Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 06, 2007


Klidonas, the magazine of the Athens Surrealist Group, provides the clearest, to date, outline of an activity that has so far unfurled for well over two years, yet whose roots lie deeper still. The founding of both the group and the magazine originates in the need felt by certain individuals, at a given point in time and space, to transform their subjective desires into collective adventures and risks, as well as to communicate their formative principles, experiences and perspectives
In a country like Greece, where surrealism has been departmentalized as a fertile influence on literary and (less so) on plastic artworks, but not as a systematic collective activity, the oppressive function of specialized criticism vis-à-vis all remotely authentic expression is particularly conspicuous. Thus, the initiative of a collective self-description and adhesion to the living surrealist movement, as in the cases of the Athens group and, a few years earlier, of the Surrealist Group of Ioannina, gives rise to the haughty reduction of surrealism, by self-appointed appraisers, to a (glorious or not) distant past, as well as to the shocked reactions of the said persons against the arrogance of a gesture not quite compatible with their abstract concept. This phenomenon would be hardly worthy of attention, were it not part of a wider, indeed international, practice.
As the object of the ruthless categorizing fury of aesthetics experts, philologists and professional cultural historians, surrealism is perhaps praised as a moment in the history of art, and, when the issue of “ideas” enters the (academic) picture, as a lost revolt, which, for reasons unknown, cannot possibly continue even though its causes have multiplied rather than vanished. On the other hand, surrealism is safely judged, within a process of self-recycled, institutional trivialization, and introduction of a facile questioning into the frame of educational syllabuses. Advanced as they may claim to be, these approaches cannot get rid of surrealism’s weight in any way other than positioning it into the moulds of impeccably delineated historical periods.
To be sure, surrealism as act and need is unthinkable for those academic analysts who claim the monopoly of its civil propagation or defamation, given that the concept has been introduced to them in the form of taught material, part of the very culture it has always sought to subvert before being restored to its original urge towards an expression wholly indifferent to cultural institutions. Surrealism is thus slyly transformed into compulsory knowledge rather than being recognized as an index in the direction of desire; hence the perpetuation of its falsification is guaranteed.
Yet the said desire does not for all that cease to exist. Surrealism insists on the principles that have rendered it into a particular viewpoint, a mode of action, an individual and collective experience: firstly, limitless availability vis-à-vis the well-nigh imperceptible motives that tend to invest life, if fleetingly, with a meaning that escapes that imposed by quotidian utility; secondly, the realization of the fact that the social condition working against the flourishing of such exceptional indices without for all that succeeding in effacing once and for all the fissures through which they may become felt is by no means a metaphysical necessity, as well as that subjective desire cannot be considered independently of trans-subjective communication; finally, the openness necessary for the detection of those elements of the surrealist viewpoint and activity which are deformed through their incorporation into institutionalized culture, or complicated by historical occurrences. Contrary to what many of its professional studiers claim, surrealism contains an exceptionally developed capacity for self-examination, fully compatible with its inquisitive nature.
In Greece, any attempt towards involvement with surrealism on the level of unequivocal adhesion rather than of the faint interest proper to retrospective study and theoretical embalming, or at best good-natured evocation, comes up against the kind of difficulties that may seem obvious yet are essentially linked to the intellectual laziness encouraged by past history. By exchanging the poetic function with the pettiness of literary production and education, the vast majority of writings referring to the early indigenous assumptions regarding surrealism reproduces the picture of a culture at once too underdeveloped to comprehend the movement’s perspectives and international dynamics, and invested with a convenient folkloric lyricism via which elements of surrealist imagery could serve the interests of national ideology.
The quaint charm of a supposed 1930s Greece —the construct of a self-contained local culture, transmitting fragments of a novel yet emphatically local lyricism, ignoring international processes and relying on the individual works of some more or less idiosyncratic and/or charismatic individuals— presupposes, of course, the agreement of those (now dead) who actually introduced surrealism in the country. Yet even a rudimentary study of those distant texts, of the first attempts towards group activity, reveals that here, too, surrealism was perceived from the outset as a movement, both as a tool for research and as a perpetual adventure that seeks collectivity and remains indifferent to literary ambition. Already in 1939, Andreas Embirikos labeled his first book an “act” of the movement, rather than a literary exercise, while warning against the critical establishment’s usurpation of modes of expression and experience foreign to it. Almost seventy years later, the failure of early indigenous surrealists to maintain consistent group activity involving systematic collective public interventions is declared either a virtue or an inevitable handicap — or indeed evoked merely to scare away all who might attempt a newer venture along such lines. The many hopelessly lame moves in that direction over the course of the past four decades do not set the standard for what is to follow; rather, they serve to point out the necessity to break with a tradition of grave inertia.
Necessity, however, is never far removed from chance. The desire to develop surrealist activity in Greece attained expression in the past few years due to the acts of individuals or smaller groups who ignored each other’s presence to start with. The network of fortuitous encounters, gestures whose consequences were unrelated to their original motives, internal resistances and conscious engagements that have led to the current situation does not testify to some magic panacea; rather, it constitutes part of an endless and anything but straight route that has long ceased, for each one of us, to be merely individual.
Klidonas thus records a moment in the development of the group, to which by now have come to participate members of the Surrealist Group of Ioannina who live currently in Athens. Apart from texts and collective games by the two groups, the introductory issue of Klidonas contained translations of texts by groups and members of the international movement, something that will continue over the following issues. For the first time in the Greek language there are available in the same publication texts by the contemporary Paris group, the Czech-Slovak group, the Chicago group, as well as by groups operating in England (in Leeds and London). Our objective is the systematic presentation of activities and directions that have developed within the context of surrealism from the early post-war period onwards. This wealth of material remains for the most part unknown, not only in Greece, in the name of a procrustean approach on behalf of international criticism, whose need for sell-by dates urges it to deprive surrealism of its essential character as an international movement, by identifying it with the life and death of its major theoretician, André Breton.
The felt necessity to supply information should not at all be understood as an urge to contradict a suggestion that may easily derive from such convictions as the above: in other words, that the current surrealists should prove, if not their very existence, at least the cohesion and value of their undertaking. We are wholly indifferent to a dialogue rendered in art-market terms, whereby the official decision is already inscribed in the question, while alternative options are always means of reducing risk to safe categorization and revolution to mere evolution. Our goal regarding this sector —as witnessed in the recent Athens exhibition of the Czech-Slovak surrealist group in collaboration with the Athens group at the Babel festival— is the promotion of knowledge regarding international groups and perspectives. Yet knowledge is intertwined with practice and communication, hence our availability for criticism and invitations to dialogue. As for our future publications and manifestations, we hope to be back with more fairly soon.

Written in January 2007 for the public presentations of the first issue of Klidonas and printed on issue No 2.

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