Papers of Surrealism – Jan Švankmajer’s Response

To the Editors of ‘Papers of Surrealism’- online Journal 

I have recently had the opportunity to read the text: Querying Surrealism/Queering Surrealism (Sixth Biennial Symposium: Surrealism Laid Bare, West Dean, Chichester, United Kingdom, 18 – 20 June 2010), in which, it would appear, there is a complaint concerning the reason for my decision to decline the invitation to attend the symposium at West Dean:

The claim that the organisers of the symposium misunderstand surrealism is, however, highly problematic. It suggests not simply that one group of people have a better understanding of surrealism, but that one group of people are in position to judge who understands surrealism better.” 

Despite this, there was never any assertion or indication that one or another group has a patent on the understanding of surrealism.

Instead, what was said, literally, was that it is good enough to study the source material instead of pursuing ignorance and a certain chicanery as to the facts. Therefore, it is not the case of putting one opinion above another, but rather the difference between knowledge and ignorance of the surrealist point of departure – which is objectively the same for everyone who opens their eyes.

The only reason for my responsible decision to decline the invitation to attend at West Dean was the detection, (just in time), that the West Dean symposium had – in this sense – its eyes wide shut.

Please see the attachment, in which this case was already objectively expounded in July 2010 and which, so I was informed, had previously been circulated to all the participants at the West Dean Conference.

Yours faithfully,

Jan Švankmajer.

Prague, September 21st.2011

(The review-article Querying Surrealism/Queering Surrealism to which Jan Švankmajer is responding can be found here. The attachment to which Švankmajer refers is the Staňkov Report.)


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