Surrealism

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement. Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities of World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s on, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy and social theory.

Surrealist Theatre
Surrealist Theatre depicts the subconscious experience, moody tone and disjointed structure, sometimes imposing a unifying idea. Antonin Artaud, one of the original Surrealists, rejected Western theatre as a perversion of the original intent of theatre, which he felt should be a religious and mystical experience. He thought that rational discourse comprised "falsehood and illusion," which embodied the worst of discourse. Endeavoring to create a new theatrical form that would be immediate and direct, linking the unconscious minds of performers and spectators, a sort of ritual event, Artaud created the Theatre of Cruelty where emotions, feelings, and the metaphysical were expressed not through text or dialogue but physically, creating a mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams. These sentiments also led to the Theatre of the Absurd whose inspiration came, in part, from silent film and comedy, as well as the tradition of verbal nonsense in early sound film (Laurel and Hardy, W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers).

Virginia Woolf's only play Freshwater conjures surreal images by suggestion using a collective identity.

Antonin Artaud
Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud, better known as Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896, in Marseille – March 4, 1948 in Paris) was a French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director. Antonin is a diminutive form of Antoine (little Anthony), and was among a long list of names which Artaud used throughout his life. Biographical Information Artaud's parents, Euphrasie Nalpas and Antoine-Roi Artaud, were of Greek origin (Smyrna), and he was much affected by this background. Although his mother had nine children, only Antoine and two siblings survived infancy. At the age of four, Artaud had a severe attack of meningitis. The virus gave Artaud a nervous, irritable temperament throughout adolescence. He also suffered from neuralgia, stammering and severe bouts of depression. As a teenager, he was allegedly stabbed in the back by a pimp for no apparent reason, similar to the experience of playwright Samuel Beckett. Artaud's parents arranged a long series of sanatorium stays for their disruptive son, which were both prolonged and expensive. They lasted five years, with a break of two months, June and July 1916, when Artaud was conscripted into the army. He was allegedly discharged due to his self-induced habit of sleepwalking. During Artaud's "rest cures" at the sanatorium, he read Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, and Edgar Allan Poe. In May 1919, the director of the sanatorium prescribed laudanum for Artaud, precipitating a lifelong addiction to that and other opiates. Paris In March 1920, aged 24, Artaud moved to Paris to pursue a career as a writer but quickly discovered he had a talent for avant-garde theatre. Whilst training and performing with the most acclaimed directors of the day, most notably Charles Dullin and Georges Pitoeff, he continued to write both poetry and essays. At the age of 27, he sent some of his poems to the journal La Nouvelle Revue Française; they were rejected, but the editor, Jacques Rivière, wrote

back seeking to understand him, and a relationship in letters was born. This epistolary work, Correspondence avec Jacques Rivière, is Artaud's first major publication. In 1925, Artaud effectively took over directing the surrealist movement, writing many of the articles for The Surrealist Revolution and running the Bureau of Surrealist Research, a loose affiliation of surrealists interested in exploring automatic writing, recording dreams and engaging in anything which rejected rationality. After about 18 months he grew increasingly frustrated by what he perceived as the surrealists' unwillingness to do any more than disrupt bourgeois art events and create scandal. They in turn, spearheaded by André Breton who possibly felt his leadership of the movement to be threatened by Artaud's dynamic energy and extreme radical commitment, set about ejecting him from the group after he publicly began to call their revolutionary bluff. Artaud also cultivated a great interest in cinema as well, writing the scenario for the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the Clergyman, directed by Germaine Dulac. Dali and Bunuel, two key Spanish surrealists, took their cue for Un Chien Andalou from this. He also acted in Abel Gance's Napoleon in the role of Jean-Paul Marat, and in Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc as the monk Massieu. Artaud's portrayal of Marat used exaggerated movements to convey the fire of Marat's personality. In 1926-28, Artaud ran the Alfred Jarry Theater, along with Roger Vitrac. He produced and directed original works by Vitrac, as well as pieces by Claudel and Strindberg. The theatre advertised that they would produce Artaud's play Jet de sang in their 1926-1927 season, but it was never mounted and was not premiered until 40 years later. The Theater was extremely short-lived, but was attended by an enormous range of European artists, including André Gide, Arthur Adamov, and Paul Valéry. In 1931 Artaud saw Balinese dance performed at the Paris Colonial Exposition. Although he did not fully understand the intentions and ideas behind traditional Balinese performance, it influenced many of his ideas for Theatre. Also during this year, the 'First Manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty' was published in La Nouvelle Revue Française which would later appear as a chapter in 'The Theatre and Its Double'. In 1935, Artaud's production of his adaptation of Shelley's The Cenci premiered. The Cenci was a commercial failure, although it employed innovative sound effects—including the first theatrical use of the electronic instrument the Ondes Martenot--and had a set designed by Balthus. After the production failed, Artaud received a grant to travel to Mexico, he met his first (Mexican) Parisian friend, the Painter Federico Cantú. in 1936 where he gave lectures on the decadence of Western civilization. He also studied and lived with the Tarahumaran people and experimented with peyote, recording his

