A Spark in Search of a Powder Keg

Rebellion is its own justification, completely independent of the chance it has to modify the state of affairs that gives rise to it. It’s a spark in the wind, but a spark in search of a powder keg. – André Breton

If only one thing has brought me joy in the last few weeks, it began when the matriarchs at Unist’ot’en burned the Canadian flag and declared reconciliation is dead. Like wildfire, it swept through the hearts of youth across the territories. Reconciliation was a distraction, a way for them to dangle a carrot in front of us and trick us into behaving. Do we not have a right to the land stolen from our ancestors? It’s time to shut everything the fuck down! – Tawinikay (aka Southern Wind Woman)

Pacific Trails Pipeline Drillers Evicted from Wet'suwet'en ...
Zig Zag

The toxic cargo carried in Canadian pipelines, whether it be tar sands oil or fracked liquid natural gas (LNG), is, according to all serious climate scientists, a major, perhaps even decisive contribution to global warming, i.e. ecological catastrophe. Meant to fuel industrial expansion, the pipelines have themselves become fuel for revolt. Designed to move these dirty fossil fuels from one location to another, they are a crucial element in normalizing the dubious paradise of unlimited growth in awe of which all obedient consumer/citizens are supposed to genuflect. In what the colonial mapmakers have called British Columbia (BC), resource extraction has always been the name of the game. However, the emergence in February of this year of a widespread oppositional network ranging from “land back” Indigenous warriors to elder traditionalists and from Extinction Rebellion activists to anarchist insurrectionaries was heartening. Railways, highways and ferries were blockaded, provincial legislatures, government administrative offices, banks and corporate headquarters were occupied. The catalyst for this rebellion was a widespread Indigenous uprising that refused the illusory promises of reconciliation. Together, these rebel forces disrupted business as usual in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Big Frog clan of the Wet’suwet’en tribal house.

​As objective chance would have it, the primary Indigenous land defense camp is situated not far from the same Hazelton, B.C. area to which surrealist Kurt Seligmann and his wife Arlette had journeyed in 1938. During that time, they visited Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en villages, marveled at the imaginative power of the totem poles and ceremonial objects, made field notes, shot 16mm film, collected stories and recorded mythic histories. Now, in 2020, growing numbers of these same Indigenous peoples have been threatening to bring the Canadian economy to a grinding halt. Unwilling to be bought off by corporate petrodollars or mollified by a legal system that has never done anything but pacify, brutalize, or betray them in the process of stealing their land, Indigenous peoples passionately fought back against the forces of colonial law and order in a radical whirlwind of willful disobedience and social disruption. One action built upon another in creating a rolling momentum that seemed unstoppable. When one railroad blockade would be busted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), another would spring up in its place elsewhere extending the frontlines of the battle all across the continent. Then the debilitating Covid-19 virus arrived to compound the damage that had previously been done to the capitalist economy by the incendiary virus of revolt. The resistance of these Indigenous communities against the pipelines concerns all of us, worldwide, since they are on the front lines of the struggle to prevent cataclysmic climate change.

​In the future, a key question will be whether Canadian authorities can successfully put the genie of Indigenous rebellion back in the colonial bottle of “reconciliation”. As surrealists, we hope they will not, and we stand in solidarity with the unreconciled insurgent spirit of defiant Indigenous resistance. A new reality is to be invented and lived instead of the one that today as yesterday imposes its environmental miserabilism and its colonialist and racist hierarchies. As surrealists, we honor our historical affinity with the Kwakwaka’wakw Peace Dance headdress that for so long had occupied a place of reverence in André Breton’s study during his lifetime before being ceremoniously returned in 2003 to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island by his daughter, Aube Elléouet, in keeping with her father’s wishes. With this former correspondence in mind, we presently assert that our ongoing desire to manifest the emancipation of the human community as distinctively undertaken in the surrealist domain of intervention is in perfect harmony with the fight of the Indigenous communities of the Americas against globalized Western Civilisation and its ecocidal folly.

