Aesthetic Revolutions and Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Movements
Aleš Erjavec is Research Professor in the Institute of Philosophy of the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He is the author of Postmodernism, Postsocialism and Beyond, and the editor of Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition: Politicized Art under Late Socialism.
This chapter is concerned with mapping the terrain of the surrealist aesthetic revolution. It focuses on the period between 1925 and 1932, when the surrealists attempted to develop an image-space that would facilitate active engagement with the Parti communiste française (PCF). What was distinctive here was the provisional status of this image-space: it exceeded the institutional confines of the cultural avant-garde that was surrealism’s departure point, seeking an oppositional audience engaged in political action; yet it simultaneously fell short of the degree of commitment expected of a radical political movement. Surrealism existed in the contested space between culture and politics, and although the instability of this position accounted for the fugitive character of the movement’s political influence, it also animated its imagery and constitutes an integral element of its aesthetic revolution.