V/A: Sub Rosa Le Groupe Surréaliste Révolutionnaire Dotremont et Broodthaers Vol. 3

[Sub Rosa; 2008]

Styles: spoken word, surrealist blah blah, interviews, archival recordings
Others: vol. 1 and vol. 2 of the same collection, interviews with The Unicorns

The Surrealist exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris a few years back encompassed thousands of objects from all over the globe. Despite careful curatorial efforts to arrange this smorgasbord, it was easy to fall dizzy amid the sheer volume of bizarre, disturbing, and cheeky stuff on display. What many think of as an insurgency that consisted of André Breton, some buddies, and a few manifestos was actually a movement that continued to flower (and squirt water into eyes) across Europe for decades. Sub Rosa’s recordings of Belgium’s premiere surrealists reading their own peculiar manifestos and sparring with earnest interviewers is further evidence of surrealism’s vast reach.

The Belgians, especially Marcel Broodthaers and Christian Dotremont, often focused on language as the target and tool of their art. Broodthaers’ pieces typically consisted of little more than a single cursive letter drawn over and over again on [transparent paper->http://images.artnet.com/artwork_images_166767_312957_marcel-broodthaers.jpg]; Dotremont’s “[logogrammes->http://farm1.static.flickr.com/1/449885_0a030f044c.jpg?v=0]” were dense thickets of serifs that crawled across pages. Their surrealism was cruelly simple. They attacked (with) the signs to which literate adults attach meaning naturally, almost instinctively. They attacked (with) the alphabet. Less humorous than a mustache on the [Mona Lisa->http://www.personal.kent.edu/~areischu/Duchamp%20LHOOQ.JPG], perhaps, but more deeply subversive. Dotremont explains on track 7 that his pieces were unscripted, that he threw away most of them and even set them on fire to amuse himself. He says that some viewers identified figures in the snowy expanses and peppery, fluid shapes of his work, but that the presence of those figures was not intentional.

This commentary is more useful to the average listener than an ordinary artist’s eccentric reflection. The as-yet-unmentioned elephant in the museum is the fact that all of these recordings are exclusivement in French. No, there aren’t any translations in the liner notes. In essence, the Anglophone listener is forced to do what Dotremont and Broodthaer’s original audience had to: let go of the need for language to “mean” something and allow its components to exist in their concrete, non-semantic form -- that form can be visual (logogrammes) or aural (Belgian surrealists talking shop). Perhaps, as was the case for Dotremont’s contemporaries, there will be sudden flashes of the familiar; the patter of Gallic phonemes will occasionally cohere to echo an English word, like a tangle of letters conjuring a tree or nerve endings. Outside of these accidents, though, a modern listener will waver between adaptation and alienation. The odd cadences, the aspirate crunch of foreign consonants, the guttural charm of swallowed vowels -- these will seem, after an hour of “meaningless” listening, like the most familiar weirdness you’ve encountered in a long time. In other words, surreal.

1. Achille Chavée - Etant  Tout Jamais Lié De Par Mes Gestes Oubliés (Being Forever Tied By My Forgotten Actions)
2. Achille Chavée - Angoisse (Angst)
3. Achille Chavée - Dictée (Dictation)
4. Achille Chavée - Aphorisme Comme Système D'auto-défense (The Aphorism As Self-Defense System)
5. Achille Chavée - 3 Aphorismes (3 Aphorisms)
6. Pol Bury - De La Peinture  La Sculpture En Mouvement (From Painting To Sculpture In Movement)
7. Christian Dotremont - En Laponie, Livre De Bord (In Lapland, A Logbook)
8. André Blavier - Avec Odette Blavier Ubu Rwè Mètou È Lîdgwès (Ubu In Liégeois)
9. André Blavier - Les Fous Littéraires (Literary Jesters)
10. Théodore Koenig - Propos Sur Marcel Havrenne (Words On Marcel Havrenne)
11. Marcel Piqueray - L'étrange Histoire Du Grand Chien Saintongeois (The Strange Story Of The Grand Saintongeois Dog)
12. Marcel Mariën - L'entrevue Du 29 Janvier 1973 (Interview From 29 January 1973)
13. André Balthazar - La Fondation Du Daily Bul (The Inception Of Daily Bul)
14. André Balthazar - La Langue (Mise En Son Par Gabriel Séverin)
15. Marcel Piqueray - Manu Loûrik (Lu Par Gabriel Séverin) (Read By Gabriel Séverin)
16. Marcel Broodthaers - Apprentissage Et Filiation (Apprenticeship And Filiation)
17. Jean-Pierre Verheggen - Monsieur Panurge (Mister Panurge)
18. Jean-Pierre Verheggen - Avec Jacques Bonnafé Toutes Les Langues (Ma Langue De Fond) Et Commentaires (All The Languages (My Background Tongue) And Comments)

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