Surrealist Collectivity

A Utopian Rhizome


Fifth Estate # 413, Spring, 2023

“Surrealism is the collective experience of individualism”

—André Masson

What is surrealist collectivity? A mutually opened wound, ever seeded by poetry, by revolt. A soft spectral voice in the darkness, urging all nonconformists to come out, and to play. An extradimensional vehicle for thought and action beyond all controls, a device powered by collective vulnerability and individual Becoming.

Yes, on this endlessly metamorphosing playing field, a strange new kind of “individualist collectivity” takes root, communication with the Other becomes unclouded, raw. It is a subterranean, oft-missed aspect of the surrealist movement. But it is also what stands at its deepest center.

A surrealist group—somewhere in between terrorist cell, and occult secret society, perhaps? It is the group atmosphere which is contagious above all, however. The atmosphere, before even the ideas. Because if ideology trumps atmosphere, if the collective organism wears an anarchist skin, but has a heart that beats Empire, well, then it’s DOA; it’s a con.

What does the surrealist organism want for? Utter openness, to every line of flight! Impenetrable psychic walls, to every command for utilitarian conformism! Regardless of whatever pragmatic choices an individual may make “on the outside”, within the magick bounds of this sacred utopian circle a limitless non-utilitarianism must reign. Surrealist collectivity is an irresistible call to get lost, to drift, to remake everything both inside and outside, once again. Restrictions on this fungal network’s scope will eternally be rejected, she won’t have it, no no. All horizons must remain open, all possibilities must be played with and explored. Surrealist collective = boiling tomato soup, gone hot, hot, hotter! One drink from just such a soup, and, AH! One feels the widening of calcified veins, one feels the evaporation of lazy is-what-it-is-ism. Intensified in just such an alchemical atmosphere, the individual expands beyond their own bounds, they can level up, RPG style. And, that consensus reality, well, it jus’ won’t know what hit ’em!

Unlike religion or political parties however, a surrealist collective does not function under the process of copy/paste logic, it does not work towards the cloning of the thousand toy soldiers, all one, all the same. No, in a truly surrealist collective, each person intensifies, grows, and modifies this collective stew before them, irreparably.

All SurCooks are both separate and conjoined, both fierce individualists and somnambulant hive-bees, all at the same time. And the SurGroup’s tendrils are ever-expanding, eternally searching—for Exit. Exit, from Empire. From that Das Kapital Demiurge. And, we meet deep within eachOther’s widening eye, meet deep within eachOther’s jittering mind-heart, and we all know why we are here.

No, André Breton did not actually crown himself pope and goalie, in point of fact. No, it was that Collective Rhizome which kicked all sellouts to the curb. Or, a more hands-off approach often being preferred, just observed as they drifted casually away from their ideals into the waiting capitalist void, mere lambs to a self-chosen slaughter.

A tradition, too? A shifting, evolving network of connections, across space and time? A glistening shadow of uncompromising revolt, passed from individual to individual? Yes. A buoyant ** open-door’ed ontology, basically, or to put it ‘nother way, a much tastier, farm fresh reality tunnel? A reality tunnel which expands instead of contracting over time, like a giggling Clown’s balloon? Yes. But not a dogma. Not a commandment. Not a creed.

This is an account here of my experiences with surrealist collectivity. But similar atmospheres have cast their shadow cross many places, times. Under numerous banners. And will continue to do so. So why not log off, dear reader? Why not chase this offline-only rhizomatic high?

The proof is in the pudding. Where these shadows fall, earthquakes are always sure to follow.

“The forest around it keeps changing and there are no set coordinates to say certainly in which direction we are actually moving, but we keep breaking through layers of illusions, we keep making the company of ever new flocks of never-before-seen birds, who recognise their reflection in the gleaming skin of the vehicle just as much as the vehicle recognises itself in the diabolic fire of these birds’ eyes.”

—Mattias Forshage

Steven Cline co-edits the journal Peculiar Mormyrid and participates in an Atlanta surrealist group.