Harvesting Nightshade

A harrowing harvest; maybe surrealists today are driven more than ever to the violent and useless curation of obscurities. Nocturnal objects, yes, and, games, crimes, and songs, and creatures; perhaps even more importantly, the very real gathering together, in corners and off-hours, of committed obfuscators. Some will be asleep and dreaming of The New Day. But for those insomniacs who can’t sit still, Old Night remains, simultaneously a path in the woods and a chronic malaise. We must continually prod each other to circulate together, physically, wherever and whenever we are not supposed to. It is not in minutes spent that we count the nights, but, star by star, tooth by tooth, in the grin of an unknown constellation, where some people still have the hope of running into each other in the pitch darkness – and recognizing, in the indiscernible black splotch of an encounter…What, themselves? Brave anonymous ballerinas who wear lampshades on their heads, and dance crazily in the moonlight, off of cliffs, into jagged rocks – lip-synching the words to Hegel’s “Night Where All Cows Are Black”, and laughing like idiots.

Or so we tell ourselves. Let’s face it, the Night is no longer what it was. There are too many active vampires. Everything that was ours is being taken from us. Our specialties, our magic-lantern shows, our humor. Even our cruelty. Every act we hope to commit against the sunshine makers is eventually rebranded. Our creations obviously, but even our diseases, our stupid deaths, our botched suicides1 can be used as a part of a “personal brand”. Our resistance is heretofore only ever ephemeral. A “shot in the dark”. Against the grim fate of being smothered by our own statistical doppelgängers, what choice do we have but to be as rigorously close to the true meaning of the darkness as possible (a darkness so stern and cold that it cannot be sold by or to anybody, cannot be calculated, but only gifted).

Anonymity: is there anything more heart-warming than so many contributors with so little aliases? So many easy repudiations of individualism, and such a high degree of confidence in the blurry nocturnal egregore of tomorrow evening. These are no longer people, they are willing limbs. In a journal that has heretofore been, however unintentionally, more or less conducive to the promotion of individual egos, we feel we have done ourselves a good turn by abandoning them for a moment, starting with ourselves.

So then, what happens when so many depersonalized entities send in their membership cards? So many puzzle pieces, each from a different set. Statistically speaking, how many do we need to pile together in order to find a chance connection, a short-circuit that will reveal that ever elusive New Thing? What methodology can serve? Systematic attempts under laboratory lights will result only in the banalities of the possible. It is the Night alone, that strange combination of exteriority and darkness, that gives us the proper conditions for marrying the fragments.

It is in the context of this wedding that we see the Moon’s role. Alchemical and erotic, in the Night of obscurity that we so love, the Moon is our guide to a new kind of self-exposure, not promoted by egoism but by chance, obsession, and moreover, by the weather. If the stars are right and the sky is clear (and this is never guaranteed), a temptation. We strip ourselves in its presence, we enjoy the novelty of our own shadows in the night, and we couple, triple, quadruple… Pretty soon, ergregorgies. Because it is an occasion, and a ceremony, and a representation of itself, the Moon is, on par with that of Rosenkreuz, a already kind of surrealist marriage.

But night exists indoors as well, perhaps more than ever in history. It is in the brains of obsessive vampires who stay up all night staring into candles with dead eyes. In a very curious way, the night has migrated from the outside world. What is collectivity, for this nocturnal indoors? Maybe it is a dead mall, something from the 70s, where disenfranchised and unemployed, tortured and oppressed weirdos sometimes gather near a defunct wishing fountain. They haven’t done anything yet, the manikins, they just gather. It’s their silence and their presence, or perhaps their passive absence, that makes us wonder if the creatures we have compiled and pointed to in this issue, so far from our normal everyday selves, might be outlines for the new personas of the surrealist future.

No names for the police, at any rate, and consequently, a happy time for nightly crime! Our nocturne is perhaps more cheerful than some might think. In a world where the capitalist class has reverted to a 19th century bravado, and with a sickening confidence in itself and its divine right to exploitation, it is quite easy to steal in the night with a happy conscience. We can only think with a smile of Alexandre Jacob and friends, who at the turn of the century made a scientific experiment out of robbery. The French press dubbed them the “workers of the night”. Such easy disparities can only portend a massive act of cynicism, and perhaps another cosmetic half-century of world-order shuffling for the next 20 or so years. A big war, a complicated one. Yet if we are surrealists once again predicting a massive war (it’s in the air), we are also surrealists encouraging an accompanying renaissance of night-time destruction, creative vandalism, theft on par with the derring-do of the pre-War anarchists of the Belle Époque – wherever and however possible – and with a ghastly lunar grin!

Surrealism’s night is the night of an empty template, waiting to be filled. In the coming disaster, we will have opportunities. We could start to think about promoting a rigorous society of the night manikins, if we haven’t been doing so already. All our hopes might very well lay in setting out a new constitution for a network of such night-gangs. A content-less gang with no structure and no racket. A leisure club with no ulterior motive besides talking in the dark.

If you’re interested, send us a sign…

The Mormyrids, December 2017.

1 In fact such an (ultimately non-fatal) attempt occurred a few hours after this text was completed, in the social media circles of one of the editors. It has all become part of the online “profile”. One wonders if such very affecting and striking acts of self-desperation will soon be incorporated into resumes, CVs, and job applications?