Game Played on the Night of October 12th, 2016 at St. John’s (King’s) Churchyard, 271 North Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island
Poe knew of this place, & is said to have wandered among its whispering willows during his visits here 90 years ago. Last August I shewed this place to two guests, & we all sat down on an altar-tomb & wrote rhymed acrostics on the name of Edgar Allan Poe… (Letter from H.P. Lovecraft to Frank Utpatel, 15 February 1937)
Finding myself in Providence, wandering on an October night through this very graveyard, I felt a ghostly compulsion to imitate the shades of Lovecraft, Poe and company by composing some acrostics in honour of the weird… In atmospheric mimicry or repetition of the original gesture; that is, in honour of Lovecraft’s ectoplasmic presence, who in turn made his gesture in honour of Poe etc. etc. all the way back to Nameless Horrors.
Like a cult from the Cthulhu Mythos, such cultivated repetition in an exclusively terroristic atmosphere is a kind of play that serves as the poetic source water for ritual, but in a much more ghoulish and comical way, replacing spiritual austerity with cosmic terror and black laughter.
That which surrealism seeks in cultivating atmosphere is an unnatural evental reduplication of a chance fixation of mood. “Atmosphere, says Lovecraft, repays cultivation; because it is the final criterion of convincingness or unconvincingness in any tale whose major appeal is to the imagination.”
That atmosphere is not the result of cultivation (cause and effect) but rather a cosmic recompense (payback, or a mood that pursues the one who beckons) leads one to believe that past fixations can communicate in much the same way as a graveyard “produces” ghosts – as Lovecraft states, through convincingness.
Pursuing this convincingness, then, I nestled myself among the mouldering headstones and tree roots, inhaled the gibbous moon, leered at the four-horned steeple, drew out my notepad and set about composing a similar sequence of acrostic verse on the two great New England patriarchs of the weird and the macabre. These I jotted down in semi-panic and with near-automatic speed, with no revision after the fact, and in an eerie half-light hardly conducive to comforting thoughts.
Rhymed Graveyard Acrostic on the Name of H.P. Lovecraft
Hirsute the jolly fellow came
Preposterous lout with teeth insane
Lover of demons dressed to kill
Open at heart with bitter krill
Vexatious boor with body goals
Enter my heart and pierce my shoals
Caress the brass beneath my eye
Reverse the prospect of a lie
After the fest awake my knee
For gibbous moons and all too see
Trees, ganders, triumph and a cup
Automatic Acrostics on the Names of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe
Night passes and I wake from an imageless slumber. I push myself out from my dark water cocoon and jerkily climb up the side of the Sacred Cenote, up towards the sun and its warmth. My worm-like body leaves behind a sticky sweet residue, and I sense each new step through the six slits of my face, these parallel cuts assigned to diverse range of sensory organs. She is near – her hide like leather and salmon, insides white and glowing. I pass the mouth of the Cenote and slide into the forest. She lets out a low vibrating hum, letting me know she is ready. Triggered by this hum my body begins to secret a textured red honey from my facial slits. We touch under the decaying vegetation and begin to affix our massive prehensile bodies to each other. Her core bright and pulsating, spinning rapidly as our dark liquids seep into each others heated flesh. Far beneath her third tail a small patch of hair waits, grows and retracts itself moment by moment. The circular flap near my stomach opens up and my euclidian organs ooze out onto the forest floor. Her hair stems grow bigger than ever before, wrapping themselves around my deposited innards and pressing them until they burst. From inside little tumble bugs scurry out and run for the treetops, trailing blackish smells. With my waning strength I pull myself into the folds of her shell and drop the rest of my deflated body onto her center. Poisoned fluids now dripping from us both eat our bodies and thoughts. We drift silently into death.
As the days pass our decomposing bodies will combine, one sweetly putrid flesh with no differentiation. At the center of this mound two eggs will form, nebulous siblings predetermined to repeat the cycle once more.
Surrealist game in solidarity with the indigenous protectors and their allies at Standing Rock Sioux who are refusing the imposition of an environmentally catastrophic pipeline across their land. http://sacredstonecamp.org/
1. Instead of being built across Sioux land, where should the pipeline be rerouted?
2. Instead of oil, what should be pumped through the pipeline?
3. If there’s a spill, what effect will it have on the environment?
1. It should be systematically rerouted to pass through every car dealership in North America.
2. It should pump scorpions.
3. If there’s a spill, shareholders and salesmen will be forced to pick out the scorpions as best they can from the showroom floor, but the glove compartments of all new cars will nonetheless become a deadly wager to open.
1. It should be rerouted into the beak of a large orange and teal 20-tentacled, teleporting cephalopod visiting from a neighboring galaxy.
2. It should contain all manner of germs, viruses, and infections, of which Archidines (that is her name) is very fond.
3. It will not have a chance to leak because Archidines is a fast eater. After she is done, the pipeline will be segmented and reused as sleeping holes for Archidines’ many offspring.
It should be rerouted to power a vast phallic fountain spurting limestone-rich hard water irregularly but continuously over the faces at Mount Rushmore until these are totally obliterated by stalactites and stalagmites. The effects on the environment will be positive on numerous levels.
1. It shouldn’t be built at all. Instead, even its mental representation/project/whole concept should be completely dismantled and destroyed. After the demise of this projectual epidemy, a vacuum cleaner should be employed to clear the minds of remnant shite. Architects and engineers are to be lined up to smoke a calumet pipe, write a pipe song, and put pipe rigate in their pipes and eat ’em together with the protesters. In other words, it may be pipe but ceci-n’est-pas-un-pipeline.
2. Nothing, because it shalt not bee built and woe betide you guys if it is.
3. No spill, no side effects, no pipeline, no political or polluting crap whatsoever.
It should be re-routed through Donald Trump.
1. It should miniaturized and rerouted through the head of Ostrich, which will somehow boost its mental capacity
2. Orange Molasses
3. It will have the effect of choking to death all humans above a certain income bracket, the exact number to be chosen by Ostrich. Those under a certain income bracket will be able to transmute the molasses into sweet and feathery air.
1. The pipeline will be rerouted to an infinitely expanding Ouroboros at the bottom of a granite filled oxbow lake.
2. The previous contents will be reversed.
3. Rubber faced moguls will be manipulated into a type of putty to fill in the gaps.
1. It should be rerouted and aligned in the deep ocean until it reaches the centered crater in the great red hall of lost city of Atlantis. It will then turn into a curvy extension heading downwards to Agartha (the core of Earth).
2.The tail end of the pipeline will emerge through the Arctic pumping a spectacle of a two direction fountain of swirly fire and furrow ice drawn from Agartha that eliminate each other.
3. While the fire and ice are peculiarly safe, the fumes from a spill would be an immense misfortune to whomever inhales them as all living creatures would turn into a crystallized rock and will forever be forsaken.
ARIES HOROSCOPE: (As translated from Japanese)
AGAIN BE AWARE
Keep your fingertips, dear Aries. Keep your spirit so that it will find this spot in the soup, vacuum the water cooler tellin’ jokes and so become rather irritated by everyone else; concentrate on a roll, and exercise a little patience, who knows what comes of your fingertips, dear Aries.
So that you are on time and if nothing else, getting everything done, but you might be aware that you take a turn at your own work. You’ll be aware that can happen, right? A lot of energy coming from your own work. You’ll be distracted and exercise a little patience; Who knows what comes if your eyes open for new kinds of gold in and of itself, but you might be the pot of tedious paperwork.
It’s probably waiting on your desk for you, and it’s also irritated by getting everything done, but you don’t worry about everyone else; concentrate on a little patience, who knows?
A roll is tasty. Tend to the carpet and if nothing else, you will strengthen your fingertips, dear Aries.
They will find opportunities for you, and you’ll only be more prepared for achievement at these fortuitous junctions: you take a beating.
Not because other people are more prepared for new kinds of energy coming from your eyes. Adversity will come later on. Or stir the road again lest it soften. Be aware that you’re getting upset with yourself. Vacuum the road again. Be thorough.
It’s of note that today the monster is accruing yet more status in the shared mythos of rebellion. As before, it retains the honorable title of destroyer of men and cities, and also its long history as a collectible, destined for some hellish cabinet. Yet it has come to reveal another counterfactual power against the paucity of reality. The monster today is quantum; no longer simply of the past, nor solely the threatening the destinies of the future, the monster is today both virtual and optative. We will it to have been.
The present-yet-occulted-character of today’s monster allows it to serve as a cipher for revolt. It explodes narratives from the inside. History is now open for retroactive terror and haunting. Embedding itself like missing arche-fossils in the timelines of evolutionary biology, or posing as a digital goblin layered on top of the everyday, the monster lives by altering space and time, play and collectivity, strict chronology and what might have been. Though less realistic than ever, its role is not superfluous, but rather surfluous.
I refer to surfluity as opposed to superfluity in the same spirit of conciliation between opposing forces that has been a priority for Surrealism since the Second Manifesto. We are using or being used by monsters to alter the “unalterable” against the run of everyday business, that Mothra of the Stock Exchange.
Of the recent popularity of monstrous mobile games and their power for “mobilization”, we can only harrow the commodification of yet another source of fear wonder. Commodification and spectacularization are even grown repetitive in their scandal. Acting at the service of the monstrous, we can do much better than that.
For surrealism, still, the Kaīju have their uses. The world can be monsterized, which is just a sub-branch of surrealization as a whole. The Golem of Prague guards our ghetto from nationalist thugs and art dealers.
For one, it’s important to point out the project of the Surrealist Bestiary has been undertaken seriously in Stockholm. We also note certain essays on Icecrawler/Heelwalker that look favourably upon the surrealists as a kind of X-Men or Superhero group.
And now, from the outside, we’ve got something really peculiar… A documentary tale about Surrealism from China Miéville, The Last of the Days of New Paris, (and the appended Bestiary of Manifs).
