The surrealist civilization project is burning our hands / by : Thomas Mordant,

The surrealist civilization project is burning our hands

“Make game activities prevail over the superstitions of tooling. “
(La Civilisation surréaliste  1976- Ed. Payot – Paris)

“The idea of surrealist civilization is a  project that cannot be completed 
whose present data calls for immediate developments. “

(Vincent BOUNOURE,
La Civilisation Surréaliste, last sentence)

Because dream is untimely and dialectical

For more than a decade covering the seventies of the twentieth century, surrealism has passionately been occupied with collective automatism and the project of surrealist  civilization which emanates of it.

It was a time when capitalist civilization was severely questioned, even in its most powerful and rich centers, by vast movements. All capitalist values (from utilitarianism to religion, from prose to calculation), all institutions (from the army to the family, from business to school, from sedentary life to patriarchy) and all the lifestyles linked to it (from productivism, consumption and spectacle to sports, psychic norms as well as the mind / spirit division) were regarded as rotten fruits, affected by worms, while imagination and desire were exalted.

However, apart from the surrrealist civilization project, no civilizational alternative appeared that could possibly cope with the demands, which were expressed with force, but in a confused and scattered manner.

Shortly after Micheline Bounoure’s death in 1981 and the consecutive withdrawal move of Vincent Bounoure (see “The 31st of June” by Vincent Bounoure – URDLA-2011 edition), the victories of neo-liberalism suspended the fragile hopes that surrealism could put, in a tipping and in a social regeneration. This failure, in its deepest reasons, is due to the very low level of social and political movements as regards taking into account the civilization crisis.

The spirit of the surrealist civilization project continued to move and evolve under the rocky ground.

We are now entering, hopping arm in arm with the Capital, in another period of civilizational crisis, which will be marked by cataclysms in cascades and large revolts. All meaning vanishes from what remains of capitalist passions. The loss of meaning also strikes the ideals of all bureaucratic, clumsy, or partial oppositions to the Capital.

The sensible wear of words, formulas and fetish ideas is a healthy process. He goes against “the persistence of the sign to the thing signified”. Ideas have for us a necessary regulation function, but we do not want to allow them any hint of confidence when they separate from their own flesh. It is towards the concrete heart of Umour and poetry, and towards the joints of the nervous system of games, that our desire go.

Since the publication, by the Payot editions, of “The “surrealist civilization” in 1976, the conflict, between the current forces, which want, more crudely than ever to be the only reality, and the nascent forces of the possible, began to manifest itself, in the deafening form of public notoriety.

The ways and the perspectives of the unassemblable puzzle of the capitalist civilization have reached a qualitative level more abruptly, fanatically and totalitarian rationalist, as regard to what regards the “details” of all which forms the unity of the “human” spirit and matter. In the same movement, the most irrational absurdity was largely open to cynical transparency for what we call, strangely, “globalization”.

In the opposite direction, latent, poetic and social desires, that are determining surrealism in its underground movement, have dug new corridors in the volcanic geological utopias still in the making. The movement is more essential and deeper than it appears, sifted as it is by the fluorescent shells, the cover of which we have often had to use, under the blows of silencing clubs and the action of the police, armies and more generally of the Capital.

Whether we look in the direction of the worst or in the direction of the best, the gap between the real and the possible has taken, for all lucid minds, obviously incalculable dimensions.

The surrealist civilization project less requires to be summarized, updated, explained than to recreated itself. This playful creation requires, for the day dreams as well as for the night dreams, new spaces / time for the both amorous and experimental alchemy of desire.

The surrealist civilization project, combining, in an organic way, the most concretely radical revolt and the most authentic poetry, lodged itself in the heart of the living castle of surrealism. His sclerosis would mean the death of the whole building.

Faced with a ghostly civilization that plays our lives to the dice as well as all the poles of this world, surrealism can not deprive itself of advancing its own civilization project.

Thomas Mordant,

Surrealism is a serious game that generates other games 

As viewed from the inside, surrealism is a game of dangerously serious meanders, and its course is irrigated with a dangerously serious humor.

As recalled in a recent article by our friend Andrea D’Urso, surrealism is predisposed to numerous attempts of being buried alive. Surrealism’s playfulness often leads to frequent changes in places, behaviors, moods, and faces, so much so that these ungainly beings that the managers of funeral undertakers are, are constantly on the hunt for its corpse. Our gravediggers are thinkers of the Metaphysical Carnival. The constant lively and subtle dialectics of surrealist games and ideas completely escapes their ùental reach. But surrealism is not only dangerous because of its “reputation”. It is dangerous too for what he fights, for itself, for his members and for more than one reason.

