In April 1945, a younger Marcel Broodthaers interrupted a efficiency occasion of Resistance Poetry in Brussels shouting from the viewers “Louis Aragon, when will you cease compromising French poetry?,” adopted by the theatrical slamming of a door behind him by good friend and artist Christian Dotrement, Broodthaers instantly reopening it and sitting again down as if nothing had occurred. It’s a narrative that will get repeated as a result of it really works as an incredible anecdote for contextualizing Broodthaers’s circumlocutory, cerebral work (triple-layered irony, full-tilt theatrics, and the politics and conventions of efficiency, exhibition, publication … to wit, Broodthaers liked Aragon). However unusually, the story nearly all the time stops there, hardly ever spinning into a bigger, and exceedingly overdue, dialog on Belgian Surrealism.
That Magritte was a mentor and affect to Broodthaers is a longtime cornerstone of any examine of his work; what has confirmed more durable to include into the literature on Broodthaers is the direct and pervasive lineage of Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte, E.L.T. Mesens, and, on the whole, the formative dada-surrealist writers whose trenchant and provocative mental work he avidly consumed as a younger man. This in fact could also be due partly to the standard menacing forces of class (literature. visible artwork.) however on this case a good bigger blindfold could determine — that the Surrealist motion in Belgium has been by and huge forgotten and in any other case marginalized from the artwork historic canon of Surrealism ex officio (excepting Magritte, in fact). The overall consensus on this neglect is that it’s doubtless owed, in pretty equal components, to each the Belgian Surrealists’ vital theoretical divergences from the French (making for a messier discount in canonical approaches to the motion), in addition to the group’s staunch ethic of underground and elliptical obscurity. As such, and regardless of the scintillating change of concepts and criticism that fueled the vast and divergent affect of each the French and Belgian actions, the latter now figures as scarcely a footnote within the textbooks.
During the last 10 years, artist and translator Michael Kasper has been slowly and exactingly altering this truth — bringing Belgian Surrealist writings and text-based work each into English and attentive examine — and has finished it once more with a formidable trifecta newly out from Ugly Duckling Presse, Concepts Have No Scent: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets (Paul Nougé, Paul Colinet, Louis Scutenaire). On this fantastically usual sleeve version of three slim booklets plus poster, Kasper brings collectively three of essentially the most singular writers of the Belgian Surrealists with works that underscore their markedly totally different register from the French tracts (much less tutorial, much less computerized, much less of the unconscious): Transfigured Publicity by Nougé (16 pages plus hand-drawn poster); ABS-TRAC-TIVE-TREATISE-ON OBEUSE by Colinet (eight pages); and For Balthazar by Scutenaire (12 pages).
Had Kasper been on the lookout for an exceedingly extra boring title, “On the Origins of Mail Artwork, Happenings, and Détournement” would have labored too. Belgian Surrealism emerged with the journal Correspondance in 1924, the identical yr as Breton’s First Surrealist Manifesto, and would show to be equally as seminal, if not now as well-known. Edited by Paul Nougé (chief theorist of the Belgian Surrealists), Camille Goemans, and Marcel Lecomte, Correspondance was printed on totally different coloured papers and distributed by submit to pick out recipients (practices Broodthaers would incorporate into his early poetry). The Belgian Surrealists made an intentional alternative to withstand the doctrinaire and spine-bound trappings of the French Surrealists, selecting ephemeral and extra intimate approaches to writing, publication, and distribution; certainly, the texts in Correspondance have been largely witty and trenchant, if typically indirect, responses to their counterparts’ literary debates in Paris. (Thirty years later, Ray Johnson would resurrect the spirit of Correspondance correspondence starting in 1954, formally adopting the title New York Correspondance Faculty in 1962.) What begins to take form on this journal and in a lot Belgian Surrealist writing to comply with, is an strategy to important inquiry part-Dada, part-scientific-reasoning that Nougé referred to as serpigineuse (serpiginous, serpentine) and Marcel Mariën described in his essay Der Surrealismus aus Brüsseler Sicht (trans. by Jörg Ebeling) as “slip(ping) into the pores and skin of their topics of criticism and seize(ing) their pens — they seize the texts from the insides while serving to themselves to the phrases of their topic of criticism, in an effort to bend these phrases to their very own functions” — in different phrases, deconstruction and détournement.
