Saturday, October 22, 2005

Surrealist Extreme Makeover: City Edition

At one of the U of T booksales I found a copy of What Is Surrealism?, a fat omnibus of writings by André Breton. It includes this Q&A with Breton, "Experimental Researches (On the Irrational Embellishments of a City)," originally published in the May 1933 issue of Le surréalisme au service de la révolution:

Should one preserve, move, modify, change or suppress:

The Arc de Triomphe?

Blow it up after burying it in a mountain of manure.

The Obelisk?

Remove it to the entrance of the Abattoir where it will be held by a woman's immense gloved hand.

The Saint-Jacques Tower?

Conserve it as it is, but demolish the surrounding quarter and, for a hundred years, forbid anyone to approach within one kilometre, under penalty of death.

The Statue of Gambetta?

Destroy it.

The Vendôme Column?

Replace it by a factory chimney being climbed by a nude woman.

The Opéra?

Transform it into a fountain of perfumes. Reconstruct the staircase from the bones of prehistoric animals.

The Palace of Justice?

Raze it. Let the site be covered with a magnificent graffiti to be seen from an airplane.


Replace the towers by an enormous glass cruet, one of the bottles filled with blood and the other with sperm. The building will become a sexual school for virgins.

The Statue of Alfred de Musset?

The woman will put her hand in his mouth; people will be invited to strike him in the abdomen and his eyes will light up.

The Statue of Henry IV?

Paint the horse black. Reconstruct Henry IV in powder-puffs.

Imagine the suggestions he might have had for the CN Tower, or City Hall!


Blogger striatic said...

i think this is one of the best blog posts i've read all year.

surrealists are cool.

i'd twist the tracks at union station so that the GO train must be boarded upside-down.

fill the pool in front of city hall with human saliva, and have it freeze in the winter for skating.

clear-cut queen's park.

block off the gardiner and reserve it for drag racing. that is, drag queens in hot rods.

12:04 p.m., October 22, 2005  
Blogger Nadia said...

Thanks, Striatic -- I like your suggestions!

I've always felt that the Yonge/University/Spadina subway line needs a loop. Like, a roller-coaster loop. It should speed up somewhere around King, emerge from the ground, loop upside down, then go back underground and continue on to Union.

12:32 p.m., October 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah! Serves me right for going photographing last week and being sick this week (I missed the zombie walk too). Not that I have space for more books but I can always find room for surrealists.

I think they should bury the Gardiner in a glass tunnel under the harbour, and back when I was working at the reference library on Yonge I drew up plans for a waterslide in the big space in the middle built into a giant Tyrannosaurus rex. You'd climb in the mouth by the Literature desk and slide out the tail into that pond they have, which I suppose would have to be dredged.

5:03 p.m., October 23, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nadia, your post reminded me of Komar and Melamid's project of 1992-3 when they invited artists suggestions on what to do with the Soviet monuments. Art Spiegelman's entry showed Vera Mukhina 1937 sculpture "The Worker and the Collective Farm Woman striding right off the pedestal.


12:17 a.m., October 24, 2005  
Anonymous Liav. said...

oh, andre breton, you crazy psychopath. I love you.

11:37 p.m., October 28, 2005  

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