Signed

Surrealists in the United States: Gale Ahrens, Will Alexander, Andy Alper, Byron Baker, J.K. Bogartte, Eric Bragg, Thom Burns, Max Cafard, Casi Cline, Steven Cline, Jennifer Cohen, Laura Corsiglia, David Coulter, Jean-Jacques Dauben, Rikki Ducornet, Terri Engels, Barrett John Erickson, Alice Farley, Natalia Fernandez, Brandon Freels, Beth Garon, Paul Garon, Robert Green, Maurice Greenia, Brigitte Nicole Grice, Janice Hathaway, Dale Houstman, Karl Howeth, Joseph Jablonski, Timothy Robert Johnson, Robin D.G. Kelly, Paul McRandle, Irene Plazewska, Theresa Plese, Michael Stone-Richards, David Roediger, Penelope Rosemont, LaDonna Smith, Tamara Smith, Steve Smith, Abigail Susik, Sasha Vlad, Richard Waara, Joel Williams, Craig S. Wilson
Surrealists in the UK: Jay Blackwood, Paul Cowdell, Jill Fenton, Rachel Fijalkowski, Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Merl Fluin, Kathy Fox, Lorna Kirin, Rob Marsden, Douglas Park, Michel Remy, Wedgwood Steventon, Frank Wright, the Leeds Surrealist Group (Gareth Brown, Stephen J. Clark, Kenneth Cox, Luke Dominey, Amalia Higham, Bill Howe, Sarah Metcalf, Peter Overton, Jonathan Tarry, Martin Trippett), the London Surrealist Group (Stuart Inman, Philip Kane, Timothy B. Layden, Jane Sparkes, Darren Thomas) and the surrealists of Wales (Jean Bonnin, Neil Combs, David Greenslade, Jeremy Over, John Richardson, John Welson)
Surrealists in Paris: Ody Saban and The Surrealist Group of Paris (Elise Aru, Michèle Bachelet, Anny Bonnin, Massimo Borghese, Claude-Lucien Cauët, Taisiia Cherkasova, Sylwia Chrostowska, Hervé Delabarre, Alfredo Fernandes, Joël Gayraud, Régis Gayraud, Guy Girard, Michael Löwy, Pierre-André Sauvageot, Bertrand Schmitt, Sylvain Tanquerel, Virginia Tentindo, Michel Zimbacca)
Surrealists in Canada: Montréal (Jacques Desbiens, Peter Dube, Sabatini Lasiesta, Bernar Sancha), Toronto (Beatriz Hausner, Sherri Higgins), Québec City (David Nadeau), Victoria (Erik Volet), the Ottawa Surrealist Group (Jason Abdelhadi, Lake, Patrick Provonost) and the Inner Island Surrealist Group (as.matta, Jesse Gentes, Sheila Nopper, Ron Sakolsky)
The Surrealist Group of Madrid: Eugenio Castro, Andrés Devesa, Jesús Garcia Rodriguez, Vicente Gutiérrez Escudero, Lurdes Martinez, Noé Ortega, Antonio Ramirez, Jose Manuel Rojo, María Santana, Angel Zapata
Surrealists in Sweden: Johannes Bergmark, Erik Bohman, Kalle Eklund, Mattias Forshage, Riyota Kasamatsu, Michael Lundberg, Emma Lundenmark, Maja Lundgren, Kristoffer Noheden, Sebastian Osorio
Surrealists in Holland: Jan Bervoets, Elizé Bleys, Josse De Haan, Rik Lina, Hans Plomp, Pieter Schermer, Wijnand Steemers, Laurens Vancrevel, Her de Vries, Bastiaan Van der Velden
Surrealists in Brazil: Alex Januario, Mário Aldo Barnabé, Diego Cardoso, Elvio Fernandes, Beau Gomez, Rodrigo Qohen, Sergio Lima, Natan Schäfer, Renato Souza
Surrealists in Chile: Jaime Alfaro, Magdalena Benavente, Jorge Herrera F., Miguel Ángel Huerta, Ximena Olguín, Enrique de Santiago, Andrés Soto, Claudia Vila
The Middle East and North Africa Surrealist Group: Algeria (Onfwan Foud), Egypt (Yasser Abdelkawy, Mohsen El-Belasy, Ghadah Kamal), Iraq (Miechel Al Raie), Syria (Tahani Jalloul), and Palestine (Fakhry Ratrout)
The Athens Surrealist Group (Sotiris Liontos, Elias Melios, Nikos Stabakis, Theoni Tambaki, Thomas Typaldos, Marianna Xanthopoulou)
Surrealists in Prague: Frantisek Dryje, Joe Grim Feinberg, Katerina Pinosova, Martin Stejskal, Jan Svankmajer
Surrealists in Costa Rica: Gaetano Andreoni, Amirah Gazel, Miguel Lohlé, Denis Magarman, Alfonso Peña
Surrealists in Australia: Anthony Redmond, Michael Vandelaar, Tim White
Surrealists in Buenos Aires: Silvia Guiard, Luís Conde, Alejandro Michel

Surrealists in Portugal: Miguel de Carvalho, Luiz Morgadinho
Surrealists in Bucharest (Dan Stanciu), Mexico (Susana Wald), and the Canary Islands (Jose Miguel Perez Corales) 

Postscript: During the process of gathering signatures for the above declaration, we were inspired to see its uncompromising stance against white supremacy and police repression reflected in the brightly sparkling flames of the Minneapolis uprising that lit a powder keg of pent-up rage and incited an earth-shaking eruption of spontaneous rebellion in the streets of America. It was only fitting that in solidarity with the uprising about police brutality kicked off by George Floyd’s execution/lynching at the hands of the police, anti-racism protestors in the United States would take direct action by beheading or bringing down statues of Christopher Columbus, genocidal symbol of the colonial expropriation of Native American lands. (Guy Girard, Michael Löwy, Penelope Rosemont, and Ron Sakolsky, June 15, 2020).

Long time no see…

JA, SH, PP, L, – messing around on video chat during our mandated misanthropy. Each of us chose and drew a corner simultaneously and then scanned it. Lake then combined them into a chimera-corpse. Maybe it’s a group portrait or a forgotten narrative of a meeting that could never happen.

March 24, 2020

Anaerobic Poems – M Forshage

One of the things introduced in our Object Beautician zine was the concept of “anaerobic poetry”. The theory is that withholding the breath while scouring the surrealist voice for interesting offerings might prompt a special urgency or dynamic to whatever short poem could be rattled off in that state.

Our friend M Forshage in Stockholm recently gave it a try, the results of which results we share below.

1
Seven spells of sausage rhymes
Automatically and intestine-wise
As if barking up a rare willow
One without the right kind of lianas and bare twigs

2
The insolent popstar
and his crew of battle squirrels
aimlessly through the milky void

3
Synchronise sadly
the breadcrumbs of inevitability
housing the future of death and other joys

4
Acclimatise the entire sorority
Make it migrate elsewhere
With several new songs
And whimpering flagpoles
And a dead rodent

5
Whenever a sad cat opens his trolley and the bad nostrils get their appetite satisfied our hands will keep shaking to salute the onslaught of birdrings

6
An intimate source of powerful negotiations is the dead strollers negating the countdown

7
Likewise, never asked you to perform this particular sample, odd as it is

8
My crossbow at the mercy of a thunderstorm and a bowl of sugar ne/

9
Defenestrate the essential countdown and make every consonant swallowed count as a feast of swift nests

10
Excentric into secrecy
the white foam of secrecy
exclusive formed by the moon
and its differences
all its differences



TerseFest 2020

In response to the distasteful advertising of certain overly loquacious events, the silent menace society of Ottawa have committed to putting on a new festival for the promotion of the retentive arts.

This year, TerseFest will be hosting some of the world’s greatest withholders, including:

  • Samuel Shh, Lost Word Wonder
  • Esther Pshaw who Never Learned Language
  • The Brow
  • Oooooooooo the Unsignified
  • Ernie Lacks and his Talking Tacks
  • Crayola the Amnesia Artist delivering her latest Unimonolog
  • The Order of Oats, who swore an oath involving oats
  • And with musical accompaniment kept very down to business by Give an Inch and the Hisses.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see Ottawa at its most inexpressive. Come be seen and not heard. 

Rattles and Drums


“Why are you scared of our rattles and drums?”

Words from indigenous youth and women marching for Wet’suwet’en, addressed to the heavily armed “lethal overwatch” deployed to monitor them. Last year’s Joint Statement with Inner Island remains painfully up-to-date with current events. I have within the last few weeks personally witnessed astounding bravery and living poetry in the defiance of indigenous youth fighting back for their existence.

JA

Ottawa, February 24, 2020

Check out the Wet’suwet’en supporter toolkit:
http://unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit/


And sign up for their newsletter to receive updates untainted by Canadian colonial interests:
https://unistoten.camp/support-us/newsletter/

(Photos taken from the Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa Facebook Group)

Decadian Cold Moon Game

The  group went into a junk store on the night of the last full moon of the decade, the “cold moon”, in search of a sign. We found:

  • A phoenix-mask with a handle
  • An homunculus-golem-primate toy
  • A little wooden coffin with an ouroboros worm carved onto it

As an impromptu game, the group then went into a pub and each wrote an interpretive text about the objects in question. This resulted in an interesting “synoptic” set of variations on the myth, which, despite being unpremeditated, had striking affinities.

