Memphis Minnie's Blues Link






"The 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."
-Charles Fourier


common european octopus
Common European Octopus (O.vulgaris) (1/30)




The Forecast is Hot continued

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Undermining Patriarchy

Surrealism's 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 institutions—the State, patriotism, militarism, control, rules, the Church, piety, domesticity—sabotages 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.

In 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. . .

Most 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."


Against masculine arrogance and misogynist power-structures, surrealism prepares the way for an irreducibly radical equality. Poetry demands no less!

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Surrealism's Popular Accomplices

The 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 revolution—opened 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 myths—or counter-myths—of poetry and revolt.

Important, too, is the fact—hilariously refuting the puerile and reactionary ideology of "proletarian culture"—that the most outstanding working class artists and poets—such figures as Sam Rodia, S. P. Dinsmoor, Peetie Wheatstraw, Henry Darger, Covington Hall, T-Bone Slim and Memphis Minnie—almost invariably tend to be surrealist.

The wall separating poetry from the proletariat—a wall maintained by class rule and its elitist ideologies—is being broken down on both sides.

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Black Music Now and Forever!

In Black Music, especially—the whole glorious African-American music tradition from blues to bebop to Free Jazz and beyond—the 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 for living.

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