Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another successful PhD viva

"Pass the dictionary, old boy, I can feel a Lucresade coming on."

Monday, April 21, 2008

An open letter to a PhD student

Dear Jenny

Thank you for your emails asking for a copy of our manifesto and telling us about the research you are doing on Surrealism for your PhD. We must admit that we were rather surprised to hear from an art historian. After all, everyone knows that academia died in 1969. We have seen websites of some more recent art historians around the world, but they seem to us to be totally superficial, mere imitations of the real art history of the 1920s and 30s. At any rate that's the conclusion we've jumped to on the basis of what came up when we typed the words "art history" into Google.

All the same, we're impressed by the honesty with which you confess your ignorance about the contemporary Surrealist movement – and indeed, more unwittingly, about the wider world. You freely admit that you have no idea what a group like ours could possibly be doing: in your own words, "radical actions, I am sure, but of what type and to what purpose, I cannot imagine ... maybe you are actually working towards a revolution but I know nothing of it". At this point we did wonder what "the Surrealism [you] have come to love, admire and above all, be inspired by" might have been, exactly: apparently not the one which burned – which still burns – with the revolutionary fire of Marx and Rimbaud, freedom and necessity, in a single flame. Obviously your inability to comprehend the possibilities of revolutionary action today must be the result of the weakness of your own imagination because, as you will have read in a book, imagination alone offers us some intimation of what can be.

You seem to be inviting us to persuade you to "believe in" revolution ("I would just like to know more before I believe in it. Otherwise, it would be a blind faith, a hype or both"). But if you want an argument in favour of revolution, all you have to do is look at the dismal fucking state of the world around you. The first question to ask yourself is not whether you think the revolution possible, but whether you think it necessary. When you have answered that simple question, everything else will fall into place, and your self-confessed confusion about contemporary Surrealism will be resolved in a word.

But for now, at least, your letter raises no expectations that you would answer that question as we do. You invite us to "carry on a correspondence" with you, not from any sense of shared purpose, but simply on the basis that you are writing about Surrealism in your PhD. You apparently expect this in and of itself to be meaningful, relevant or even merely interesting to us. Let's be clear: it isn't. Some of our comrades in the international Surrealist movement derive satisfaction from arguing with academics, but we don't get our jollies that way. We feel no desire to explain or justify ourselves to you, nor do we see how your PhD, or the scores of others like it, will be of any benefit to the contemporary Surrealist movement. Like most academics, you complacently believe that academic writing is important, and that we have a vested interest in "setting the record straight" among academics simply because their good opinion is worth having for its own sake. The only circumstances in which we might engage with academics would be if they were offering to put their resources at the disposal of genuinely revolutionary activity. And by resources we mean the material resources of their money, libraries, IT and printing facilities – not the "expertise" they hawk around the marketplace of journals, book catalogues, international conferences, the Research Assessment Exercise, and all the other status games which distract them so effectively from the real, fierce possibilities of the world.

So which is more important to you, Surrealism or your PhD? Clearly at the moment it's your PhD. That's why you find it so difficult to accept that the art history books your supervisor has been telling you to read are wrong when they say that Surrealism is dead; that's why you're parping on about "the Surrealist aesthetic" and the "stature" of the pre-69 Paris group instead of getting down and dirty with the likes of us. You're too busy fellating the mortician to notice that the patient isn't dead.

If and when you decide to obey the demands of your imagination at last and join the ongoing Surrealist revolution, we'll be ready to hear from you.

Until then –

Regards from SLAG ~ Surrealist London Action Group

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Ready Reckoner

Like all revolutionaries, we often receive correspondence from individuals asking us to advise them on the likely re-sale value of artworks in their possession.

We are not able to respond to all of your e-mails individually, but we would like to share an insider's tip with our fellow art-lovers and connoisseurs. Prices for any artwork, unwanted gift or family heirloom can be calculated using the guide contained here.

Monday, April 07, 2008