change in a historical epoch can always be determined by
the progress of women toward freedom...The degree of emancipation
of women is the natural measure of general emancipation."
European Octopus (O.vulgaris) (1/30)
back to topics
international resurgence in recent years owes much to the far-reaching
revolution in consciousness set in motion by the Women's Liberation
movement in the late Sixties. Women have in fact participated in
surrealism in ever greater numbers since World War II, appreciably
expanding the movement's revolutionary perspectives and multiplying
possibilities for social transformation. In an important article
on "Women and Surrealism" in Arsenal No. 4, Nancy
Joyce Peters examined the relationship historically and theoretically.
Noting that even in the 1920s the first surrealists' fundamental
reorientation of thought had "prophetic parallels with feminist
concerns," Peters goes on to say that
A deliberate stand against patriarchy and its institutionsthe
State, patriotism, militarism, control, rules, the Church, piety,
domesticitysabotages the underlying structures of women's
oppression. By discrediting Judaeo-Christian-Classical esthetic
and moral presumptions in favor of animism and the dazzling art
and thought of non-Western peoples, women as well as third-world
artists have been drawn into the surrealist orbit. European old-boy
craft networks with apprenticeships and traditional art and university
training became nonessential. The rancorous estate of "professional"
poets with academic chairs and government grants is undermined where
poetry and life are one. And where work and life are fused, women's
lives have value as human lives.
expression, surrealism gives precedence to intuition, receptivity,
relational cognition, relatedness with "other." Because
these modes have been assigned by culture to women, women are already
in a position to excel in them. Methods of provoking idea and image
through contact with the unconscious allow diversity and difference
to appear naturally; gender is effectively neutralized. Uncovering
the unknown by paths of dream and desire, and the practice of psychic
automatism to arrive at truths uninhibited by convention or prejudice,
puts men and women on absolutely equal footing. . .
significantly, as men sought the feminine in themselves, women moved
into the normative masculine arena of expression: individualist
objectivity, analytic thought, and vigorous self-transcending creation.
Surrealism broke new ground here. It encouraged diversity and recognized
difference without perpetuating oppositions. What that meant was
that women had neither to sacrifice their singular feminine experience
by taking on a male persona, nor be bound, for that matter,
to a specifically "women's art."
masculine arrogance and misogynist power-structures, surrealism prepares
the way for an irreducibly radical equality. Poetry demands
back to topics
Surrealism's Popular Accomplices
Chicago group's radical notion of surrealism's "popular accomplices"the
many and varied exceptions within the so-called "mass
media" that participate, willy-nilly, in surrealist revolutionopened
up a field of research and intervention that has proved to be inexhaustible,
not only in the development of critical theory, but also in generating
new revolutionary strategies and tactics.
Decades before "Cultural Studies" became academically
fashionable and spectacularly marketable, surrealists distinguished
themselves from other intellectuals by their warm appreciation of
certain events and currents in the popular arts. When nearly all
Marxists saw nothing but bourgeois propaganda in animated cartoons,
screwball comedies, horror films, pulp fiction, jazz and comics,
surrealists recognized popular culture as an especially vital terrain
of contradiction and struggle as well as a testing-ground for new
myths galore, including demystifying mythsor counter-mythsof
poetry and revolt.
Important, too, is the facthilariously refuting the puerile
and reactionary ideology of "proletarian culture"that
the most outstanding working class artists and poetssuch figures
as Sam Rodia, S. P. Dinsmoor, Peetie Wheatstraw, Henry Darger, Covington
Hall, T-Bone Slim and Memphis Minniealmost invariably tend
to be surrealist.
wall separating poetry from the proletariata wall maintained
by class rule and its elitist ideologiesis being broken down
on both sides.
back to topics
Black Music Now and Forever!
Black Music, especiallythe whole glorious African-American
music tradition from blues to bebop to Free Jazz and beyondthe
Surrealist Movement has long recognized "a fraternal movement,
a powerful ally, above all a complementary adventure." Surrealism/jazz
affinities were acknowledged in Paris as early as the 1920s, but
their poetic-critical elaboration has been developed above all in
Chicago since the Sixties. In blues lyrics we recognize a poetry
of "freedom, revolt, imagination and love," radically
counterposed to the racism, degradation and overall conformism of
the Pound-Eliot mainstream and its present-day rivulet, the "New
American Poetics." And in the sounds of King Oliver, Louis
Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou
Williams, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor,
Ornette Coleman, Douglas Ewart, Hamid Drake and their comrades,
surrealists have found marvelous verifications, reinforcements and
extensions of their own revolutionary project and, indeed, new reasons
To order The Forecast Is Hot! click