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Guide Undercover Surrealism: Georges Bataille and DOCUMENTS

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Although taken in the late s, the works still have the power to disturb, making visible as they do a carefully hidden feature of modern life — the mass processing of animals for human food and general material consumption. Such a transformation, Bataille believed, was a form of failure, not progress. In spite of its rather non-committal title, Documents was an attempt to investigate and also to reinvigorate hitherto central actions and beliefs; such a reactivation inevitably triggered hostility, misunderstanding and the severest of criticisms from conformist minds.

Undercover Surrealism

Dawn Ades, the co-curator with Simon Baker and Fiona Bradley of the present show, had much involvement with the former, producing a highly respected accompanying publication. This was an admirable gesture, but since sounds from the several films presented in the exhibition permeated at all times the entire gallery, concentration, scholarly or otherwise, was difficult to achieve.

Skip to main content. Twitter Facebook Email To Pinterest. By Peter Suchin. Undercover Surrealism. Peter Suchin. Issue September Skickas inom vardagar. Skickas inom vardagar specialorder. Bataille--poet, philosopher, writer, and self-styled "enemy within" surrealism--used DOCUMENTS to put art into violent confrontation with popular culture, ethnography, film, and archaeology.

Featuring color images and translations of original texts from DOCUMENTS accompanied by essays and shorter descriptive texts, Undercover Surrealism recreates and recontextualizes Bataille's still unsettling approach to culture. The final issue was actually published in Lciris, op. In Bataille's onl ' contribr t' t fi' 1 1 wn o an o lC'la surrealist jOttnml apart Jion1 the Fatmsics, thirteenth-century nonsense in La ,1urrhiliste, no.

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G, March 'Le llleu du cicl', in Alinotanrt, no. The anonyn1ous note to Fallmics was already wholly of Batai11e: 'those [nonsense poemsj fimn which the following extracts are taken the scorn of generations as they escaped the tnind of those whon1 a burst of laughter will one day blind. Bois and R. Bataillc took the title 'grneral srcretary' but was in eilect the editor. Sec G. It is interesting that in I Babclon and d'Espczcl arc named as 'Secretarie:;' of the Gazettt des bmux-arts.

Hollier, op. Parallels between Gcn11an and French cross-cultural studies and their origins in nineteenth-century con1parative studies of religion could have an interesting bearing on DOCill-IENTS' approach. The text was too long for publication and Einstein asked for indications about cuts.

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I Acles, Dada and Surrmlism Reviewed. Petite fille noire a New York. Mademoiselle Lovzeski. Nadur Sandouli, petit chef de Kanala Albums Robin. Galerie Gcemans Deux tableaux de Salvator Dali, 1. Baigneuses, 2, Nu feminin, qui fi. La Seine pendant l'hiver cf. Pholo Paul Cozc " L'enfant de Ia grenouille " cf. British Museum. Hauteur reelle, 14 ";. Statues d'ancetres. Vases Na1za. Vase du 1-laut-Perou.

Musee d'Ethnographie no Mission Dombcy, 3. Vase XIV. Palais de Versailles. Jean Besnarcl a gauche dans son atelier.

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Types de poteries esthetiques : vases de. The news came to me as I was eating my breakfast. Could it be true? But to whom was she engaged? To Lord Kempton, that cur. Fortunately I escaped unhurt, although somewhat badly shaken. These titles perform a practical task, keeping the academic practice of Archaeology in place in relation to the ill-defined discipline of Ethnography and the modish connoisseurship of Fine Arts. From the outset, then, the tasks assigned to these terms seemed uncertain, and after three issues 'Doctrines' was dropped in favour of Varietes 'Variety'.

The word 'doctrines' had, and has, complex philosophical connotations. It suggests strident opinions, both orthodox and unorthodox. But despite the prominence given to the term, and the fact that DOCUMENTS published expertise on a broad range of subjects, an 'analytical table' of its contents in categorises only four articles as 'doctrines'. An anti-categorical 'operation' directed against the stability of meaning, 'formless' has fulfilled many tasks in the field of representation, lending its character to abstraction in painting, photography and curatorial strategy.

But what emerges in the Critical Dictionary that both contains and is contained by 'formless' and is obvious in 'The Lan- guage of Flowers' is that DOCUiviENTS' heterogeneous challenge to accepted ideas is most readily apparent in its atti- tude to and use of images. He could intervene between articles and illustrations, provoking and desiring reaction, defying DOCU-.

