in terms of accepted rationality) forces'. In tackling this cultural repression, Surrealism provides 'more than a mere enlargement of our perception, imagination, reason'; it is also a project for the 'restructuring and redirection of the mental faculties [...] to undo the mutilation of our faculties by the established society and its requirements'.

    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 4
  16. I announce to the world this momentous news item: a new vice has just been born, man has acquired one more source of vertigo -- Surrealism, off spring of frenzy and darkness. Walk up, walk up, this is the entrance to the realms of the instantaneous, the world of snapshot. Modern hashish eaters, you will have no cause to envy the awakened sleepers of the thousand and one nights, the miraculously healed, the convulsionaries, when, without even an instrument in your hands, you find yourselves evoking the hitherto incomplete gamut of their rapturous pleasures, and when you assume over the world such visionary power, ranging from the invention to the glaucous materialization of the slippery gleams of the waking state, that neither reason nor the instinct of self-preservation, despite their beautiful white hands, could prevent you from using this power unreservedly, casting a spell over yourselves by piercing the mortal cross-piece of your heart not with a pin but with an enchanting image...The vice named Surrealism is the immoderate and impassioned use of the superfacient image, or rather of the uncontrolled provocation of the image for its sake and for the element of unpredictable perturbation and of metamorphosis which it introduces into the domain of representation: for each image on each occasion forces you to revise the entire Universe.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 65
  17. I no longer wish to refrain from the errors of my fingers, the errors of my eyes. I know now that these errors are not just booby traps but curious paths leading towards a destination that they alone can reveal to me. There are strange flowers of reason to match each error of the senses. Admirable gardens of absurd beliefs, forebodings, obsessions and frenzies. Unknown, ever-changing gods take shape there...It is a knowledge, a science of life open only to those who have no training in it.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 10
  18. I would like to finish instead by insisting on the profound viability of the whole of this ferment which continues today. It seems to me that no matter what the difficulties, the movement of minds converges; there is on all sides -- and this is something that cannot be underestimated, despite the fact that individual attitudes often give the impression of isolation -- there is on all sides a ferment which promises man a return to a so much freer life, to a so much prouder life, a life which could be called wild. There is within today's man a profound intolerance for the sense of humiliation which is demanded every day of our human nature and to which we submit everywhere: we submit in the office and in the street; we submit in the country. Everywhere men feel that human nature has been profoundly humiliated, and what is left of religion finally humiliates him in the face of God who, after all, is merely a hypostasis of work. I imagine that if we are gathered here...it is a dominant element which has certainly determined this presence; it is the nostalgia for a life which ceases to be humiliated; it is the nostalgia for a life which ceases to be separated from what lies behind the world. It is not a question of finding behind the world something which dominates it; there is nothing behind the world which dominates man, there is nothing that can humiliate him; behind the world, behind the poverty in which we live, behind the precise limits where we live, there is only a universe whose bursting open is incomparable, and behind the universe there is nothing.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 82
  19. If we cease to remain awake (and I use this term in the strongest sense of the word) to all poetic reality, if at a given moment we abandon this effort, however painful it might be, and pass over to protests which we know in advance are perfectly vain, then we immediately pass from the state of men who want to deny themselves and can change themselves through poetry, to that of those who live in the cycle of personal interest. I believe one cannot insist too strongly on the necessity of binding consciousness to depersonalization. It seems to me that surrealism has gone a long way in this direction, but the way remains open, and it is necessary for us to penetrate further into it.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 80
  20. In glaring contrast [to the IWW], the left groups we ran into -- the many varieties of social-democratic, Stalinist, Trotskyist, and Maoist organizations, as well as others that appeared to be foundering somewhere in-between one or more of these ideologies--were repulsively middle-class, authoritarian, dogmatic, narrow-minded, sectarian, humorless, and utterly incapable of even the smallest original idea. Most of them were hung up on electoral politics, and spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing sects even smaller than their own...

