“Concepts of Modern Art” is a great book edited by Nikos Stangos. Every chapter is brilliantly described by an expert of that subject such a Vorticism or Fauvism. There are many beautiful and helpful explanations of origin, evolution and death of each movement but today I want to point out that of Dada and Surrealism. These two paragraphs are revealing and shocking due to its resemblance with activities carried out in pre-Columbian cultures, for instance. But it basically explains what Dada and Surrealism were, their intentions and their ends. I recommend its wholly lecture but anyway, here, the extract I underline.
|Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917|
The relationship between Surrealism and Dada is complex, because in many ways they were so similar. Politically, Surrealism inherited the bourgeoisie as its enemy, and continued, at least in theory, its attack on traditional forms of art. Artists previously associated with Dada joined the Surrealists, but it is impossible to say that the work of Arp, Ernst, or Man Ray, for instance, became surrealist overnight. Surrealism was, as it were, a substitute for Dada; as Arp said, “I exhibited with the Surrealists because their rebellious attitude to “art” and their direct attitude to life was wise like Dada.” The radical difference between them lay in the erection of theories and principles in place of Dada’s anarchism.
|Eco Nymph, Marx Ernst, 1936|
|Máquina de coser electrosexual, Oscar Domínguez, 1934|
But it took two years before, from 1922 to 1924, became known as the “période des sommeils”. The future Surrealists, including Breton, Eluard, Aragon, Robert Desnos, René Crevel, Max Ernst, were already exploring the possibilities of automatism and dreams, but the period was marked by the use of hypnotism and drugs. In an article entitled “Entrée des médiums”, in 1922, Breton describes the excitement they felt when they discovered that while in a hypnotic trance certain of them, notably Desnos, could produce startling monologues, written or spoken, filled with vivid images which, he claimed, they would be incapable of in a conscious state. But a series of disturbing incidents, such as the attempted mass suicide of a whole group of them while in a hypnotic trance, led to the abandonment of these experiments, and in the first Surrealist Manifesto Breton avoids any discussion of “mechanical” aids such as drugs or hypnotism, stressing Surrealism as a natural, not induced, activity.
|film frame of Un Chien Andalou, Luis Buñuel, 1928|