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.


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).

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


Some non-news of canal dwellers

The canal has extended its feelers into pleasant nighttime excursions which are really quite dark and not very well-lit at all. The atmosphere can shift dramatically and the passage in facing certain maudlin streetlamps gave birth to an appendage, a “subjectivity” of a most evil looking sort, a kind of shadowy figure who sings snatches of incomprehensible tunes to itself as it sharpens something very dangerous. We call it the nightprowler. Over the canal it has total jurisdiction. Past Pretoria Bridge, on the east side, where it is especially dark, it makes plans. Recording the crunching sounds of footsteps in the underpass.

During the day, in certain parts of the canal, the green hue of the seaweed and the algae and whatever else is down there tend to evoke strange jungle landscapes. Analogical green. At the theoretical level: surrealism as interruption, surrealism and the lost art of “lodging a complaint”, beyond observation and into reportage. The implications of a weird and untimely hypnagogic review of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a way that nobody we know would ever do it. The possibility of criticism from elsewhere.

canal slime

On a hot afternoon, a local theatre played an old black and white film. A handful of people were watching it, clustered mostly in the centre of the theatre.  In this otherwise typical thriller movie there was a very effective seance scene. The rhythm was slow, the patience of the director made a lot of sense, so the mood was perfect. Don’t we have every reason to believe that, in such a scenario, the sporadic audience is participating as much as those gathered around the table? And in that split second where expectation holds its breath and something “happens”, it would be a good chance to photograph the inside of our brains for posterity.

Bunuel, Jean Rollin…The idea of riots in the cinema. A temptation to ask people if they have ever seen such a legendary occurrence.

A lithograph of Matta’s “Les Voix” (#2/40) was found for sale at the antiques market. At 1200$, we wonder who will buy it. It is a charming comic strip of yellow and blue mania, and would sit very badly above the mantlepiece of many a Kanata home. Next to it were some very banal landscapes, and a few dolls and toys, which seems like a nice way to present images that are important to surrealism. It is an effective interruption of the standard bits and bobs you see floating around (and you can see some responses to a 2018 inquiry recently published on that very subject).  A small statue of an Egyptian deity with an elongated, perhaps crocodilian head continues to remain unsold in a locked glass cabinet perpendicularly facing the Matta print. There is also an old baby pram within which a violin and guitar are nestled together taking a nap and dreaming unheard of concerts.

What are we all doing? Why don’t we jump off the peace tower?

L had some very vivid dreams involving JA partaking in surrealist activities, including a very striking oneiric collaboration on some tombstones for pets. AC on the contrary reports dreams that are more apocalyptic in nature.

In Templar Solstice Park, known for its overall nationalist banality, music. But not the normal music you’d expect to hear from the nearby bar. This is 1920s tango, straight out of a Bunuel film. Yes, it is even crackly. What? Are these strange people really dancing to this, on a  black platform, sweltering day? It induces a lot of strangely loving feelings. There are still nice surprises. Not long after, a mayfly molted on someone’s leg and left its old skin in a very pretty position on his knee. Did we mention that When Rabbit Howls was being read?

On the street, overhead: “I always get the last laugh”.

An image struck, too, of the interminable summer, from a randomly opened children’s book. Four glasses of lemonade. Each one has a straw that loops, and loops, and spins, like an insane labyrinth, making almost letters, almost faces, interweaving and disconcerting. A maze for refreshment. An athanor, or anathanor? Bubbling. Is there really only one right choice for the perverted clinamen of libido? “This is not my idea of a good time; this is not my idea…”

No More Fattening Frogs for Snakes!

[The following text will appear in print in the 2019 edition of Oystercatcher, and will be distributed at various gatherings and actions in support of the Wet’suwet’en.]

It took me a long time to find out my mistakes

But I’m not fattenin’ no more frogs for snakes.

Sonny Boy Williamson

 The Unist’ot’en are the Big Frog clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation. They defiantly croak at the colonizer’s yoke without reservation. They are hungry for decolonization. We honor their spirited resistance to colonial authority and offer our wholehearted solidarity.

That the Canadian government would like to fatten indigenous peoples up for the kill should come as no surprise. One aspect of colonial policy has always been to “fatten frogs for snakes”, either by cajolery, bribery or by the deadening domestication of the feedlot. In this case, the snakes are the extractive tentacles of the fossil fuel industry whose serpentine form is the pipeline. That venomous symbol is the opposite of the lifegiving phallus of Eros. It is the phallus of death and destruction. Destruction of the land and death to the people of the land.

The autonomy of the Unist’ot’en frog pond is in danger as their un-ceded territory outside the confines of the reserve is threatened by TransCanada (TC Energy)/Coastal GasLink predators. “Why not just cut your losses and fatten up at the corporate trough,” say the colonizers with a wink? But the hereditary chiefs have refused to allow the living body of the land to be carved up without a fight. They yearn for long-term sustenance rather than the empty calories of fast-food trickery. In contrast, the reservation band councils have signed on with the LNG industry for the chance to get a piece of the pie after having so long been restricted to the meager crumbs from the colonial table. But the whole frackin’ pie is rotten! It has been (half)baked by the same people who came to these lands from Europe over 150 years ago with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. They were the missionaries of cultural genocide who sought to colonize the minds of the next generation in the residential schools.

And the colonial drive for assimilation is not dead yet. Take your pick says the latest, Great White Father, Justin “Sunny Ways” Trudeau:  the bureaucratic carrot of government-sponsored “reconciliation” or the military stick of RCMP invasion. These are the current faces of the ongoing Canadian policy of assimilation which often amounts to little more than guilt-ridden calls for “healing” on the part of the descendants of the settlers while the “hurting” still goes on in relation to indigenous communities. While bewildered settlers, hypocritical politicians and smug media talking heads arrogantly presume that strawman “consultations” are enough to smooth over historic antagonisms, the colonizers relentlessly continue to drain the pond of its nutrients and pollute the groundwater of life that still flows in the veins of the land.

We stand with those traditional chiefs responsible for the health of the land in their opposition to the toxic pipeline and its world. Proudly they proclaim the sovereign basis for their actions in protecting their own territory: “We are not protestors. We are Wet’suwet’en!”.

As surrealists opposed to the institutional violence of the Canadian state and the physical violence of the RCMP’s war on the Unist’ot’en land defenders, we dream of a mighty “rain of frogs” to cleanse the Earth!

A Joint Declaration

by Amphibians for Decolonization

 Inner Island Surrealist Group (K’ómoks/Pentlatch territory)

Ottawa Surrealist Group

(Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory)

Let’s All Drink Blood Together


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!

-The Ottawa Surrealist Group, Halloween 2018