    We recognized the IWW as "Joe Hill's union" and the direct heir of 1880s "Chicago Idea" anarchism--a fundamentally anti-authoritarian group that left open lots of room for individual and small-group improvisation; the only group in which we could develop our wide-ranging inclinations: to rethink revolutionary theory, to explore the subversive possibilities of popular culture, and above all to pursue our passion for poetic action: that is, for life as adventure. We knew that IWW perspectives had a place for all these, and that no other group would even tolerate them.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 17
  21. In order to constitute itself it was necessary for rationalism to lose the profundity of modes of thought that shackled it. But if we now seek what is possible before us -- all that is possible, whether or not we might have wanted to, we who no longer have any need to construct rational thought, which is effortlessly arranged for us -- we are again able to recognize the profound value of these lost modes of thought.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 64
  22. In positing an 'absence of myth', Bataille was looking not for a new form of mysticism, but to reintegrate the notion of ecstasy into the body social, within which it would have a virulent and contagious quality. (From the intro by Michael Richardson)

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 21
  23. In such passages in Breton, photography intervenes in a very strange way. It makes the streets, gates, squares of the city into illustrations of a trashy novel, draws off the banal obviousness of this ancient architecture to inject it with the most pristine intensity toward the events described, to which, as in old chambermaids' books, word-for-word quotations with page numbers refer. And all the parts of Paris that appear here are places where what is between these people turns like a revolving door.

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 51
  24. It has long been realized that the Surrealists' adherence to the PCF was less a mark of profound commitment to anti-capitalism as understood by traditional Communists than a mark of their profound ethical refusal of the world of the bourgeoisie, of the modern world as unremittingly bourgeois. To this extent , their anti-capitalism was contingent upon the perception that capitalism was the economic expression of the values of the bourgeois modern world, and parliamentary democracy its institutionalized political embodiment. Hence, Théodore Fraenkel, in the fascinating notes of a conversation with Léon Pierre-Quint in 1936, in the midst of the Front Populaire phenomenon, could dismiss the prevailing political options from a Surrealist point of view:

    "We are living on completely outdated political ideas. The reactionaries depend on the Monarchists of the 17th century -- and Maurras has brought no innovation -- the liberals on the ideas of the 19th century: St. Simon etc. -- the Socialists: Proudhon, 1848, L. Blanc -- the Communists on Marx, end of 19th century. But after 1918, the 20th century really started. The war made the breach -- which is an abyss. Every old ideology is outdated."

    For this reason Fraenkel, as recorded by Pierre-Quint, considered what a Surrealist group in politics might have been:

    "For me, the autonomous group which needs to be created, would have for its essential aim less the overturning of capitalism -- thus at lest it would be Marxist -- than the overturning of the bourgeoisie. Moreover it would be necessary to go deeper in order to see if capitalism and bourgeoisie are not indissolubly bound."

    From chapter: Failure and Community: Preliminary Questions on the Political in the Culture of Surrealism, M. Stone-Richards
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 328-329
  25. It was through the critical rejection of all existing political, social and moral codes that Fourier said he first caught a glimpse of the mechanisms of 'passionate attraction' -- natural impulses and cadences that occur on a level below the threshold of thought processes and which persist regardless of civilization's attempt to repress them through the artificial constructs of moralization, rationalization, guilt, fear and intolerance. If one were to recalibrate his or her life to that unified rhythmic pulse buried under the noise and tumult of modern life, and work toward building social formations that were similarly fine-tuned to these rhythms, then human life would evolve into a new, more natural harmonious order of cooperative unity, free passion, profound fulfillment and ludic pleasure.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 273-274
  26. Like Burroughs, Spinoza shows that, far from being an aberrant condition, addiction is the standard state for human beings, who are habitually enslaved into reactive and repetitive behaviors by frozen images (of themselves and the world). Freedom, Spinoza shows, is something that can be achieved only when we can apprehend the real causes of our actions, when we can set aside the 'sad passions' that intoxicate and entrance us.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 73
  27. Lyotard's theory goes some way toward explaining the significance of the paired themes of terrorism and literary realism in The Assignment. The holes in Dürrenmatt's plot, the unanswered questions about unnamed characters, the fragmentary glimpses of landscapes, interiors, motives, and political contexts are as so many refusals of "the transparent and communicable." The effect is perhaps not so anti-mimetic as it might seem; refusing transcendent illusions, the novelist suggests an elusive dimension of personality or experience that withers under the harsh floodlights of documentary realism.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 115
  28. Nietzsche had already seen that the rigors of asceticism and holiness have ceased to be attractive for our age, and that only revolution and war offer the mind comparably exhilarating experiences. In the same way Roger Caillois...has no hesitation in regarding war as the counterpart in modern societies of the paroxysm of festival: war, the time of 'excess', 'violence', 'outrage'. War is the 'unique moment of concentration and intense absorption in the group of everything that ordinarily tends to maintain a certain area of independence.' Like the festival, war gives rise to 'monstrous and formless explosions that serve to break up the monotony of normal existence'.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 121
  29. Not only failure, but the sense that Surrealism is always confronted with its alterity is something that the generation of Monnerot, Rolland de Rénneville and Blanchot took for granted, hence Sartre, in his critique of Surrealism on the occasion of the 1947 L'Exposition sureéaliste, could speak of its Hegelian anthropological dimension, its dimension of totality. As early as 1925, in 'Le bouquet sans fleurs', Breton declared that nothing would be beyond Surrealist commitment, and in so doing began that vertiginous openness to systems of knowledge whilst itself avoiding systematicity. This gives that distinctive tenor of la connaissance surréaliste (Breton's term) in which one encounters a plurality of voices. In his reflections on Nadja, Blanchot would go as far as to identify this plurality of voices as definitive of Surrealist experience -- the necessary correlate of which is an incompleteness of experience -- whereby through the affirmation of the collective dimension Surrealism is always experienced by its members as something always apart from them, as something always in the third (en tiers):

