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.
Childhood rituals, sacred objects, the blocking out of nocturnal whispers with fingers in ears…
Childhood aversions, including aversions to cucumbers, shrimp, African creamed corn, telephones;
Childhood worship; maternal gifts of snowglobes, or sacred utopian cities visited by adults on business trips (Edmonton?)
The revelation of a childhood identification of one member with spiders, to the point where they would eat flies;
The elaboration of several childhood dreams involving nightmarish lights, erectile multifunctions, and of course parental monsters (whether nude, tandem-bicycling over perilous heights, mind-reading, or robotic…)
The tick-tock-tick-tocking of the grandparent’s grandfather clock, resonating in the mind…
The exploration of childhood obsessions with real and virtual portals, hidden pirate kingdoms, clambering around waterfall edges for secret caves, tornadoes in school bathroom vents, potential that existed in the imagination but pressured real life pursuits…
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…
I am gentle.
I am white.
I say “Baa.”
I am a tractor.
I am brave.
I have a mane.
I am a bucket.
I am proud.
I can sing.
I have two legs.
I am a tilapia.
For those interested in more specific details from the game night, inquiry responses, or to send us thoughts on your own infantile experiences, please contact email@example.com
Always trust the man with the hat; The shadowman leads an alien into a black void. An alien headed child. There’s an eyeball at the bottom of the poll. A soviet criminal murderer. She bled her shadow on the wall inappropriately. There’s a hole in the sign, The sign looks like a tree…
All the broken symbols beckon from the window And with a bolt it strikes and fractures the glass into insignificant specks Under the microscope they resemble a stain on an inside-out goat.
-JA, PP, MM, interpreting photos sent to us from Graz by Dunja Apostolov on July 16th 2018
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.