Jason Abdelhadi & Amber Craig

Surrealist Battleship


Surrealist Battleship takes back the potency and honour of naval warfare from the coastguards of Capital. We will destroy the sea on our own terms. If we must pollute, rather than garbage, acidification and oil spills we would fill the sea with the monstrous readymades of our desire. If there must be a navy, rather than border patrols we would launch a fleet of unfathomable, organic dreadnoughts. If there must be wreckage, rather than failed engineering and bourgeois trinkets we would salvage from the depths the jarring, the alien and the inexplicable.


2 or more players.

2 grids (10 x 10) (or, why not play on an aquatic cubomania?)

2 grids (10×10) to track opponent’s warships / desires.


Each player designates 5 objects as their battleships to be placed on the grids. These can be words, images, silhouettes, actual objects, dream objects, paranoiac objects, objectively offered objects etc. Best if they are physically or visually represented in some way on the grids.

Each player screens her grid from her opponent(s).

Manifest Goal:

The players take turns to discover, make love to, or sink the opponent’s warships by guessing their coordinates on the grid. To establish military/amorous relationship so important to naval confrontation, each player should secretly designate which of their dreadnought objects are firing each turn. If a player makes a hit, the opponent can reveal their object or, to lengthen the game, something about their object (an automatic or associative phrase, a piece of the object, a reference to the past…)

No object is revealed (either attacker or defender) until it is sunk. At the end of the game, boards and logs are compared and contrasted.

Latent Goal:

To reveal strange naval combinations and exquisite juxtapositions, to détourne an oceanic fleet into an exhibition of the marvelous.

Variations as fickle as the sea itself.

Player 1 Formation:

3 - Surrealist Battleship - Player 1 Grid_small

(I6) Afghan Hound
(H8) The Letter T
(4C) Stars and Swirls
(5G) Broken Chinese Cigarette Filter*
(8D) Unit of Four Eyes

*Player1 notes this object was much revered, and kept for a long time in a seashell shrine along with indigenous sage and a few other ceremonial objects, and that the subsequent power of this piece during the game was therefore no surprise.

Player 2 Formation:

3 - Surrealist Battleship - Player 2 Grid

(E7) The Sea-Chicken
(B8) The Giant Floating Vintage Issue of Scientific American
(H7) Lenin-at-Sea
(H4) Disembodied Wings
(2B) The Sea-Skull*

*This very Hamletian placement of a skull at “2B” went entirely unnoticed by Player 2 until after the game was over.

Gameplay Results – Annotated Captain’s Log:

Turn 1

Afghan Hound fires and misses!
Sea Chicken fires and misses!

Turn 2

Letter T fires and misses!
Giant Floating Vintage Issue of Scientific American fires and misses!

Turn 3

Star and Swirls fires and misses!
Lenin-at-Sea fires and hits Star and Swirls!

[First blood is drawn, the cold war is over / begins. The Marine Vladimir Ulyanov strikes at the primitive communist sea colony. Or are they American Agents?]

Turn 4

Broken Chinese Cigarette Filter fires and hits a Giant Floating Vintage Issue of Scientific American Magazine!

[Vengeance is swift. The good-luck filter lights the antique magazine on fire.]

Sea-Skull fires and misses!

Turn 5

Broken Chinese Cigarette Filter fires and sinks Lenin-at-Sea!

[Sino-Soviet split as a mating dance between battleships.]

Disembodied Wings fires and misses!

Turn 6

Unit of Four Eyes misses!
Sea-Chicken fires and sinks the Unit of Four Eyes!

[Revenge of the seafowl. A tactical maneuver worthy of Debord. Disrupt the enemy’s four-eyed periscope.]

Turn 7

Afghan Hound fires and hits Disembodied Wings!

[The Afghan Hound bites the Wings of the Sea.]

Sea-Skull fires and misses!

Turn 8

The Letter T fires and hits Sea-Skull!

[What is the allegory of T and the Skull? How does it relate to mortali…T?]

Sea-Chicken fires desperately and hits Broken Chinese Cigarette Filter!

Turns 9 – 14

[Here follows a dramatic Eisensteinian montage of shots and misses leading up to the final climax / sinking / orgasm.]

Letter T fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires and misses!

Afghan Hound fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires desperately and misses!

Afghan Hound fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires and misses!

Letter T fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires and misses!

Afghan Hound fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires and misses!

Letter T fires and misses!

Sea-Chicken fires and misses!

Turn 15

Afghan Hound fires and finally sinks the Sea-Chicken!


Winner winner chicken dinner…

A strange, Potemkin-like turn-based mating dance of garbage and nonsense on the surface of the sea.

The game-log reads like headlines from a bulletin dedicated to reporting the military deployments of dream objects.

Player 1’s figures were on the whole much more utopian and sea-like in their corporatist and communist architecture. The Stars and Swirls might have been an entire coral ecosystem in its myriad diversity and the four eyes might refer to the rigorous communist homogeneity of the madrepore. Certainly, on the “side of the sea” was Player 1. It is sad and entirely believable that these most delicate formations were among the first to perish in the naval confrontation. Nonetheless, Player 1’s more monstrous Kaijū-like defenders such as the Afghan Hound and the environmentally oriented Cigarette Filter provided the necessary attack power to win the day for the keepers of the deep.

Player 2’s figures were to some extent aquatic negations/submersions of the great land-based ideologies and structures of knowledge. A pollutionary, toxic mutantism. The Sea-Skull reveals in retrospect the ocean acidification that is currently eating away at the calcium bones of fish, the rise in water temperature that is bleaching the coral reefs, or the ice-anthrax recently unleashed from its slumber in Siberia due to global warming. The Giant Floating Vintage Issue of Scientific American is a dreadful manifestation of technical knowledge directly weaponized. The Disembodied Wings hint at a gnostic fear of the depths, and the avatar of the Bolshevik leader perhaps an unwillingness to go beyond the comfortable ideological “zones” of the land for the more exploratory regions of the deep Oceanic trenches and its immeasurable utopias. Sea-Chicken might have been a comic book hero from the 1940s.

Overall, the game was successful in eliciting powerful combinations and juxtapositions of objects, forcing hidden antagonisms and revealing surprising attractions. It was to some extent both erotic and humorous. Certainly there was a sort of instant DeChiricization of objects as soon as they were submerged or set-afloat. We noticed that an unsettling agonistic tension exists between the players, who wish to sink the ships of their enemy and yet at the same time yearn desperately for their own objects to be hit, so that they might exhibit them shamelessly to their rival. From a global perspective, perhaps the results will only fully reveal their signification in the future, and to that end, we will watch with eager attention the rise of the sea levels, their acidification, the melting of the ice-caps, the reaction of sea-life to human bullshit, and the many things that are sure to change our land-based lives sooner than later.