Surrealism is born of a game : individual automatic writing. This game has generated others and continues to generate profusions of others. And all surrealist practices are in a relationship with this game that is based on the expression of the unconscious. The project of a surrealist civilization is also born of a game : collective automatic writing. This project has been replenished by other collective games and can only continue with new collective games together with their thorough, rigorous interpretation. Our attention shall continue to focus particularly on these games, to lead to new perspectives of authentic life.

The fall of the empire of the letter L

In order to introduce the practice of automatic collective writing, it was pointed out that automatic writing generates failures, moreover it is sometimes preceded, by cascades, by instants of loss of creative energy. In the solitude “which stinks of carrion”, as Joyce Mansour says, “the mouth of shadow” ends up closing.

To overcome the breakdown, André Breton recommended to insert arbitrarily the letter L, always the letter L. The automatic text continues then, with the first word that comes, starting with this letter, the “automatic flow” is restarted.

By proposing the parallel stories game, Micheline Bounoure gives us the means to prevent the breakdown, rather than to relying on dedicated repair services. 

Here is, in the freshness of its original source, the proposition of the parallel stories game which opened the way to collective automatic writing. Hereafter is her written proposal of 1970 in the Bulletin de Liaison Surréaliste N ° 1 p5 (reprinted by Savelli editions in 1977 : 

Parallel Stories

“ Each one of the players, at least four, draws on a sheet of paper, for himself alone, the automatic account of the same event that all players could have witnessed. As if the phases of this event had been forgotten, each one, in turn, tries to make them reappear by pronouncing a reference word that all players immediately integrate to the stories they are developing on their own.

The first player, for example, having an idea of a camel, this word is pronounced aloud and all tell the adventures related to this camel as they hear the word camel.  A few seconds have hardly elapsed when the second player pronounces the word archery (for example) and, very shortly thereafter, the third player in turn intervenes, etc. So many players, so many ways to assemble the word camel with the idea of archery, etc. The automatism of the story can only be preserved by a fast pace.

The elements of the parallel stories could also be played by a tape recorder or provided by an outsider.

Micheline Bounoure – A game taught to Hervé Delabarre by an unknown traveler.

A Fruit

In practice, players usually speak out the milestone-words in turn at pre-set intervals ranging from twenty seconds to sixty seconds, without a tape recorder. The concern of telling the story of a given event is often abandoned.

The milestone-words generally integrate easily into the automatic flows of each one of the players with a stimulating effect. I shall not mention here the frequent exceptions or the relatively detailed clinical analysis presented by Vincent Bounoure. But the result is paradoxical. Adding common milestone-words does not result in directing texts to more similarity.  On the contrary, the singularity of the players writings deepens, as well as their subtlety, their originality, their authenticity.
Words have, in poetry, an infinity of latent meanings. As the unconscious is a poet, it often instinctively chooses the most subjective and the most deeply buried meanings in the words proposed.

If the solitude of individual automatic writing causes breakdowns, it is probably because we are not made to best express ourselves in solitary conditions. Even if, in the current psychosocial conditions, in the civilization of the letter L, partial isolation is so often sought after by specialized creators, in order to avoid the greater isolation that exists in domestic herds, directed towards a wide variety of slaughterhouses.

Lighting the game of parallel stories through the game of “one into the other”

It might seem that the power to choose freely and to launch milestone-words, during a collective automatic writing session, is a power that is poorly measured, a weak freedom. But would be underestimating the wide scale perception and manifestation capacities of the unconscious psyche, as the “l’un dans l’autre” surrealist game ( “One into the other”) made it possible to measure, beyond any expectations, in 1954.

I would like to make perceive the extreme sensitivity, the extreme receptivity and the extreme insight of the unconscious, in the face of external manifestations in general and in front of the externalizations of another unconscious in particular.

The surrealist game « One in the other » as proposed by Breton and then commented by himself in two successive articles, gives the most striking proof of it. 

Breton thus describes the rule of the game : “One of us all had to go out and had to decide apart to identify himself with a given specific object (say for example a staircase). 

All of the others had to agree among themselves in his absence that he would have to present himself as another object (for example a bottle of champagne). When coming back among the rest of the players, he had then to describe himself as a bottle of champagne, offering some particularities, in such a way that the image of this bottle came to be superimposed little by little with the image of a staircase, and that, until the image of the bottle of champagne was fully replaced by the image of the staircase. 

