Parisian surrealist Michel Zimbacca’s first solo exhibition will be taking place soon in Paris:
Paintings, collages, drawings, objects
October 14th-28th 2017
Vernissage on the 14th, from 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Closing Event on the 18th, 8:00 p.m. (poetry readings and films)
L’USINE 102 BOULEVARD DE LA VILLETTE 75019 PARIS
Tel : 01 42 00 40 48 / Site : usine102.fr
The closing evening will be accompanied by a screening of Michel’s films. A collection of his poems, illustrated with with a number of his drawings is forthcoming from Sonambula editions (Montreal) and will be on sale at the gallery.
And for those of us who can’t make it in person, there is a Youtube upload of Michel’s film Ni d’Eve ni D’Adam (1969) with a cameo from Jean Benoît!
One night as I was drifting off to sleep, the idea occurred to me that, just like a film, the start of a dream might also be preceded by a sort of copyright infringement warning:
WARNING: The unauthorized repression or alteration of this dream is illegal. Criminal subconscious infringement, including infringement that results in monetary gain, censorship of traumatic details, exclusion of unsavoury personalities and situations, or other forms of mis-remembering are investigated by the Oneiric Bureau of Investigation (OBI) and are punishable by up to five years in Dream Jail (where the only erotic thing you are allowed to dream about is flipping through an old Ikea catalogue), and a fine of 250,000 oneirodinars.
In the creepiest corner of the commodity market, among the cheapest and most embarrassing DREGS of garage sales and bargain bins and used-book stores, a new spirit is forming from the misshapen, the forgotten, the uncanny leftovers of the literary. HAGSTONE REVIEWS seek to unearth these eso-erotic atavisms for the world at large, in the inimitable and mysterious Mormyrid manner! Do you dare answer the phone for:
Rings A Bell, by Angela Griffiths (Hutchinson & Co, 1985)
Keywords: Devices, erotics, eccentrics, miscommunication, rebellion, slapstick, prize porkers
Of interest to: shut-ins, obsessive antiquarians, phone scammers, voyeurs, technophiles from the age of Verne, sex workers, sketch comedians
Lest we forget that devices too have their devices—
Conspiratorial phone booths. Disembodied ears and tongues. Organs without bodies. Feet lusting after powder. Organizations of ambiguous function. Poisoned wedding cakes. A glowing cloud of voices that whisper temptations into the ears of the local sky… Hold the line….
I was initially attuned to the surrealist potential of phone literature after reading Franklin Rosemont’s Wrong Numbers (Black Swan Press, 2002), in which the phenomena, philosophy, erotics and poetry of the telephone are expounded at great length and with much to commend them. In that book, Rosemont points out a few examples of popular romance and children’s literature in which the telephone plays a highly charged role—a conduit, in some cases, to a new amorous world.* It was with such hope and no context that I purchased an gnarly old $1 volume at the used book store in the basement of the Ottawa Public Library.
Rings A Bell brings together three short dramatic pieces that center on the use of a telephone in an undisclosed village, presumably in Britain, but then again, perhaps some kind of parallel cartoon universe or utopian socialist community of the far-flung future. The book’s exact genre is hard to discern from the 1980s functionalist design. Forlorn digits seem to indicate whole set of missing companion volumes. A few hints suggest that the volume fits into the enticingly pleonastic category of “literacy literature” (whatever that could mean). The entire series is edited by a mysterious entity known only as “Wendy Body” (Oh anybody? Where’s the body?) In short, there is every reason to believe that this is a set of secret coded training guides for trans-dimensional invaders.
Gertrude: Do you mind! I am making a very important phone call! It could very well change the course of my entire life!
In the title piece, Rings A Bell, we encounter a character who could have walked straight out of Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet. Gertrude Clump, armed with a folding chair, a stack of cigarettes and a pile of coins, marches into the village phone box one sunny Saturday afternoon. There, she has a lovely time speaking to Boris, of the shadowy Blue Lagoon Friendship Club. This occupation results in an effective communications blockade of the entire town. As any reader of Edward Lear knows, eccentric individual behavior in public will always attract the rebukes and scorn of “They”. I can happily report that despite the pressure of the townsfolk, who with a miserabilist ardour for the ordinary are not long in sabotaging Comrade Clump, she does not surrender. Her irrational re-appropriation of the town’s seemingly sole method of communication to the outside world—a tactic worthy of any situationist Frondeur—seems to disrupt the everyday life of the village at its most traumatic point.
Clump remains on the phone, doggedly pursuing her useless conversation and ceding nothing in regards to her unbridled desire to kibitz, until a reactionary local traps her by wrapping the phone cables around the phone booth. Nevertheless, during the occupational situation, she inadvertently spawns an erotic cue of people brought together by the forces of objective chance: Emma and Charles, parallel victims of jilted love and occupied phonespace, encounter each other and couple off in a pairing worthy of a narrative by Breton—a child with a lollipop inexplicably lodged in its ear is spared the disaster of medical reprisal—two lonely older eccentrics arrange a dinner—and all this under the auspices of a mysterious substance known only as “Foskins Fancy Foot Powder”.
Emma: Poor Boris was driven mad in the hot weather. He used to sit with his feet in the fridge and read the label on the tin. ‘Take the fire out of your feet with Foskins Fancy Powder,’ he’d say. It seemed to help him, saying it out loud like that.
The second play, Crossed Wires, is notable for an exciting telephonic miscommunication. The word is “wigs”, as requested by Queenie, a local thespian and something of an anti-police activist. A game of telephone is played through quite literally, including a healthy round of cop taunting, which, by means of alchemy of the verb sees the request mutate from wigs, to figs, to jigs, until the denouement finds Queenie surrounded by a horde of ravenous pigs. The staging is silent on this point but we know how hungry pigs can get. As the disgruntled farmer says, “Pigs aren’t easy on strange ground.”
Ginger: It’ll have to be prize porkers. How many does she want?
The last piece, Problem Line, depicts a local call-in radio hotline. The topic: the patriarcho-industral complex of weddings. But while radio host Rick Shaw and hymeneal propagandist Bella Bliss attempt to give their trite hetero-normative advice they are subverted by situationist-cum-bridal store owner Mr. Flint. The latter advises things like poisoning the wedding party by means of a cake filled with chicken medicine, or the appropriateness of a nuptial vehicle with a trunk full of fertilizer. “It’s just not done!” scream the chorus frustrated foils of bourgeois respectability. At the climax, he even incites a jilted bride’s mother to literally horse-whip her escaped ex-son-in-law:
Lady Portly: So, do you agree that I should track down this scoundrel and take my horse-whip to him?
Bella: No don’t.
Rick Shaw: [Alarmed] Please don’t!
Mr Flint: Just follow your instincts, Lady P.
These three plays form a twisted macromelodrama of eroticism, popular revolt, surrealist subversion, and black humour. In all, I can heartily recommend the Rings A Bell trilogy as the best Ring Cycle in town. I can only hope some daring dramaturge will take up the challenge of this lost classic and give it the staging it deserves. Five out of seven hagstones.
I’ll leave you with some enticing summaries of other volumes in this series, which I look forward to encountering in a basement or yard sale someday in the far flung future:
The Council are coming to cut down gran’s favourite tree but Gran has plans of her own. To Charlie’s horror, she climbs into the tree and refuses to come down until the Council change their plan. Charlie tells the story of Gran’s heroic battle for her tree.
Long Gone Lil
At the safari park, all the keepers have taken the day off to go to a big local wedding. Ted is left in charge of Lil, a beautiful, rare giraffe with a sense of humour. Lil gives him the slip and leads him a dance all over the local countryside, until he finally catches up with her somewhere he would rather not be.
-Reviewed by ‘Agstone ‘Arry
*Tangentially, another interesting treatment of the phone as a mechanism for disembodiment can be found in Au telephone (1901), by the great Grand Guignol playwright André de Lorde. Here, a family murder is overheard by a distant father whose impotence to intervene—really reminds one of phone sex—whatever that is…
Made during the Solar eclipse of Aug 21, 2017
Syringes / 66
Broken Necks / 350
Turbines / 3
Trombones / 1134247
Maniacs / 778
Chess / 0995
In the fangs of a triumphant butterknife the grossest mature mantis bungles a puritan aunt. Aspire to free sacks of tea.
Intravenous armaments / 723
Breasts / 2
A hurling banana / 8
SOUTH CAROLINA BORDER
A well slowly fills with the deep black ooze. Drifting upwards is the severed head of the giraffe of solitude. Look there — inside the eyes — the millipedes swarm indignantly. A cold sharp echo retreats. His silver mouth opens:
“Accordian screams settle gently in the night.”
