What Is Recordism? Voice Of America hommage


This is version 1.1 of "What Is Recordism?" by The Recordists, Aug. 2023. For version 1.0 as it appeared in The Philosophical Egg #2, July 2022, click here.



modular manifesto/work in progress, The Recordists (W.A.Davison and S.Higgins), v1.1, Aug. 2023


The seeds of Surrealism were flung far afield and landed in some very odd places. From one of those seeds grew a rather peculiar thing...Recordism.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is an ideospheric mutation of the meme known as Surrealism.

Recordism refers specifically to the act of "recording" - a metaphor for the application of chance and automatism to the creative act. Recordism is both the process of "recording" and the set of ideas which surround and inform that process.

This process can be employed individually or collectively and its aims extend from the personal to the political. The process is one of discovery, awakening, and liberation. Through the application of chance and automatic methods, the Recordist can momentarily overcome the bonds of rationality and allow the unformed matter of Chaos - the realm of potential - to flow into our world and coalesce into some more concrete form. The emergence of this new form - a text, object, image, sound, or whatever it may be - is a revelatory and liberating experience and, as it then exists in a form which can be shared with others, it becomes possible for this experience to be passed on and multiplied.

Recordism was found(ed) in Truro, Nova Scotia by multidisciplinary artist and musician W.A.Davison. It came from a dream on the morning of Dec. 5, 1984, and was developed by Davison over the next few years. In the late 80s, Davison's partner S.Higgins began to make contributions. In the era before the world wide web, Recordism existed for more than ten years without any contact with, nor knowledge of, contemporary surrealism.

Recordism is the only art movement to come directly out of the post-punk counterculture of the early 80s.

Recordism is not an art movement. Or is it? What's an art movement?

What is Recordism?

Recordism is a flyspeck capable of occluding the sun. Recordism is ice cream suits, worn only on hot days. Recordism is the assassin in the vegetable bin.

Recordism is a primitive, stripped-down, punk/post-punk version of Surrealism. At its heart, Recordism is one simple idea - we don't make art, we merely record it. There may be more to it than that...but not a lot. We keep it simple for a reason.

Punk rock was/is about stripping away the artifice. Punk is back to the basics rock and roll, three chords, anyone can do it. Post-punk built on the energy and attitude of punk, placing the emphasis on community and D.I.Y. Rather than passively accepting the "culture" handed to us by record company executives, the rallying cry of punk and post-punk was "make your own culture". The destructive/deconstructive, Dada, anti-art energy of punk was transformed and augmented in post-punk with a plethora of experimental approaches extending beyond the realm of music and into all forms of culture. Old cultural forms were blown apart and put back together in all sorts of interesting ways. Post-punk also involved a reappraisal of various twentieth-century artistic and cultural movements, including Dada and Surrealism which ran as strong currents within much post-punk music, visual art and design, fashion, etc.

Recordism came out of that mindset.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is a Dada assemblage constructed from living microbes.

It is made of needles not cushions. It is made of a shined object. It is made of severed pain. It is made of white licorice. It is made of needles not armchairs. It is made of two cracked almonds. It is made of a desired object. It is made of fitted intricacies. It is made of fat and fire. It is made of a feared object.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is a length of string tied to the neck of a salamander. Recordism is a long distance on broken branches. Recordism is a sick feeling when crows are near. Recordism is corpses and catapults. Recordism is hideous grins on mannequins. Recordism is a nightly dip in the marmalade. Recordism is cake and ice cream for breakfast. Recordism is a sound sleep in blankets of white noise. Recordism is when your phone call from the afterlife is a wrong number. Recordism is the madness of bees. Recordism is a knitted face. Recordism is sharing an umbrella with a gorilla. Recordism is the miserable end to miserablism. Recordism is wasps wrapped in carbon paper.

Recordism is a functional ideology. Apply freely according to your needs and desires.

