Present tense

Present tense 

With the forthcoming exhibition at the V&A and the Tate’s “Dali and Film” exhibition in June, there is a sudden flood of articles on surrealism in the Guardian. If one accepts that The Guardian is the next best thing to a left-of-centre daily newspaper it might be hoped that it would take sufficient care to represent surrealism, not necessarily sympathetically, but at least with a modicum of accuracy.  Unfortunately, anybody who does hope for this will be very disappointed. Almost every statement in every article is extremely misleading, revealing a total lack, not only of scholarship, but even the most elementary knowledge of the subject. Once again The Guardian manages to obliterate all signs of accurate information on surrealism.

While we are surely grateful that Jonathan Jones finds surrealism sexy, we have to point out that a “precise and historical meaning on the “surreal” and “surrealism”” is to be found, not in the rocks around Cadaques, but in the “Manifestoes of Surrealism”. We do not mean “something between “funny peculiar and funny ha-ha” but “neither a school nor a sect, much more than an attitude, surrealism is, in the most aggressive and complete sense of the word an adventure. An adventure of humanity and the real thrown together in the same movement.” (The French Surrealist Group 1951) While Jones is at least correct in saying that surrealism “survives as living culture, not as museum art” he is completely wrong in claiming this status for the works of Ballard, Moore, Lynch or Alexander McQueen and only a complete ignoramus would ever consider them to be surrealist.

Germaine Greer scarcely manages any better. Perhaps her excuse is the inevitable softening of the brain that allowed her to undergo Celebrity Big Brother, this certainly dissolved any shreds she ever had of intellectual credibility. It has to be said that, as her notion of surrealist women seems to depend on the notoriously unreliable work of Whitney Chadwick, she was disadvantaged from the start. If she had bothered to do even a little bit of research, had perhaps read Penelope Rosemont’s epic “Surrealist Women” which feature’s the work of nearly 100 women surrealists rather than the half dozen, mostly marginal figures that Chadwick fusses over, she might have had a very different idea. If she had looked more closely at the work of Toyen, whose work features in the Chadwick volume, but garners much less comment as it does not fit in with Chadwick’s thesis of women being marginalised in surrealism, she would have seen the work of a woman who was central to the surrealism movement for nearly half a century and who is regarded by surrealists as among the greatest of us. It goes without saying that the other articles are stupid and ignorant almost beyond belief. Why does The Guardian allow people who know nothing about surrealism to parade their ignorance in such a way? Surely there should be some attempt at informed comment?

We have not even mentioned the fact that every reference in the G2 articles is based on the assumption that surrealism is something to be spoken of in the past tense (despite Jones’ assurance of surrealism’s survival as living culture!) We would like to point out that we exist very much in the present. In fact, there are surrealist groups active in London, Leeds, in Paris, Prague, Stockholm, Madrid, Chicago, Portland in Oregon, Buenos Aires and Montevideo,
Athens, Ioannina, and many other cities scattered across the world. Nor are we mere revivalists, the surrealist movement has a continuous history going back to before the publication of the Manifesto. Neither a literary nor an art movement, we remain constant in our opposition to the appropriation of surrealism’s revolutionary fervour to this lazy and dishonest falsification of surrealism.

 London Surrealist Group, March 2007

Mercedes Baxter, Stuart Inman, Anthony Joseph, Philip Kane, Jane Sparkes, Darren Thomas

and their friends, Jill Fenton, Wedgewood Steventon 


~ by londonsurrealistgroup on March 22, 2007.

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