In doing so, it must be understood that he had to keep in the proper conditions for being able, explicitly or not, to begin his sentences by : “myself, bottle of champagne …” Or “I am a bottle of champagne that … 

In the event that his monologue, from two to five minutes, would not have allowed the audience to guess, the other players were invited to ask questions, provided that they did not fall in the traditional “portraits” game.

The first words to be connected, as quoted by Breton in his second article, were : a) a Sedan chair and a pebble b) a path and a pair of sheets  c) a horse-drawn carousel and a lightning rod  d) a wild boar and a box of chocolates  e) an hourglass and a child coming into the world  f) a crystal cup and a breast …

Breton then writes : “It is very important to point out that during the three hundred or so turns of the game of “l ‘un dans l’autre “which were performed in Saint-Cirq Lapopie alone, with different participants we did not encounter a single failure. Sometimes the solution was provided with astounding speed, inexplicable because of the little that was yet said: (…) »

Such is the game, such shall the civilization be

Surrealism can seize a possibility of civilization in the state of play, in the state of seed. However there is sometimes only one step from a game to a civilization project.

In the opposite direction, and more easily, we can define a civilization as a set of rules that form a relatively stable social game. This is easily perceptible as regards civilizations that are distant in space and time. But capitalist sorcery too, can be reduced to a set of a few simple rules. We can not say that capitalism does not play. Its games thrive in the stinking, stifling smear of selfish calculation. It plays in a more and more stupid, frantic and impersonal way. But these games of imperial circus and Russian roulette disgust us and annoy us, wear us out, make us anxious, stupefy and kill us.

The huge and expanding cage of laboratory rats that the civilization of capital is, which weighs more and more heavily on  us all, and that shall maybe crush us all in its downfall, nevertheless sustain itself  (as indeed the bureaucratic societies) thanks to the principle of the formal equality of individuals, to their quantitative staggering and to their competition. 

On the contrary, the surrealist civilization we propose draws its strength from individual uniqueness, which is infinitely more marked than it would seems, if we would consider only the behaviors that arfe adjusted to the capitalist mold. In our psychosocial ecology project, the extreme singularity of each person’s life strengthens a collective life that encourages singularities to flourish.

Here is a draft of the surrealist civilization project in the form of analogies with the game of collective automatic writing :

First analogy :

Bet on the unconscious

If the tentacles of collective automatic writing are dipping into the expression of the unconscious of the diverse individuals — the only unconscious that exist — then the surrealist civilization is rooted there too.

Our bet on the playing of the unconscious of the diverse individuals is unconditional : the unconscious is what resists normality the best. But this bet is also raising many questions. It is not without some kind of risk. The content of the unconscious that is expressed by means of automatic writing, is still only its manifest content and yet it already incorporates some chaos. 

The unconscious is very far from being the realm of any a priori harmony. Like the dream, automatic writing, which gives pride of place to the death instinct, rarely expresses love in its manifest content and even less in its latent content, unless this love is unacceptable with regard to our own ideals.

And what to do with all our old unconscious hardware : compromise with the most abject normality, complacent obsessions, disguised rehearsals, fashionable perversions, clots of stereotypical fantasies, the ballets of transfers and depersonalizing identifications.

The garbage-unconscious, may it be by excess of life or excess of death, is nevertheless our most precious possession. By raising the repressions the desires will be able to differentiate, to sublimate, to harmonize. Through their expression we will be able to discover their poetic potentialities on a civilization scale.

We live as involuntary parasites, locked up and hunted down, in the civilization of the letter L. Our bet on the expression of the unconscious implies a struggle for the transformation of the unconscious. Among our weapons, Umour, systematic revolt, fanatic and antisocial love.

We have no other way towards a surrealist civilization. We will never possess – and then only fleetingly – anything but what is unknown to us, refused.

Second analogy :

When “equality” equals “freedom” in all respects

The most beautiful magical sign is conventionally expressed by two approximately horizontal segments of semblances of straight lines that are supposed to be “parallel”: it signifies the “equality” (=). Equality does not exist in nature, in space-time. Strictly speaking, it is a pure mathematical abstraction, but, among humans, the praxis of concrete equality is marvelous and makes everyone marvelous. Equality is the only force that we have to bring forth the rainbow fires of the genuine freedom of being  different. The magic of equality lies in its power to generate high levels of difference. Thus, in the dream, the principle of equality between all things allows the processes of condensation and displacement.

For poetry to unfold, in the game between equality and difference, equality must precedes difference, at all risks, as in the “Jeu des Contraires” (the “game of opposites”) invented by Michel Zimbacca. 

