Various original texts by the Somnatists
Original texts:
1. The First Manifesto of the Somnatists
2. Setting the Sails
3. The Hundred Orphans
4. From a Sea of Whispers
5. A Little Jacket Made of Meaning
Complete transcription of the 1. Manifesto of the Somnatists from handwritten manuscript and printed flyer. Appr. 1946. (Source: estate Osgood Preiser)  
The first
of the Somnatists
 The world lies in shambles.
But then, the world has never been other than in shambles.
In shambles that spell repetition.
This is no surprise.
We Somnatists have not forgotten that the world essentially consists of forgetting; we know that a manifesto is mere repetition. We know that we are picking through shambles. But it is our pleasure to fit from the shreds of memory a new canvas, to compose from the incoherent whisperings and stammerings a new text. We do things because that is what we happen to do. Nothing else. Take it. We have already moved on to the next dream.
A dream happens to you.
It is composed of the world.
Its source is not any deeper that us.
A dream does not want to take effect, but it does so anyway.
Is it then surprising we call ourselves Somnatists?
The stories of beginnings and endings are just that: stories. They are fairy tales which bore us. The creatio ex nihilo which even the most mediocre minded artist claims for himself is saturated by a belief: it is believing that they create something „new“. The new against the old: the eternal yarn of the avantgarde oscillating between autonomy and utility. For us this spells Scylla and Charybdis. Subjective will which has to perform and assert itself bears adoration and appropriation. There is no difference between a heroic statue of a man on a horse and Breton’s writings. They have both been sanctfied. It is unimportant whether they were intended to have an effect or if they happened to have an effect purely because of the liturgies that they have become part of. The have become a „work“. The are charged with intention or are intentionally charged. The have their use or are being utilized. They are not themselves, they just signify repetition in a system of greed. And it is always the smartest and most profound strategies that fail in the most miserable way: Because they deem themselves so powerful and so truthful and so effective that they start to take sides, join parties and try to change the world. But all that is left of them is a small heap of ashes that is blown away like everything else. In fact, whenever the work wants to „mean“ something it is just like everything else, it becomes part of the banal.
The Somnatists are fools. They are sleepy and simple. They write manifestos and poems and take photographs and draw drawings and paint pictures. Is that of any concern to anybody? Yes. It is the concern of those who simply take these things: like a street thug or a burglar, like somebody stealing the first kiss or making nice before he takes that first kiss anyway. You can do whatever you want. (Ah, there’s the rub: you will have to learn not to want idiotic things first!) When you arrive at our art we will be long gone, leaving behind orphans. Our art is free of charge. It is not of any value, because we do not sign it with our lives and it is not produced or performed for your pleasure. Our art comes like a dream: cheap.
Where does our art stem from? It stems from the spaces inbetween, if you please. The lux mundi shines through the cracks and the sloppily fitted gaps of being. It shines in places you may only observe from the corner of your eye and which will disappear when you focus in on them. It comes from where everything is still possible where nothing has been decided where quite unintenionally everything plods along. (There is  a word for this: possest.)In the rows and columns of the world and their endless repetitions there are still many of those gaps. You may approach them if you don’t look for them too hard, when you roam about with no aim or destination, when you provoke things just a little. They show themselves when you let go of any intentionality. What the Id wants disappears when „I“ sleep: I am a true Somnatist. Where the sequentiality of thinking breaks down, that is where truth may be found. (Is that true?)
„We have to do something!“ they shout! „To get something! To become something!“ The System of Greed buys art because greed is jealous of it: it knows that there exists something that can be soiled but not destroyed by it. Greed cannot permit things to have no purpose. Greed is deeply hurt by the fact that there is something that doesn’t even intend to say or be anything except for itself. Greed always wants to become something. It wants to become everything at once - a god. But first and foremost greed wants to be a patron. It became a patron when it invented the „work“.
Many artists who want to become something have taken to hectially produce things that are charged with „meaning“, things that comment, that accuse, that teach, that show. All these works have to be explained, before they can become art. There always has to be some big idea behind it, because the audience must, after all, feel that it is all bigger than them, larger than life. Otherwise they are disappointed.
