Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Monday 26th June to Sunday 9th July

in the following venues:

rivers & streams & lakes
bookshops, junk shops & markets
pubs & bars
parks & gardens & woods
trains, planes & automobiles
cafes & restaurants
cemeteries, wasteground & abandoned sites
the streets
online & offline
everywhere & nowhere
... anywhere other than inside a museum, art gallery or lecture hall.

The SLAG is organising a series of games, dérives and events in London for the duration of the festival. All the necessary details, with dates, venues and instructions for games, will be issued over the coming days and weeks. If you are in London, you are warmly invited to participate, either with us or independently. If you are not in London, you are equally warmly invited to participate by playing the games wherever you are, whether in the UK or elsewhere, during these two weeks.

Our hope is that you will not just play alongside us but also suggest your own games, events or other ideas for the festival. If you don’t like any of our suggestions, don’t just sit there wishing we had come up with better ones, invent your own and make them happen yourself. If you send your ideas, games, events etc. to us at the email address below, we will disseminate them via our mailing list. We will also compile an album of photos, reports, texts & images from the festival for distribution to all the participants – please send us any material which you would like to be included.

In the words of Lautréamont, “Poetry must be made by all.” The London International Festival of Surrealism is not designed for passive consumption. This is a DIY festival: it is up to you to make it happen.




Email: la_belle_tenebreuse@hotmail.co.uk

Surrealist London is a city that will always remain to be invented

Friday, May 26, 2006

INNER WORLDS OUTSIDE (Whitechapel Gallery)

Inner Worlds Outside is not simply yet another exercise in looking at art in an art gallery. It is also an attempt at re-assessment, to re-classify 'outsider art', to integrate it into the 'tradition of modern art'. In this the exhibition is (unsurprisingly) only partially successful: it is going to take an awfully long time (if it will ever be possible?) to overturn the mountains of verbiage, and the slick and cynical industry, which have built up around the 'outsider artist' as an idiot-savant unblemished by mainstream culture and the machinations of the art-world. One has to ask to what end is this integration being made? To inject outsider art with the dubious vaccines of modernism and cultural cachet, no doubt.

Here, at least (unlike the present Hayward show), the works are uncluttered by too much extraneous academic wank; they are roughly arranged thematically, including such categories as Imaginary Landscapes and Fantastic Cities, The Allure of Language, and The Erotic Body, and allowed to speak for themselves, although they speak mostly in tongues, in languages unknown, delirious, and sometimes rabid (William Kurelek's The Nightmare, Sans famille by Francis Marshall, Von Stropp's Oestrum, and three bondage drawings by an anonymous 1930s sadist are particularly terrifying) .

Although many visual and stylistic parallels might be drawn between the works of the 'outsider' and the 'professional artist' there are equally just as many differences. The most noticeable difference being that when the modern artist indulges himself in some free-form self-expression he is usually no match for the real outsider. By a direct comparison which is possible here with the work of the insane, his work is often tight and laboured. Only the Surrealists and the artists whom they 'discovered' (Scottie Wilson, Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern, Augustin Lesage, et al), all of whom are represented in Inner Worlds Outside, come close to achieving the vital outpouring of the unconscious which transforms a simple drawing or painting into something poetic. Such works must never be confused with a fantasy art rooted in escapism: most outsider artists are not day-dreamers or sunday painter hobbyists- their visions are violently poetic, and deadly serious.

A rare opportunity of seeing Henry Darger's delightful 'Vivian girls' is not to be scoffed at- in fact makes this an unmissable show; for these doe-eyed little girls, displayed in all their polymorphously perverse glory, bear tiny penises, and are exposed to all the perils of a Sadeian hell. (Although, sadly, Darger's bloodiest 'Vivian girls' painting-drawings are not shown here.)

Kubin's necro-cunnilingual Kuss (1903); Rops' Self-Inflating Woman, her orifices ravaged by a poly-phallic bird-demon; and Adolf Schudel's Krötenteich im Vollmonde are truly haunting images, and also rarely seen in London. Bellmer, despite his subject matter and instinctive secrecy, was never an outsider artist, and yet his tiny collage-drawing, Marseille, sits very comfortably here among the work of such genuine madmen as Aloïse and Wölfli; and so too do works by Surrealists Eileen Agar (her golden Skull and [Sea] Shells is stunning), Ernst, Masson, Penrose, Mesens, Miró and Matta.

By placing together outsiders and professionals it is not so much hoped that this exhibition may explode the myths surrounding the outsider artist as inadvertently knock the pro artist off his high-culture pedestal, by showing that poetry may be, and is made by all.

Inner Worlds Outside is at
Whitechapel Gallery, London
28 April - 25 June 2006.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Undercover Surrealism brings together objects and images reproduced in the periodical Documents, which ran to just seventeen issues from 1929 to 1930. As the exhibition itself is quick to point out, Georges Bataille was not a Surrealist, and Documents was not a Surrealist publication: the word 'Surrealism' in the title would therefore appear to be more of a marketing device than an accurate description of the exhibition's contents or rationale. As a display of curatorship it is impressive: to have gathered such a large and disparate collection under one roof is no mean feat. But the overall effect is curiously unmoving. There are a few flashes of intensity, notably in Bataille's own Vitreous Sun drawings, but one leaves the gallery feeling as if one has simply flipped through a magazine looking at the pictures without reading the articles -- which is of course precisely what one has done, albeit in three dimensions and on a grandiose scale. The best that can be said about this exhibition is perhaps that, in so thoroughly failing to capture the passion, violence and horror of 'the vision of George Bataille', it demonstrates just how far that complex vision departs from the banalised and consumerist practices of gallery spectatorship in the twenty-first century.

Undercover Surrealism: Picasso, Miró, Masson and the Vision of Georges Bataille
at the Hayward Gallery, London, until 30th July

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Obsessions is not simply an invitation into the imaginations of Alfred Kubin and those who influenced him - Daumier, de Groux, Ensor, Gaugin, Goya, Klinger, Munch, Redon and Rops. It is also an invitation into the viewer's own imagination, a stimulus for nightmares and obsessions of one's own. From Goya's terrifying war reportage to Redon's and Ensor's respective conjurings of St. Anthony, from the fantastical visions of Edgar Allan Poe to the uncanny banalities of Kubin's corpses, Obsessions demonstrates the profound connexion between terror and ecstasy.

Spread across two rooms, the exhibition - unlike the recent Gothic Nightmares show at Tate Britain, to which Obsessions provides an interesting counterpoint - is well lit and curated, with helpful information in French, Dutch and English. Among the 90+ works on display, those of Kubin himself do not always come off well: but who, in fairness, could compare with the incomparable Goya and Ensor? Nevertheless the dialogue which has been set in play between the well chosen works shown here is both fascinating and absorbing.

Appropriately enough for such a meditation on eroticism, horror and the fantastic, the Obsessions exhibition itself has a doppelgänger. Its double, previously shown at Namur and now opening in Linz in July, concentrates more exclusively on Kubin in relation to Rops. While the narrower focus on, and more concentrated experience of, these two great imaginations will surely have much to offer, devotees of the dark side of the Marvellous are urged not to miss these many Obsessions in their current incarnation.

Obsessions: Alfred Kubin
Hotel de Ville, Bruxelles/Stadhuis van Brussel (Belgium), until 18th June.
Landesmuseum, Linz (Austria), from 6th July until 20th August.