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ACÉPHALE was both a journal and a “secret society” founded by Georges Bataille in association with Roger Caillois and Michel Leiris, among others. The society functioned in tandem with The College of Sociology in Paris between 1937 and 1939. Its intentions included the creation of a Nietzschean anti-religion that embraced the death of God and humanity’s pointless and tragic existence in an aimless universe ruled over by chance and death.

CONTEMPORARIES (VARIOUS). This category includes various authors not associated with the other categories here but who generally figure within the broad outlines of modernism since the Second World War and more recently.

DADAISM. The Dada movement was created in Zurich during the First World War by writers previously associated with the more extreme forms of German Expressionism. Hijacked and promoted by Tristan Tzara, it moved to Paris after the war where André Breton and others turned it into everything Tzara had claimed for it, whereupon it became something of an international movement (with no impact in the UK however). Various pre-Dadaists had previously contributed to this contagion, notably Marcel Duchamp in New York, and Francis Picabia whose magazine 291 appeared in whatever city he happened to be passing through. It is best known for an extreme and energetic creative nihilism and for carrying a violent abstraction into all means of expression: art, poetry, performance,  even typography.

EXPRESSIONISM (GERMAN). The form taken by modernism in Germany from the turn of the Twentieth century, intense and anti- or hyper-realist and often politically or socially engaged.

FAVOURITES (OUR). This category simply calls attention to certain titles that we particularly like. They are not necessarily by the most celebrated authors we publish.

FLUXUS/NOUVEAU RÉALISME. In the 1960s these two intermingling associations of artists were assembled somewhat at random by George Maciunas in New York and Pierre Restany in Paris. Our single title in this category was highly influential for both groups. They were interested in making art from the present moment and from everyday life, although this sounds a little po-faced given that much of their work trod that intriguing tightrope between boredom and humour.

FUTURISM. An art-movement proclaimed in 1909 by Filippo Marinetti, a somewhat absurd and self-regarding buffoon (many think), who championed youth, strength, patriotism and a machine aesthetic, and so inevitably ended up embracing Mussolini and the Italian National Fascist Party. Our single title (so far) is very different, and the group had members with rather more nuanced, not to say opposite views, who we hope to publish in the near future.

GRAND JEU. A group of extremely youthful authors centred around René Daumal and Roger Gilbert-Lecomte in the late 1930s. “The group’s esoteric programme united drug use and occult and parapsychological practices with asceticism, revolutionary politics and a prophetic mode of poetry which they identified in antecedents such as Rimbaud and Mallarmé.” Strong stuff…

GRUPPO 63. The most celebrated avant-garde grouping in Italy in the 1960s, which included authors such as Edoardo Sanguineti and Umberto Eco. Our single title is one of its most exceptional productions. We hope to explore this group in future publications.

HETEROCLITES (THE GREAT). The unclassifiable individualists.

MODERNISTS (MISCELLANEOUS). The almost unclassifiables: some artists and writers associated with Twentieth century modernism in general, but not with any particular group.

OULIPO (AND THE OU-X-POS). The Oulipo or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, which roughly means “Workshop for Potential Literature”, was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and others and was for a long time attached to the Collège de ֹ’Pataphysique. The group explores “voluntary constraints” in literature (and its associated groups explore the same in other disciplines). It is still prodigiously active.

’PATAPHYSICS. ’Pataphysics is a science, or rather the Science. Thus it is not a cultural association, nor even a philosophical one (let alone an “avant-garde”), yet numerous artists and writers have joined the Collège de ’Pataphysique in Paris (founded in 1948) or one of its many foreign institutes (see next entry) and this category simply comprises works by a number of individuals who have consciously signalled their interest in the Science by participating in its research. The first such practitioner was Alfred Jarry, who formulated his Definition of Pataphysics some time between 1893 and 1897. (We find ourselves unable to recommend a prominent book on this topic in English, ’Pataphysics: A Useless Guide by Andrew Hugill, for our reasons, click here.)

’PATAPHYSICS (LONDON INSTITUTE OF). The London Institute was founded in 2000 and this category lists those of its publications available for purchase by non-members, including its Journal. To contact the Institute, email the Secretary of Administration, Lucky Roberto:

RARE and DONE. The RARE category contains certain limited edition versions of our books, and also the final copies from our dwindling stock of titles that have gone out of print and which we are not currently planning to reprint. DONE indicates a book that is both definitively both out of print and out of stock.

ROMANTICISM. Some titles from the French and German variants of the nineteenth century movement which often combined an emotional response to aesthetics with political radicalism in opposition to the ongoing depredations of the Industrial Revolution. Etc.

SITUATIONISM. Guy Debord assembled this 1960s political aesthetic out of the remnants of the Lettrists and other avant-garde and political groups of the period. Nowadays associated with the events of May 1968 in Paris.

SURREALISM. Surely the most influential and long-lived cultural movement in Europe and internationally since Romanticism, it was born from the ashes of Dada and promulgated for nearly half a century by André Breton, long the target of unthinking criticism. Surrealism attempted to erect upon the ruins of a defunct culture a glorious mechanism that combined various seemingly incompatible elements (the ideas of Marx, Rimbaud and Freud for example) with the aim of somehow integrating all aspects of humanity’s inner and outer life and thus of actualising its most explosive potential. The remnants of this impossible project include some of the greatest works of art and literature of the last century.

SYMBOLISTS & DECADENTS. Symbolism was the pre-eminent avant-garde movement in Europe in late nineteenth century art and literature, an extreme concentration of Romanticism that gloried in obscurity and artifice. As an exponent of extreme individualism in art there was never an organised group as such, nor anything so mundane as a programme. The “Decadent” movement tended to take the characteristics of Symbolism to new heights of morbidity, obscurity or perversity.

THE PRINTED HEAD. This category simply contains the last few complete boxed sets of our “Printed Head” series of small books. The final series is about to completed and boxes dispatched.

VIENNA ACTIONISTS. A group of four artists — Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler — who occasionally collaborated on carefully orchestrated “actions” of “Total Art” during the 1960s and (in the case of Nitsch) up to the present day. The violence and aggression of these performances resulted in tabloid panic and prison sentences for their perpetrators, but their work has assumed an ever greater stature as the years pass.

VIENNA GROUP. A group of writers who gathered around Hans Carl Artmann in the late 1950s, and which included Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm and Oswald Weiner. They collaborated on publications and on literary cabarets and other events. Their works combined successfully dissonant elements, Wittgenstein’s linguist theories with a love for the “blackest” of the Romantics, the exquisite banality of Roussel with the lush metaphors of alchemy…