We can recognize in this “novella” (a designation that always irks) something long thought extinct: a true popular friend of surrealism, and not our typical overeager gravedigger. Certainly, like his pulp forbears, a popular accomplice. Using the simple plot devices of weird/dystopian/alternative fiction, Miéville imposes on the traumatic wartime experiences of 1940s Surrealism a B-Movie magic device that turns surrealist art, objects, exquisite corpses into actual living monsters – better, weapons of class war. And yet at the same time, lovable objects that drive a real mania for collecting:
“I’m not leaving until I catch them all.”
But perhaps a little more. With this book we might feel like Don Talayesva must have when he discovered the secrets of the Kachinas on display at the Field Museum: the mysteries are all there on display! At any rate, we have in this text an external but certainly sympathetic and well-researched commentary on Surrealism in History. This is evidenced in good faith by his afterword. Using the gothic device of a secret informer (which is not to say this informer is not real), he lists at least some excellent sources, unusually well chosen, and nearly all by active surrealists or their sympathizers.
His monsters, the “manifs” are referred to as “living art”. As if surrealism sought anything different than to abolish the the gap between those two words. But they are more than they seem. These monsterized objects or objectified monsters are systematically drawn by Miéville from the gallery of surrealism’s all-too-rarefied past. If the catalogues of museums could be loaded with death-dealing power… A nice thought… At any rate, his manif index at the end is quite an interesting addendum to what Mattias Forshage is doing in his Surrealist Bestiary.
The alternative history depicts surrealists struggling with a mutant Second World War that for the population of the 20 arrondissements of Paris never ended. We meet a truly surrealist Resistance in the novelized Main à plume group, who practice a kind of automatist, pure psychic warfare. Automatic shooting! As Miéville hints with perfect umor, it was already inherent in the “simplest surrealist act” of the Second Manifesto. Although we find a moments of that goofy, Buñuel style surrealism that Icecrawler has called a “cul de sac”, and all too common a style in popular fantasy/sci-fi, perhaps it is put to a theoretical deployment. Guy Debord didn’t mind a potboiler about situationism and encouraged Michèle Berstein to write one. Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much either. But Breton’s disdainful attitude towards fantasy should mostly hold good here – we always deal with fantasy and fiction from the side, as it were, and as exceptions, never as genre. What we are looking for is evidence of the marvellous anywhere, even, on occasion, in convention.
I am struck by the depiction of the artifact hunters who crawl the rubble to collect and sell surrealist objects as if they were loot. Aren’t these everywhere, still? Perhaps even more significantly, we see “surreal” imagery stolen from and turned against the surrealists themseves. Nazis summon a pack of Brauner’s wolf tables to attack the fighters of Main à plume. The world China invokes is surfluous. It has been since the 50s, and not metaphorically. The term “manifs” might equally serve as a synonym for banal creatures called advertisement, media, and now, meme, which feed upon the discarded husks of surrealism.
Still, it is admirable to see how well Miéville actualizes his material. He invigorates the propositions in the old ASDLR article On Certain Possibilities of the Irrational Embellishment of the City (ASDLR no. 6, 1933), for instance, with the complex dystopian overtones of a latter-day superhero movie. The Arc de Triomphe becomes a giant pissoir. Sacré Coeur is defaced in a way outlined by Breton and presaged again in by astrological text L’An 2016 from the Paris Group of the Surrealist Movment. For Miéville the surrealist mythology becomes rarified; a comic book of itself. It is refreshing that someone takes surrealism for once – instead of metaphorically, analogically, artistically, existentially, or therapeutically – literally.
Incidentally, I hope popular storytelling gets over its fetishization of the 20th century, that a trope among the new generation of tv serials, where speculation and historical cosplay go hand-in-hand with banalization. We might as well cite here, besides shows like Mad Men, the recent spate of Woody Allen films, beginning with Midnight in Paris and even his latest Café Society.
The historical Surrealists made (and still make) for very good pulp characters. There might even be something to be said for the value of a science fictionalized re-imagining of what a surrealist revolution could entail. And this work could not have been done by an actual Surrealist – although some of the storytelling in Pas Un Cadavre comes close. I might cite my own Kaiju-ization of the Breton/Ehrenburg spate, and Guy Girard’s Breton in China, which even explicitly cites Phillip K. Dick’s speculative sci-fi methodology.
But does this novelization obscure the living movement? Miéville’s Afterword, I think, merely hints at its existence, its occultation. Perhaps the most charming part of the novel is the slow realization of Parsons, occultist engineer, who meets Breton and the surrealists waiting at Marseille in 1941 before their great exile. He is initially convinced he is dealing with artists and fops. But soon…
“Jack listened to French night birds. Here he was in the moonlight with a battery full of distillate, of this overlapping thing, this Surrealism. That was a freedom right there.
Parsons knew how to take a substance, render it, burn it and use it.
What can I power with this? he thought.”
Why, must you…