MENTS' readers to respond to Picasso's paintings with the honesty and urgency of fetishists to shoes. Bataille, as an employee, was well aware of the treasures and oddities that it contained, and evidently put the resource to good use. In one case the original photographs for an essay, 'The Academic Horse', also survive, with Bataille's dilections to the photogra- pher on theil backs cat.

This gives a sense of Bataille not only choosing images but being dilectly involved in determining the aesthetic qualities of theil reproduction. Before considering this rather uneven critical terrain, much of which turns on the concept of the 'formless', it is important to acknowledge that like 'form- less' and the other words in the Critical Dictionary, the images in DOCUMENTS do indeed have tasks.

They genuinely work: destabilising, undermining and debunking. In fact, a primary doctrine of the magazine its philosophy of illustration perhaps could be said to be abandonment to the possibility of misrecognition: objects are reproduced in close-up, at confus- ing scales; illustrations turn up uninvited in the wrong places; images act as spanners in the smooth workings of earnest, detennined arguments, and echo uncannily in the spaces between unrelated ideas.

Undercover Surrealism Georges Bataille and Documents by Ades Dawn Baker Simon - AbeBooks

Images are everywhere: anonymous photographs, film stills, reproductions of works of art, press agency archive, book pages, posters, out-dated theatrical por- traits, visions of expeditions and debacles. In issue 6, , for example, there is a split-page layout of stills from the musical film Fox s J11ovietown Follies qf , despite the fact that the text on the film, by :Nlichael Leiris, was not published until the follovving issue.

When it did finally Leiris's text was instead faced by two images frmn another of the first 'talkies': King Vidor's Hallellgah! The Fox Follies images, liberated from their text, are thus purposefully and effectively stranded. Objects and images fail to hold on to their ovvn resemblances and stop looking like themselves. A remarkable example of this phenomenon can be seen in issue 4, , with a scholarly report by Leo Frobenius on prehistoric rock paintings discovered in southern Rhodesia present-day Zimbabwe. There appears to be an involuntary echo between the wavy black form surrounding the 'king of the dead' on the rock painting and the central form of a Leger composition.

No aesthetic or art-historicaljudgement is offered in support of this correlation, and neither Leger's or Einstein's feelings about prehistoric rock art are mentioned. The effect is to allow readers to 'discover' an unlil ely and misleading link, confusing rather than elucidating both authors' arguments. Bois puts it very neatly: figure, theme, morphology, meaning- everything that resem- bles something Bataille does not mean that the universe is something like a spider or spit, he means that it is something, a thing with form, like a or spit, that nevertheless resembles nothing.

There is evidently nothing like the universe. Formless thus undoes the notion of resemblance by revealing it as redundant, stopping it from working. As Bataille says, 'formless is not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world. Understanding the visual culture against which DOCUMENTS emerged is therefore absolutely vital, although it was not surprisingly enough surrealist publications that seem to have been its prin- cipal targets.

In rg2g, although Surrealism was influential and il11portant, it was modernist photography of the kind associ- ated :it1 Germany with Albert Renger-Patzsch and in France with Germaine Krull or Andre Kertesz that was dominant in the mainstream illustrated press. The question 'Is Photogra- phy an Art?

Traditional Christian perfectionism, modernity and Georges Bataille

This photographic culture rejoiced in games of juxtaposition and the dissemblance of resemblance by which anything could be shown to be 'something any- thing else. In the Critical Dictionary entry 'Pottery', :Marcel Griaule uses a page of banal photographs of wildly contrastil1g types of pottery to explain the shortcomings of the word: 'pottery' is meaningless if its task has to include referring L'ART vn'ANT FILM to all of these objects.

In a short unpublished review of contemporary photogra- phy written for DOCUMENTS, Bataille reveals his reservations about current photographic tendencies: 'After the photographs of Atget and the tentative curiosities of :Man Ray it doesn't seem as though the specialist "art photographers" can produce anything other than very fastidious acrobatic techniques.

His rg28 book Uifonnen der Kunst Art Forms in Nature coincided with, rather than pandered to, current photographic fashions. Throughout DOCUMENTS, but never more skil- fully than here, Bataille plays with a game of the moment: in this case the uncanny knack of the camera to 'reveal' meanings through apparent resemblance.

Thus the sight of a flower reveals, it is true, the presence of this well-defined part of a plant but it is impossible to stop at this superficial observation; in fact, the sight of this flower provokes il1 the mind much more significant reactions The photographic rule of the day was that the camera could train the eye to look beyond the mundane and find beauty.