Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Subversion of Images Surrealism, Photography, and Film at Fotomuseum Winterthur

From February 27 to May 24, 2010, the Fotomuseum Winterthur is presenting the exhibition The Subversion of Images - Surrealism, Photography, and Film, an extraordinarily rich survey of Surrealist photography. The exhibition comprises over 400 photographs, films, and documents: from very famous photographs by Man Ray, Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, Raoul Ubac, Jacques-André Boiffard, and Maurice Tabard to unknown pictures, to magazine publications, artist's books, advertisements, to fascinating "raw, found documents", to photo booth photographs, and group portraits of the Surrealists. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to discover lesser-known photographic works by Paul Eluard, André Breton, Antonin Artaud, or George Hugnet, photographic games by Leo Malet or figures such as Artür Harfaux or Benjamin Fondane. More than twenty years after the last major review of the subject, "L'amour fou - Photography & Surrealism" (1985) by Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingstone, the exhibition The Subversion of Images - Surrealism, Photography, and Film extensively demonstrates and discusses the openness, diversity, and innovation with which the Surrealists employed photography.

The formal language of Surrealism has long since found its way into everyday life via fashion, advertising, and the media. Today the term Surrealism brings together everything that appears magical, dream-like, and incomprehensible. It is often forgotten that the Surrealists were artists and writers who worked very incisively toward changing the world and gaining self-knowledge and who also reflected critically on social-political questions. The surrealist avant-garde considered itself to be a revolutionary countermovement to the bourgeois system of values. Through new imagery, they investigated existence during the interwar period, a time of great social and political instability, and they deconstructed received ways of seeing and thinking through various artistic strategies. Photography seemed to best fulfill the Surrealists' needs as their medium of choice.

The title "Subversion of Images", given to a photo series by Paul Nougé by the Belgian Surrealist Marcel Mariën, is intended to inspire reflection. For the Surrealists, the challenge was certainly to overthrow images, and in this way to alter forms of representation. Yet it is equally - and perhaps even more so - about overthrowing through images, confusing the existing conditions of reality. "Over time the true revolutions," Breton wrote, "will be carried out through the power of images."

This is a great show, I saw it last November at Beaubourg in Paris. The show was in fact organised by Centre Pompidou (Beaubourg) and curated by Quentin Barjac among others.

The photograph is: Roger Livet, Une regrettable affaire (A regrettable affair), c. 1947, from the album of the same name with
19 photographs, created during the revision of the film Fleurs meurtries (Bruised Flowers) c. 1929 
gelatin-silver print, 22,3 x 28,1 cm
 Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'art moderne, Paris 
© J.-E. Livet

No comments: