Valentine Manifestation

Tonight I was searching a video streaming site for something totally different when the giallo film The Perfume of the Lady in Black by Francesco Barilli came up in my results. Having just seen this recommendation from fellow surrealist DC online, I took the opportunity to watch it. One striking coincidence occurred. The film has a scene which features a music box containing a ballerina figurine, presented to the main character, Silvia, by an Alice-like incarnation of her childhood self. Silvia recognizes the figurine as one from her childhood because of its missing arm. The thing is… I had seen and photographed this exact ballerina figure in Ottawa. It was EXACTLY the same as one I had taken a photo of a while back while browsing a junk store. How exact? Not only the same make—the same arm is missing.

-JA, February 14, 2020

Photographed in Ottawa in May 2019

The Object Beautician

We are pleased to announce that we have just hatched a a new little book of surrealist games, inquiries and other oddities with Peculiar Mormyrid Press

You can order the print version here:

And here is a free PDF version:

Many thanks to Steven Cline at Peculiar Mormyrid Press for helping us get this in shape.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

The Painter


“Pass me that tin of pigment,” the boy says.

“This one?” the woman asks, “With the skeleton hand on it?”

“That’s my bleach white,” the boy says, pouring what looks like egg whites onto a glass palette. “Best mixing white of any artist paint.”

“Is it safe?” the woman asks, watching him shake cloudy granules into the goo.

“As long as you’re not dumb. Sprinkle it in your eye and it’ll shrivel like salt on the jumbo slugs they harvest my slime-binder from.” He points to the sizzling ooze. “Undissolved, the raw pigment’s too big to worry about inhaling, so it’s safe.”

The woman watches him mull the fluid and powder together wearing some thick work gloves. The paste slowly turns to a white so intense it could cause snow blindness in the right lighting. “I always wondered why you needed a license to paint.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” the boy says proudly, “Poison orange is basically an amalgam of toxic metals like they used to assassinate people during the great edification. You mix it two-to-one with pox green – the stuff the military breeds biological weapons from – bleach with white, and get a beautiful canary yellow.”

“Fascinating,” the woman exclaims.

Having scraped his white into a bowl and doused his palette with acid-wash, he adds another dollop of slime. “The other foundation paints are cannon purple, and oil black. The purple comes pre-emulsified so you’d need chemistry equipment to make bombs out of it. You mix and bleach with orange to get your reds and magentas, or green to get your blues and cyans.

The black is just your standard petroleum-by-product. Purists say that if you can’t get the right darks and dulls, you’re either over-glazing, over-bleaching, or not mixing your three non-bleaches right. Modern theory proves black expands the gamut and you can’t get certain shades and tones without it – besides making a painter’s life easier.”

The boy looks up from the next sizzling pile. “I don’t get to use it, though, because the ventilation isn’t good enough not to have to worry about asphyxiating on scentless fumes.”

“Safety first,” the woman says, but she’s glad to understand the fine arts just a little better.

On time-travel, metaphysics and language




“A time traveler jumps back in time to meet a colleague” – this sounds like the opening line of a joke, or a novel whose plot will work itself into paradoxical knots, but in reality it is a question. Or a series of questions. Which tense should be used? If the time traveler references the present, do they mean the time-point they left or the one they arrived at? If they are referring to a third person, at yet another point in time, what frame of reference should be used?

A culture steeped in time-travel, would require a whole new language: grammatically and syntactically unlike any other. This culture would not see time as “flowing” but as a something saltatory and harmonized, like beat-boxing. An elaborate dance with perfect synchronicity, but no plan and no conductor.

Presented here, a preserved portion of one of the most revered and seminal treatises of this culture. A meditation on the nature of reality and nothingness: The Vector of Malaniiät (this is our best effort to translate the meaning and phonemes into English)


– Sa’ad Hassan

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

Some surrealist activity in dreams

pet cemetary

From L to JA:

I had some dreams last night that you were in.

You invited me to some local officer’s open house where they were giving a seminar on “creativity.” Men in ties were showing us to all these kindergarten tables on the ground where there were tombstones for dogs, like from a pet cemetery. We had to redesign them.

Next, we moved a room over till we were sitting on the ground. Using paste, popsicle sticks, and markers, we were told to design a religion for the tombstone we just made. The office worker explained that we were participating in a version of a surrealist game called “an exquisite corpse,” that had been made more professional for idea monetization.

You took the paste and poured about half the bottle one the paper so that the puddle was mostly all over the carpet. Then you then started to rail against all these people being shills as I tried to clean some of the paste off the carpet in case they noticed and made me pay thousands of dollars to get the room redone. We were mostly just dicking around instead of playing the games, so we walked out when I thought enough was cleaned that they wouldn’t notice.

Outside, we were about where the Rideau Center would be looking at Rideau street, but very high up. We were interested in finding our local spirits, which were likely eating out of trash bins in the local alleys, but also doing some random shopping.

Me and Jess had won hockey tickets to the Stanley Cup playoffs that we were encouraged to use. When we got there, we were made to ride in a gothic parade in which there were hot air balloons of women being abused by the grim reaper. The games were being held in that state that had banned abortions. In protest, the local team club had decided to empty the arena of all spectators for the game. Only a lucky thousand were chosen to watch the live feed sitting in several little theaters seating maybe seventy people at a time. The walls were made of wood and the decor was 70’s posh.

All spectators had been chosen based on media appeal. We were chosen because I was a mentally ill transgender artist, and Jessica chosen for being in a lesbian relationship with me. Our story was posted to the internet like everyone else’s as a sort of advertisement. Most people were women not much interested in the game. A large group of little kids faced away from the screen drawing in coloring books on their seats.

The only footage the audience at home would get was us watching the game with the screen in the background while interviewers got our thoughts on sports and the abortion law reality TV style. I did my best to actually watch the game in case my parents saw me.

You and me attended this event like one of PP’s mental health art things, but it was also a surrealist thing. We had trouble busing there, and were the only people to show up. The social worker in charge didn’t show up till late, after 10pm, and was having a break-down from her job at the hospital. Her mascara was running from crying. I decided to leave.

The next day, at a gathering for the animation program at Algonquin I was attending, they showed dozens of complex, highly finished artworks produced overnight at the group after I left. These included video installations a huge sculptures made of intertwined cords of colored material. I was jealous none of my work was on display.

(sent August 1, 2019)