The group has been in a fruitful period of “exile” since our favourite spot was closed for repairs earlier this year. Since then we have taken advantage of our rootlessness and have found ourselves in a slew of unfamiliar places, including an underpass, a junk store, a sex shop, and a flooded beach. And on May 17, it was suggested that we meet in the winter garden of the Royal Ottawa Hospital, our local mental health institution. Here we knew through experience and friendships that we would find, despite the disciplinary clinical oversight, and in addition to some interesting artistic creations on display including a few known collaborators, an atmosphere and community of people far more sympathetic to our games and discussions than is typically met with in public cultural spaces.
In this location we (JA, L, PP, SH) explored a few ideas, starting with a folding game of drawing banal objects. The idea was to invoke a Duchampian irrational enlargement or alienation of everyday objects, the kind of ordinary household things Breton suggested might even on occasion have more poetic power than explicitly contrived surrealist objects. We then took turns with elaboration via captioning them with extravagant titles, hiding the original object, redrawing based on the last visible play and so on. The goal was to create a tapestry of analogical surprises from mundane reality.
Following this we wrote surrealist letters and replies to each other with much black humor and passion. Here is a sample chain that we found especially funny:
Your insipid storytelling is no longer welcome in our town. I suggest you take your spider-wife & leave before your children are encapsulated in preservative ooze.
Yours in caution,
After doing this grosse abnormal letter I’ll ingest a bucket of flies and spit them at your feet then my plan of becoming a venus fly-trap will be at hand!!!
I think that I am in love. Poetry of the grotesque is the most true to the human spirit, and I am inspired by your words to quilt in your honour. Mark my words, your puppy will have a new bed by this Victoria Day.
I know love and all its late orchestral movements. Its requiem. I bought the puppy you speak of and he died to “God Save the Queen”. His tombstone erect as Eros, the epitaph mercurial as semen.
We then played a game of “interrupted speech”, derived from a game described in La civilization surréaliste, where players write automatic texts while another periodically interrupts with a word that must be incorporated by all the players.
Finally a discussion about dreams and quantum physics which (naturally) led to an inquiry by L on the perfect orgy:
L chose a heaping puppy-pile of effeminate ladyboys. When asked how many of himself L the narcissist would consider sufficient for an orgy, infinite was preferable but three would be a minimum. Would they be exact copies? Perhaps not but they would not aim for visual variations and would enjoy wearing the exact same costumes. It occurred later that Gemini season was almost upon us.
SH described a single ideal boy, eyes like spaghetti, a nose like a beehive all percolated, dispensing sugary earl-grey tea which SH laps up periodically, and this figure multiplies itself like a centaur, except instead of a horsebottom it’s more boy, chained in ever longer repetitions, until the sufficient number is reached for an orgy.
JA chose a highly charged erotic ceremonial mass decoration of a 800 xmas trees with analogical objects until one hits a tantric orgasm. The goal is to extend eroticism beyond the stereotyped parts of the body, beyond the body itself, or rather an extension of the body into poetic objects which can transmit poetic bursts of resonance (psychically) back to the participants. With years of preparation there is no reason this couldn’t be achieved with humanity’s current capabilities.
PP chose a visitation in a cell from an unspecified number of invisible succubuses. Light, and the warmth of five hands on his chest. But also an overdrive of sexuality that prolongs the experience beyond ejaculation and ends with pain.
Looking at these games retroactively we might even interpret them as ridiculous attempts at reconciling ourselves with our homeless state: the idealization of homely nostalgic objects, the bureaucratic correspondence of reality cluttering up the work of those seeking a new path in the rootless world, the interruption of chance events in even the most internal monologizing—a core characteristic of the exile state—and finally the dream of excess and gorging in the future orgy as a revolt against enclosure of actions and feelings.
SH brought up the concept of a terrarium which we then filled with odd objects—thimbles, silhouettes of friends, mollusks, eels. This resonated eerily with the “open glass” architecture of the garden, which definitely felt like a kind of aquarium for the mad. We also looked at the art on display of the patients, including some striking mytho-Egyptological work by Oziput, and some amazing, actually “poetic materialist” photographs interpreting tree parts by the appropriately named Sylvana Beaulieu—including a shot of what looks like a seahorse emerging from a tree stump, and a wizard found in a knot of wood.* So the aqua-terrarium fills itself up.
* It wasn’t easy to get a good picture of these images in the display case and we’re not sure how best to contact the photographer to ask permission, so we’ll refrain from posting them for now…
We who love love, always flood floods. On May 2nd 2019 the Ottawa river peaked in a flood that beat records set in the last major flood in the spring of 2017. Accordingly, SH, PP, JA and L of the Ottawa surrealist group assembled at the flooded zone on Britannia beach and continued our tradition of flood investigations (see here for some intimations of what was discovered in 2017). Wandering the waterline, we dreamed collectively at the strange formations and detritus we found at our feet.
Each ripple constricts and squeezes out a duck. Brambleberg and soggy bones, and the whole scene a whisper that says the reflection is all wrong.
As the grey lantern cast its rays of anti-light it rained and melted the eyeless golems of the cloud homunculus.
Call me Ishmael, afloat on a melted jellyfish, I sing of snows sent to Grecian graves that never see a seagull’s handwriting.
I lost the way to the footbridge of shadow.
My own cause is swept up in lightning’s gloss river.
A goose demon howls for myopia’s end.
Vernissage and Show with Lake
Show runs from April 2 – April 30, 2019
Vernissage with Lake on April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Venus Envy Sex Shop
226 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON
On March 21, 2019 the Ottawa Surrealist Group had its first official “infantilism night”. L, SH, PP and JA convened at a dessert shop, where a whole evening was dedicated to pursuing the spectre of childhood, its irrationalisms, holdovers, dreams, obsessions, and potential mobilization against the banalities of everyday life. All while eating sweets.
Crayons, children’s books, precious stuffed animals and drawings were ritually arranged and played with in order to invoke regressive mental states.
A surrealist inquiry into childhood and infantile behaviour was held.
We created childlike collective windows onto secret worlds…
…found some contemporary children’s dino-art at a junk shop, calling out for dino-surrealist Vittoria Lion, a childhood friend met in adulthood…
…and used some children’s books as a medium for surrealist games, delirium, poetry…
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.