The surrounding plants split in two. A fortune cookie swims out from inside the old giraffe’s ear. You crack it open and read:
“The growth will end on monday.”
Shivering, you begin to swim.
A new tree is born, a tree which grows down into the ground. Its little roots kick in the air shamefully. Cover it up! A new pair of trousers is being made specifically for this purpose. No perversion or nudity in this lane of traffic, please.
The ground wants to reach you but the sky is exempt.
A bridge along the path of ants opens…
Yes, the kingdom of the bugs is the place where the kind eclipse will reign!
If you stare hard enough the tendrils of your body will break
And the sponge will awaken.
Your time has come.
Bird clumps eat bread brains.
Jeet Kun Plop
Finger has it
The last daze of wildfire
Hidden in the shadow of smoke
The nudist caravan flies through inner spaces
Of meteor showers and talking cats
Your body is just a passing breeze
Caught up in a flag
Like the dire obfuscation
Of a metallic ostrich
The neck bones of circumstance
Hyenas in Ladd’s Addition
Sun eaten by the moon
Behind the face of screaming grasshoppers
Your ship of sound poetry
Is a sled
To cross the world on a dare
To cry out like rain
It’s a haunted scene
On the vertebrae of an eclipse
Pink kingpins whisper slush fund secrets
To the numinous world
Jammed inside a wind-chime
Like your slippery monster hair
Of puffins and ants
The far horizon slipped into my socks
Its anti-gravity foam
Is bursting from your skull underwear
SC: Mattias Forshage mentioned Pogo and the Okefenokee in an email, which set me off on a Pogo hunt, feeling something needed exploring down there in a vague sort of way. We only had time for a quick stop, and went to the more touristy entrance on the north. An interesting desolateness, still, and a weird little Pogo section too, old and past its prime. A Walt Kelly mannequin stuck behind glass drawing one strip in an infinite loop. We also spotted Pogo painted under a bridge and on a water tower in Waycross. Later driving home we came across a town called “Enigma”, which I felt compelled to detour into. Amusing seeing the signs leading up to it too… “20 Miles to Enigma”, “10 Miles to Enigma”, “Enigma City Limits”…. Very small downtown, and empty too.
JA: Unaware of any of the previous discussions around Pogo or the trip to Okefenokee, I had the following dream on June 5, 2017. That day I also created the accompanying image. However, I did not think to share it with Steven or Mattias until after I saw Steven and Casi’s images from their trip, a month later, when we discovered this curious enigma of conjoined Pogos.
JA’s Dream of June 5, 2017
Mattias Forshage puts out a zine called CCANADADA REVIEW which claims on the cover that it is a continuation of investigations started by the Prague surrealist group but also derived from some interesting people he met and games played at a Canadian comic convention. The subtitle contains a logo of a black reversed Canada flag just like the “Fuck the 150th Canada” logo. The cover is bright green. The content is exclusively related to cartoons and comic stuff. On the back page, there is a full page homage to a monster he claims appears in Walt Kelly’s Pogo: a giant goofy looking two headed turtle monster called OGOPOGO* who very much looks like a creature drawn in the Walt Kelly style. It has the body of a turtle, two cartoon crocodile heads and four arms. Basically a mashup of Albert Alligator, Churchy LaFemme and King Koopa. It is doing a sort of sumo shiko stomp. The homage page contains images of the monster as well as an article describing its qualities favourable to surrealism: its rage, magic abilities, strangeness, unpredictability etc.
There is also a handwritten note on green paper in one of the pages of the magazine which I cannot read. I am trying to read this while walking simultaneously with AC towards the War Memorial and eat a plantain, but she distracts me with something.
*Note: Ogopogo has been a recurring word and running inside joke in many of SC’s surrealist mail to me.
MF to JA: When I was trying to remember anything connected with the suggestive phrase Ccanadada I heard music in my head. Someone is singing “Floridada, floridada”, the same basic pun. It’s the title song of last year’s Animal Collective album, which the random shuffle generator on my music player clearly likes and has chosen to play for me five times in the few weeks since I imported the record (which is really a lot with a big library), after having purchased it in London, and in your company, if you remember the record which I asked for your bespectacled vision to check in the shop twilight whether the minute dull-pink print on the cream sleeve actually confirmed that it was last year’s album; this would have been a week after your dream. Animal Collective connects with Pogo and his friends, and Steven was asking me whether there was any place I could recommend from my time in Florida when I kept going on about Pogo instead.