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EXPERIENCE OF THE SURREALISTGROUP IN STOCKHOLM

Chronological stepping-stones and strategies



 

1985-87 The first explicit surrealist group in Sweden comes into existence through the meeting in summer 1985 of then Trotskyist Bruno Jacobs and then industrial musician Mattias Forshage, who bring together parts of their circles (from this first period, Johannes Bergmark, Kajsa Bergh, Carl-Michael Edenborg, Petra Mandal, Hans Christian Werner and Tomas Werner become mainstays) and the result is a dynamic collective eager to question everything, stir up scandal, develop automatist behaviour, poetic revelations, rigorous revolutionary morality and enraptured self-confidence, all in a spirit of furious defiance of consensus in the then still existent social democratic idyll. Approximately weekly meetings and continuous experiments and discussions have been going on ever since. After a series of confrontations and constitutive experiences (including denouncing the only other explicit surrealist activity in Sweden, "Dunganon" in Skåne), the Surrealist Group in Stockholm is officially launched at a waterfall in northwest Sweden, Ristafallet in Jämtland, on Midsummer 1986, and then on an international scale with the International Surrealist Bulletin jointly produced with the surrealist group in Chicago, at the time the most lively pole of surrealist organisation in the world, the support from and collaboration with which is very important in these early years. Games, experiments, investigations, translations and creative works abound, insurrectionary surrealist leaflets are handed out at various occasions; surrealist living, Swedish surrealist prehistory, surrealist musical improvisation, are areas explored in partly groundbreaking ways, and a "Bureau of Surrealist Research" is held open for 24 hours at a friend's second-hand bookshop. A selection of results of all this makes up the first issue of Nakna läppar in spring 1987, when the group is also cracking under the pressure of conflicting ideas about how to organise the continuation after the initial spontaneous momentum has somewhat faded.

Pictures: In a mica schist cranny by Ristafallet in Jämtland, summer 1986; Outside the Bureau of Surrealist Research, Drottninggatan, autumn 1986; Stroll along Drottninggatan, spring 1986.

 

 

1987-89 Conflict results in split. The remaining surrealist group pursues a "double-year" experience on the path of scandal, revelling, vertigo, intoxication and defence of transgression, without too much critical consideration (the new ethos of "non-Oedipal cynicism" propagates the practical attitudes), and is extremely productive (the later issues of Nakna läppar, Kristall, Kvicksand, a daily newspaper for three days, numerous pamphlets, translations and minor collections); it also takes a very active part in the resurrection of the surrealist movement in Europe with the resurfacing Paris and Prague groups. (Aase Berg is a new mainstay, and old Imaginisterna painter Gösta Kriland is active for some time before his death.)

The ensemble of pure psychic automatism. Revolution by chance. The splinter group on the other hand, the Agama Expedition, is more eclectic as it combines surrealist games and creativity (and a group exhibition) with anarchist activism, makes a brief plunge into Romanticism, considers situationist theory; and it takes part in another part of the surrealist movement, the "dissident networks" flourishing this decade, thereby eventually merging with the "Dunganon" activity in Skåne, before fading out together.

Picture: The exhibition of the Agama expedition, Björngårdsgatan, autumn 1988.

 

 

1990-93 This period is marked by a reduction in size and output of the group, and more long-term investigative projects, as accounted for in the two book-size issues of Mannen på gatan. This might be metaphorically well described as hangover and exhaustion from the previous extravagances, but several aspects of inner dynamics do require more patient in-depth reflection at this time. Studies in alchemy are significant, as is the unwitting paralleling of situationist thought in the new theories about the public sphere and the personality market. Memory is addressed. The orchestra of the great invisibles, the hidden sounds. There is also a deep involvement in international organisation, with the new International Surrealist Bulletin in close collaboration with mainly the Paris group. During this time, the people from the Agama Expedition are typically more involved in anarchist activism than in surrealism, but with a few personal exhibitions, collective games, and the single-issue international bulletin Cormorant Coincidence. Picking up some threads of charting the history of surrealism in Sweden, if there was one.

Picture: With mushrooms, Gröndal, autumn 1990.

 

1993-95 The tide turns as the group starts growing and facing outwards again. A public activity resurfaces with "Quicksilver Wednesdays" and the Kalla handen sheet, several new themes are brought in, while Forshage returns and old surrealist Ilmar Laaban and a few others join in. The second Mannen på gatan is printed. Poetry, new man, Vertigo, game days, meat soirée, new contacts in the weird domains within scholarship, music and politics.

Picture: Hunting for worthless places, Kungsholmen, autumn 1995.