A work that has to explain the audience about itself while it wants to teach the audience something about something else is either handicraft or propaganda. It is nothing else. It can’t stand for itself. It is born of intentions and must thus remain in a system of utility and greed. It can never escape the thralls of „wanting to become“. A work creates itself in a feedback loop with the world, that is, in a feedback loop with the artist whose existence is shaped by this work. It may sound paradox but the artist becomes merely a reverb of his own works, and the works are merely the echo of the animal screams of greed. Whenever art ist supposed to say something, to mean something, it is but a naiv gesture frozen in time. Just another heroic statue of a man on a horse.
Over the past decades the court-jesters of greed actually believed that they have rid art of many of its fetters, to have re-created art for only art’s sake and transcended any bounds that there might have been left. But, alas, what kind of freedom is gained from knowing that now you may sell anything, not only those agreeable and obliging little objects that fit so well over the couch, over the altar or in the quaint nooks of the museums? All that new art ends up in the same nooks anyway.
We have nothing to do with permanence, with the hereafter of our works. And still we are far from claiming for us the „Anything goes!“ of the Nihilists! We are our own bounds and know this. There are only very few ways to avoid the delusions of beginnings and endings and the delusions of purpose and usefulness. One of them could be a certain kind of art. This art must not listen to anybody or anything, is completely useless (if it choses to be so) and is not compelled to explain anything to anybody. It does not belong to anybody, not even to those who think they have completely understood it. It does not want to become anything, it stands about completely unmoved by its surroundings, all by itself and self sufficient: incorruptible, not for sale and totaly indifferent. Like a mountain: a well defined outline from afar, but a jumbling chaos of details when you step closer. Traces of the Absolute – noticeable in the spaces inbetween, in the gaps that connect and break up at the same time the vast surfaces. Traces of the Absolute in the cracks that may be visible between elements of series and in its  unexpected nuances and timbres. But those traces show only for a moment. You must not forget this: only for a moment! And never when you look for them.
Statues of horsemen without the men, sujets which only spell „sujet“, colours which only spell „now: red!“. An art not adorning, an art not commenting. Art like this will exist some day. But even this art will be appropriated sooner or later. By those who have „understood“ it, „seen through“ it. It will be appropriated by the angry protestations about its uselesness and re-named a „provocation“. It will sell as such. (A scandal always serves a purpose.)
We plunder books und paintings and films and take away whatever we chose to see in them. We leave them behind like rotting carcasses. And then we go about and mix our plunder in with the store of our „personal experience“ and „memory“. On a good day we have the gall to call ourselves geniuses for this. On a bad day we want to kill ourselves for being utterly without talent and skill. If you can admit to this, you may become a good Somnatist. Somnatists do not create works, they merely do their chores an then walk away. They don’t want to tear away Maya’s veil; they only want to create a breath of air that moves the veil just enough for us to see that it exists, and to watch it move as it never quite reveals the face of that which cannot be spoken of.
The Somnatists are busy making art or they are busy with some other chore. When they are done they go home and sit down to eat. If they have food, that is. Then they go to bed and sleep. They dream. Something. Anything. With no beginning and no ending.
(Transcription from handwritten notebooks of Georges Latour, 1947. (The Benjedid Estate.)
„Toward the sweet wreckage which deigns to let us live...“ I wrote. „Toward terrible wreckage my soul is setting its sails...“ T.E. Lawrence wrote and set out. One has to pass through lifeless deserts and get to know them intimately in order to be prepared for new incarnations. One has to learn to set a stage for the world, a stage made of one’s own calmness. Befriend its wealth and enigma by refraining from constant inquiry and just leaving the friend be.
Teach oneself to listen, to hear, in those neverending and cold nights where we burn holes into the darkness with our tired eyes. To hear one’s own voice as one’s own voice and to learn to tell the nuances in the whisper that ever rises around us and know: this is not madness, this is the real world.
