Monday, March 10, 2008


Is it possible that in place of a classical-military-capitalist-ecclesiastical racket there has come into being a romantic-cultural-soi-disant co-operative-new uplift racket ready and delighted to use the "universal truths of romanticism – co-eval with the evolving consciousness of mankind" [Herbert Read] as symbols and tools for its own ends? Our "advanced" poster designers and "emancipated" business men – what a gift Surrealism is to them when it is presented in the auras of "necessity", "culture" and "truth" with which Read and Sykes Davies invest it.

To the real poet the front of the Bank of England may be as excellent a site for the appearance of poetry as the depths of the sea. [...] "Coincidences" have the infinite freedom of appearing anywhere, anytime, to anyone: in broad daylight to those whom we most despise in places we have most loathed: not even to us at all: probably least to petty seekers after mystery and poetry on deserted sea-shores and in misty junk-shops.

[...] But so deadly agile is man's mind that it is possible, even easy to form a series of "truths" and "loyalties" which produce imitations of the creative powers of non-selectivity; forgetting that Surrealism is only a means and believing in the "universal truth" of it; or again, still relying on aestheticism to the rules of which Surrealism has now been added. [...F]or the English to awaken from the sleep of selectivity, what a task. And to be already a "painter", a "writer", an "artist", a "surrealist", what a handicap.

Humphrey Jennings, 1936
(in a review of Herbert Read's Surrealism)

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