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Saturday, November 3 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
7.E. Contemporary Legacies of Surrealism (1 of 2)

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PANEL. Contemporary Legacies of Surrealism (1 of 2)

Part 1 of a double session which brings together several experts to explore surrealism in contemporary art. Surrealism's presence in contemporary art, be it as heritage, source of inspiration, practice, or otherwise, is not uncontested. By first offering four case studies, the panel will form a solid basis for a subsequent extended discussion of the issue of surrealism in the contemporary. The panel speakers are practicing artists and academic specialists; they will not only bring a range of experiences and expertise to the table but will also be able to reflect on the issue of contemporary (legacies of) surrealism from an art making-standpoint.

By the late 1930s, surrealism was already being historicised. By the 1960s it was becoming canonised and relegated to the category “historical avant-gardes”, vibrant surrealist communities worldwide notwithstanding. Surrealist activities still continued during the 1970s through 1990s, into the present, and several surrealists strongly advocate(d) against the view that surrealism was over and done with. In contemporary art traces of surrealism are tangibly present – indeed, globally several artists are claimed to be, or position themselves as, surrealist. This panel explores contemporary legacies and practices of surrealism. The speakers will address concerns at the heart of historical surrealism as much as contemporary practice: hauntology, the surrealist landscape, automatism, oneiric atmospheres, and radical film. Another red thread running through the presentations is the presence of occultism.

"The Haunted Isle: Conjuring England’s Subconscious Landscape"
Dominic Shepherd

Arts University Bournemouth
The landscape of the British Isles is a disparate and much contested space layered with both myth and fact, as several surrealists have explored. British surrealists Ithell Colquhoun (Cornwall) and Paul Nash (Dorset) visualised and described their particular localities as holders of the subconscious, poetically described as the spirit of place. For Colquhoun Celtic Cornwall was an occult and gendered land, one of earth mysteries. For Nash the Purbecks became an edge-lands where past and future, interior and exterior, collide. The writers W.G. Sebald (East Anglia) and Ian Sinclair (London) walked the land; as flaneurs they utilised investigative techniques and psychic emanations to sift this historically complex landscape. Extant England, the dominant state of the United Kingdom, is currently a much-divided territory politically, culturally and socially. In what form do the legacies of surrealism continue to investigate the land as a catalyst of revelation? In this paper, I will investigate how surrealistic approaches are intrinsic to conjuring the hauntologies of place through the work of two contemporary practitioners, one located in the urban, the other rural. Tom Hicks, a member of the Wolverhampton Psychogeographical Bureau, investigates the future nostalgia that permeates the environment of the post-industrial Black Country. I myself am located in ancient woodland on a feudal estate, and within my artistic practice this west country idyll acts as a visionary tool; the romantic legacy of British myth becomes a means to divination and cultural questioning.

"Automatism: Hidden Legacies"
Jesse Bransford

New York University 
Automatism is a core component in the surrealist modus operandi, yet its direct lineage to spiritualism and other occult practices has been avoided and obfuscated by both psychology’s and surrealism’s bid for scientific validity and cultural relevance. What are the implications of this obfuscation, and how has it both benefited and hampered an understanding of what is at stake in surrealisms aims, both historically and in the contemporary moment? The argument will proceed from the assumption that the burial of the spiritual/occult lineage belies the unresolved dialectic between technological and human modes of interpretation, characterized variously as oppositions between subjective and objective positions, freedom and responsibility, or the political schism between democracy and fascism. Scientific assumptions will be called into question as it will be noted they exist within these categories and function easily on either side of the polemic. Automatism will then be redefined in accordance with a series of propositions (animism, ecology, post-Nietzschean thought, and contemporary magical thought, among others) to reclaim the territory so painfully concealed following WWII, a concealment that has subtracted an important component necessary for an understanding of the rise of fascism in Europe and elsewhere. A bridge between the Victorian and Modern sensibilities, automatism begs the question of externality, immanence and otherness, and draws a sometimes unsettling history of humanity’s continuing relationship to the world.