    "The Surrealist affirmation affirms, thus, this multiple space which does not become unified, and which never coincides with the understanding that individuals, grouped around a faith, a work, can sustain in common." [Blanchot, L'Entretien infini, p. 600]

    From chapter: Failure and Community: Preliminary Questions on the Political in the Culture of Surrealism, M. Stone-Richards
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 328
  30. Not that I am at all opposed to the principle of committed literature. Can one not rejoice (even insidiously?) to see it taken up again today by Jean-Paul Sartre? Nevertheless, it seems necessary to recall that twenty years ago Breton based the whole activity of surrealism on this principle. I must also recall that the second affirmation of the existentialist school (that existence precedes essence) was familiar to surrealism (in so far as it bore witness to Hegel more than to Marx). It is unfortunate, if you like, that the intellectual aptitude of the surrealists could not have been up to the same level as their undeniable power to undermine. Today the intellectual value of existentialists is certain, but it is difficult to see what energy it would support. It is equally difficult to recognize the evidence: although surrealism may seem dead, in spite of the confectionery and poverty of the work in which it has ended (if we put to one side the question of Communism), in terms of mankind's interrogation of itself, there is surrealism and nothing.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 51
  31. Note it was Andre Breton who coined the term "the great refusal" not Marcuse, so that's another good link between surrealism and critical theory.

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  32. On every occasion, and at every stage, the Surrealists invoked the desired unity of poetry, love and revolt.

    Source: A Cavalier History of Surrealism, p. 50
  33. Our indifference to the usual labels was inseparable from our rejection of the traditional left's ideological pigeonholing, and its pitifully narrow vision of life and the world. None of us regarded revolutionary theory as dogma to be memorized, or a "finished program" that needed only to be carried out. Theories at best were inspirations to play with, challenges to be taken up, suggestions to build on, or take apart, or push into unexpected directions. This open-ended outlook, largely inspired by the IWW hobo intellectual tradition, is also characteristic of surrealism.

    Source: Dancin' in the Streets, p. 41
  34. Over the past thirty years, capitalist realism has successfully installed a 'business ontology' in which it is simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business. As any number of radical theorists from Brecht through to Foucault and Badiou have maintained, emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a 'natural order', must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 17
  35. Poetic inspiration, for Lautréamont, results from the break between good sense and imagination.

    Source: Anthology of Black Humour, p. 171
  36. Rushdie's political aim is familiar: through modestly experimental devices -- multiple narrators, time shifts, the violation of realistic decorum by improbable coincidences, magical events -- to liberate the reader from the tyranny of an inerrant text. As in DeLillo's Libra, Robert Coover's Public Burning, or J.G. Farrell's Empire trilogy, storytelling in The Satanic Verses is meant to act on a world already saturated by narratives, urging the reader to consider an alternative perspective, hoping to free up some space in the real world for another interpretation of the patriotic myth, the official version, the sacred text....The Rushdie affair has become the exemplary instance of the postmodernist political novel encountering actual politics, actual violence.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 21
  37. So it is that in order to reach it, one must first allow oneself to be possessed and led far away by temerity, madness and the unravelling implicit in human destiny. This would be a futile exercise if one did not begin by saying that the limits of my will are also, necessarily, the whole of human potentiality; the limits of my will are, of course, never to have limits.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 63
  38. Someone who sits comfortably, forgetting to the greatest degree what exists so as to write at random on a blank sheet the most vibrant delirium which passes through his mind, may end up with nothing of literary value. He knows that this is of no importance; he has experienced a possibility which represents an unconditional rupture with the world in which we act to feed ourselves, in which we act to cover and shelter ourselves. He has essentially undertaken an act of insubordination, in one sense he has performed a sovereign act. At the same time, he has accomplished what, within the meaning of religion itself, could appear predominant: he has achieved the destruction of the personality itself...[H]e must forget what the man of letters expects of publications, by the necessity of doing what, in spite of everything, all the surrealists have done to a certain point -- that is, carve out a literary career.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 76
  39. Surrealism, as in Aragon's Paris Peasant and (as I recall) in Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project descriptions, tries to create a "loss of bearings", a deliberate disorientation, taking you away from what's comfortable, so all the automatic responses and implicit rules and rational expectations are suddenly inoperative. See http://www.academia.edu/5900660/Uncreative_Influence_Louis_Aragons_Paysan_de_Paris_and_Walter_Benjamins_Passagen-Werk

    It occurs to me that this is similar to what we do at Special Training. To get you out of your comfort zone, make you live in the moment, face it courageously without your masks and your bullshit, the only way to achieve authenticity.

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  40. The appeal to the marvellous was symptomatic of the problematical status of Surrealism as a mode of political action. The marvellous was nothing other than the resonance of creative endeavor in the quotidian, yet it could only be represented as an estrangement of the quotidian, a sudden shift in perspective that disrupted the normal circulation of signs...For Surrealism to succeed on a cultural level it had to dress politics in metaphor; yet for it to succeed politically, it had to strip culture of its metaphoric veils. Surrealism never overcame this impasse, which inscribed its political position as an over-determined subtext in Surrealist productions; hence the fugitive, provisional character of Surrealist political manifestations. Although cultural endeavour could have political repercussions under certain conditions, in Surrealism's case these repercussions were not an actuality, and they consequently assumed the form of a series of missed or failed encounters.

    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 72
  41. The bases of a practical approach to religion were laid down in L'Action immédiate by René Magritte, E.L.T. Mesens, Paul Nougé, Louis Scutenaire and André Souris:

    We are convinced that what has been done to oppose religion up to now has been virtually without effect and that new means of action must be envisaged.

    At the present time the Surrealists are the people best fitted to undertake this task. So as not to lose any time, we must aim for the head: the outrageous history of religions should be made known to all, the lives of young priests should be made unbearable, and all sects and organizations of the Salvation Army or of the Evangelical variety should be discredited by means of every kind of mockery our imagination can devise. Think how exhilarating it would be if we could persuade the better part of our youth to mount a well prepared and systematic campaign of disruption of church services, baptisms, communions, funerals and so on. Meanwhile roadside crosses might usefully be replaced by images promoting erotic love or poetically eulogizing the natural surroundings, particularly if these happen to be grim.


    Source: A Cavalier History of Surrealism, p. 41
  42. The issue is not the political content but the form in which it is expressed -- the medium is the message. Adorno put the matter bluntly in Minima Moralia: "the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar. It is objectively devalued as this distance is reduced."

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 82
  43. The keen awareness of failure, incompleteness and the impossibility of adequation between an ideal and its possible instantiation in the political sphere constantly tempered the rhetoric of assertiveness that the Surrealists used in their manifestos: the writings beyond the manifestos never separate ethical reflection from the possibility of failure at the societal level. Hence the implicit importance and role of mourning in Surrealism: from the encounter with the traumatic neuroses in the Great War, from personal loss (Vaché, Nadja, Crevel) through the quest for purpose (the ruptures in deep friendship: Aragon, Eluard), there is a constant attempt to relate the movement of the group with the movement of the historical, but a historical defined in terms of the delayed recognition of personal, group and cultural loss: the time of Surrealism, from its inception, à la veille d'une révolution, is always a time to come: il faut tout attendre de l'avenir declares the frontispiece of La Révolution surréaliste in 1924; the poet evoked at the end of Les Vases communicants (1932) is the poète à venir, just as, in 'Rupture inaugurale' in 1947, marking the definitive break with Communism, now considered a form of moral extermination, 'Le surréalisme est ce qui SERA'. The temporality of Surrealism is inextricably linked to the movement of the loss of Europe (fig 57), from the still-life collage letter than Breton made for Vaché, but which was never received by its addressee, to the still-life collage that he made to commemorate the death of Vaché at the end of the War i 1919 with the fragment 'Souvenez-vous de 1914 / Pas d'allemande' creating in this circuitry a caesura of emptiness.