 

 

 

1995-98 Continuing the extrovert thread, the surrealist group seeks out a large number of interesting artists, writers, scholars and activists and launches the journal Stora saltet in 1995 and then also a webpage. Throughout this there is a series of significant arrivals (Sebastian Osorio and Robert Lindroth, Niklas Nenzén and Eva Kristina Olsson, Riyota Kasamatsu and Maja Lundgren, not to mention the briefer ones). This ambitious and intense presence on the local scale also corresponds with a less active part in the international surrealist movement; except for a series of polemics, international communication is flourishing primarily only with the new surrealist group in Leeds (plus a distinct sympathy with the new ultra-radicalism of the Madrid group); surrealist habits, prejudices and self-sufficiency are among the things subjected to the most sadistic criticism. Aspects of materialism are emphasised, in terms of Bataillean base materialism, poetic investigations of matter and poetic realism, and on the other hand with a criticism of symbolism and an emphasis on zen "suchness". But also in a certain company along the way with the literary fashion of rediscovered "language materialism", which is one of the currents of the time approached by the group, along with the poetic current of female incomprehensibility, certain fragments of theory from the poststructuralist field, and parts of contemporary feminism. Some people in the group very actively explore the cultural field, with involvement in the bookfairs, the live poetry scene, the cultural journals, surrealismophilic publishers, even newspapers and cultural parties (Vertigo, Köttkropp; even Res Publica, Ellerströms, Pequod, Ord&Bild, FAN and whatnot). The Stora saltet journal is very well received with its aggressive mixture of brilliant critical thinking, a particular documentary direction, verbal violence, self-effacement and worthlessness with a distinctly Bataillean flavour, and scattered examples of luminous poetry and painting; many people are happy to consume this acrid brew, and so it is cancelled. Let's say that the seeking of allies in the cultural field is constructively concluded negatively; most of those who produce quite interesting works in the cultural field are nevertheless mostly looking for opportunities of exposure and possibly merely social networking, not challenging of the spirit, ambitious collective experiments or mutual moral criticism; furthermore, public exposure proved addictive even for many of the then surrealists.

Pictures: Hunting for worthless places, Gärdet, summer 1996; Upside-down-fucking-world, anniversary, Bondegatan, summer 1996.

 

1998-2000 The large and still growing group (Jonas Enander, Kalle Eklund, John Andersson, Helena Boberg, Kim Fagerstam and others join) now doesn't have the time-consuming focus of producing a journal, and turns to more obscure and ambitious experiments (some accounted for in the book-size anthology Lucifer), to ever-weirder side projects and eventually to open contradictions. Significantly, street presence at night, and presence in young underground culture, and participation in the period's famous riots (Urbs nocturna, Carmen all stars, etc) are mostly carried out by people in the group other than those involved in the explorations of the cultural field, while yet others group members emphasise open-minded investigation of imagination, or anarchist focus on method. The period of extroversion ends with the cancelling of the cultural surrealist position, while the youth-riot position merges with the imaginationalist and anarchist-methodological subtendencies into a new exploration of mobility; meanwhile many long-standing members successively leave (riddance of some of them presenting happy opportunities for new paths).

 

2000-05 A stint of vagrancy, involving primarily open-ended and desperate experiments, and also seeking to escape all routine, established identity, prestige, brilliance and preconceived forms, but also a return to simple principles, and a desperate reflection and politicisation (including active participation in the larger unorthodox mobilisation apparent at the time). As one member is jailed for supposedly having been a leader of the Göteborg riots of 2001, the group moves a lot of its activities into prison in order not to accept his abduction from the group; dozens of new games are invented in prison. This is the period of the Lösdrivaren fanzine, the Silent Hand experiments in suburbs and ruderal areas, walking through the burnt forest, the first ever explicitly surrealist comic book Diabolik, several public events at Fylkingen (soirées etc), peripheral journals Sjukdom and Berätta en saga sa hon, the Monkey King game establishing collective identities, the moon novel, strange reading groups, consultas in the imagination, the morphology of fear and of psychedelic experience, structural analysis, tunnels and meetings at dawn, etc. New members significantly include Christian Andersson and Emma Lundenmark (and others more briefly). Satellite activities are being formed by members exiled in other parts of the world.

 

Pictures: Silent Hand excursion in Bällsta, Sundbyberg, autumn 2000; "We choose to sit on a burnt spot" , Tyresta forest, summer 2000; Silent Hand excursion in Norra Djurgården, autumn 2001.

 

2005- The group abandons a lack of structure that had begun to lead to mere habitual socialisation, and approximately simultaneously turns back to affirmation of surrealism. This involves a return to focus on imagination, dreams and poetry, specifically implemented in investigations of dream geography, synaesthetics, intersubjectivity, entropy and decomposition, the notion of coupure, general methodology, complex systems, sensory de-conditioning, phenomenology of the mind, cosmology and evolutionary biology. It also includes a return to active efforts at international communication, organisation and critical discussion, and a certain public exposure but mostly through new channels. Among these are a significantly renewed internet presence with an updated webpage and several blogs, including the theory project Icecrawler and the ambitious dream geography research program the Cormorant Council. In the cultural connections presence is kept concealed by the use of intermediaries, primarily Styx (publishing house and loose underground art collective), Sphinx publishers, the painter group 4X, etc. In international surrealism, important points are the Hell Choir initiative, the series of annual game festivals issuing from the London SLAG group, with which the Stockholm group enters into particularly close collaboration, and the international anthology Hydrolith. New members are significantly Erik Bohman and Merl Fluin. More satellite activities, occasionally transforming into independent local groups.

 

Pictures: Gärdet, summer 2006; Thinking about funfairs in Bagarmossen, summer 2009; Birthday ghost apparition, Mariatorget, winter 2010.

 

 

 

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