The goal of Recordism, like that of Surrealism and other utopian currents in art and culture, is to effect a positive change in the human condition. The Recordist's approach to this is through the liberation of the imagination and the fostering of a new understanding of life and reality.

It is an easy, white hairbrush. It is a casual, broken sixth sense. It is a terrifying, orange concretion. It is bottomless. It is level. It is bruised and misused. It is an addictive, paraffin turnstile. It is made of long hairs that spring from the surface of sleep.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is the turning of a dial. Recordism is a severed head rolling along a cobbled street. Recordism is a steam shovel shovelling steam. Recordism is the ringing of bells and the wringing of necks.

Recordism is Surrealism.

Recordism is not Surrealism.

Recordism is a tickling sensation. Recordism is a loose, soft, downy mass of hair, feathers, etc.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is the goddamned weirdest thing to come out of Nova Scotia, Canada!

Correction, second weirdest.

We are the cake we are eating.

Do not look under our hats for answers! We have only accidents up our sleeves. We point our dead-blue fingers at the mechanical man. We must rid this planet of its scientists and begin again with intelligent balloons.

Recordism proposes the elimination of artistic expression. Recordism negates the ego and replaces expression with experimentation, exploration and revelation.

Recordism is not an anti-art movement but, rather, anti-artist.

Recordism is magick automatism. It is the reconciliation of art and magick.

Recordism speaks the ancient language of tomorrow! It is the steamroller of desire set loose in the glass city.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is a brain-coloured flag. It is on fire and drifts over the countryside. It is an oneiric baseball hurled through the window of the rational. Recordism is spiny. Recordism is voluptuous. Recordism is antagonistic and spasmodic. Recordism! It tunnels through fur forests and burns on contact with eros. Recordism! It exists in all ladders and in the shadows of ladders. Recordism leaps from tall buildings, trouser pockets filled with eggs.

What is Recordism?

Recordism is a feathered nuisance.

Recordism is an unposed question.

Et cetera.


The preceding statements were taken from notes, conversations, and writings by The Recordists (W.A.Davison and S.Higgins). Compiled by Davison/Higgins, 2021, 2022, and 2023. Some of these statements were used in performances by Songs of the New Erotics (Davison solo and Davison/Higgins) and promotional material for the Disembraining Songs label. A few statements were extracted from an interview with W.A.Davison, published in Melting Clock: The Internet Journal of Surrealism, Oct. 2000, and an interview with Davison/Higgins published in Mondo magazine, June 2007.

"Modular manifesto" - This is not a definitive statement on Recordism. Our "modular" approach to this article, i.e. using previously written statements that can, and likely will, be added, removed, rearranged, modified, etc. as later versions are released, should make that clear. We have a mild disdain for manifestos and are generally lazy about explaining Recordism. We're more interested in doing it than talking about it. But if we have to talk about it, at least we can have some fun with it! This is version 1.1 of "What Is Recordism?" There will be future versions with slightly, or radically, different combinations and arrangements of statements on Recordism.

- The Recordists (W.A.Davison and S.Higgins), Aug. 2023.


Annotations by W.A.:

- The collage at the beginning of this article was created by me (with contributions from S.Higgins), May 2022. It pays hommage to the cover art for the 1980 vinyl LP "The Voice Of America" by pioneering industrial band Cabaret Voltaire. My hommage to a favorite record emphasizes the significance of the roots of Recordism in late 70s/early 80s industrial and post-punk music culture.

- This version of "What Is Recordism?" is not significantly different from version 1.0 as it was published in The Philosophical Egg #2, July 2022. Aside from the addition of this annotation section, I have added in a few lines from an earlier draft of the article that had been removed for brevity. The main reason for version 1.1 is to have a copy of the article available on our own website, rather than directing visitors to The Philosophical Egg at canva.com. Eventually, I intend to expand this section of the article with further annotations and footnotes that explain some of the statements and/or add interesting details. Eventually...

- As to what, if not Recordism, is the weirdest thing to come out of Nova Scotia, Canada...I will keep you guessing for a while longer.