experiences which were later released in a volume called Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara. The content of this work closely resembles the poems of his later days, concerned primarily with the supernatural. Artaud also recorded his horrific withdrawal from heroin upon entering the land of the Tarahumaras; having deserted his last supply of the drug at a mountainside, he literally had to be hoisted onto his horse, and soon resembled, in his words, "a giant, inflamed gum". Artaud would return to opiates later in life. In 1937, Artaud returned to France where he obtained a walking stick of knotted wood that he believed belonged not only to St. Patrick, but also Lucifer and Jesus Christ. Artaud traveled to Ireland in an effort to return the staff, though he spoke very little English and was unable to make himself understood. The majority of his trip was spent in a hotel room that he was unable to pay for. On his return trip, Artaud believed he was being attacked by two crew members and retaliated; he was arrested and put in a straitjacket. 1938 saw the publication of The Theatre and Its Double, his most well-known work. This book contained the two manifestos of the Theatre of Cruelty, essential texts in understanding his artistic project. Final years The return from Ireland brought about the beginning of the final phase of Artaud's life, which was spent in different asylums. When France was occupied by the Nazis, friends of Artaud had him transferred to the psychiatric hospital in Rodez, well inside Vichy territory, where he was put under the charge of Dr. Gaston Ferdière. Ferdière began administering electroshock treatments to eliminate Artaud's symptoms, which included various delusions and odd physical tics. The doctor believed that Artaud's habits of crafting magic spells, creating astrology charts, and drawing disturbing images, were symptoms of mental illness. The electro-shock treatments have created much controversy, although it was during these treatments — in conjunction with Ferdière's art therapy — that Artaud began writing and drawing again, after a long dormant period. In 1946, Ferdière released Artaud to his friends, who placed him in the psychiatric clinic at Ivry-sur-Seine. Current psychiatric literature describes Artaud as having schizophrenia, with a clear psychotic break late in life and schizotypal symptoms throughout life. Artaud was encouraged to write by his friends, and interest in his work was rekindled. He visited an exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh which resulted in a study Van Gogh le suicidé de la société (Van Gogh, The Man Suicided by Society), published by K éditeur, Paris, 1947 which won a critics´ prize [1]. He recorded Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de dieu (To Have Done With the Judgment of god)

between November 22 and November 29, 1947. This work was shelved by Wladimir Porché, the director of the French Radio, the day before its scheduled airing on February 2, 1948. The performance was prohibited partially as a result of its scatological, anti-American, and anti-religious references and pronouncements, but also because of its general randomness, with a cacophony of xylophonic sounds mixed with various percussive elements. While remaining true to his Theater of Cruelty and reducing powerful emotions and expressions into audible sounds, Artaud had utilized various, somewhat alarming cries, screams, grunts, onomatopoeia, and glossolalia. As a result, Fernand Pouey, the director of dramatic and literary broadcasts for French radio, assembled a panel to consider the broadcast of Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de Dieu. Among the approximately 50 artists, writers, musicians, and journalists present for a private listening on February 5, 1948 were Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Raymond Queneau, Jean-Louis Barrault, René Clair, Jean Paulhan, Maurice Nadeau, Georges Auric, Claude Mauriac, and René Char. Although the panel felt almost unanimously in favor of Artaud's work, Porché refused to allow the broadcast. Pouey left his job and the show was not heard again until February 23, 1948 at a private performance at the Théâtre Washington. In January 1948, Artaud was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He died shortly afterwards on March 4, 1948, alone in the psychiatric clinic, seated at the foot of his bed, allegedly holding his shoe. It was suspected that he died from a lethal dose of the drug chloral, although it is unknown whether he was aware of its lethality. Thirty years later, French radio finally broadcast the performance of Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de Dieu.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful