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…
The Ottawa Surrealist Group
PS. Some recommended activities in lieu of attending corporate art shows:
Amid the banal repertoire of daily media aggression and the terrorism of the usual scandal cycle (the true terrorism of our day) one recent news story from Polk County Florida caught our attention as worthy of some Halloween reflection:
Two middle school girls allegedly showed up to school with butcher knives on Tuesday planning to kill “as many students as possible,” drink their blood, and scatter their bodies at the entrance to the building, a plot the cops say had something to do with being self-described “Satan worshippers,”.
The girls, aged 11 and 12, were armed with four knives, a sharpener, and a pizza-cutter. Like so many of us, they came up with their inspirational idea after a weekend of horror films.
“They told us they were Satan worshipers. They did make comments that they were willing to drink blood, and possibly eat flesh,” says an affidavit from the police department.
Folie à deux?
How sadly the adults shake their heads. How bitterly they bite their tongues as they spew out (with no small secret delight) the word they’ve been champing at the bit to mouth for so long: “Satanists”. To think what would have happened to all of those bright young things—potential lawyers, doctors, supreme court justices! Or would it have been such a crime to drain those creatures of vitality, whose lives are threatened anyway by the litany of imminent environmental disasters, war, and economic crises?
We think the state is as usual jealous; wants the flesh for itself. Inspirational?
It may be shocking to say we see something good in such bloodthirsty honesty, but as surrealists we think it is entirely justified to point out the hypocrisy in arresting these two while letting the vast majority of corporate and state official US blood drinkers run free, and to assume two probably hopeless young girls are more righteous in their satanism than most Americans in their stay at home self-satisfied turpitude and moral nonexistence.
In a world like that, like this, demonic activity is not only experimentally sound, it approaches the boundary of the morally justifiable.
Is it necessary to point out that we demand the immediate release of these two? Is it necessary to point out the hypocrisy of this bloodthirsty state power where the lives of so many women are threatened daily by the state apparatus, its misogynistic laws and culture? There is an entire superstructure dedicated to crushing women, girls, and the gender rebellious–an infrastructure whose epicenter could very well be Republican Florida. The same also pursue a sister quest of destroying the potential of youth before it even has a chance to fight back—whether through the destruction of the environment or the default impoverishment through varieties of debt (educational, medical, emotional…)
And yet they fear teenage Satanists! Rather, we declare that have much to learn from them. Let’s give them, instead of life in prison, a lecture tour, and a podcast. We would also be very interested to read their complete affidavit, and to hear more from them on the world according to their dark insights. We suspect there is much in common between us.
And finally, we wish to remind the world that there are far more nasty creatures than Satanists in our midst.
Who are really the bloodthirsty ones?
Officials, parents, churchgoers, concerned members of the community…by the power of Amtor the Unspeakable—whose true name is known only in the place which is not a place—we demand:
Release the Satanists!
Offer your throats!
For the devoration of all and sundry and the commencement of a vampiric age…
II: (As If Muttered Under The Breath)
…What are they teaching children these days if not how to engage in ritual human sacrifice? What is school if not ritual sacrifice? A sacrifice of generations of children who might otherwise have hopes, dreams, and enjoyment of freedom other than a gross desire to crush their fellow minorities under a marble statue of despair and crystallised smegma. What is a classroom, but the spiritual flaying alive? What is the essay but abusive relationship gaslighting? What is tea time to a Satanist? Is it the cup? So different than a coffee mug? And the maple syrup on my pancakes. There’s no god there either. I want to cut my penis right down the middle till I have two halves waggling around independently. That sounds like a sacrifice. I’d tie them in a pretzel for Beelzebub. Then I’d pull it back towards my ass cheeks and shit through it. And with this consecrated shit in my hand I’d storm the west coast and bury their universities. Cal Arts? What the hell is that? You call that cartoons? Redrawings of redrawings of redrawings of Disney’s angry old men till only the construction remains? Perhaps, these too will one day simplify into a pentagram with a middle finger in the center of it shoved up the asshole of simultaneously shitting god with an anus made of necrotic, gangrene flesh. Or, I could pull a wrestler’s skeleton apart and find the wimp trapped inside the rib cage to rape, for days until they beg to be let out of the clown suit and punching bag. The ring. The ring’s a fine place for a ritual. Isn’t MMA already gladiatorial combat? – the successor of some knuckle-dragging Etruscan’s funeral sport? And there you have it. Not only is it the oppressed in every society accused of witchcraft, the sacrificed are also its slaves, though we stick the knives in each other’s hands. And in the throat. And the eye. And the asshole. A hundred fucking times in the asshole till their bowels fall out their pelvic bone like it was a culvert of an abattoir. How incredibly wrong it is that we kill so many animals every day WITHOUT ritually dedicating their blood to demons.