But there will always be with us sharp twangs of pain. It marks and designates that which persistently remains beyond our reach, beyond the reach of language and images. To be unable to dull this pain and suffer it when we stand speechless before beauty is the nature of our sweet wreckage, the failure we delight in. We need the care and meticulousness of a love that does not want to destroy what it sees by naming it, but simply leaves it be. Can we really be strong enough to forfeit our vaingloriousness and concede to harmony that it has always been there and only just this very moment deigned to show itself to us? Yes, we can. But it requires a practice and dilligence.      
We only bring distrust to what we see around us. Not because we are cautious or want to protect ourselves. It is because we feel insulted by it. We are not enough, our minds are not enough to encompass it. This hurts. But there is always the stupidity of those who deem themselves „understanding“ or „seeing through“ things. This stupidity is the architect of all those crooked and provisional annexes to the grand ideologies of this world. And in front of those annexes stand men who explain the clutter that remains outside even after new room has been made in the great house of ideologies. They explain to the people that of course it was intended that these things must remain outside. Anything that doesn’t fit can’t be real, they say. It can’t be. The great houses of the ideologies have many annexes, but they remain bunkers superficially adorned with flimsy ornaments.
In our times artists and philosophers either work to adorn the bunkers or they must starve. There is only one way not starve and not to work as one of decorators of desolation: one must not win one’s bread with art.
But still it comes to pass - the work. Everybody knows this. „Toward terrible wreckage...“ Art and the language that is capable of speech create a space, called a „work“. Only in a „work“ a quality of being is made visible that would otherwise remain invisible. This is because it comes not from a world of neccessity, it comes to pass in us - and the quality of the unneccessary is its triumph. This quality is only found in symbolic form, something once removed from contingency. A contingency of a second order, as it were. But this form is of such ephemeral quality that one might try to provoke its occurrence but one can never guarantee it. But whenever it becomes manifest, if only for a fleeting moment, it is worth all previous and following wreckage and failure. It is virtually made of wreckage and failure. That is why failure nourishes us.
Seeting the sails... Again and again. Do. And then rest. Until you are called up to set sails again.
(Transcription of a typewritten draft of a speech Moritz v. Bamsell apparently gave on Bahnhofsplatz, a plaza in front of the Zürich main railway station in April 1947. (Estate Preiser)  
          (A somnatistic theory of walking-away. To be read publicly.)
Do you hear me? Do you envision me? I am talking to you. Now. My voice fills you and what you were is gone. Where is it while you hear me? This is now. You step back, you keep walking and in the isolation of the Id your thoughts begin to circle around what just happened to you. Just a moment ago you were one with me, my words, my images, my world, my thoughts. Is this my intention? No, it is just to say, there are two polarities: Isolation versus assimilation by what exists around us.  
Leaving no trace. To walk across the snow and not make any footprints is the naive image that rises up when I say: Leaving no trace. But the real image isn’t an image: the things that come to pass without intention do leave traces, but it is not their intention to keep having an effect after their occurred. Their intention, if any, was doing it when it was to be done. There is no intention left, certainly not the intention to leave behind a trace and footprint. „Why do you write this text, then?“ the sophist may ask. My answer is: „Because it is what I do.“
I describe the Naught by doing something. This is a paradox. The only possibility to stand up against the Great Naught is to do. Or ceasing to move. It would be of admirable consequence to completely cease moving and watch oneself decaying and rotting away. But „consequence“ is a word that has always been lovingly embraced by the high priests of utility and their positivist liturgy. „Consequence“ also is a word that those who call themselves artists carry before them as a monstrance of their dire lives. The delusions of utility and autonomy are well lubricated machines that help keep alive self-righteousness. Consequence is lubrication.
The thousand strategies to mercifully forget the Naught, to use them while knowing all about them – that would be true humor. But it is a delusion in itself to believe that one could stand up against repetition, circularity, the ever returning. It is even worse to believe one could achive this with „originality“, which in truth is the cheap way out for all those utterly devoid of any talent. On the other extreme of the pendulum arch stands the delusion to believe that you can stand up against the second law of thermodynamics by creating order. That is something „doing“ can never achive. (Another word for this is: totalitarianism, which translates into: ideology.) But both polarities in their simplicity bear nothing but cruelty which penetrates everything with its justifications of pragmatism and neccessity. They too are strategies to mercyfully forget the Great Naught. They are the worst there are, but they are also the most popular and widely used.
