- Department: History of Art
- Module co-ordinator: Prof. Michael White
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: I
- Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
This module will examine the presentation of alternative realities by Surrealist artists from the 1920s until recent times, critically evaluating whether the appeal to the imagination empowered artists to challenge the status quo and propose radically different forms of life in the manner some claimed.
|Semester 2 2023-24
Surrealism remains very present in canonical accounts of avant-garde art practice, is extremely visible in major museum presentations of modern art, and has also penetrated popular culture to a high degree. This module will therefore consider its radical potential. Did it enable the production of alternative realities, as it desired, or was the sense of outrage it conjured merely entertaining sensationalism? Did it envisage possible futures or did it merely exploit different pasts. Did it challenge aesthetic norms, or did it simply plunder the visual cultures of non-European peoples?
To answer such questions, the module will consider Surrealism in manifold manifestations, across time, space and media, from painting and drawing to its deployment of collage, montage, found objects, film, photography and exhibition design. We will investigate the Surrealist fascination with altered mental states, with non-normative relationships, with world cultures and with forms of knowledge other than aesthetic, in every case testing out its claims to offer something other than the status quo.
Indicative seminars include:
Alternative states of mind: automatism and dreams
Convulsive beauty: anti art and the anti-aesthetic
The Surrealist Revolution: the politics of desire
Paris peasants: the Surrealist city
Surrealist muses: gender and sexuality
‘The eye exists in a savage state’: Surrealism, primitivism and the exotic
(Un)natural histories: the Bureau of Surrealist Research
‘Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible’: Surrealism and Counterculture
By the end of the module, students will have acquired:
knowledge of a number of Surrealist artists and practices across a range of times and places.
a familiarity with Surrealist writings and theories.
an understanding of Surrealism from the perspective of its avant-gardism.
an ability to critically evaluate Surrealism’s radicalism.
an understanding of the legacies of Surrealism in contemporary cultural debate.
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