“I’d rather not talk about those damned mushrooms anymore, but, since we are talking about them, it’s necessary that you understand, Fléchambeau, that they have left the memory of a deadly but magnificent cohesion, being one of those species in which the individual is submerged in the mass, obedient to the instinct of the collective, to the specific mind, being only a cell in the bosom of an organism, living only for the multitude of which it is a part.”
-Maurice Renard, A Man Among the Microbes (tr. Brian Stableford)
We seek transformation of life at the molecular level.
One possible origin story for this issue might have been a semiconscious desire on the part of the editors to re-deploy on a different scale the animalcules of microsurrealist anticommunication as already practiced for example by Steven and Casi Cline, Megan Leach, through their international campaign of mini-zines and postcards. An anticommunication of a different scale, we say, but not a larger one—in fact it has always been the prerogative of the tiny to swarm. The success of this infestation has already evidenced a wide network of literal moments of disturbance, around the world, a simultaneous flea bite from a microbooklet.
The questionnaire on smallness, then, was intended to scratch this very delicate itch, and awaken at least a desire on the part of our respondents to look closely for a moment at the environment around them for previously unnoticed animalcules of interest and/or irritation. Judging from the responses, our point seems to have been proven: it’s not the relative size but the proximity that makes things small. Hence perhaps the surprising surrealist nontradition of gigantism, as compared with the many, many journeys taken alongside Alice: the Ernstian micropaintings, the reduction in poemsize and booksize (as compared to most others), and the many strange and portable objects and devices and irritants discovered over our almost-century of activity.
We find in the end that smallness as a quality connects itself with a few fundamental surrealist possibilities:
Observability—there is effort to be undertaken to see the microscopic, you could call it poetic commitment. We speculate and where we can, we observe. Our microscopes are of the finest SURACHROMATIC power, in the tradition of the mad micrographer, Achille Brachet. Our Test-Objects are indisputably bizarre and pareidoliac.
Collectibility—from the “Monsters in my Pocket” school of thought, it is apparent that not only are these little models objectively less difficult to hoard, but that their relative graspability makes them easier to arrange or rearrange in sequences that please and that harrow. Who can deny the dollhouse aspect of surrealism, which has always and still continues to contribute to its vitality? Collectability is the domain of the game, of playing and placing the prompts of radical make-believe.
Proximity—small things, as noted, are always “all around”. This is an entirely divorced sensation from the confrontation with the Big Object (oh, a mountain to conquer or a dinosaur to eat me!) The molecular things, on the other hand, are plentiful, and just as, if not more, scary. The Lovecraftian Old Ones could very well be microscopic. The ecological disaster of the world is likewise occurring at the molecular level of the metabolic, as McKenzie Wark says:
‘The Anthropocene is a series of metabolic rifts, where one molecule after another is extracted by labor and technique to make things for humans, but the waste products don’t return so that the cycle can renew itself.’
And yet the micronearbyness is also what tempts us, and what scares us, what halts us in our tracks from pursuing overarching and useless molar activities. What’s near is not apparent to the naked eye, therefore even more incredibly and awfully present.
Entity—smallness does not mean nothingness, or wireless, or digital. A long polemic against gadgets and technology could be inserted at this point. Capitalist innovation miniaturizes, yes, with a view to dematerialization. Suffice it to say that those small things we clamour for are so irresistible precisely because they still have bodies to play with.
Spontaneity—don’t flies generate spontaneously on meat? If not, they may as well, says the surrealist, for how ubiquitous are the possibilities of disproven hypotheses. Chances for shortcircuits increase dramatically. As Dr. Prologus says in A Man Among the Microbes: “A surprising phenomenon of spontaneous generation!”
Quantity—if these little fleas are actually demonic black holes, that doesn’t change the fact that there are innumerable ones to be captured.
All these lead to the core surrealist point—the abundant and unceasing availability of these entities to infect us and change our lives. The automatic whisperings are always still “in the air”, being ridden by who knows what horrible barely perceptible extremophile.
Too small to change the world? Some will accuse us of cheating, of disappearing out of sight and mind. A breach of the contract, a cowardly escape. These surrealists have gone too far underground, have simply vanished!
Ladies and Gentlmen of the Patriarchy, we have not disappeared. We are very tiny. We are a germ. A rare disease. We are called malignalitaloptereosis… and you caught us, Ladies and Gentlemen.
-The Mormyrids, June 2018