If the difference precedes the equality, it loses its charm and its energy in the normative obsession of classifying, discriminating, dominating and being dominated. Left to its own movement, the classificatory obsession breaks, cuts, dismembers, dismounts, divides, isolates, crushes, eliminates in a manic fury, all that lives, until the final triumph … of equality in death. Status privileges are only balanced in their erasure of human memory.

In the fire of the collective automatic writing, the equality and the concrete freedom of the players are  achieved to the highest point.

The collective removal of the letter L, as an obligatory remedy, abolishes, in the same movement, castes and age classes, sex, language, clan, status, “fortune” for the one who speaks.

The only differences that may legitimately be exalted between beings are at the strictly and exclusively individual level of unconscious desire as it is expressed by automatism. Only at this single individual level differences can reach their strength and maximum multiplicity, releasing the most powerful, subtle, and varied drive interactions, between each and every being, by shaping the poetry of moving, nomadic, fierce, provocative and beautiful communities.

Third analogy :

When the gift without calculation
erases all the alienated faces of the “Exchange” die

Just as collective automatic writing is gratuitous, without any preliminary project, neither for oneself nor for others, so the surrealist civilization will develop in the greatest gratuitousness. Just as each players launches all the power of the milestone-words in the gratuitous game of collective automatism, and this with all his might and without premeditation, so every surrealist exchange takes birth in the exclusive form of the gift without measure. Let us insist : the gratuitous gift, the gift without common measure, neither quantitative, nor qualitative, nor intellectual, aesthetic, moral, nor other. Only the fury of the desire to give guarantees the “rising sign” of the surrealist civilization. The development of the gift will only get all its precious qualitative strength when the market values and the social ranks will cease to vitiate the process of the “gift calling for gift,” leaving it to pure subjectivity.

The uniqueness of equality and concrete freedom is realized in the power to give without measure and to know no other exchange than the gift.

According to the game of parallel stories, the primordial gift – without being exclusive – will be that of a single person to a community, as is, sometimes and partially, already the case, for large creations and important discoveries. This gift comes first. This does not exclude that the amorous gift (and the friendly gift) take a surprising place in a surrealist civilization. But this form of giving can not live without donations to the community. The reciprocal is of course true, though less directly imperative, in the perspective of a civilization.

In the collective automatic writing, the gifts of milestone-words are done rhythmically, at regular intervals and are mandatory. It is of course implicitly understood that donations in the surrealist civilization can not be done, fortunately, at regular intervals, given the multiple, qualitatively different interactions between the members of a civilization. However the practice of rhythm seems to me to be something to keep in mind. All our actions that are of some value in terms of surrealist creation are part of certain rhythms, however complex they may be, and are accomplished at a certain level of trance.

As for the obligation to give, but to give only what one wishes, to give voluntarily or not, it seems to me to be confused with the obligation to create in common which is established with the birth of the human being – and which is generally trampled underfoot, in capitalist civilization, a few weeks, a few months or a few years later.

Fourth analogy :

Luxury, calm, pleasure ?

Is it rather an evil or rather a good ? The surreal civilization can be rich and powerful. 

For decades, however, it has been possible and relatively easy, through some adjustments, to transform a war-weapon factory in order to produce something else, such as high-quality musical instruments.

And today, with the development of free software, the power of the games played on machines has qualitatively changed, to a point that is surprising, every day, the most jaded computer scientists.

A surrealist civilization will use luxury, in its own way. A definitely authentic luxury finally because it is will be available to all for all and subject to the will of desire, in the purest form it is know to have in its generalizable manifestations.

The most effective way to combat positivist alienation and fascination with the spectacular technique is to open the most sophisticated factories and laboratories, as well as machines and computers whose handling seems strangely simple. Playing with technology, in order to identify the healthy uses of Umour and poetry of it. The candle will lose nothing of its charm nor shall the cosmic and subatomic energy lose of its brilliance. But we should put a little bit of order in all this jumble of “speeds”, “energies”, “knowledge”, “information”, “theories”, “programs”, “genetics”, etc., of which we have very little to do as long as it remains in the state of powder in the eyes. 

Once properly laid out, this muddle will probably remain very modest when compared with the enigma of the eyes of two lovers.

The surrealist civilization will be, we say, rich and powerful. As rich as the invention, the principle, the creation, the encounter and the interpretation of the “parallel stories” can be. But this power and this wealth will be offered to the free caprice of desire, which may possibly be to squander them or to exclude them. Perhaps desire will prefer to murmur than to scream – or perhaps the opposite, or sometimes one and sometimes the other – in order to utter Poetry. Is there not something else beyond the magnificent poverty of the wise man and beyond the wealth of the conqueror who will always choke due to its shyness ?

