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THEME PROPOSAL FOR A SURREALIST GATHERING IN ISTANBUL IN 2011
In the face of a prosaic mundanity helplessly mired in its own dying signs, in the face of the apparent triumph of capitalist barbarism, let us build a concrete poetic dialectic of destruction and creation, now when the threat of death is breathing down the neck of humanity.
The question at issue is precisely how the most apparently destructive negativity can help to overcome (marvellous Aufhebung!) apparently hopeless situations.
For some decades the dialectical relationship between destruction and creation has had a very particular quality, one that we could make more effort to understand. We have become accustomed to the idea that although the human race is not absolutely doomed, its survival in the short or medium term is no longer assured. The risks cannot be calculated, because they ultimately depend above all on the struggles of humanity as a whole, as well as on chance. For surrealists and social revolutionaries, the task is to draw paradoxical strength from this state of affairs.
First, we can develop a more collective and more personal, more vivid and profound consciousness of the total reinvention of the basic conditions under which humanity today is called to act, and against which it resists. From a spiritual perspective these basic conditions include, for example, an autistic and pornographic contempt for everything, a nihilistic cult of nothingness, an unsublimated death drive temporarily contained within the cyst of polymorphous perversity, a religion of performance and maximum pleasure drained of meaning so as to be rendered compatible with generalised indifference and chronic ennui.
Read and reread the lunatic screeds of Milton Friedman and especially his teacher Friedrich Hayek (still the great phantom gurus of world powers dominated by the Olympus of financial speculators), which far surpass the lunacy of Mein Kampf in their absurdity. As is well known, for these lunatics the total war of all against all is no longer to be regarded as a remediable, temporary or manageable flaw in capitalism, but as a principle to be venerated with the greatest possible devotion. Chaos is the condition of perfect equilibrium, we are told in all seriousness and in the tones of those who command and are obeyed.
This massive intellectual breakdown among the high priests of Capital, and their crisis of legitimacy, can help us to remind us of the urgency, freedom and necessity to clarify, radicalise and make concrete the spirit of our utopias.
Let us bring our pessimism into dialectical relationship with our optimism.
On the one hand, it is not necessary to have hope in order to act successfully: despair often has the blackly humorous quality of being more effective than hope. And the essential point here is that surrealism, revolt, revolutionary struggle, poetry, freedom and love are their own reward – and would be so even if those passions were doomed to total failure – because they are grand, just and beautiful passions.
But on the other hand, hope is itself sublime, dazzling and precious, the hope of a definite realisation of those passions, improbable and slender as it may be. How many lovers have dreamed in this way of being able to run their fingers, once only or once more, through the hair of their beloved! Something analogous is at work in all our passions. It is for this reason (and not out of a ridiculous optimism that is ready to bend itself to every kind of pragmatism) that we must not abandon the mad hope of love requited, of realising and sharing the Marvellous through creation, of the birth of a human race that is finally free, perhaps for only a few days but preferably for much longer, until this reconciled human race ceases to be (since ‘all that exists deserves to perish’) and disappears or metamorphoses into something completely unknown, perhaps something better.
Lastly, the human race’s blatantly obvious current panic – whether latent or overt – can enable us to recognise the essentially desperate heart of these passions (which still, despite everything, turns its face towards hope) in which the surrealist movement, and each and every one of us, is recognisable.
What is all authentic creation, at its origin, if not a mad expenditure of energy to no purpose?
What is the birth in an individual of passionate love (and this birth can last a lifetime – those whose hearts are dead may laugh), if not the recognition that everything is pointless, if not the blinding flash of a light that it would seem entirely foolish to hope to attain?
What is the passion for poetic and/or social revolution, if not a wager on the improbable, on a future that will remain unknowable, because only ‘another world [that] is possible’ and another life on earth seem more beautiful and more just, even though all previous attempts have failed.
Ody Saban, French-Turkish surrealist, and Thomas Mordant, French-speaking surrealist of Gypsy descent. There are four million Gypsies in Turkey.
Paris, France, 28 November 2010
Translated from French by Merl Fluin, 18 February 2011
Excerpts from ‘Rising Sign’ by André Breton (1947, translation by Franklin Rosemont):
For me the only evidence in the world is commanded by the spontaneous, extralucid, insolent rapport which establishes itself, under certain conditions, between one thing and another, and which common sense hesitates to confront.
… a vital tension turned possibly towards health, pleasure, quietude, given thanks …
… mortal enemies the deprecative and the depressing.
… ‘A red dragonfly – tear off its wings – a pimento’, Basho substituted ‘A pimento – add wings – a red dragonfly’.