    From chapter: Failure and Community: Preliminary Questions on the Political in the Culture of Surrealism, M. Stone-Richards
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 331-332
  44. The lady, in esoteric love, matters least. So, too, for Breton. He is closer to the things that Nadja is close to than to her. What are these things? Nothing could reveal more about Surrealism than their canon. Where shall I begin? He can boast an extraordinary discovery. He was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the 'outmoded', in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings, the earliest photos, the objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution—no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution—not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors, enslaved and enslaving objects—can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism. Leaving aside Aragon's Passage de l'Opera, Breton and Nadja are the lovers who convert everything that we have experienced on mournful railway journeys (railways are beginning to age), on God-forsaken Sunday afternoons in the proletarian quarters of the great cities, in the first glance through the rain-blurred window of a new apartment, into revolutionary experience, if not action. They bring the immense forces of 'atmosphere' concealed in these things to the point of explosion. What form do you suppose a life would take that was determined at a decisive moment precisely by the street song last on everyone's lips?

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 50
  45. The man who works is a man who separates himself from the universe, the man who works is a man already shut up in his house, who binds himself to his bosses, his tables, his workbenches and his tools. The man who works is a man who destroys the profound reality...that surrealism has over the real. And there can be no doubt that the concerns of surrealism, in common with primitive rituals, has been to rediscover, outside that technical activity which weighs so heavily on today's human masses, the irreducible element by which man has no equal more perfect than a star.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 76
  46. The morality to which André Breton is drawn is rather poorly defined, but it is -- if such a thing is possible -- a morality of the instant. What is essential about it is the demand imposed no whoever expresses a will to choose between the instant -- the value of the present moment and the free activity of the mind -- and a concern for results which immediately abolish the value and even, in a sense, the existence of the instant. The accent is placed not on the fact of choosing but on the content of the choice proposed. It is only the incommensurable value of the instant that counts, not the fact that all would be in suspension. More precisely, what is at stake..prevails to a large extent over the fact that the decision belongs to me and gives me authority. Liberty is no longer the liberty to choose, but the choice renders a liberty, a free activity, possible, requiring that once decision is fixed upon it I do not allow a new choice to intervene, for a choice between the diverse possibilities of the activity unleashed would be made with a view to some ulterior result (this is the significance of automatism). The surrealist decision is thus a decision to decide no longer (that is, the free activity of the mind would be betrayed if I subordinated it to some result decided beforehand).

    The profound difference between surrealism and the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre hangs on this character of the existence of liberty. If I do not seek to dominate it, liberty will exist: it is poetry; words, no longer striving to serve some useful purpose, set themselves free and so unleash the image of free existence, which is never bestowed except in the instant...If we were genuinely to break the servitude by which the existence of the instant is submitted to useful activity, the essence would suddenly be revealed in us with an unbearable clarity...The seizure of the instant cannot differ from ecstasy (reciprocally one must define ecstasy as the seizure of the instant -- nothing else -- operating despite the concerns of the mystics).

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 66
  47. The war seems to have put an abrupt end to a movement that was marking time. Since 1940 people have hardly thought about it. Nevertheless, the profound and real consequences that followed from it were not so easily disposed of. Doubtless surrealism is not dead...[W]e would not hesitate to say that, no matter what its defects or rigidity may have been, surrealism has given from the beginning a certain consistency to the 'morality of revolt' and that its most important contribution -- important even, perhaps, in the political realm -- is to have remained, in matters of morality, a revolution.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 53
  48. Then the persecuted surrealists will be found in cafés chantants, taking advantage of the confusion to peddle their recipes for infecting images. An attitude, a reflex action, a sudden betrayal of irritability on the part of certain customers will suffice for them to be suspected of surrealism by the police who are keeping them under observation. I can already visualize the law's agents provocateurs with their wiles and their tarps. The right of individuals to forge their own destiny will yet again be restricted and challenged. Public peril will be invoked, or the general interest, or even the preservation of humanity itself...Young people will plunge passionately into this serious, unprofitable game. It will pervert the course of their lives. The Faculties will be deserted, the laboratories closed down. The very idea of armies, families, professions will become inconceivable. Then, in the face of this ever-increasing disaffection of social life, a great conspiracy of all the dogmatic and realist forces of the world will be organized against the phantom of illusions. It will win...

