The Subversion of Images – Surrealism, Photography, Film
February 27 – May 23, 2010
From February 27 to May 23, 2010, the Fotomuseum Winterthur is presenting the exhibition The Subversion of Images–Surrealism, Photography, Film, an extraordinarily rich survey of Surrealist photography. The exhibition comprises over 400 photographs, films, and documents: from the most beautiful and 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 the fascination with the “raw, found document,” 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, Film will extensively demonstrate and discuss 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 is haphazardly used to combine everything that appears magical, dream-like, and incomprehensible. It is forgotten that the Surrealists were not simply a group of young men who displayed their chaotic interior lives to the world, but rather artists and writers who worked very incisively toward changing the world and gaining self-knowledge, and that they 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 questioned the status quo and existence in 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 served as their medium of choice; as a modern medium, it seemed to best fulfill the Surrealists’ needs.
Each of the exhibitions’ nine chapters focuses on a central topic of Surrealist photography. The chapter “Collective Action,” for example, follows the Surrealists’ many collective activities, their playful, yet also serious usage of snapshots and photo booth photographs. “Theater without Reason” reveals the sensual, erotic, and sarcastic mise en scènes, the enjoyment of the almost absurd miniature choreography between illusion and reality. “The Real, the Fortuitous, the Marvellous” deals with how the surreal is hidden in and reveals itself within reality, how “voices” resound in the night and from the walls of Paris. “The Scopic Urge” displays the Surrealists’ great curiosity, the precise, close observation of something, until that which is familiar becomes isolated and appears strange. “The Anatomy of the Image” presents their passion for experimentation. They altered images through double exposure, solarization, and the introduction of chemicals in order to displace the border between the real and the unreal, between the everyday and illusion. The exhibition includes a series of films and short films by Surrealists such as Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, and Germaine Dula.
This major survey exhibition (that comprises all exhibition spaces at Fotomuseum Winterthur) was organized by the Centre Pompidou in Paris and will be shown in collaboration with the Fotomuseum Winterthur and the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid. The curators are Quentin Bajac, Clément Chéroux, Guillaume Le Gal, Michel Poivert, and Philippe-Alain Michaud. A comprehensive catalogue of the exhibition is available.
Main sponsor: Swiss Re / Vontobel Foundation