Robin D.G. Kelley carries forward a remarkable defense of fantasy in his book Freedom Dreams — one I might consider as I design a course on fantastic literature for the year ahead. Kelley quotes from Paul Garon’s book Blues and the Poetic Spirit. “Fantasy alone,” writes Garon, “enables us to envision the real possibilities of human existence, no longer tied securely to the historical effluvia passed off as everyday life; fantasy remains our most pre-emptive critical faculty, for it alone tells us what can be” (as quoted in Kelley 163-164). Garon sees the blues as revolutionary in nature due to “its fidelity to fantasy and desire” (164). Fantasy is one’s remembering of the past on behalf of the future through a kind of dreamwork, in accordance with a desire that draws reality toward the “as if” and the “can be.” Others have called this desire Eros and the Spirit of Hope. In his retelling of the story of surrealism in light of anticolonialism, Kelley reveals a side of Jules Monnerot that was unknown to me. I’d known him before as a member of Acéphale, a secret society formed by Georges Bataille in the 1930s. After WWII Monnerot drifted to the right and denounced Marxism as a political theology akin to Gnosticism. What I learn from Kelley, however, is Monnerot’s prior involvement with surrealism. Martinican by birth, Monnerot arrived to France in the early 1930s. By 1933, he’d published a critique of the “civilized mentality” in the Surrealist periodical Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution. Monnerot was one of several black intellectuals attracted to surrealism. Kelley argues that these intellectuals “found in surrealism confirmation of what they already know — for them it is more an act of recognition than a revolutionary discovery. […]. Aime Césaire insisted that surrealism brought him back to African culture. Ted Joans wrote Breton that he ‘chose’ surrealism because he recognized its fundamental ideas and camaraderie in jazz. Wilfredo Lam said he was drawn to surrealism because he already knew the power of the unconscious, having grown up in the Africanized spirit world of Santeria” (184-185). For the abovementioned figures, and for others like Watts poet-activist Jayne Cortez, “Surrealism was less a revelation than a recognition of what already existed in the black tradition” (187).
I listen to recordings from several weeks ago of friends and I jamming with guitars, laptops, effects pedals, and modular synths. Amazing how it all comes together into a synchronous spontaneous composition. Noise band as groupuscule, noise band as psychedelic assemblage. Isn’t that what John Sinclair had in mind? “A rock & roll band,” he wrote, “is a working model of the post-revolutionary production unit. The members of a rock & roll family or tribe are totally interdependent and totally committed to the same end — they produce their music collectively, sharing both the responsibility and the benefits of their work equally. […]. It’s time to turn on tune in and take over! Up against the ceiling, motherfucker!” Will Alexander helps in this regard, reminding me of exercises for “turning on,” like the ones specified in Edward de Bono’s book Lateral Thinking. Most importantly, he reminds me, “Leaps can be made.” Alexander calls the technique “flexible ambulation through one’s mental catacombs” (Singing in Magnetic Hoofbeat, p. 13). Through him I learn about the Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam, influenced by his godmother, Matonica Wilson, a Santeria priestess, healer, and sorceress who performed rites dedicated to African orishas. One drifts a bit, breathing, open to new experience. Voices respond by firmly chanting, “Aye!” as they do in the Supergrass song, “Coffee in the Pot.”
Let us try to see as others see. Try, try! Unforeseen outlooks, hidden powers, power on. Let us become creative in our capacity to heal. Bruce Mau’s advice also seems applicable here: “Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic-simulated environment.”