The delusion of our own power. The delirium of authenticity and genuine creativity – to inscribe oneself in the world – is not only seeking the original thing (a priori), but in all earnestness claims to be a process of creation itself. This is a heart-rending misunderstanding. A child stands before a fire, mesmerized, and it knows not how hot it is. But we all hustle and shove for a place close to the fire. It makes the dream that much more real.
A thousand years ago – those thousand years that lasted only twelve – another man from Zürich wrote, while sitting on a similar heap of rubble as we do now: „The gnostic work as a sublime severeance with one’s own power is the homesickness for exactly what is beyond the work.“ The man was right. Even if he turned out be nothing but a provocateur who then sold the provocation to those who felt first provoked then entertained.
This man, Hugo Ball, says nothing other than we do: You can’t create, produce, shape the unutterable, the incomprehensible; one can only set the stage for its spontaneous occurrence from the chaotic and fractalized murmus of being. Where discursive rationality and the inner experience (Le Expérience Intérieure, yes exactly!)meet there are zones, edges, rims, borders and boundaries that are unfocussed, undefined, fuzzy. This is from whence the light of the world shines. Or a vibration emitted, causing a shiver down our spines. Or you may call it the nouminous, as it was quite en vogue at the turn of the century. Or it might be something that even a man like Wittgenstein - who confidently explained away anything beyond words - dared to utter, because he knew this he would be a liar if he kept quiet about it: the „mystical“ of which „one cannot speak“ but which still „shows“ itself. With these laconic words taken from that famous retraction of the „Tractatus“, the „Brown Book“, he compromised his entire philosophy – without ever admitting to it, of course.
Beyond speech. But how can one bring about the occurrence of this quality that is the ruin of the „Tractatus“? One can set the stage for its occurrrence by a work of art. That is all one can do - and then walk away. One will never see this in one’s own work. Only if one is mad. We must force the quality of the ephemeral, we must force the quality of the fleeting and untimely. But when we are done forcing this, we must walk away, because we are a disturbance, we are not part of the plan. The originator is – if he is at all truthful – doomed to stand aside. If we do notz want to taint our work with ourselves, we have to learn to walk away from it.
Besides, Ezra Pound was right when he stated that wit and education do not inevitably entail loss of artistic creativity. What was it he meant by that? Probably this: To sell one’s stupidity for modesty is a perfidious strategy which is utilized to camouflage one’s own ineptitude with exactly that modesty, while even claiming the moral high ground of the simple and the natural. If you feel embarrassed or upset or insulted by the use of grand words, please move along. (We have already said everything about originality. You will not hear anymore about this. And you will ceratinly not hear anything judgemental about the thousand strategies to forget the Great Naught.)
Details all by themselves are stupid, and no matter how well they are crafted they remain nothing but handicraft. On the other hand: an outline alone, no matter how grand, always stays in the realms of the formal, the uninvested; it will always remain a sketch. Anybody claiming to provoke with sketch and fragment techniques or even initiate some kind of dynamic process with it (Ah, the „Initial Mover“...), banks on the random laurel given to the idiot who just happened to be around.
Only where the „gestalt“ emerges from the chaos, or even the other way round: where the gestalt with its outlines all of sudden makes visible a chaos of details that dissolves down to the infinitismal, only there you might find the fringe, the borderline, the uncertainty, the unfocussed, the lapsus. Where there is no repetition but singular occurrrence, where there are no possibilities of description or inscription: this is the place where there is only occurrence and its witness. They are one.
Sometimes the outrageous happens and we suddenly comprehend – as if woken from a deep sleep and still disoriented – that being may open its eyes only through us, that it can look at itself only through our eyes. The Absolute that thinks and imagines itself. Is that asked too much? Do we see too much in something as harmless as a poem, a painting or a film?
No! You can’t ever be serious enough about these things! In fact, we have to take these things so serious, that we cannot possibly be people who take themselves too serious. Because if we did, we would have no seriousness left for the matters at hand.
