Modest gestures have great repercussions when made with imagination’s grace and the complicity of chance. A calling card found in a book, slipped inside by a stranger; an invitation to speak the gold of time. A picture nailed to the door of a derelict building; another enigmatic message meant solely for whoever finds it, knowing intuitively it was left for them and for them alone to decipher. By such poetic means, by such signs of recognition and affirmation, we understand and find one another.

We remain resolutely part of the rabble, wilfully straying in the crowd, shadows moving in the shadows. We are here together because of the magic of boundless encounter, the meeting of kindred spirits sharing a restlessness, partaking of both despair and hope; connected by enduring affinities that bind, that span great distances and many years, permitting an intimacy of true exchange in a climate of repression.

These encounters, poetic and magical, are made despite the constraints placed upon us, the pressures to conform to social norms, not least the work ethic and its associated values of alienated competitiveness, the subtle coercion to keep our minds closed. These encounters are not, like corporatist organisational ‘networking’ and ‘team-building’, made for personal gain or advancement; experiences such as ours can have no price fixed upon them and are not made instrumentally, but through the auspices of chance and free association. Defying the ‘rational’ and utilitarian attempts to measure and control us, our encounters can breach inhibitory forms of social exchange and communication, to open us up to new discoveries about the true functioning of thought and placing what we have found in common as a shared experience. Yet, no matter how generously this distillation of experience is shared, there is always an accumulating residue which remains in each of us; this can be deeply personal, unlocked upon those occasions of recollection, provoked to the surface as artefacts, texts, images, anecdotes, tales, adventures from the past that are interwoven with the present, but differing with each re-visitation. This is the warp and weft that binds us.

What is it that is so vital for us about this notion of encounter that has been a keystone for surrealists since our adventure began? Despite Lautréamont’s ‘chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table’, it is not simply a question of applying a formula, whether social or aesthetic. As this revolutionary image prefigures, it is a matter of expanding our scope of experience, of unlearning habitual repressions, of being receptive to significant encounters with whatever unforeseen and strange events might come our way; perhaps to inspire, to instigate, to provoke, or to disturb. Not only ‘whatever’ appears (perhaps an object, an image, a word or phrase), but ‘whoever’ appears; a subject, open and questing like ourselves, brought together in the magnetic fields of encounter, in the intimacy of the moment, to reach out to the Other, to meet the ‘I’ that is Other. We might even initially resist this disturbance, but come to realise it is something of such decisive importance, it cannot be ignored.

Within all of our individual and collective researches – these pictures that we make, objects that we construct and salvage, or words that come to us from the ‘mouth of shadows’ – we discover striking correspondences, phosphorescent signs, revelations under black lamplight, exchanges made in the language of the unconscious that leave us marvelling at the possibilities that might exist between us.

Gareth Brown, Stephen J Clark, Kenneth Cox, Luke Dominey, Amalia Higham, Bill Howe, Sarah Metcalf, Peter Overton, Jonathan Tarry, Martin Trippett
June 2019