"Magic at 24 Frames Per Second"
Judith Noble
Plymouth College of Arts
This paper will consider the legacies of surrealism in avant-garde and “underground” film in the US and the UK as manifested in the work of film makers and artists including Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Jeff Keen, Carolee Schneemann, Jack Smith, Derek Jarman and her own early work. The association of the avant-garde with surrealism began with Maya Deren’s contact with the émigré surrealists in New York during World War Two. Surrealism enabled a cinematic exploration of interiority and desire and freed film from the constraints of conventional theatric narrative and performance, whilst newly available 16mm film stock and lightweight cameras freed it from the large- scale industrial production methods of Hollywood, and a radical avant-garde was born. From its beginnings, the avant-garde was concerned with trance, dream, magic, the occult and the “manifestation of the unknown in the known” (Deren). From Deren’s examinations of the Western ritual tradition and Haitian Voudoun, through Anger’s lavish film ritual, Brakhage’s interiority laid bare, Smith and Schneemann’s radical explorations of gender, sexuality and transgression, to Jarman’s poetic visual alchemy, experimental film makers have woven the concerns of later Bretonian surrealism into a new art form. This avant-garde has combined an insistence on the importance of the materiality of film as both a physical and temporal medium with its ability to act as a doorway into the imaginal and inner world of dreams and visions. The legacy of surrealism is clearly evident in both the form and the content of avant-garde/ underground film, as this paper will argue.

"Image and Historical Trauma in Bady Minck’s Im Anfang War Der"
Patricia Allmer

University of Edinburgh
The surrealist cinema of Luxembourgian director Bady Minck draws on a series of traditions - filmic, pictorial, intellectual, pop-cultural - to trace the traumas of history within the visual field. Im Anfang War Der Blick (‘In the beginning was the eye’, 2003), drawing stylistically on surrealist-influenced animators like Švankmajer and Gilliam, uses an archive of picture postcards to construct image-narratives of Austrian Landschaftsgeschichte, conceived as endless, repetitive scenes of kitsch, touristic banality. The film thus provides an animated gloss on Walter Benjamin’s famous ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History: “Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, [the Angelus Novus] sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet”. Stop-motion and animation interact to perform this double-perception of historical trauma as simultaneously narrative and event. Im Anfang becomes, in this light, an allegory of Austria’s involvement in and subsequent traumatic repression of the Holocaust.

Speakers
avatar for Patricia Allmer

Patricia Allmer

University of Edinburgh
avatar for Jesse Bransford

Jesse Bransford

Clinical Associate Professor, Department Chair, New York University, Steinhardt School, Department of Art and Art Professions
Jesse Bransford is a New York-based artist whose work is exhibited internationally at venues including The Carnegie Museum of Art, the UCLA Hammer Museum, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center and the CCA Wattis Museum among others. He holds degrees from the New School for Social Research... Read More →
JN

Judith Noble

head of Academic research, Plymouth College of Art
My areas of research are film (especially the experimental and avant-garde) and occultism and magic. Within that, I have a specific interest in surrealism and the work of Maya Deren. I am joint co-ordinator of the Black Mirror research network (with Dominic Shepherd, Jesse Bransford... Read More →
DS

Dominic Shepherd

Arts University Bournemouth

Chairs
JN

Judith Noble

head of Academic research, Plymouth College of Art
My areas of research are film (especially the experimental and avant-garde) and occultism and magic. Within that, I have a specific interest in surrealism and the work of Maya Deren. I am joint co-ordinator of the Black Mirror research network (with Dominic Shepherd, Jesse Bransford... Read More →
avatar for Tessel Bauduin

Tessel Bauduin

Universiteit van Amsterdam


Saturday November 3, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Room E. Bertrand Library: East Reading Room (second floor)