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 66
  49. Those who turn their critique of fascism into a question of rational vs irrational are missing the point. It is always fundamentally a question of (moral, ethical, political) values. Where Popper puts his faith in rationalism as the way towards equal rights and justice, and dismisses 'irrational' emotions as inevitably tending towards division and violence, he is neither entirely wrong nor entirely right. Rationalism is necessary but not sufficient. There is nothing about rationalism that obviates inequality, violence, repression, genocide if reason dictates one is better off by catering to such unpleasant impulses. What is needed is rationality guided by humanitarian or egalitarian values. And between the two, values and rationality, values are the driving force; rationality is just the tool.

    Similarly, where the Frankfurt School critiques the Enlightenment for how it enabled Nazism, and the counter-critique emerges about how the Nazis represent irrationality rather than rationality, again what is really important ultimately are values.

    What needs to be highlighted is when repugnant values masquerade as rationalism, as in capitalist realism or fascism. It doesn't much matter whether the repression and violence is rational or irrational. What matters is that it can be exposed for what it is, and cannot pass itself off for what it is not.

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  50. Throughout the twentieth century, most terrorist fiction, even that critical of popular beliefs about terrorism, continued to follow the conventions of nineteenth-century realism For their part, government officials and the press still construct terrorism much as popular fiction does, and terrorists continue to stage their spectacles with an eye to what is now a global stage. Recognizing how often revolutionaries, politicians, and journalists draw on the familiar terrorist story inevitably leads to wondering how it might be disrupted, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Assignment offers an extended response to that question. In this 1986 novella, Dürrenmatt links the inadequacy of familiar representations to the limitations of realism itself, blending an absurdist critique of contemporary politics with a postmodern conception of terrorism.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 108
  51. To encompass both Breton and Le Corbusier -- that would mean drawing the spirit of contemporary France like a bow, with which knowledge shoots the moment in the heart. [N1a,5]

    Source: The Arcades Project, p. 459
  52. What Himes refers to as his own version of surrealism, a vernacular surrealism allied with the blues, thus has less to do with the formal descriptions of surrealist practices found in Breton's manifestoes than with the political legacy of the group in the postwar public domain. This legacy, especially in its infiltration within the "philosophy" of Duhamel's Série Noire, lingered as an insistence on the conflicts and even falsehoods of language, the resistance of writing and its motives to an immediate political use-value...Like Cahun's ideas about surrealist poetry, Himes's black humor contradicts the existentialist faith in African American vernacular forms as means of expression alone, suggesting instead that they "guard their secrets" in order that their political anger, their unconscious, subterranean cachet of revolutionary knowledge and desire, remain open. So too, I contend, does there remain an openness within surrealist discourse more broadly; no longer limited to the active movement, this discourse was distributed throughout postwar intellectual life, and throughout the world, as an intransigent form of political expression as much attuned to the "mysterious exchange of humorous pleasure" as to the objective recognition of social injustice.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 265
  53. What the surrealists seem most to have lacked until now is intellectual aptitude. The surrealists have even displayed a contempt for tests of the intelligence. Nevertheless, the mastery of such practice perhaps remains the key to rigorous emancipation. If individual excellence is often a sign of servility, it does not follow that we can resolve the servility of the mind by using only feeble intellectual means. Besides, if one wants to see clearly, surrealism is connected to the affirmation of its value, no less than to automatic writing itself, inasmuch as it reveals thought. What Breton taught was less to become aware of the value of automatism than to write under the dictation of the unconscious. But this teaching opened up two different paths: one led to the establishment of works, and soon sacrificed any principle to the necessities of works, so accentuating the attraction value of paintings and books. This was the path the surrealists took. The other was an arduous path to the heart of being: here only the slightest attention could be paid to the attraction of works; not that this was trivial, but what was then laid bare -- the beauty and ugliness of which no longer mattered -- was the essence of things, and it was here that the inquiry into existence in the night began. Everything was suspended in a rigorous solitude. The facilities which connect works to the 'possible', or to aesthetic pleasure, had vanished (this also extended the discussion started by Rimbaud).