MARK MY WORDS!!! THE FARM OF THE FUTURE WILL SACRIFICE EACH AND EVERY ANIMAL MUTILATION TO DEMONS AND ADVERTISE IT IN IT’S MARKETING. Invest now! Do it like I say! You’re the animal! You and your fucking fur coat! I want one! I want one!
“Est-ce que c’est le Parlement?” “Non, c’est Canadian Tire.” –Snappy answers to stupid questions overheard on Parliament HillThere is a certain satisfaction in seeing the confusion on people’s faces. If this is what’s oozing out of Ottawa, just what is happening to your average mediocre city? A spontaneous and unexpected outbreak of tropical hysteria in a cold, boring, early-to-bed bureaucratic monocrop of a town. Stories of new mind-mush: it’s getting hotter every year. Perhaps we’re just some random itinerant students at the universities, passing through a radical phase? Or an infection of external rebels living here by circumstance from certain known centers of revolt (Montreal, perhaps to a lesser extent Toronto, which is at least large enough to be plausible?) What puzzles to the point of numbness is that many of our group are actually from Ottawa (and the true Ottawa, of course, its suburbs). Of those that have come here from elsewhere, it is usually from even smaller, even more boring places.* It could be said that our critique of the city is therefore endemic. Ottawa is one of those odd New Worldadministrative-capital cities which are often explicitly distinct from the centres of culture (Montreal, Toronto, New York etc). Sitting stupidly on-top of sacred indigenous sites at the crossing of the rivers and the Chaudière falls, its capacity to crush its own mythic loci is astounding. And then, during its colonial existence, Bytowne was an actually pretty wild frontier spot with some interesting mythological implications (the giant Big Joe Mufferaw…Devil along the Kitchissippi in search of an onion sandwich…The Witches of Luskville… The Haunted Lake of Fairies).
But this was a separate life on the same spot, a totally different town, and has had no real impact on the present mindset of the city. This negation is the result of a series of specific, massive colonial and then Federal projects surrounding its capitalization, such as the Rideau Canal, the Copy-Pasted Parliament Buildings, or the Victoria Island paper mill, and then, a century later, the Gerber Plan. They have built indiscriminately on top of the interesting, the indigenous, and the poor, as usual. And now, for example, a massive new condo project being developed on-top of the old poisoned industrial site built on-top of a sacred Algonquin island. We must be onto our third or fourth layer of outrage, now?
And he pointed out a sort of Nuremburg toy planted on a hill top. This toy with its polychrome architecture resembled the House of Parliament in London much as the Montreal cathedral resembles St. Peter’s at Rome. But that was of no consequence; there could be no doubt it was Ottawa.
-Jules Verne, Robur the Conqueror
The blossoming of the fatberg. It is well known that a fatberg is a congealed lump in a sewer system formed by the combination of non-biodegradable solid matter such as wet wipes with grease or cooking fat. Fatbergs may also contain other items which do not break down when flushed into a toilet, such as sanitary napkins, cotton buds, needles and condoms, as well as food waste washed down sinks. The resulting lumps of congealed fat can be as strong as concrete, and require specialist equipment to remove. Such are our problems.
In some ways the fatberg is too adorable to hate. It’s not unique in its style of mediocrity, and that’s the whole point. Of course there is a typical banalization of life itself emanating from the most dominant presence in the city i.e. at present, boring middle aged and mostly white bureaucrats who moonlight as hockeydad paterfamiliases. And with them the standard level of racism and fascist-nurturing as expected, dog-whistle attacks on black music from our local radio stations who insist only on “real rock” and the nuanced suppression of the indigenous, immigrants, people of colour, workers, and the homeless. What’s worse, in recent years the fatberg macro-culture has itself developed a bad-conscience. The functionaries themselves feel the need to justify themselves by deriding their own status, and pursuing the sweet “spice of life” activities on the side. Thus the rather pathetic proliferation of “Ottawa at Night” or “Ottawa Underground” documentaries, the promotion of a local pseudopoetry or pseudo-radical arts scene (Scotiabank Presents Nuit Blanche!) or other abortive attempts to make amends for its own mediocrity. Meanwhile, out in the suburbs, a new spirit forms from the angry kids and the misfits of the fatberg ideal. They simply allowed some of us too much freedomto watch old cartoons and to play in the forest. It is from the magical lots of old quarries and abandoned factories that the sludge of the Chimera originally crawled into the gullets of a few maniacal teenagers who never blossomed as they aged.
