office of surrealist investigations

Manipulating Chance



chance answers to random questions

two days till we open a physical office of surrealist investigations! In keeping with the theme of exquisite corpse and manipulating chance, here is an interview with our lead investigator.

That tour was Unreal!


Unfortunately, I missed The Bieb’s tour, but a while back I did catch Dr. Robert Belton’s tour of Unreal at the Kamloops Art Gallery, an exhibition based on surrealist ideas now on tour from the Vancouver Art Gallery. The above is a work I put together from a birthday party plate and a cutout section from this magazine. Not sure exactly how this came about, but I bring it up because of the uncanny likeness to this work by Elizabeth Zvonar, which is in the exhibition. VAG-2011.40.1

Channelling, 2009, digital lightjet print of a handcut collage, Collection of Vancouver Art Gallery

Mine is also handcut, but back to the tour. It wasn’t your typical exhibition tour. First off, we were all asked to introduce ourselves. For doing so, we received a free book. beribboned bombDr. Belton then asked that each of us to make a donation to the local food bank in return for this book, which I have done. The mini lecture that launched the tour started with Dada and Duchamp as a starting point then into Breton and the Surrealist Manifesto, which I covered or at least pasted back here. He quickly pointed to the beginnings of Surrealism as more than just a movement in art, but that of reaction to social conditions and change. That is a very brief summary of his opening remarks, but I think that covers the gist. The tour participants were diverse with some people with no art background to experts in the field, so I was pleased to hear him providing some context. Perhaps the most important thing said was identifying Surrealism along two veins, one relating to automatism and to a lesser degree intially, one of oneirism. Breton and crew being more interested in the former and judging by the posters that high school and university students have tacked to their walls and the trend in ridiculous facial hair and the endless pop culture references to Dali, the latter being what the majority of people think surrealism is all about. Thankfully, Unreal concentrates more on automatism. The highlight of the exhibition is a work by Jean-Paul Riopelle of the Automatistes, who I covered or at least pasted back here. Unreal covers territory from the beginnings including Canadian content in Jock MacDonald and Riopelle, the return of surrealist and dada ideas in the 60s and 70s and then a handful of contemporary work from the last handful of years.

The Black Quartet

Jock MacDonald, The Black Quartet; The Black Quartette, 1946, ink, watercolour on paper

A nice little work of automatism, but I can’t help but think there’s a little too much thought going on here with the inclusion of the birds. I’ll give him a pass as it is something I’ve wrestled with before. However, he then went on to become one of those vastly overrated Painters eleven… ugh.

Anyway?anyways? Any weighs, I enjoyed the exhibition immensely and though I usually hate to state things as being my “favourite” I will say it is great to see the small Riopelle drawing, who I would have to say is one of my favourite historical Canadian artists. Not sure how complimentary that is considering all the qualifiers. Perhaps another favourite is the leopard print sax of Dr. Brute though due to copyright and the lack of a camera on hand anywayz you’ll have to imagine it from the uncanny likeness to this sax I made a few weeks ago which also includes a kazoo for a mouthpiece.


Another is Jason McLean’s No Comment, a wall of drawings based on found posters, scraps of paper and writings. Sorry, no photo of this either, but this link will give you a good idea. Part of the tour included everyone’s favourite (there’s that word again) drawing game of exquisite corpse. There were clearly people in the audience who do not draw and do not know this game, so I was very interested to see how this turned out. Also, Dr Robert Belton did not introduce this game as exquisite corpse. He instead referred to it as a surrealist drawing game, explained the process and demonstrated how to fold the paper. So. No preconceived ideas of drawing a body. Also, in reference to the beginnings of the corpse he had contributors scrawl a word or phrase on each section. A noun, a verb and a concluding word or phrase. Fortunately, he let me copy them after the talk. Results below.

Unreal Tour Corpses-11

Unreal Tour Corpses-10

Unreal Tour Corpses-9

Unreal Tour Corpses-8

Unreal Tour Corpses-7

Unreal Tour Corpses-6

Unreal Tour Corpses-5

Unreal Tour Corpses-4

Unreal Tour Corpses-2

Unreal Tour Corpse 1

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