To organize these three days of debate in order to reflect on the object is related to the intention of the Surrealist Group of Madrid to intervene in the reality of everyday life. This presence is part of the dynamics that this group has been developing since the beginning of the 90s. But it must be said that it takes on a new meaning in the light of the present state of things, as it has been well exposed in the opening text of this book. Specifically, and as a political strategy of its own, the discourse that raises out of and which stands on the principles of revolutionary criticism and poetic enchantment should find the practices that materialize it and that tend to make it desirably understandable for everyone: understandable in rational terms (conceptual) and non-rational (poetic). Thus, elucidation and intuition, analysis and apprehension should proceed in a more united way than ever. The issue that this strategy puts forward is where to expose this discourse and these practices so that the ideas that it contains not only reach to the related but also to the contraries, to the concerned and to the unconcerned, to those different and to the indifferent, to the knowledgeable and to the profane.
We think that we can assert that if we have learned anything from the Madrid revolt in May 2011, it has been the need, literally, to contribute to the appropriation of the so called public space in order to contribute and support its liberation, as our discourse, as we see it, through it should find a way to channel itself openly and into the open. i.e., to expose itself to the danger or the goodness of being misunderstood or understood, thus assuming the advantages and disadvantages that this might cause (although in fact we only see advantages in the present circumstances).
This explains, in part (1), that these conference nights took place in this lot: the liberated lot of the Assembly of Lavapiés which granted it to this endeavour. Because unlike our presence in other areas (which the present one by no means overrides or bypasses), this one brings with it another type of daring, something like a conscious abandonment to the conflict that is being created when we feel compelled to ask ourselves what we offer to others, and if we are able to do so. But also, and with the same initial importance, about what others, partially or entirely foreign to our purposes, bring to us.
We think that we know something about the object, and yet we cannot stop asking us what it is that we know if we ignore what others know or do not know about it. Doesn't the challenge of the encounter, of the correspondence, or perhaps of the lack of communication resides in this suspension of the knowledge? So the bet had been made: our discourse could only be verified in that elemental relationship with others outside that babbling, quiet, wise, dull interrogation or all that at once. Only in this way could any preconception be surpassed. This started to occur through the heterogeneous movement of people in the lot, people coming in and out, approaching, staying, leaving, wondering what was happening there. People ”informed” or completely unaware of what it all was about. But the crucial arose when their questioning corresponded to a strangeness visible in their face (thereby introducing a strangeness in our purpose), when their questions, even the most ”reasonable” ones (”What is this, a flea market?”), in addition of interpellating them, interpellated us, especially us. For what could we answer to such a simple question to which it isn't so easy to offer an answer? It was obvious that we couldn't just answer that it dealt with talks about the object, but that we should take such a question as a suspension of the sense of the proposal itself, a suspension of the sense which was getting generalized in a particularly incidental way in the debates that took place during the chats that every night lead and/or put the participants into them; the suspension of the sense due to the anticipation of an intensity of experience.
No doubt this was one of the precious gifts that was made to us by the people who passed through their lot: that questioning about what we were busy with there. But this questioning should not be understood as something sceptical from their part as what was sought also occurred: the correspondence. The moments when that correspondence became more visible were still, as we have already mentioned, the debates which only ended well into the night after the exhaustion of the discussions, which occurred an hour and a half after they had begun.
Then we could see that the project was achieving part of its purpose, when both a certain thought on the matter to discuss or the story of some experiences with objects was being expressed that doubtless, fell on the side of what we were looking for. A girl told us that the father of a friend, whose job was to make an inventory of household items from deceased persons, selected some of these things in order to give them to his son who had a penchant for collecting certain objects (that didn't necessarily had to do with the tragic). But the father was not content with that and amused himself by concealing such objects in the child's bed, between the sheets. Another woman responded to this account by telling that she used to hide a stuffed Donald Duck between her sheets, and did so with delight. One of the participants immediately associated this with the spontaneous idea of the succubus-object. This led to some friends and group members to elaborate various succubus-objects that were surreptitiously introduced in the beds of three other members that night. Following the event, a communication made by a woman via email impinged with humor on this question: ”how small objects can sneak into our house becoming our particular (and horny) benign demon”.
Continuing the particular relations, we recall another person who told us how often, needing a particular object, he dreamed of it. This sort of alliance between conscious thought and oneiric experience seemed to have the effect of attracting the object to him, as he often encountered what he had dreamed with surprising ease the very same day. According to him, this wasn't necessarily related to the poetic, since it was often about objects related with mundane needs.
One man had us shared his childhood tours through dungs and how he admired the things that he found there, appearing as incomprehensible but truly living wonders.
Another man told us that he had the habit of picking up some small object while walking down the street: a plug, a shackle, a leaf … He carried it during part of his journey and perceived it as a way of breathing life into this object until he felt that it was time to take leave of, to abandon the object, carefully depositing it in the street with the hope that someone else might pick it up and prolong its wandering life.
Also dreams increase the general knowledge about our relationship with objects. In this regard, it is also worth highlighting the communications about dreams sent to us after the event that some people have had with objects and that we summarize here using some of their own words: ”... highly desirable, these objects create a magnetic field around us that attracts the desire to exist.” ”... if it is about the oneiric, just the ability to 'see' where there is seemingly nothing but an old shoe or the drawer of a spalling cabinet ... is what will opens our mind, and with an open mind anything is possible...”
Another person expressed oneself in the following terms: ”The oneiric nature of any object or thought is always fascinating. It is fascinating to dream in itself. The tangible objects are very apparent to us so that we can appreciate their beauty, I guess.” Or in these: ”...The more oneiric objects come from wherever, the better. This insertion seems to me revealing, dangerous, desirable and very beautiful.” Also in this: ”Inventing objects that make us happier, even if only in dreams, in order to remember them while standing in the unemployment line.” And in conclusion, as follows: ”...After having experienced the event in the lot, they [the objects] have entered in my life leaving me stunned, because I didn't know that they existed in the same world as I. I remember seeing there a glove with a poker card with a message...”
The narrative of these testimonies shouldn't be taken as something merely anecdotal. A fundamental seriousness is to be found in them: we learned from them not only that there is a relationship between these people and the objects (beyond, as can be seen, the instrumental and the simply functional), but also that they saw in this context a great opportunity to manifest it, as if that kind of relationship had been inhibited. By doing so as to deny it, the correspondence took its rightful place. The contagion became mutual. At a small scale, as it cannot be otherwise in the present circumstances, it could be found that, as these experiences are being ’communalized’, they emerge to the surface of the communism of genius proclaimed by the surrealists, as the poetic potential is common to all human beings.
The peaking point occurred at the end of the third day. After the scheduled talk, a game took place: the collective construction of objects with which we had decided to end the adventure.There where it peaked was at the end of the third day. After the talk concerned, there was a game: the collective construction of objects with which we had decided to end the affair. A substancial group of people got involved in silence but almost frenetically. A man took a small porcelain female bust and hit one of the eyes with a hammer until making a hole in it. Another offered him a cup filled with sand to introduce in her head. A girl showed a toy train track in which a shell had been put. Someone placed another shell into the mouth of a white mask out of whose eye a small doll protruded. Two people uprooted weeds with their hands and placed them into an old suitcase. An imaginary bestiary was being materializing on the lot: a tiger-headed giraffe, a swan with a body of metal, a doll with a light bulb head... There we spent a few hours in which the suspension of sense indeed prevailed as well as the overflowing of inhibition. Besides acquaintances (which does not guarantee that they had to correspond, even if they did it by sheer determination), others were strangers jumping into the game, all restoring more or less dormant powers to themselves, recovering perhaps anesthetized abilities overcoming the dictatorship of skill, mocking every principle of authority and displaying great disdain for seriousness. Simultaneously the lot became, or had already become (2) the site of generalized play as several people, women and men, had been kicking a ball at night. There some absorbed people wandered about among all the artifacts that had been built up over these three days. Other approached the objects situated among the bushes or placed on some mound, or did the tour of the various boards where legends and quotes were written. A man who had just finished wandering through the place approached a member of the group, declaring that he found himself standing in an onieric place that he felt was his own, only to leave it, smiling. Children who entered the lot with their parents met their natural space. We recall how one of them even said something like the following referring to the site: ”where adults play like children in parks”. This same child, with all the nonchalance of childhood, destroyed or distorted some of the objects that had been made that day. But, assisted by a woman, he built an object during the final collective game. The fact is that, quite useless in productivist terms and beautifully uplifting in enchanting terms – and all the partial that you you want – the lot had converted itself into the desirable, in a place where a small human community reinstated a culture of the senses through an encounter with objects that awoke in their hands just as their hands awoke to the body of objects.