Correspondance in fact was not solely a publication but in addition the moniker this group of avant-garde writers, artists, and musicians pushing the boundaries of different communication and aesthetic liberty, used to explain themselves; certainly, Belgian Surrealist writing and artwork weren’t disseminated by mail-born missives alone — extra usually that not, they have been carried out and skilled. In Kasper’s excellent afterword to Nougé’s Transfigured Publicity in Concepts Have No Scent, he relates that the visible poems that make up the booklet have been first carried out at a concert-spectacle in 1926, throughout which they “have been carried out, accompanied by a panel displaying hand-lettered variations of the poems” (included as a fold-out poster within the UDP version). Adopting the tonal high quality of billboards and store advertisements (Nougé was intensely cautious of the commercialization of literature), Transfigured Publicity pushes the Futurists parole in libertà and French calligrammes to new conceptual plateaus:
Describing the unique efficiency of those poems, Marcel Mariën writes, “the texts have been for essentially the most half introduced collectively right into a sound montage designed by André Souris for 4 audio system and 9 percussion devices (performed by a single drummer) (…) the audio system being Camille Goemans, Paul Hooreman, Nougé, and Souris,” … leaving you endlessly dreaming about how the typography could have been carried out as a rating; would an outsized and daring SILENCE be mouthed? shouted? cowbelled?
Paul Colinet’s hand-drawn artist’s e book ABS-TRAC-TIVE-TREATISE-ON OBEUSE given to Breton as an indication of friendship in 1948, sparkles with gnomic and painterly wit within the shades of a Kenneth Patchen or Bob Brown, and may’t assist however go away you laughing out loud from begin to end. The “Obeuse” (a nonsensical phrase that may very well be learn as a neologism within the French for “obeyer” or possibly a phonetic riff on the English “abuse”?) takes the form of a black, hand-drawn circle the dimensions of a giant pea, represented right here by two outsized (and overly good for Colinet’s functions) intervals:
OBEUSE AND ONE
OF HIS HORSES
(slowly undoing the redundant horse)
Figuring out Abs-trac-tive is each a treatise and hand-drawn manuscript devoted to Breton makes it arduous to not interpret these poems, or captioned drawings, as playful sparring with Surrealism and/or commentary on the factional debates that abounded in Paris — is the Obeuse Surrealism? Automated writing? Poetry? — in all probability incorrect, however nonetheless enjoyable.
The final Surrealist of the trio is Louis Scutenaire, generally known as Scut, who first learn Nougé and Goemans’s work in a bookstore in 1926 within the type of an authentic textual content posted and signed by each, on the backside of which was listed an handle of publication (truly the medical laboratory the place Nougé labored). Scut promptly despatched a handful of his personal all the time unconventional vignettes off to the found handle. Upon receiving them, Nougé paid a go to to the writer to substantiate they’d been despatched in earnest (apparently he suspected a ruse), however so satisfied, invited him to a Correspondance assembly the next Sunday, the place he would meet Camille Goemans, René Magritte, E. L. T. Mesens and Paul Hooreman; and the remaining is historical past. For this assortment, Kasper has chosen Scut’s pamphlet For Balthazar. Although initially printed in 1967 for a pocket assortment, it’s an ideal alternative for this pleasant four x 6 inch clutch of unconventional three, because it sustains the size and ephemeral high quality of the Correspondance impetus (as certainly does the format for all three works). Scut’s texts are misleading of their oddball perfunctory, first amusing however then shortly shifting into one thing blurrier that makes you return and skim them once more and surprise about historic context: “Solange and I construct an imaginary asylum, / so effectively designed that the ceiling may very well be partitions / and the partitions ceilings” or “After my adversary had landed fourteen punches / and cut up open an eyebrow, my supervisor needed / to throw within the towel. ‘Not so quick,’ I informed him, / ‘the blood isn’t getting in my eye and anyway this man doesn’t hit arduous, in any other case I’d have / been knocked out way back.’ And I used to be proper / since two minutes later I laid the man out for the / depend with a left to his intestine. But I hadn’t hit him / arduous.”
There are all the time lots of components that go into deciding whether or not or to not embrace the unique language in a piece of translation, price mainly, however I do want that we may have the Scutenaire and Colinet texts within the French. (The accompanying poster gives the unique handwritten calligrammes for Nougé’s Transfigured Publicity.) Each writers will doubtless be new to English readers and it appears a missed alternative to not have accommodated their authentic writings within the folds. That stated, I recognize that these slimmed-down pamphlets maintain the condensed and fleeting gesture of the originals, and having learn lots of Kasper’s translations, don’t doubt in any respect that they’re excellent of their constancy and rigor. Certainly, we —and artwork and literature and historic scope, all — owe an incredible debt to Kasper for bringing these Belgian Surrealist writers again into our fingers. Concepts could Have No Scent, however no less than now they’ve a web page.
Concepts Have No Scent: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets by Paul Nougé, Paul Colinet, Louis Scutenaire, edited, translated, and facsimilized by M. Kasper is printed by Ugly Duckling Presse and is obtainable from Amazon and different on-line booksellers.