Surrealism and the Exotic

Surrealism and the Exotic

Surrealism and the Exotic

Surrealism and the Exotic

Synopsis

Surrealism and the Exotic is the story of the obsessive relationship between surrealist and non-western culture. Describing the travels across Africa, Oceania, Mexico and the Caribbean made by wealthy aesthetes, it combines an insight into the mentality of early twentieth century collectors with an overview of the artistic heritage at stake in these adventures. Featuring more than 70 photographs of artefacts, exhibitions and expeditions-in-progress, it brings to life the climate of hedonism enjoyed by Breton, Ernst, Durkheim, and Mauss, It is an unparalleled introduction to the Surrealist movement and to French thought and culture in the 1920s and 1930s.

Excerpt

[Dada and Surrealism] are religions with a view of the world, a code of behaviour … a joy in membership of a community of the like-minded, a demand that the faithful must sacrifice other attachments, a hope of transforming existence. Even their history suggested the history of a religion. Dada like primitive Christianity, is fervently new, somewhat nomadic, unsystematic in doctrine, unbureaucratised: Surrealism resembles the established Church, with its centralised direction and its empire-building, its hierarchy and its hagiography, its orthodoxy and its heresies, its excommunications and its schisms.

(Sylvestor 1978:1)

Surrealism was more than just an artistic or literary avant-garde movement. It was a state of mind, a lived experience, a complete way of life. In the Paris of the 1920s, the Surrealists created a system of beliefs and activities which stood in defiant opposition to the dominant world-view of their time. They cultivated a way of perceiving the world, directly antagonistic to bourgeois values, which deliberately subverted Western categories of thought. The aim of Surrealism, for its leader André Breton, was to ‘transform the world, change life, remake from scratch human understanding’ (cited in Maurer 1984:584). In this chapter, the ‘cult’ activities and rituals of the Surrealists in 1920s and 1930s Paris are mapped, with particular emphasis on the practice of automatism, the delineation of sacred space and, most significant for the concerns of this book, the discovery, sanctification, definition and display of the Surreal object.

Dada

Surrealism emerged out of Dada. During the First World War Dada artists, poets and writers from all over the Continent came together in Switzerland to seek refuge from the horror all around them. Swiss Dadaists were safe in neutral

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