The surrealist civilization will be neither useful nor useless, it will be free.

Fifth analogy :

A concrete universalism

The practice, among a reduced number of people, of collective automatic writing is the sensible presentification of a universal power. Just as well, the development of a surrealist civilization, no matter how small, will be the irrefutable materialization of a concretely universalist movement.

Our project is not to build, against the axes of “good” and “evil”, a new world order that we would call “surrealism”. Our project is otherwise and much further ambitious. It is to unravel, for all, the powers of civilizational creation.

Although the blossoming of a surrealist civilization presupposes the destruction of capital and state, supra-state and other powers, which can only be achieved by popular struggles of very great magnitude, our collective project is not, at present, a project directly social and political. It is an “unachievable” project of civilization.

Our aims are first of all qualitative, from the point of view of thought as from the point of view of action. Would not we wish — for instance –, while not mixing up everything, to put our » surrealist civilization” in touch with certain so-called primitive civilizations, doubtless very weakened ones, but whose vital essence can continue to thrill ?

Ody Saban, my love, tells us that among the primitive civilizations studied, some were both “matriarchal” and particularly egalitarian. It seems to me highly probable and of great historical interest, but I do not think we have any evidence of that at this time, let alone any thorough knowledge. On the other hand, civilizations that have become rare, but some of which are still very much alive – both matrilineal and uxorilocal- show us much less unequal relations between women and men than those which prevail in capitalist civilization. The control on women by husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles or their representatives is weak. Some of these civilizations live almost equal gender relations. It seems that these civilizations are also among the most egalitarian in all points of view and that they are also those where the liberties are the most alive. The best book I know about this is a collective work under the careful and careful direction of Nicole-Claude Mathieu. It is called “A house without a girl is a dead house”, (Editions of the House of the sciences of the man, 2007- Paris).

Feminism is contradictory to the past of surrealism only for those who indulge in anachronism, in the form of a denial of movement.

Nor should we blame the nature for what social trends are currently doing to institutional segregation. 

Prejudices assigning essential differences between humans according to age, race, and gender are deeply embedded in people’s minds, to such an extent that we are no longer aware of the weight, the presence, of these the prejudices, nor of the violence of the institutions that produce them. Ideological constructions “valuing” small differences of natural or cultural origin is one of the worst plagues of humanity.

Surrealist civilization, by putting the individual and the collective face to face, will give us the chance to get out of the reserved areas of essentialism and predestination.

Equality in love is the purest water of the surrealist civilization, it is its concrete universalism in the native state.

The surrealist modesty of our civilization project

What perhaps best distinguishes the surrealist movement of all the innumerable schools where it has been tried to teach how to “change life” is that surrealism has had the power to limit its sensitive, intellectual and material ambitions.

A surrealist limits himself first, tenaciously, to observing the real functioning of thought and of the objective world.

It is by a priori refusing the prestigious position of the master that surrealism has, potentially, but also in fact (albeit to a disappointing extent) given itself the means to have an action — as small as it may appear — on our ways of feeling, thinking and acting.

Surrealism promises nothing. Surrealism merely indicates possibilities.

Surrealism is not optimistic. We will all die, and those who come after us will also die, very hopefully indeed, for if science invented a fountain of physiological youth without a fountain of psychic youth, preserving the capacity for astonishment, wonder, at hand, then science would be the most sinister joke we can imagine. In a surrealist civilization, we will die too, until further notice.

As prisoners and insubordinate parasites in the civilization of the letter L, we suffer, almost like everyone else, the alienation.

Surrealism is not messianic. We have no plans for growing dazzling faculties, for lifelong love, for the suppression of old age, for the rules of the art of living, or for learning, really, and for all, things, from our children …

It is not that we are giving up on these matters, nor on others that concern us closely, nor on complete emancipation, which remains our only law, but we do not think that we currently have the drafting of precisely determined means that would allow us to achieve, one day, concretely these objectives.

If the project of surrealist civilization contains “utopian” loads of renewable explosives, in order to clear our paths towards the unknown, what we first seek to build is a collective passionate project. A project oriented by a rigorous experimental method, although deprived of any pretension of access to different and more futile, fantasies, of sciences.

Our project of surreal civilization requires, eagerly, again and again, to be developed before it can be, one day, socially feasible.

The development of our project will be the fruit, not only of a debate that requires rebirth, but also of new collective playful experiences and their of their both patient and in a hurry interpretation.

