A Further Statement from Švankmajer on his Decision not to Attend the Conference at West Dean

In addition to the collective statement below, the following brief statement from Jan Švankmajer was delivered by Krzysztof Fijalkowski to those in attendance at the Surrealism Laid Bare conference at West Dean on Friday, June 18th.

There have been many questions and misunderstandings in the last few days about why I decided to cancel my attendance at the West Dean symposium.
As it appeared to me evident from the invitation paper, which I was only just able to read in Czech – the attitude of the organizers to authentic surrealism, tends to directly confuse it with the outlandish aesthetics of fashion experiments, and, on the other hand, identifies authentic surrealism as some “strict Bretonian orthodoxy” which – as is stated in the invitation paper – some “would-be disciples” morphed into something different “than the original”.
This is exactly why I couldn’t take part in the symposium.
I prefer the original.
Jan Švankmajer
(on behalf of the Czech-Slovak surrealist group)




Jan Švankmajer has decided to cancel his attendance at the West Dean Symposium, the weekend of 18th-20th June, 2010.

The reason for his absence is that he supports the growing concerns – voiced by surrealists in the Paris Group, in the Leeds Group (as well as other individual surrealists in the UK), and internally within the Czech & Slovak Group – that the conference seeks to establish a spurious distinction between “Bretonian orthodoxy” and “Surrealism itself”.

The decision comes after concerns, raised internally as the details of the West Dean event were circulated, that, amongst other things, Švankmajer’s attendance would only serve to add misplaced credibility to this and some of the other misrepresentations outlined in the programme.

Švankmajer therefore declares himself to be an “orthodox” surrealist and does not wish to be presented as belonging to the camp of those ‘surrealists’ identified within the context of the Symposium as having “freed themselves from the Bretonian orthodoxy” or otherwise, when such “divisions” are simply a misrepresentation and distortion of the facts.

In declaring himself an “orthodox” surrealist, Jan Švankmajer does so for himself, but also on behalf of international surrealists.

WE ARE AGAINST dividing Surrealism into a “Bretonian orthodoxy” and “Surrealism itself”. This is the simple reason why Surrealism will not be at the Symposium.

16th June, 2010

Jan Švankmajer, Bruno Solařík
for The Group of Czech & Slovak Surrealists

Leeds Surrealist Group

The Surrealist Movement’s Group in Paris

The above statement was written to give a rapid and necessarily-brief explanation as to why Jan Švankmajer cancelled his appearance at the West Dean 6th Biennial Conference, Surrealism Laid Bare: Querying Surrealism / Queering Surrealism, at the Edward James Foundation, West Dean College in West Sussex. Jan’s decision speaks for itself, demonstrating that he remains a “militant surrealist” (as he has described himself) in taking such a stand against a cheap sensationalism that slanderously misrepresents so-called “orthodox” Surrealism – for example, as being essentially homophobic, as well as sexist – using a familiar segregationist strategy that attempts to appropriate Surrealism’s “legacy” from surrealists themselves. Thus, we fully support Jan’s act of solidarity and are proud add our voices to the declaration.