Perhaps the one redeeming feature of how the city “looks” in its official capacity is its penchant for the neo-gothic architecture. Well then. Maybe these are our houses, and we’re the neo-goths? We know our forebears. We know what you are on the inside. We speak from the insider’s experience of an unintentional mediocrity of life to an explicit mediocrity in the eyes of the service economy, on the trail of the phantom carriage.
At the outskirts of the utilitarian city we might recreate ourselves as: A centre of gravity for uselessness
Sexual and gender multiplication tables
An outlet for misfits, the poor, the mad (who often join us at our park bench, and play along) Nonconformists, absolutely, but also underconformists, sideconformists, etc. An experimental farm for chance A greenbelt of antagonism A provocation for the eclectic productives and cool parents Ignorers of initiatives The next step for activists who are too angry Collectors of the detritus of Old Hull Fangirls of the Wendigo, the Loup-Garou, the ghost of the Lac des Fées The spirit of revenge against the personality-market of that sponsorship scandal masquerading as an arts and poetry scene.
All of the above items remain as hypotheses or as temporary scaffolding to try out, in group life. We have tried on the masks we saw hanging out of reach on the walls of the museum of our childhood, but we’re not done playing with them yet. We’re here to poison the happy families. Obliteration everywhere for all pseudotropolises. *But after all, is it all that odd? Paris and London/SLAG, of course, but it’s Leeds that has the longest running surrealist group in the history of the UK. Chicago is also, as the Rosemonts have pointed out, an alternative reality to the more central literary culture of New York. Even Stockholm, it seems, is not exactly a radical effervescent centre (either now, or in the 80s?). And others. Perhaps there is a sweetspot of alienation, social pressure, population density and radical unimportance that favours the growth of surrealist fungi.
A Non-Visit to the University of Ottawa Bachelor of Arts Graduation Vernissage, April 27 2018.
What first caught our eye was the rusty grate underneath the entrance. This it turns out couldn’t be called anything but “The Missing Troll”. We admired the attention to detail in the rust. The string was a charming Dargerian touch. A classic, tasteful use of dried leaves and rocks added to the elegance. We also noted with pleasure the smatterings of garbage here and there. What it could have used was something actually sleeping inside, though this might have ruined the palpable sight of invisibility
Nearby, we encountered a startling portrait and/or modernist architectural design, an air conditioner paired with an empty generic coffee cup which was no doubt entitled “A Sort of Irony”. We admired the dappling effect on the conditioner which may have been a bust, a face, or a building, but we had to agree that the coffee cup itself was the real centrepiece. The vines were nice but the single melodramatic leaf on the cup was kitsch, perhaps in a good way or not. Where the pigs are butchered, where the meat is sold.
Climbing up the steps gave us a moment to admire an excellent grey bag which draped itself dramatically at our feet. This motif appears to be a reference to The Shroud of Turin, as featured in /kaɪˈmɪərə/’s unreleasable vaporware fourth issue. It is perhaps a city-mouse relative to the same school of design. As the shroud was determined to be a sort of garment, we may conjecture that the bag is a sort of haute couture showpiece for the seldom noticed Ottawa Faceless Bureaucrat, a ubiquitous creature rarely seen because it camouflages so with stale, dusty air.
Looking at the actual door, we noticed a beautiful, neo-medievalist diptych with strong allegorical symbolism. This had to be called “The Magnanimous Excommunication”. The two hands pointing, one representing the heavenly sphere, and the other, more crooked by an estimated 2 degrees, representing earthly imperfection. Upon reading the motto we then realised that we were at the wrong door. And so we had begun by unintentionally starting at the back-entrance of the exhibition, the same building being both 100 Laurier and 600 Cumberland street, depending on who you asked.
Stepping inside we noticed the first of what turned out to be a continuing motif of several very beautiful, almost neoclassical white heaters throughout the building. These had fine, Grecian composition and an almost Doric gravitas. We debated whether such things were pure aesthetic items or functional.