A surrealist civilization, some essential lines of which were identified in the seventies of the twentieth century (I give here an imperative subjective version) and other aspects should be released, as soon as possible, of an apparent emptiness. The surrealist civilization shall be very different from the profusion of images that we could swirl around his project.

The hunt for collective surrealist games

Under the imperialist civilization of the letter L, which we undergo, there is a time for the mind and a time for action, which most often only very partially overlap in a manifest way. We have to dream, think and debate about the surrealist civilization. But we also have to give it what we have, in terms of a thin stream of life’s breath, according to the rhythm of the action.

I will present here a very brief draft proposal, which is by no means exclusive, for the creation of new projects and ideas linked to the Surrealist civilization project.

The position of the collective game in the surrealist movement has changed. It has become internationally one of the major activities around which others are organized.

We should perhaps not be too definitively unable to overcome the historical reasons why the project of a surrealist civilization remains poorly understood and poorly disseminated. It is very healthy, and the opposite would be ridiculous and ineffective, that our collective games are invented for the pure and lively pleasure of playing. Surrealism is not programmable and has nothing to do with organized mental tourism.

It would be very interesting, however, that after having given ourselves over and over again to various games, we systematically sort out, among the collective games, between, those which, in a way or another, can contribute to the project of surreal civilization on the one hand, and the list of which will only be closed with the end of the surrealist civilization or its annihilated project, and on the other hand, the collective surrealist games that do not directly enter into this project.

Games where the collective and the individuals are simultaneously and equally confronted on a level playing field, and in permanent cooperation, such as in the “Parallel Stories” game or, in another way, in the “L’un dans l’Autre” game are not the only ones who can help build the project of surrealist civilization. 

Other games, such as the “Jeu des Contraires” (game of opposites), or the games of objects and parallel collages, where players take turns and / or separately, or in collective creation games like the game called “the box of Karel Teige “can also, by the light they shed on the relationship between collective poetry and individual poetry, directly help in the construction of the project of a surrealist civilization. I voluntarily only quote old games that are or should internationally be known to all …

On the other hand, some collective surrealist games have a different function, which is, for example, to widely, and unexpectedly discover,  the unconscious of each player, hence taken in isolation – or to discover certain laws as regards our relations with chance – or to rejoice us by their power of poetic subversion, in the face of the social life as it is sold, and which stuns us – or by other surrealist wonders which seem, after some careful observation of their results,  to only have an indirect relationship with the project of a surrealist civilization ( and although they are not less precious for this reason) . It is also possible that many of these games are, one way or another, ultimately very fruitful for our project, regardless of their other initiamly perceived functions. So, here is the idea of enriching the project of a surrealist civilization with new games (or old reinterpreted ones), and also the idea of performing so kind of sorting.

Another question, related to this one… We could, no doubt, limit, if only to a small extent, the sacrifices to the temporary little God “Speed-at-work”, to which, only a few of us, do not feel obliged to devote themselves, and hence, to thereby release more of energy to think more about our collective games. The individual or collective interpretation of a game can sometimes take years, or more, before revealing its latent potentialities. Outside our field, it is well known that this is the case for most experimental activities. Inside our domain, it is obviously also the case, and it is quite clear that the individual automatism discovered in 1919, and then later subject to our surrealist tortures, is far from having revealed all its secrets.

“Games whose results appear to be of the greatest interest should be disclosed more widely and more internationally”: Here is a phrase that may be considered completely useless because falling under common sense: in general, although approximately, the rules of a game are easy to write and to translate, at least if it’s a good game. However, when one remembers the difficulties, which often arise, to demonstrate the interest of a game, the importance of each one of its rules and the fruits that it can bring, one can seize that such a difficulty may presents itself even in the physical presence of persons who, a priori, are or could be interested, then one can understand the problem encountered to ensure the international dissemination of games. Games, sometimes happen to be complex to grasp and may require some deep knowledge, starting with the game of collective automatic writing itself. Playful surrealist praxis requires an essential and long-term oriented initiation, or else, our games are transformed into boring and derisory recreation and the interpretation of these games is transformed into tedious schoolwork.

I would like us all to be able to perceive, very clearly, that I give much less incentive to some sort of activity – which, for the surrealists, corresponds to a trance, a lucid drunkenness which is not always decided – than to laziness. First, let’s take the time, space of a reverie about our collective games, this without stun, without any derivative. Let us let the mind wander about it. The essential of what we have to say can often be summarized in few ideas. It is good to give these ideas time enough to mature.