    But when the Surrealist Group ceased to exist, I think the failure had a greater effect on the surrealism of works. Not that works had ceased to exist with the group: the abundance of surrealist works is as great now as it ever was. But they ceased to be connected to the affirmation of a hope of breaking the solitude. Today the books are in order on the shelves and the paintings adorn the walls. This is why I can say that the great surrealism is beginning.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 51
  54. Whenever the occasion has arisen, I have opposed surrealism. And I would like now to affirm it from within as the demand to which I have submitted and as the dissatisfaction I exemplify. But this much is clear: surrealism is defined by the possibility that I, its old enemy from within, can have of defining it conclusively. It is genuinely virile opposition -- nothing conciliatory, nothing divine -- to all accepted limits, a rigorous will to insubordination.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 49
  55. [A]s [Maurice] Blanchot asserts, while there may no longer have been a viable surrealist school after the war (at least in France), "a state of mind survives. No one belongs to this movement anymore, and everyone feels he could have been part of it." Has surrealism vanished, he asks? "It is no longer here or there; it is everywhere. It is a ghost, a brilliant obsession. In its turn, as an earned metamorphosis, it has become surreal."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 250
  56. [F]or the surrealists, art is superceded not when its distinction from political life collapses, as Clair puts it, but when it fuses imagination with interpretation and thus becomes coextensive with philosophy and science.

    Source: Object Lessons: Surrealist Art, Surrealist Politics, p. 179
  57. [Himes and Duhamel had] a shared set of ideas about writing: resistant to the narrative and cognitive certainty of naturalism, this writing is consistent with the critical aims of postwar surrealism. As I have argued, Duhamel's absorption of surrealist principles into the editorial framework of the Série Noire achieved an extension of surrealism into the public sphere.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 264
  58. [Quoting Paul Nougé of the Belgian Surrealist group:] We must turn what can be ours to the very best account. Let man go where he has never gone, experience what he has never experienced, think what he has never thought, be what he has never been. But help is called for here: such departures, such a crisis, need to be precipitated, so with this in mind let us create disconcerting objects.

    Source: A Cavalier History of Surrealism, p. 54
  59. [S]urrealism...brings about a free poetic release without subordinating it to anything and without assigning a superior end to it. It is true that this is an attitude that is as difficult to bear as it is decisive and virilely sovereign. Yes, it really is the decisive conquest. Poetic liberty is not new. Myths and the rituals connected to them -- for instance 'Hopi ceremonies of an exceptional variety, which necessitate the intervention of the greatest number of supernatural beings that could be invested with a face and distinct attributes by the imagination' -- make this fact clear enough: that human 'thought' is everywhere and always ready to break loose. But it was once necessary to give a superior end to this release, a usually rather gross pretext. For the Hopi it is a question of 'attracting every protection over cultivation...the most important of which is maize'. To the extent that more refined religions maintain an element of poetic invention, the pretext is given in a transcendent morality, associated with salvation as a superior end. In modes of thought in which the poetic and the rational remain confounded, the mind cannot elevate itself to the conception of poetic liberty; it subordinates the existence of each instant to some ulterior goal. It has no escape from this servitude.

    It is the prerogative of surrealism to free the activity of the mind from such servitude. As it consigned this activity to the shadows, rationalism stressed the binding of deeds and all thought to the end pursued. In the same way, rationalism liberated poetic activity form this binding, leaving it suspended. But the difficulty which remained was to affirm the value of what was finally released within the shadow.

    In this way, what has proved to be simultaneously attained and liberated is nothing other than the instant. This is true in that man has never before been able to give value to the instant.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 65
  60. [T]he melancholy of everyday life was the stirrup that enabled Surrealism to take its wild ride through the world of dreams.

    Source: A Cavalier History of Surrealism, p. 37
  61. [W]e could take André Breton and Georges Bataille as two poles of the surrealist spirit as it has been manifested to the present. While Breton dreams of enchanted palaces constructed 'at the side of the chasm in philosopher's stones' and welcomes utopia and the 'paradise on earth' through Fourier's idea of history, Bataille, the black surrealist of catastrophe, exalts in a mysticism of unhope, in which consciousness of human absurdity is the source of an hilarious joy. [Michael Richardson in the Introduction, quoting Patrick Waldberg]

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 6