We block the front door for a long while admiring a particularly blurry old panel—we wonder whether it is a found-object equivalent to asemic writing, or perhaps an artistic palimpsest recovered from a sorcerer’s grimoire. A man asks us if we can read the names. Believing that his test is a trick question, we utter no definite answer.
A map of the exhibition somehow being given to us, we make sure to disorient ourselves throughout the tour by actually trying to read it. We are reminded of the circuit diagrams older integrated systems used to print with their programming manuals, technology being a major component of contemporary art.
A coat hanger and coat rack combination; at first a pagan temple deity, then a serial killer’s murder victims, on the order of 15 or so. Death by taxidermy. Who is responsible? It was determined to be not the butler but someone with influence; the mayor? A big metal mailbox system is the morgue.
We are very lost. There are penguins everywhere. We go downstairs. There is a sequence of three garbage cans which we dub “The Modern Venus”. Always coffee cups. An emergency phone which reads SOS (a pun on “sauce”) using a telephone to play on the trendy topic of synaesthesia.
Nearby, “I am what I eat” and a toilet that doesn’t flush (which one is the artwork?). The railing of a staircase is determined to be a goat’s horn. A room from a Japanese light novel with murder and mystery involving an after school club, very dark.
Club room. A virus attack. We spew out very loud associative chains, silencing everyone else in the room, including the artist. The hair is a cave. What is in the cave? An ice worm. A moose. A stop sign. A man carrying a stop sign in outline. A protest. Is it edible? A lollipop.
A door for an elf and a hobbit. We go upstairs and downstairs as you like.
There is a visitor’s book laid out for each artist, usually lavishing simple encouragement and praise, so we cannot resist the urge to fill some of them with automatic writing and drawings:
“Where does the ape live when it loses the first leader of its own fire? Blast the horse with its own collar into the seemless.”
“I loom in NO horror I beg the fishermen for sweet tea of eyes.”
“The mysterious universe screams out to me from beyond my fridge where is my wallet?”
“The Tulpa I envision when I think of flowers is more like a crow that eats the tongues of those that tease me.”
“I disagree wholeheartedly with this nonsense!”
“Sweet OH yes”
At one point, LL launches an impromptu exhibition on the door to a gender-neutral bathroom, a sort of participatory installation commenting on the act of gendering as othering.
Fragments beneath a window-sill; nails, a lock, some scotch tape instructions. A message from The Administration: “Please do not lock(ed) this door”.
We consider trying to make an offer to some of the more promising artists of all the benefits of surrealism: the chance to be ignored, profitless, poor, avoided, obscure, mad etc. “Stick with us, kid…”
As for the artworks, we quickly disposed of the obligation of actually reviewing them by means of a simple, and loud, analogical game. It was determined after some discussion that the closest companion to an art gallery we could think of was the barnyard, its different animals and products. Thus, substituting the barnyard entity we associated with each artist’s section, in order of appearance, we encountered:
Artist 1 – nonspecific eggs
Artist 2 – fishing worms, maybe an earwig
Artist 3 – slaughtered beef, ground beef
Artist 4 – goats, their horns, and the junk that they eat
Artist 5 – pigs, blood, chunks, and a vampire
Artist 6 – emus
Artist 7 – chupacabra
Artist 8 – horses
Artist 9 – honeybees
Artist 10 – maple syrup trees
Artist 11 – eels
Artist 12 – crows
Artist 13 – tengu farm
Artist 14 – dogs made out of bananas
Artist 15 – a baseball farm with horses as camouflage
Artist 16 – a fairy farm
Artist 17 – a limb farm
At the end of the night, overhearing someone talking about one of the award-winning students being extra-worthy of attention, we came up with some awards that should be given out that night, but then forget to award them to any specific artist:
Least Stable Bowels
Most Similar to the Floorboards
In retrospect, LL awards himself “The Best Self-Tokenization” award for his unsolicited addition as a tranny.
It’s that time again! Since its inception in A.D. 537, the mission of IFOA is to promote interest and enthusiasm in Arthurs on both a local and international level; to showcase the excellence and variety of Arthurian literature; to introduce young readers to the wonders, pleasures and possibilities of an Arthur; to provide Canadian and international Arthurs with an opportunity to meet and to exchange ideas; and to offer programs and events for a wide range of communities and age groups that increase the awareness of all forms of Arthurship.
More details here. Not to be confused with this unfortunate folderol, which despite its name has been proven to be consistently lacking in Arthurs.