Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Peculiar Mormyrid No.4

26 November, 2016

Leeds Surrealist Group contributed a collage game, creating six imaginary sea creatures, for the fourth issue of the journal, Peculiar Mormyrid.


A pdf of the journal can be found here.

Waterloo & Elsewhere

12 November, 2015

Waterloo & Elsewhere by Peter Overton


A collection of photographs with accompanying captions that build into a verbal-visual poem. With 34 full-colour and 2 black-and-white plates printed on Chorus Lux Silk paper, and an introduction by Krzysztof Fijalkowski.

‘Peter Overton’s images of abandoned objects belong in a tradition of the documentation of detritus and material affray running from Atget’s pictures of early twentieth-century rag pickers in the zone on the outskirts of Paris, through the work of Czech photographers such as Emila Medková and Alois Nožička exploring waste grounds and marginal sites.’ – from the introduction, Down Is Up, by Krzysztof Fijalkowski.

In a limited edition of 100 numbered copies only.

42 pages – 17cm x 17cm square format – November 2015 – ISBN 978-1-906238-03-2

Price including postage & packing:
UK £8.00
Europe £10.50
USA & Rest of the World £11.00

Buy online at

The Little Shop of Magic – 116 Gallery

21 September, 2015


Members of Leeds Surrealist Group are participating in the exhibition ‘The Little Shop of Magic’, organised by Wedgwood Steventon, in Gallery 116, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

The Baltic Artists’ Book Market – July 2015

3 July, 2015

LEEDS SURREALIST GROUP will have a Surrealist Editions table at the Artists’ Book Market on Friday 10th & Saturday 11th July at The Baltic, Gateshead.



For further information see The Baltic

Mike Peters

11 June, 2015


Mike Peters 1947 – 2015

We are very sad to have to report the loss of our friend and comrade, Mike Peters, who died of heart failure on the morning of Wednesday, 3rd June. Mike had been a member of the Leeds Surrealist Group since 2005, but a long-time conspirator and fellow traveller before then; indeed, since our group was formed in 1994. Some of us knew him as an editor of and contributor to the influential Here & Now magazine; others as students at the institution in whose side he had been a thorn; and still others simply as a welcome critical presence in the political life of those radical milieus growing up outside Socialist or Anarchist orthodoxies.

A man whose creativity was rarely burdened by convention, Mike could always be relied upon to approach Surrealism as something grounded as much in humour as in poetic and intellectual enquiry. Indeed, despite occasionally doing battle with his own black dogs, he was the most stridently anti-miserablist of us all.

For a couple of years after joining the group, Mike would complain that he was unable to encounter ‘found objects’. One day, for reasons never elaborated, the dam burst and our meetings became coves where vast quantities of flotsam would collect after drifting in on Mike’s tide. Many of these objects would result in fascinating processes of collective enquiry, whilst others would exert a glamour upon him so mysteriously subjective that it would be almost impossible for the rest of us to penetrate. It is pleasing to think of the mixture of pride and child-like wonder that characterised him in this period, and the particular joyous and very honest vulnerability that Mike would bring to the group, challenging the rest of us to meet it. Yet, even in the context of such generosity, we all of us should have liked decades more in which to further appreciate the complex aggregation of compulsions, desires, plans, and peccadilloes of which our friend was composed.

What Will Be – Ce Qui Sera – Lo Que Será

24 January, 2014

With contributions from members of Leeds Surrealist Group, What Will Be, a 528-page almanac of the international surrealist movement is now available from Lulu here.


Published by Brumes Blondes in the Netherlands and edited by Her De Vries and Laurens Vancrevel, it contains essays, poems, texts & images, from  over 170 contributors from 25 countries, in English, French  & Spanish, as well as a chronology of the last 50 years of surrealism, 1964-2014.

Artist Statement

30 April, 2013


We are not artists and have no interest in art markets or in the art-world career paths that are often, in their miserable conformism and conservatism, barely distinguishable from those of accountants, solicitors, managers, entrepreneurs, etc., and their self-promotional social networking, their competitiveness, their curricula vitae. Neither do we have any trust in so-called ‘politically engaged art’, nor its twin, ‘anti-art’ (sometimes masquerading as ‘post-art’), which, despite the pseudo-theoretical objections of its hapless practitioners, has no less a symbiotic relationship with the political and economic élite as its more openly capitalist counter-part.

However, individually and collectively, we create things (and situations) that sometimes very closely resemble ‘art works’ to the point that they converge and might even be considered as such. Indeed, taking into account the risk of mistaken identities, and accusations of flagrant self-contradiction, we are nonetheless prepared to make use of art galleries and exhibitions whenever it suits our purposes of communicating surrealist evidence. We remain indifferent as to whether what we produce (more often than not by-products of a surrealist activity or investigation) is considered as ‘art’ or not; this is really of no concern to us – philosophically, aesthetically, morally, or otherwise – and we feel no requirement to provide any justification, explanation or contextualisation.


Gareth Brown, Kenneth Cox, Jan Drabble, Bill Howe, Josie Malinowski, Sarah Metcalf, Peter Overton, Mike Peters, Martin Trippett

30th April 2013

Ten Years On

20 March, 2013

In the build up to the invasion of Iraq, on the back of outrageous lies about weapons of mass destruction, we were promised shock and awe, to be followed by the liberation of a people. In the end, we got the London bombings, Wootton Bassett and the proliferation of jingoist militarism, and, above all else, the unimaginable numbers of Iraqi dead, wounded and displaced.
On the day that Iraq was invaded – Thursday, 20th March, 2003 – together with thousands of others, we walked out of our workplaces in protest and took to the streets of our city.
For a very brief moment we felt the certainty of our collective convictions, permitting us to step outside ourselves, discard our ordinary lives, and turn the world upside down. We marched to lose the feeling of powerlessness and out of a conviction that the only course of action left was dissent.
As the obfuscation from the corporate media is perpetuated in what laughably passes for analysis in their ‘ten years on’ retrospectives, we thought it timely to reprint a short text of ours from that time.
There is no satisfaction in being able to say, ‘We told you so.’ (more…)

Papers of Surrealism – Jan Švankmajer’s Response

22 September, 2011

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.)

Staňkov Report

17 July, 2010


The discussion began by noting that during the conference there seemed to be a perception that surrealism had a prejudice against homosexuality and that Švankmajer’s withdrawal from participation in the conference had something to do with this.[1] Švankmajer said that this was nonsense as must surely be apparent to anyone who has seen his films; indeed Krzysztof Fijalkowski mentioned that at the conference he had been told after the film was shown at the conference that Virile Games could be read in the light of Queer Theory. Švankmajer said that people often find whatever they want in his films and recounted that an Israeli once told him that his film Otesanek (Little Otek) was an allegory of the Middle East conflict. Although he thought this ridiculous, he has no objection to people responding to his film in any way they like. However, they should not attribute their subjectively formed views to him.

The discussion then moved on to a more general issue of misrepresentation and especially of the disturbing tendency to make judgements about the past based upon contemporary issues and terms that the actors of the past could not possibly have known about. In surrealist criticism, for instance, Nadja’s madness and Breton’s response to it are often anachronistically treated as though Breton should have been aware of all of the developments in the treatment of the insane that have taken place since that time. This seems to represent a failure of a sense of history. In the same context and returning to the question of homosexuality, the participants all said that they had never discovered any evidence of any surrealist being excluded on the grounds of their homosexuality. Those who have tried to claim that surrealism has been intolerant of homosexuality have frequently distorted facts or taken them out of context and a tendency was especially noted in which the simple fact of not having spoken about a subject provided evidence of repression. The number of homosexuals who have participated within surrealism gives the lie to the idea that surrealists have anything against homosexuality as such.

A concern was raised that the West Dean conference responded to the increasing managerialism at work throughout modern culture. In its themes and how its overall framework had been established, it seemed to have taken up a fashionable discourse in a way that may have had more to do with the requirements and agendas set by funding organisations than by a need to address vital issues in a rigorous way. This was equated with current difficulties faced by the Czech-Slovak Group, since the new governments in Czechia and Slovakia seem to be embarked on a course which, following economic logic, will lead inevitably to the destruction of living culture through the promotion of a false cultural heritage that serves nothing but the needs of tourism.

The question was then raised as to why, given these facts, Švankmajer had accepted the West Dean invitation in the first place? He replied that he had done do, as he always did on such occasions, out of friendship, specifically because he had been asked by Dagmar Motycka Weston, but also out of respect for Dawn Ades and Roger Cardinal, whom he understood were participants and whose work he respected. He was unable to read anything of the conference literature since he does not understand English, but when concerns about its import were raised within the Czech-Slovak and Leeds Surrealist Groups, he had the documents translated into Czech and was appalled by what he considered to be such a falsification of surrealism that he could not accept to be part of it. He felt he had been invited in order to play a kind of puppet role that would give authenticity to a phenomenon he has observed especially among Czech art historians whereby they construct a so-called ‘surrealism’ which responds not to what surrealism itself is or has been but to what they want it to be – they use the word ‘surrealism’, but speak about something else. He had thought that things were better in Britain, but this incident has made him realise that this is a broader problem. He emphasised that he will never collaborate with falsification and has refused many invitations in the past because he felt that those inviting him were doing so for dubious reasons, notably a few years ago he withdrew from speaking at an exhibition in Prague devoted to ‘Imaginative Art’ when it became apparent that it involved serious distortions of surrealism. The problem is that so many people seem to see surrealism only in their own narrow, usually aesthetic, terms, which they detach from the living reality of what surrealism actually is.

It was noted at this point that during the West Dean conference delegates had stated that surrealists have contempt for academics. Bruno Solarik and Bertrand Schmitt both responded that this was patent nonsense, as a glance at Analogon will immediately reveal. From the beginning it has been edited in collaboration with some of the leading Czech and Slovak intellectuals. There are currently six non-surrealists on the editorial board, two of whom (Jirí Brabec and Josef Zumr) have served since the very first issue in 1969, which is longer than any of the surrealists. Each issue of Analogon includes many essays not only by Czech and Slovak intellectuals and historians unconnected with surrealism, but also translations of important texts from around the world on any topic that is of interest to the current concerns of the group. What they object to among some academics, however, is the way in which new categories are so often introduced to say something ‘new’ purely for the sake of it or to advance the career of the researcher and in a way that has no basis in fact. A particular case was cited of the text on Toyen published in the current Papers of Surrealism, which both Solarik and Schmitt had read in the previous few days, and which each considered to be a concoction responding to nothing but the author’s own subjective interpretations. It makes numerous dubious and unsupported statements about Toyen and shows a woeful ignorance not only of surrealism but also of Czech culture. In particular it ignores the fundamental fact that in surrealism art work is not personal expression but an activity of the spirit expressed through exploration of themes of particular concern to the artist. Toyen’s painting was concerned to explore a range of experiences that were of interest to her in a broad sense and her work cannot simply be taken as evidence for her own sexual preferences. This article they considered to be a particularly bad example of an increasingly common trend by which academic research is turned into a commodity. What the surrealists are opposed to is not academic research but bad scholarship, that is academic research which narrows its subject, ignores or distorts moral and existential issues, and is not based upon empirical fact. This leaves the way open for gross ideological and conceptual distortions and encourages intellectual opportunism. Of course, there is nothing wrong with developing new angles and perspectives, but this should emerge from empirical engagement with the material and not be imposed on to it in order to conform with theories that happen to be currently fashionable.

At this point the discussion was brought back to West Dean and another issue which led Švankmajer to withdraw from participation, which concerns an essay written by Roger Cardinal on ‘Surrealism and the Paradigm of the Creative Subject’, originally published in 1993 in Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art (eds Maurice Tuchman and Carol S. Etiel), Los Angeles Count Museum of Art & Princeton University Press. František Dryje (who doesn’t read English), had commissioned a translation of this essay as a lead article for issue 60 of Analogon concerned with ‘outskirts, periphery and margins’, and including a selection on Outsider Art. Upon reading the translation, however, Solarik, Kateřina Piňosová and Bertrand Schmitt were appalled by what they considered its anti-surrealist argument. Solarik at first thought it must be a bad translation and therefore read the original but was astonished to find that it was perfectly correct. He then began writing a critique of the article, which he happened to have finished just as Švankmajer had become aware of the content of the West Dean programme. When he read the translation and Solarik’s response he equated the two issues and, since Roger Cardinal was a participant at West Dean, it was a further factor that made it difficult for him to attend the conference. Švankmajer stated that for him this was an issue of friendship and respect. He admired Cardinal’s work and this was one of the reasons he had initially been happy to accept the invitation. However, he considered this article a kind of betrayal in its approach to surrealism and madness, which he felt capitulated to the worst misunderstandings about surrealism and appeared to have been written with a view to flattering its intended audience rather than presenting a properly considered scholarly argument. What was especially offensive was the contention that Artaud, by actually becoming insane, was the true surrealist, something which not only distorts surrealist ideas but also trivialises the personal tragedy of Artaud’s life. The direction of the argument seemed to merge with the apparent aspirations of the organisers of the West Dean conference to establish a false and ideologically inflected opposition to surrealism as it actually is and has been throughout its history.

The question of Queer Theory was then raised. How was it understood in Czechia? Solarik said that he understood it as having to do with the formal fashion for emancipation, with an emphasis on the rights of sexual minorities. Fijalkowski, Richardson and Walker explained their understanding of it. In response, Schmitt said that it seems to be a variant of gender studies, which has been especially popular in France. The participants wondered if Queer theory was something specific to Anglo-American academic culture which had not been diffused into a broader international context.

This report has been agreed by Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Michael Richardson, Bertrand Schmitt, Bruno Solarik, Jan Švankmajer and Ian Walker as an accurate rendering of their discussion that took place on Friday 2nd July 2010 at Horní Staňkov, Czechia.

Note for English speakers: This report uses ‘Czechia’, the preferred designation for the country, rather than the ‘Czech Republic’ as it is usually called in the English speaking world.

[1] Švankmajer’s principal objection was to the following statement: ‘…Surrealism continued to be a significant cultural force long after its official heyday was over. Surrealism is morphed into something both different and ‘queerer’ than the original by a number of its would-be disciples. Arguably these inadvertent or deliberate departures from a strict Bretonian orthodoxy helped to preserve Surrealism from obsolescence.

It was this that he was specifically responding to in making this statement explaining his withdrawal:

‘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 [in other words. what is currently fashionable – eds] 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)>>

A pdf of the above statement can be downloaded here: Stankov Report