The surrealist civilization project has a vital need for stories of new collective games and of new collective experiments, as well as of the extension of their interpretation in all the breadth and intensity required, not only to grow and mutate, but also — and all of this goes together here — to simply survive. Our games answer the questions that we are unable to coldly ask ourselves. I mean, for example, as regard issues that question the life or death of the surrealist civilization project and therefore of surrealism itself as a whole. Today, in this period of deep and acute civilizational crisis, that we feel running in our blood, if we discard our civilization project, then surrealist activities will run aground, one after the other, in sidings – “artistic” ones or not – this without possible reverse.

Creation, in the form of an individual invention, obviously has an infinitely wider place in the project of a surrealist civilization than under the influence of the Capital. To vivify games and collective creations, it is essential. In the present state of our knowledge, individual thoughts and feelings can, to a certain extent, interact as in the play of “Parallel Stories”, as in love. But the fusion of feelings and thoughts leads to their annulment, in the form of dogma and / or in the form of unfathomable stupidity of hearts. Love is always the meeting of feelings and behaviors beyond measure. 

I can, of course, know the traits of the woman I love. I can adapt to a certain extent my behavior to hers. I can get ideas on how she creates. Authentic love, blinding in some ways, gives, in return, capacities for intuitive and reflexive lucidity as regards the loved one.  Capacities that can be remarkable, unique. 

But to share what is at the source of the feeling of the other, in his love, hatred or creation, is as impossible for the human being as to become this other, at least in the present human condition. 

Believing that one can reach the knowledge of the creative feeling of someone else, as well as of his own, is worse than to reify it (to change it into a thing), because things themselves may never be known, except very superficially and under a pile of sensitive and intellectual clichés, and besides, in a “human, too human” mode.

Individual unconscious can meet by shock, they may guess each other at times and on specific points, they may know each other by scattered fragments. 

Here lies the possibility of any common creation, of any love and of any sort of marvelous. 

Under the cloak that the Capital uses to try to cover us, people are supposed to ignore each other or to be similar – which is exactly the same thing.

The desire to build a civilization based on the collective game as a single and unique pivot, would truly be a totalitarian temptation. But yet no emancipatory civilization is possible without this pivot.

A complex problem, which I shall not discuss here, is to imagine a living dialectic between individual creation, collective play and collective attempts at creation.

Meaning of the meaning and civilization

There once was, they say, among the elite, among some conceited and for some “vain and vague Gypsies”, something like “a sense of honor”. One could, it seems, and, oddly enough, wash or give-to-wash, in blood, this sense of honor. 

It is up to us today to wash for all, with our own sap, which belongs to surrealism, the sensible honor of the word sense.

The “persistence of the sign to the signified thing ” has extended to such a large scale today that the definition of the word “word” should include a very large part of nonsense.

However, if we subtract from the world any subjectivity, the meaning of a butterfly is to be a butterfly, the meaning of a pepper is to be a pepper… There we move in the order of pure metaphysics, with or without wings, not far from Kyoto, in the 17th century. This can lead some to ecstasy. The result for us, surrealists, would rather be to bring us to sleep rather quickly. Then, the butterfly ceases to be a butterfly – for whom dreams – and becomes, while dancing with the pepper, everything else and its opposite.

Nothing makes sense, if we seek an absolute sense allowing to forget the present individual necessity of death, and of the death of the lost senses. On the other hand, we can create an infinity of meanings and live or die among some of these.

If there is a general crisis of meaning and and a general loss of meaning, it is to my mind, that of acts, ideas, representations, words – and of all objects – whose manifest content is one-way, or in any case, the orientation of which is limited by a sharp cutting angle.

It is a salutary crisis. The exclusive meaning is leaking everywhere and can be fit to the blandest, most insidiously venomous sauces.

To re-enchant the meaning of our actions, we can not do without a broad-spectrum polysemy. With such a polysemy, even the “great words”, those “of which everyone laughs”, let themselves be taken back by life.

The word sense itself approaches us in this way : in French, in English, in other languages. And apparently in Czech, this word can be translated by “orientation”, “direction”, “perception” too… (there would be five distinct senses, but actually, there are many more), as well as “meaning” or “sensuality” … 

From there, meanings may then be introduced, in the word sense, at will … at our own risk. 

The current language does not ignore the sense of humor, running like the living water, nor the meaning of the fest, in its legitimized meaning – but surrealism knows more subtle meanings and can create tailor-made ones…

When several senses meet, in thought or in action, they tend to multiply rather than add up like corpses rib to rib, green and red, genocidized and eaten by worms. In the immense forest of the senses, poetry can disorient and orient itself as it wishes. 