SH:

The mask of many colors is the name of illusion. Therefore it is the name of the world. Pippy Longstocking lived alone in the world and wanted a companion. She offered her hair to the earth, which imbued it with illusion. That is, brought it to life. The homunculus named itself Mr. Tree Climb and would berate Pippy day and night: you are alone. Thus her fear of herself was unconscious. She screamed at the world, “take back this accursed demon,” but a new voice answered “Nothing is capable of not existing. Reality and illusion, death, life and the non-state before life are all the same.” Thus the world was enclosed in an enormous globe-coffin bearing an ouroboros. The coffin slammed shut on Pippy and all she could hear was the terrible hissing of time.

JA:

The golem-primate emerged from the casket of the ouroboros. Its goal was to drink from the ladle of the phoenix. It was said that any liquid drunk from this chalice would grant an enlargement of the conk, which would allow the golem-primate to achieve its potential and understand all future corn markets. However, the ladle itself was sentient and wouldn’t allow itself to be drunk from without getting a word in edgewise:

“How many carrion birds can calculate the external properties of a coffin maker?”

The golem-primate could only reply:

“Numbers come in salt & pepper shakers, so I’ll order first.”

The ladle was more or less satisfied with the response and allowed the golem to partake in the drinking ritual. Whereupon the primate felt the immediate urge to sleep and returned to the coffin. It began to dream the whole scenario all over again.

L:

The Life Chest

This box is used to place one’s dead childhood after beginning at one’s first full-time post-university job. Offerings of ritz crackers and apple juice are left inside. The ouroboros is actually just a normal self-cannibalizing snake meant to symbolize the self-harm of labor that defines adult life.

The Mask of Truth

Is used once one’s childhood is placed in the box. It is meant to be the Vessel holding the true adult identity. One is only themselves while wearing it. The rest of the time, one is acting. The leaves are spikes impaling one’s dreams in the hope of not losing them forever.

The Brogewalker

Is a protective talisman placed on a windowsill meant to drive away vengeful alternate reality selves bent on destroying you for having ruined the life of their brethren, your true self, which you usurp by living under capitalism. It wears a hair shirt that is made of intertwining nooses to show your assailants you are punished by living.

PP:

The coffin of the homunculus monkey transformed him into a powerful encapsulated mask creature. The powers to transpose time and bent realities with the song sung from its chamber. It creeps out on full moons to take the souls for the purpose of its self-preservation. The coffin was made by a Greek architect named Pablo the Woody*, a true craftsman in debt to the monkey for a human republic that he proclaimed from the Greek architecture of souls. The gift was that of a great oak tree to keep the homunculus spirit safe. The mask was made by the wife of Pablo Woody, her name was Maresoda Woody. She used her witchcraft crafting the mask from a piece of oak. Its powers… potent.

*The pub we wrote the texts in was called “The Wood”

-JA, SH, PP, L December 12 1019

A Disinvitation

Dear friends, taxidermists, lieutenants, and dachshunds of all stripes,

We would like to cordially disinvite you, your loved ones, everyone on the planet, and especially those of you with a smidgeon of non-conformist spirit in the Ottawa area, from attending the Ottawa Art Gallery’s new and sizzlingly contemporary hatchet job on Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. From September 14 2019 to February 9 2020, you and everyone you know will have the rare opportunity to miss this circus of misinformation, re-appropriation, and elegant corporate sponsorship. We especially encourage you to avoid thinking about how the exhibition “positions” Cahun and Moore “in dialogue with contemporary artists”. It is also suggested that you resist the urge to “express an expanded range of identities” beneath the massive glowing green sign of Simon’s department store, the exhibition’s #1 sponsor, who will no doubt be eager to supply you with all of the accessories you need to express those identities fully and with style.

(Incidentally, isn’t it amazing how the white cube architecture of the Ottawa Art Gallery and Simon’s department store are almost identical, both inside and outside?)

One white cube’s as good as another?