In this regard, it is of interest to reproduce here the comment about the lot received after the event via email and written by the same woman who had talked about the succubus-object: ”Being on a lot, a place somewhat grimy and dirty (no disrespect of course) also transformed us in abandoned, anyway discarded objects. So in a way it was hard to tell who was human and who a thing...”
Finally, shortly before the end of the game it had been thought – whoever might wish to participate – to take away these assembled objets in a couple of shopping carts along with all that had been gathered during the previous days such as tables, cupboards, doors, fixtures, chairs, dirt, wheelbarrows, grass, shelves, walls, etc. And so was done. Just a few minutes later, everyone prepared to leave the site, but not before placing a ghost on top of the wall that enclosed the lot. And there it stayed, standing on it, perhaps as the libertarian flag of a territory where the objects had been ephemerally emancipated. The march of the living objects started immediately toward what is popularly called the Plaza de Agustín Lara. During the walk words such as The end of the goods! or The things will eat your hands!, or We are all Diogenes! were proclaimed loudly. A woman ”sealed” the entrance of a bank forcing a spherical clock lacking needles between the glass doors. Objects were abandoned on cars, on sidewalks, in doorways. Someone placed the pages of a photo album at the foot of trees. Another person took a perfume bottle with a modified label and put it on the shelve of a neighborhood store. While we proceeded towards the plaza, the screams kept up the tension and the joy. Demoralization was unacceptable. There was a mood of individual and collective intoxication. Reaching it, all these things were taken from carts and deposited in the center of the square to take leave of them. Some of the people who had accompanied them spontaneously jumped over them or run around them in the same way as the Indians of some tribes do, as if these were the embers and fire of a secular ceremony in which the death of the commodity fetish was symbolically consummated at the hands of the poetic fetish. The objects were left to their destiny... or not at all, because after midnight some people took care of some of them that had been left by the cleaning services in a corner of the square, giving them new life, carrying them to other places, depositing in other streets, thus letting them regain their place in the open, their true habitat.
The Surrealist Group in Madrid
3d of June 2013
1. We arrived to the lot ”accidentally” because, in principle, the event was scheduled in the CSO Raíces, in Tirso de Molina, an adjacent neighborhood of Lavapiés. However, the shutting down of the same by the police led us to this lot. That this occurred in this way does not mean that in there were no strong desire in the group to intervene in the open as it did happen on this occasion. Despite and thanks to, and paradoxically, this nefarious eviction gave us the opportunity to fulfill our latent desire to hit the street.
2. This lot not only served as an amphitheater for the talks, it was much more than that. From the first day when some of us entered it, we felt a full identification with it. It was the exact spot where everything that had been planned had to take place. On one hand, as a lot, it contained all the promises that are inherent to its status of ramshackle place, occupied by eroded furniture falling apart, stones, pebble, weeds, in short, by varied accumulations. It was enough to walk through it, doing nothing, to feel expected and unexpected stimulations. But it was not enough: it was necessary to ”intervene” in it for this occasion, it was necessary to respond to its potential with an own inspiration, because, as a group member said a few months ago referring to the need to be inspired – quoting or paraphrasing André Breton – ”in times like the ones we live I prefer silence where I stop feeling”. For it is urgent indeed to enhance everything necessary in order to prevent the asepsis from turning into another agent of domination. Thus we had to contribute to the inspiration contained in the place, generating a limited and concentrated space of inspiration, converting it into an incantatory vortex. Whether we succeed or not is another question, but it was our responsibility to encourage it. In our hands, really, was the ability to crystallize in the street, in everyday life, for a few days, the theory of the ”poetics of space” and its truthfullness.
(Published in the book Las mercancías mueren, las cosas despiertan – Jornadas sobre el objeto cuando todo se viene abajo (La torre Magnética, Madrid 2013)