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Indepth Arts News:

"PROFANE REVELATION: The Surrealist Movement in Britain"
2005-09-14 until 2005-10-17
Fundación Eugenio Granell
Santiago de Compostela, , ES Spain

Over the past decade there has been something of a resurgence of organised surrealist activity in Britain. March 1994 saw the formation of the Leeds Surrealist Group, who in the autumn of that year organised a major season of films, Surrealists Go To The Cinema, at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, in the nearby city of Bradford. This was the first significant attempt at establishing a collective surrealist presence in Britain since the group around the magazine Melmoth, which broke up in 1981. The Leeds Group was formed, or rather came into realisation, after an invitation from the Stockholm Surrealist Group to participate in their game, The New Man, which involved the exploration of urban spaces in search of poetic evidence of utopian vision.

Games of dérive and explorations of place have continued to be a dominant feature of the activities of the Leeds Surrealist Group, with the Game of Slight Disturbances (1996) and Explorations of Absence (2000-01) being pivotal to its development, advancing new researches into surrealist objects and their relation to place, and not least to the inter-subjectivity of the players involved. Many of the group’s early games and experiments were recorded in the ten issues of Black Lamplight (1995-98), an internal quarterly journal distributed solely within the international surrealist movement, as well as in albums dedicated to some of our more-extensive games. Internal collective research has always been a strong focus of the Leeds Group’s projects, but we also regard communication and encounters with other surrealists, both in our own country and throughout the world, as of vital importance to us. From the very beginning, we were welcomed into the international surrealist movement, and have had close collaborations ever since with, in particular, the groups in Paris, Prague, Madrid, Chicago and Stockholm. The group’s external publication, a broadsheet entitled Manticore / Surrealist Communication - which contains short articles, reviews, poems, images and examples of games both from the group and fellow collaborators – appeared in 1997 and has now reached its eighth and final number.

Another significant event in the recent development of surrealism in Britain was the exhibition, Curiouser & Curiouser: les surréalistes et leurs amis en Grand-Bretagne depuis 1967, held in the Hourglass Gallery in Paris during April 1995, under the direction of Peter Wood. This exhibition drew together a number of individual surrealists, strengthening the ties between us, and leading to further exchanges. Since then, collective games amongst us have defied geographical distance and an identifiable surrealist presence has evolved. We cannot, of course, speak about the present and future of surrealism in Britain without expressing our indebtedness to those surrealist comrades who sadly are no longer with us and who, through their support and friendship, have had an enormous influence upon us, notably, Anthony Earnshaw, Peter Wood, Conroy Maddox, and Philip West.

More recently, we have seen the formation of the London Surrealist Group, who announced their presence last year through their inaugural declaration, Collective Adventure, and who, in January of this year, published the first issue of their magazine, Arcturus. Their polemical communiqués, five of which have been issued to date, amply demonstrate that surrealism’s critical teeth are in no need of sharpening.

It has been of increasing importance to us to encourage collaboration between surrealists and their allies in Britain, an endeavour that shows signs of flourishing, as we hope is evidenced by the exhibition, Profane Revelation. For us, the main aim of holding such an exhibition is to provide a basis for consolidating our activities, collective and individual, within the surrealist movement’s current life in Britain and to communicate something of its vitality further afield. Moreover, we hope to stimulate conditions for multiplying encounters, which such events can bring about, leading to a more cohesive presence for surrealism in our own country. It goes without saying that it is highly idiosyncratic that this is happening – and not for the first time - in a country other than our own!

Kenneth Cox
Leeds Surrealist Group
August 2005

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