Surrealism in 2012!
If you should happen to find yourself in the mid-Atlantic or the Northeast in January or February, I strongly recommend you make time for a detour to Reading, Pennsylvania for the improbably located Surrealism in 2012 exhibition: a never-before-exhibited-together collection of surrealist material created since 1960. NO, surrealism didn’t die out in the 50s with the death of Andre Breton. A quick survey of the surrealist titles we carry in the AK Press distribution catalogue–most of them published by Charles H. Kerr/Black Swan Editions–drives this point home where writing is concerned, but surrealists around the globe have continued to produce art objects at a frenetic pace over the past fifty years, and poet and photographer Joseph Jablonski has culled together the largest, most diverse surrealist exhibition since the 80s. In Reading, PA. Of all places.
Surrealism in 2012: Toward the World of the Fifth Sun
January 6 – February 19, 2012
GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
201 Washington Street
The opening reception is January 6, 2012 from 5:30 – 7:30PM. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this lovely piece by my friend and mentor Franklin Rosemont, the great surrealist poet and historian, who helped to organize the World Surrealist Exhibition of 1976, from whose catalogue this essay is drawn.
Freedom of the Marvelous
Caught upon an emotional precipice between the irretrievable and the unhoped for, men and women today rarely recognize each other, or even themselves. Ask them who they are, what they are doing, where they are going; they stare blankly, stammer, look the other way. No one dares to be happy: too many wars, too many suicides, too many unemployed, too many priests, too many cops; too many “troubles” of every sort conceivable and too many that are scarcely conceivable at all. The exceptions prove the rule. The traffic is always heavy, the weather is always bad. No doubt about it: life today is only five percent of life, and day by day the percentage goes down.
Stand for twenty minutes on any street corner of any large city, and note the expressions in the eyes of the multitude of far-from-perfect strangers who pass by with nothing better to do, it seems, than to perfect their estrangement. At such moments people have been known to ask themselves: Is this why I was born? Is this all? They ask themselves, I say; for if they were to ask those questions of others they would find themselves placed under arrest, or carted away for electroshock, or provided with still further examples of the consequences of exercising the right of free speech.
It is nonetheless true that this discomfort, this despair that gnaws through the darkness in everyone’s heart, endlessly opens loopholes in the walls of logic used to justify the universal immobilization of the human spirit. Through these loopholes, while they last, the flame of freedom faintly glimmers, illuminating the promise that something else exists or could exist. For most people this flame flickers its last, or almost its last, in a protracted form of death known as “maturation.” Every hope is extinguished as fast as it appears, accompanied by rituals of submissive evasion that reinforce the cheap mysticism of everyday life. Imagination, dream, fantasy, play, adventure – everything that gives life a hint of magic and exaltation is relegated to an increasingly depreciated childhood. Civilization is founded on the murder of children because it is childhood, as Andre Breton suggested, that “comes closest to true life.”
What remains, for most people, are only a few rare “unconnected” and “inexplicable” moments: fleeting eruptions of inspiration, sudden passions, dazzling encounters “by chance.” Such moments, true glimpses of the Marvelous, secure themselves permanently in one’s psychic life, in the depths of our inner mythology. Shunned by repressive reason, persecuted by routine, these magic moments nevertheless remain secret signposts for the wandering mind – for the shadow in search of its substance.
To extend these moments, to unite them, to hasten their proliferation, to arm them, as it were – such have always been central functions of poetry. With the formation of the surrealist movement the poetic effort has attained its highest stage of development. What had been only individual, sporadic, unconscious – and therefore easily defeated – with surrealism becomes collective, systematic, conscious, invincible.
To overcome the contradiction between these marvelous moments and the everyday, to actualize the Marvelous in everyday life – that is the surrealist project.
— Franklin Rosemont (Catalogue of the World Surrealist Exhibition, 1976)