May 10, 2009


Recently I've been playing and recording music and noise and making short videos on low-brow equipment. Crafting layers of noise in a way that moves one's body and emotions towards satisfaction is an interesting discipline of learning and experience in itself. I find myself drawn to lower volumes and the use of headphones to promote greater clarity in recording and listening. Headphones eliminate feedback and make higher volumes more accessible. Elsewhere on the musical goings-on, there were a few word-of-mouth shows with Qkcofse and Freed Eighps. I played at my own birthday party (as did another band) in front of about twelve people. In early May I made drawings and collage with Tim who plays with Freed Eighps.

Also that night in early May, I wandered, in the dark, through a series of unpredictable, occasionally paved, dirt or gravel alleys which run behind houses for blocks at a time in parts of Northeast Portland (and in other areas). Because I couldn't see well, I picked one that dead-ended into a large shed or garage and was overgrown with thorns and other plants. Barking dogs kept the nearby properties safe from my wandering menace as I was forced to retrace my steps. I emerged with some painful scratches on my knee, amused. I'm impressed that a semi-wild and basically hidden area could co-exist behind the rows of houses. I think by some technicality these alleys belong to the city or county rather than individual property owners and thus they are in another kind of grey area. It would be called an atopos or 'worthless space,' to use the Stockholm surrealists' phrase. I've written about them before on this blog because they (these alleys) are always available for unusual passage. I don't mind being away from cars for a time. Being able to pay attention to something without the constant presence of 'traffic' threatening one's life, can be a real relief.

Another reason why nocturnal passageways are interesting is because I've been exploring how greater darkness in mediocre photos changes the quality of imagination one must use to interpret the image. This is also suggestive because people haven't really shed their 'fear of the dark' which manifests in various problematic conditions and pathologies. Unless the darkness is total, it is more easily paranoiac to the eye and can be a great pleasure to experience. Let's hear it for twilight, dim lights and bat radar. In other news, the addition of a bike basket has added wonders to my bike riding trips as picking up various objects and transporting slightly larger items is easier. It also provides a better opportunity to take part in the spirit of chance when objects can be moved around.

As far as the Surrealist Movement goes, it is a great loss that Franklin Rosemont died in Chicago in early April. He's been a key figure in surrealist publishing in the U.S. and some of his words mean a lot to me. A more complete note was posted to the Unexpected Sound.

On the local level there's been no organized surrealist activity but I'm sure that something like 'surrealist events'--things that could not possibly be planned-- are ongoing, against the current of the typical day and by surprise. Tangential to this, surrealism in popular culture and in local geography and history here has been explored to some small degree by the Portland Surrealist Group, although there is a lot left unsaid and only a starting point achieved so far. There was a group, 'Surrealists Metanational' that apparently changed its name to 'Situationist Metanational' that was meeting at an independent bookstore. It would be interesting to hear from them but I didn't have any way to contact them after my attempt to meet with them failed. I don't know what they're all about but you could probably find the notice on Portland Indymedia.

I received some books. A Menagerie in Revolt: Benjamin Peret, Selected Writings. Introduction by Franklin Rosemont, Afterword by Don LaCoss (Black Swan Press). The second book is Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situationism, Utopia by Michael Lowy. Introduction by Don LaCoss (University of Texas Press, Surrealist Revolution Series). I'm reading them more or less at the same time but have not finished either title.

A film showing and discussion was hosted by a local group called Hearing Voices, but I was unable to attend. I found it intriguing because of the surrealist and sociological implications of 'hearing voices' and how that has played out in history in relation to generations of religious interference in the personal psyche as well as the repression and officially sanctioned personality murder of the psychiatric industry, who in some ways carry on the 'witch-burning' panic of earlier ages. Since people weave their exterior and interior lives together in inexplicable ways, it's not accurate or fair to condemn all auditory phenomena and unusual experiences with a broad brush. This is imposing unacceptable limits on the ability of human freedom to express and reinvent itself. The less censorship of the dynamics of our real relationship to life there is, the greater the chance of surrealist experience. There is a lot to be said about the subject. But surrealism offers a chance for the interior lives of all players to co-mingle, and this brings to mind the phrase 'communism of genius' and 'poetry made by all' by way of parallel.

Here are some links to the Hearing Voices group and their allies:

* -- the main international website of the hearing voices movement
* -- our fiscal sponsor
* - Newsweek magazine profile of Will Hall

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