Fil à fil

[ Excerpt of La Civilisation Surréaliste by Vincent Bounoure – Payot 1976 – Pages 51 to 54 ]

As never, we are without doctrine, without “fundamental data”; the moment to come is to be made out of nowhere ; at the limit, everything is possible to who has nothing to lose, nothing but its own decay. We do not know any vacation. How could we insert white days into a vigilance that is no less constitutive of our morality than the “morality of sleep” mentioned by Eluard? But in the absence of imperishable truths, we have a constant method, as is evident from our present approach, as soon as it is related to Breton’s assertion: “It is common knowledge nowadays that Surrealism, as an organized movement, originated in a large-scale operation dealing with language “(1), or compared to that defined in 1929 by the Second Manifesto:” The problem of social action is, I would like to come back to it and I insist on it, only one of the forms of a general problem which surrealism has undertaken to raise, and which is the problem of human expression in all its forms. Who says expression says, as a start, language. It should not be surprising, then, to see surrealism settle first and foremost only in terms of language and, not more, when coming back from some incursion, to come back to language as if it were for the pleasure to behave in conquered country. Nothing, indeed, can prevent that, for a large part, this country is conquered”.  We go so far as to claim that every history, every social fact, every gesture of the daily life, responds in some way, to the subterranean necessities whose nature is revealed by  language. Starting from the exercise of the collective forms of automatic speech, we believe it is necessary to reinterpret any activity that escapes the limits of the individual, because of the presence of interlocutors, partners, collective bodies, in front of which expression is spreading, in order to be answered. We argue that the authentic practice of social life is, for the most part, dependent on the proper use of the powers that are revealed in the collective exercise of automatic writing.

In the aftermath of the “Prague Spring”, which brought the Parisian surrealists to meet their Czechoslovak comrades on the occasion of the exhibition “The Principle of Pleasure”, a collective declaration, known as the Prague Platform, was published in a special issue of the Archibras magazine, dated 30 September 1968, published as soon as possible after the invasion of 21 August. One can read, among other reflections on the degradation of the content of language, that “the role of surrealism is to tear off language from the system of repression and make it an instrument of desire. In this sense, we added, what happens for the surrealist art has no other object than to free the words, and more precisely the signs, of the codes of utility or entertainment, to give them back their destination as revealers of  the subjective reality and of the essential intersubjectivity of desire reflected in the public mind”. A first attempt at deepening echoed  to this concern , in a declaration adopted by our Czechoslovakian friends (The Possible against the Real): “One of the great merits of surrealism has been, in agreement with all the post-impressionist evolution of art, to dispel the illusion of keeping the cultural context, whether national or international, as unique and homogeneous, whereas it is actually profoundly differentiated, and while this differentiation stands at the very heart of its evolution. The same is of course true of language, and it would be easy to prove that, in the same linguistic environment, there is not one  single language but several distinct languages, which do not communicate with each other anymore, beyond the elementary practice of everyday language. The particular linguistic systems, whose semiotics develop more or less in a closed environment, depend on the differentiation of the cultural context into several distinct ideologies, relatively independent of each other. This is the reason why intellectual and artistic activity within a “cultural and linguistic ensemble”, wrongly  presumed homogeneous, much more than a dialogue between people speaking the same language, evokes a series of monologues spoken in foreign languages. by people who would never meet, even to oppose each other, and only in very marginal areas. This is the conclusion that it is now up to us to actualize: “To give words and signs back to their purpose , which consists in revealing the subjective and intersubjective reality, the very substance of desire as it is reflected in the mind, is hence only possible within a given ideological context, a context that this very operation tends to raise to a higher level of intelligibility”.

Were we not dimly aware of the uncertainty of speculations that no experience tends to verify? The fact is that the game of the Parallel Stories, where we threw ourselves in the summer of 1970, out of pure propensity for the lightest entertainment, assured us,  a few months away, of collecting an abundant material that we had then only to test. Until that moment, automatic writing had only been attempted behind drawn curtains, in a loneliness that was generating failures which Breton advised to remedy by the use of the letter L, which alone was capable in most cases of relaunch the inner dictation. To such a recipe, we substituted an automatic and periodic troubleshooting of these failures based mutual help and reciprocal obligation. It was enough for the players, on the one hand to all be willing to openly  engage in automatic writing, and on the other hand to agree their written speech to be deviated by the incorporation of words spoken aloud by each one of them in turn. The uttering periodicity of these milestones varies from twenty seconds to one minute.

From the extremely personal use that each one made of these mandatory milestones, it was easy for us to go back to Jarry’s precept: “to make a crossroads of all words in the road of sentences, ” (2). Yes, crossroads traversed together by walkers whose schedule successively  gathered in the notorious places of the poetic city, that some hurriedly traveled, others astray, or strolling without much delay: the next rendez-vous has just been announced. The first observation that we could make concerned the role of these crossroads-words, of these public places, that we could see playing with all the richness of their polysemy so that to make steps along independent routes, by integrating within stories of extremely different tones . In the conditions of the experiment, that we renewed on countless occasions, the automatic dictation is transcribed in personal terms where the writer’s claw is easily recognized, in spite of the obligation to pass through phonetically identical crossroads : their meaning for the essential,  result of the context. It was then incumbent on us to put the word back in its place, in other words to restore its proper potentiality within the space of open meanings. 



(1) Du surréalisme en ses oeuvres vives, in les Manifestes du surréalisme. Paris, Le Sagittaire, 1955.

(2) Les Minutes de sable mémorial. Alfred Jarry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by
%d bloggers like this: