In his review of The International Encyclopaedia of Surrealism, published in Infosurr no. 142, the art historian Michel Rémy describes our group’s activities as ‘assez erratique’.
If this were true, we would have absolutely no problem with such an epithet, given the trajectory of the surrealist adventure can be as erratic as life itself.
We have known M. Rémy, a specialist in ‘British Surrealism’, since having first encountered him in the late 1990s, so were somewhat surprised at his dismissive remark, without his firstly having researched or enquired about our activities.
Perhaps holding group meetings each week for over twenty-six years is considered as being neither a sufficiently surrealist activity nor one of sufficient regularity, and in M. Rémy’s view is thus ‘erratic’. Or is it that we are being assessed in terms of ‘productivity’ and found to be turning out insufficient quantities of ‘art’ or ‘literature’?
We will not list here the publications, games, events, exhibitions, etc. that we have been responsible for, nor those that we have contributed to, either as a group or individually. That would be tedious and, for those who have the curiosity to find out for themselves, could be established without much effort, particularly if one is a specialist in ‘British Surrealism’. Besides, we do not subscribe to current predilections for information overload, which are often taken to the point of flagrant exhibitionism.
What is visible of our group through our publications and exhibitions arises from a truly collective activity; it is, however, a necessarily partial and limited view, most of our activities being ‘occulted’ from the public gaze.
Given the context of M. Rémy’s remarks, which were made in consideration of ‘group’ activity, they inadvertently, but usefully foreground a confusion over what a surrealist group is and how it can be defined. There is an important distinction to be made between a surrealist group and an association of like-minded individuals who come together to put on an exhibition or publish some of their writing, whether on paper or on a screen, but have no true collective foundation as such.
Surrealism, as it manifests through the life of a group, is foremost a question of collective experience, which is by far its most important ‘product’.
LEEDS SURREALIST GROUP
Gareth Brown, Stephen J Clark, Kenneth Cox, Luke Dominey, Amalia Higham, Bill Howe, Sarah Metcalf, Peter Overton, Jonathan Tarry, Martin Trippett
24th July 2020