This is a terrible dilemma. But thinking about it, it is easily avoided: you do something, bring something to pass and then walk away. (Do you take your work serious enough to not claim it for yourself?) What is left behind is sovereign, untainted by the desire of the artist. (Artists are nothing but the dreggs of their work anyway.) One creates a hundred orphans. Or a thousand. But: you must walk away, like the thief that you are.  
(Georges Latours, Moritz v. Bamsell, Zürich 1947.Somewhat of an edited synthesis of the two texts above.)
         From a Sea of Whispers Rises a Song
From monadic doubt to completely disappearing in the thralls of the ten thousand things: staggering back and forth between polarities. Then, for a moment only, one hears a faint song rising from the chaotic murmur of the world. Then standing there, tears streaming down one’s face. You dearly long to tell somebody how incredibly tender the world has just been to you. But one is rendered speechless. That is the point where one knows even more long and cold nights of learning are needed – this time to learn how to speak. One has to become a poet and an artist and find speech, a language subtle enough to convey meaning, not only conveying the meaning of terms. One becomes lonely when one has to leave the temperate zones. This is where the gravest danger awaits: one believes that one creates a work; one believes that one is an artist. If this happens, all has been for naught.
Art. A miserable, used and abused word. But, among other things, it describes a sometimes wildly non-utilitarian thing that has the power to stand outside the framework of the paradoxical collective hallucination of personal autonomy. It has the power to arrange meetings with naked existence for the express purpose of not showing up at the given time. A missed date: What was supposed to be there at a certain time at a certain place just isn’t. But if we go somewhere without expecting anything, when we dare drifting, we become seers of such subtlety and lightness that we will be carried away by even the faintest whisp of being.
The Somnatists do not think works to be important. They only acredit importance to what the works do to us when encountered. But the Somnatists do sign their names on a work, which is paradoxical. You may rightly ask: „Why does a Somnatist sign his/her work?“ There is a simple answer to that: The signature of a Somnatist is of no value and the signed (marked!) work will disappear like everything else. It will not be conserved, bought or used in any way. It’ll be blown away with our names on it and it reminds us that we always must admit to being human, just that. You do something, put something into this world and then walk away. What remains is sovereign and untroubled by the desires of the artist. (Artist are nothing but the dreggs of their work anyway.) This means: one gives birth to orphans.
Truth may only withstand the scrutiny of the first look. The second look gives rise to questions. The third look reveals nothing but shabbiness. We wander around in a world of second and third looks and are full of praise for ourselves for our cunning ability to see through things. (This means that the  grand course of awakening also prescribes learning to look at the world from the corner of our eyes.) It is indeed strange that death should be such a scandal in the occident, despite the fact that we know that Hypnos and Thanatos are brothers and that repetition is their nature. They are sons of a mother who wears a red poppy in her hair. Her name is Night.
(From a notebook of Esther Weinstein, probably around 1947. (Benjedid Estate)
A Little Jacket Made of Meaning
I ask Georges, I ask Moritz, I ask Mia: What do we need a name for? (Ah, there they are, their names!) To keep things apart when I can’t point at them? That I can relate to things in their absence? If I would call myself a „Somnatist“ I would give myself a name – I put on a predetermined meaning like a piece of clothing. What good does it do? None of us is interested in posthumous fame. What happens now are our lives alone. So what am I to do with this name, this little jacket made of meaning? Am I supposed to walk up to a total stranger in the street and say: „I am a Somnatist!“? What would happen then? If it were just one person it wouldn’t really matter. But what would happen if I were to do this with a dozen strangers? Hundreds? And write down their answers and put them next to one another without commentary? Then the empty vessel that a name is would be filled with chance, contingency. The many contingencies would start to form an outline, a „gestalt“ if one would collect them. The world would be forced to answer when I voice our name: Somnatists. In light of this I will not put up any more resistance and I too will henceforth call myself a Somnatist. One name more or less can’t really hurt. And you can always take off a jacket – even when it is a jacket made of meaning.