The Somnatists
English translations (excerpts)
                THE SOMNATISTS 1944-1948
(somnare, lat. – to sleep, to dream)
According to historical sources the Somnatists were a group of five artists/authors active from approximately1944 to 1948 in Zürich, Switzerland.
The Somnatists might be described as a kind of an artist commune, its members working together on various art projects and performances. The group did not aim towards exhibiting their works or any other form of popularity; neither did they intend to sell their work. A significant involvement in post-war Zürich art circles is not recorded anywhere. It appears the Somnatists have even actively covered their tracks after one of the members of the group died in 1949. This would be in accordance with the criticism the group formulated toward the idea of the artistic work.
The name of the group relates to the motif of sleeping and dreaming (the circle of waking and sleeping) that is strongly recurrent in their works and in their theoretical and poetic writings, and may serve as a metaphor for the eternal circle of being. At the „fuzzy“ edges, the areas of transition in repetitory processes, the Somnatists hoped to find unintentional and purposeless expressions of what they called „the unutterable“. According to them, series and repeptitions and the slight differences and shades that accompany repetitory processes produce lapsae and faults
which are the material of artistic expression.
In their writings the group stressed their independence from existentialist ́ philosophies as well as from the surrealist movement. The group was par-
ticularly opposed to the somewhat naive tendencies of the Surrealists and their Freudian interpretations of dreams as a pure source of creativity and even „truthfulness“. Also,for them to use art as a means to achieve political goals – as Aragon and Breton had done with the surrealist movement – was quite out of the question. If asked to describe the philosophical tendencies of the group, while taking into account the scarcity of materials left behind by them, one would have to say that a very discriminatory understanding of Nietzschean ideas meet with the kind of „pragmatic mysticism“ that can be found in the writings Nicolas Cusanus: there is something beyond language and knowledge, but we cannot speak of it.
The works and documents shown in the 2006 Hamburg exhibition are the only ones known to exist so far. Most of the works pertain to three perform-
ances/ exhibitions/activities during 1947, as well as theoretical and poetological writings that relate to these activities. The material of the show
originates from the family estates Preiser (London), St. John (Inverness, SCO), Benjedid (Paris), as well as an object on loan by the Musée de Alpin-
isme (Chamonix, F).
Moritz Anton Phillip von Bamsell, (b.1914, Zürich; d.Chamonix 1949) only son of a real estate entrepreneur and art  benefactor. Studies in philosophy in Geneva and Bologna. During the year 1944 the mansion of the Bamselle family on the shores of the Lake Zürich became the artist commune that formed the nucleus of the group which later called themselves the Somantists. When the mansion burned down in the early Fifties, Moritz v. Bamselle’s entire estate was annihilated. A lifelong climber and mountaineer, Moritz v. Bamsell died in 1949 while soloing a high mountain route above Chamonix.
Georges André Latours, (b. 1920, Annecy, F; d. after 1969, possibly Paraguay – exact date and place unknown) son of the owner of a savoyard trucking company and a nurse from the Alsace. Studies in English language and literature in Geneva. Move to Zürich in 1942, acquaintance with Moritz v. Bamsell. 1949, shortly after the death of v. Bamsell, Latours emigrates to Paraguay. As sporadic correspondence shows, Latours there worked as a legal clerk, bookseller an later ran an off-hour bar.
Mia Moren, née Anneke Sund, (b. 1922 Ringköbing, Danmark; d. 1986, Paris), daughter of an undertaker. Moved to Paris right after high school, there met and befriended Esther Weinstein. Worked as an exotic dancer in small varietés. When in 1940 German occupation threatened, Moren and Weistein moved to Zürich. Moren moved back to Paris in 1949 and married an attachée of the Algerian embassy. When she died in 1986, she left behind her husband Saif Benjedid and the twins Capucine and Clementine.
Esther Weinstein, (b. 1918, Frankfurt/M, Germany; d. after 1970, Gharwal Province, India – exact date and place unknown) only daughter of a jewish banker. Attended the London Royal College of Arts where she studied violin and piano. In 1939 she moved to Paris to finish her studies at the Paris Music Conservatory. 1940 move to Zürich and different engagements playing for
local orchestras. She was the only one of her family who escaped the holocaust. After the dissolution of the group in 1949 she stayed in Zürich until 1970 when she moved to a buddhist ashram in India.
Wyllie Herbert Gorringer, (b. 1918, Hartford, Connecticut, USA; d. Boston, CT, 1960). Father mechanical engineer with Colt Industries. Studies in Art History from 1938 on at New York University. Joins the OSS (CIA forerunner) in 1941 serves  in a prop- aganda film unit during the war. From late 1945 on he is a attached to a shady unit in the German occupation zones which was concerned with gathering information about the new German cultural elite. After in 1947 Gorringer had organized the only official exhibition the Somnatists ever held (Bonn, Redoutte), he moved to Zürich and became part of the commune in the Bamsell mansion. In 1948 he moved to London and worked in the ad agency of his ex OSS-superior Osgood Preiser. Move to Boston in 1952, died in 1960 and left behind his wife Clara and his son Patrick.