We would also like to encourage museum curators, art historians and academics of all flavours to continue their clever game of re-appropriation and neutralization of surrealism in the privacy of their own homes, and not in the open, where they are more likely to get their unhygienic backwash on public assets. “Guerilla marketing?” We have to clean up after you,  you know. While we are oh so pleased that you managed to “rediscover” Claude Cahun a good 80 years later than the rest of us, and that you have an incurable tendency to heave your theoretical effluvia all over everything that gives you the slightest prick of stimulation, we recommend treating this not as an opportunity to expose your indecent career growth to the masses but rather as a pathology which should be treated with the hushed whispers and concerned silences that it deserves.

We feel for you, we really do. We all smile and pat you on the head when you insist how your little show “challenges us to consider the ways in which everyday gestures, language, objects, and styles serve to construct and dismantle our sense of identity.” That’s very good. Did you write that all by yourself? Let’s put it on the fridge!

We ask that all real rebels, queerfolk, nonconformists, occultists, and other disenfranchised dreamers who cannot and will not accept corporate sponsorship and academic benediction into their lives to consider instead the living body of surrealism, and actual living surrealists, who continue the legacy of Cahun and Moore in their refusal to integrate with the speculative market-mess that is the contemporary art world. Fuck the vernissages and the theoretical jargon, there’s a world of chance and dreams out there to explore…

Your pals,

The Ottawa Surrealist Group

September 2019.

PS. Some recommended activities in lieu of attending corporate art shows:

  • Staring down a sewer grate
  • Starting a tooth-decay appreciation society
  • Competitive door-punching

 

Res gestae

In celebration of all the wonderful careerists out there who never fail to take a hot second to promote their accomplishments, it’s the

Res gestae game!

Build a list of deeds, accomplishments, victories, etc. by each contributing one and then folding over. Afterwards, scrutinize the CV and provide a guess at the person being eulogized.

Played by JA, SH, L, PP

*

I became a creative masseuse by putting chopsticks in the ears of my clients while screeching “Harder? Harder!!!?”

My ears have electrical outlets. The voltage and shape conforms to the Slovenian standard.

I planted a tree at the center at the center of the earth at the center… I can’t remember. Trees…. Why… What did I do? It wasn’t a tree. I have a disease.

I challenged Dracula to a game of rock-paper-scissors and then threw in a cross.

-The Medical Education of Dr. Van Helsing

*

I tamed the screaming eyelash with a song of passion and flowers.

I used advanced gelatin mould making to form a wormhole into other times, galaxies, dimensions.

I designated the flavour that we associate with the color red.

I gave birth to ten mini-putt goblins who can fly by pooping.

-Deeds of the Galactic Amusement Park Designer

*

I made a circle with my fingers and squished the faces of my enemies while sitting in the relative safety of a coffee shop.

I was able to train 12 puppies how to dive underwater. The toilet flushed only 10 of them. Two survived.

I proposed a popular theory that overturned the big bang: the slimy lick.

I strangled everyone who’s ever stuttered, bringing sexual delight to many oppressed paraphiliacs.

-Memoirs of a Heroic Deviant

*

I performed the ritual of transubstantiation on the entire nation in order to get the polity to vote right last election.

I made the world’s most acidic tapioca pudding.

I became lord of the AutoZoids of planet Zearth.

I laughed in the face of a corpulent tuba player.

-Deeds of the Political Alchemist

*

I gave birth to a tangerine, an event which the press dubbed the “citroyen conception”.

I erased all the foul language from the world’s graffiti with my trusty foetus-cannon.

I asked for change and received a bag full of diamonds and spanish doubloons.

I can regurgitate plutonium spitballs at seagulls. When they eat them they explode chicken finger delights!

-Life of the Lucky Abortionist

*

I found a warm soft hole to crawl into at night while lolly-pop sucking any object I can find.

I won first place in a mirror punching contest.

I bought turkey dinners for every dog in the world.

I have the most rigid belly fat in all of Michigan.

-Hallelujah! I’m a bum

*

I have the flappiest foreskin amongst all the shriners.

I can drive a car with one wheel while in bed dreaming of NASCAR.

I made a romantic conquest using only a sockpuppet and my wits.

I produced every possible 10,000 character pamphlet.

-The Shrine-Keeping Shriner

*

I cured humanity of literacy using advanced computer hacking and social media brainwashing to convince them they were reading and writing.

I dangled my feet into the pond of emergent hilarity.

I became anxious while in a relaxation yoga class. That toad I licked made me see yogi bears on the mats.

I designed a pashmina made from living, enraged right-wing politicians.

-The Silicon Valley Identity Crisis