of the group La Vertèbre et le Rossignol
Who are we to invoke the spirit of surrealism, now, in the twenty-first century? Just a few poets and artists whose spiritual survival instincts first led them to reject the cynicism and impotence which hold sway in today’s so-called culture, and who then found in their dreams the best, perhaps the only weapons with which to struggle against the alienation of the neo-liberal society which grinds us down.
While we fully recognise that capitalist-spectacular society has added surrealism to its repertoire, we still do not believe that this (purely aesthetic) recuperation has neutralised the liberatory power of that human desire of which dreams and poetry are the messengers. We remain intransigently committed to this desire, in opposition to the despicable intellectual and moral forces of this sorry age which seek to render it obsolete.
And while recent decades seem to us to have been more cynical than those that went before, we are under no illusions about the impotent scepticism which has been with us for much longer. As early as the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, André Breton summed it up: “This time, my intention was to do justice to the hatred of the marvellous which holds sway in certain men, to the ridicule to which they wish to condemn it. Once and for all: the marvellous is beautiful, anything marvellous is beautiful, indeed only the marvellous is beautiful.”
For surrealists, this “marvellous” is not limited to the artistic oddities which might emerge from the studio of this or that individual and which can still be found in museums nowadays. For us it is above all about that atmosphere of feverish discovery which animates our various collective experiments, and that peculiar complicity which allows us to play with the unconscious.
The marvellous, as a special practice of friendship, is the soil in which our utopias germinate and grow.
What all this meant in 1924, what it still means today, is a fight against the alienation of a society whose workings constrain the development of the individual. Surrealism has never presented itself as an artistic avant-garde whose only goal was to surpass previous artistic and literary styles. Its programme from the outset was to place artistic means in the service of inner discovery, of the development of “visionary” human faculties for the benefit, in the long run, of the whole of society; to give society the wherewithal to free itself from the ideological shackles which for too long have limited the creative potential of the majority, in order to make them serve the comfort and the excesses of an all-powerful minority.
We therefore affirm our revolt against the “realistic” attitude which has been forced on us since birth and which is based on a stunted vision of reality.
We affirm our hope for a world where the pleasure principle will take up its rightful place, increasing its influence in every sphere of life and society, from urbanism to chance encounters, from architecture to love.
Translated by Merl