Isolated in the polysemic forest, the surreal child ends up getting lost. Only through collective creation may polysemy becomes fully authentic.

Dare I say that for me and in concrete life, the word “revolution” has lost none of its charm nor the word “love” of its brilliance ? If surrealism continues to dazzle us, it is, without any doubt, because it often changes its multiple meanings, without forever losing any of its first senses.

In order to slow down and then stop the frivolous persistence of the sign to the thing signified, the the surrealist civilization project particularly aims to learn how to use spades, intended to more deeply and collectively root the organic polysemy, in the depth of the subjects and objects, in the basements of communication and exchange, that is to say, of History. At the same moment past, present and perhaps – why not ? – to come up.

Would you like to play with us ?

You, impatient readers who are longing for a new civilization, who are actual surrealists only in very fragmentary moments, as the civilization of letter L requires, do you believe that it is possible, desirable, or inevitable, in the long run, due to the lack of anything better, to practice and undergo a new poetry twenty-four hours a day ? In such a context, the breaks and reflection moments would then be won by the poetic spirit.

One of the things that can distract from the surrealist civilization perspective, is that surrealist life is soaked with humor, like the immense sponge of the “ocean sea” is soaked with salt water that does not quench thirst. The “ocean sea” needs more humor than heroin addicts need their dose, and it rejects any psychic and poetic equivalent of methadone. 

Black humor, that is desperating as well as desperate will pass its smooth and cold hand around your neck. It is not nice, and it is so serious that nothing seems serious beside it. This humor is grueling. It can make you, at times, exsanguine.

On the other hand, the surrealist player is, so to speak, an “integral hyper-liberal”. Beside his liberalism, the liberalism of the World Bank is nothing. The problem is that money does not interest him more than anything else. He does not practice calculation and only takes it into account from time to time, without any preference for more or less. Say the opposite of what he says and he will be happy. Gracefully change the words he writes ; automatically change all the signs of the drawing he is drawing on the paper ; while he describes a picture to you, make others, out of the very words he gives you. Beautifully make his portrait in the form of an ornamented box, as was done in Prague in honor of Karel Teige, and the surrealist player, even dead, will be happy.

Indeed, all this will curiously help him to persevere in his being. The unconscious ignores the meaning of property, of univocal truth. It only begs to be poetically recreated from scratch, wild sui generis, without any other morality than that of a certain fury that Breton called “ascending sign”. The player, like the dream, asks nothing so much as to become another, to change his face and body according to the wind, to see you loot rigorously everything he has, everything he is, everything that he does. 

But, of course, he will return the favor to you, since you, too, are basically “surrealist players”, as your dreams prove.

Do you want to use your reason only to order your caprices and your contradictions and to multiply them like flowers in a field ? Do you want to participate in the project of a surrealist civilization based on the gift of intense attention and carved time ? A serious project, solid, liquid, gaseous, at the edge of the abyss of madness and close to the monsters of the unconscious. Is this how you want to love and die, eat and be eaten before and after your death ? 

Is it how you are wanting to find abundance of meanings to life, where no one before you has ever found a crumb of it ? Do you want this loneliness ? Do you want to share it and open your big baby eyes on a world purified enough to blind you ? Yes ? So enter.

Do not close

I conclude with a question, which I invite you to think about. A surrealistic verbal image can be compared to a civilization. The usual current understanding imagines that an image has only two main terms : “Dust of Suns” for example. But an image has as many terms as you want, given that not only many names, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc., can enter into its composition, and given that many images can compose more complex ones. But above all because of the existence of polysemy, of the context and of the symbolism that differ for each individual.

A verbal image can be compared to a civilization, for example from the point of view of the distance of its terms. Pierre Reverdy thought that the most successful image was one in which the distance was the greatest.

Surrealism has gradually abandoned this conception. For us, the “ideal” image has a shape other than in Reverdy’s view and another function than the type of remoteness he was looking for. One could say that the “ideal” surrealist image would be the most authentic from the point of view of the unconscious of the one who secretes it. But what does this mean concretely ? I do not think anyone has the answer today. This is not a big deal since the surrealists are not urban planning or urban development stressed entrepreneurs, are not obsessed by building constructions that conform to pre-established plans.

However, the question of the image is essential if one considers – as I have just shown very briefly – that a verbal image can be compared to a civilization. Moreover, our project is already an image : the surrealist civilization. And this image contains and raises others. A forest of language praxis bites on a desert of rubble and we have passionate responsibilities on its psychosocial and poetic ecology.


Thomas Mordant,

spring 2012

                                                                                                Translated by Pierre Petiot, summer 2019

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