Marcel Jean and the Culture of Booklets

Small books published in a feeble amount of copies were always an essential part of avant-garde culture. The intense group activity of surrealists even emphasized this aspect: that through knowing and owning such a publication one really became part of the group. Continue reading

The Short Encyclopedia of Surrealist Myths

Didier Ottinger: Surréalisme et mythologie moderne. Les voies du labyrinthe d’Ariane à Fantômas. Gallimard, Paris, 2002.

A contemporary (and not very much abridged), thematic version of the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme would look in many ways like Didier Ottinger’s book. That’s the sense in which we could call it The Short Encyclopedia of Surrealist Myths. However, the chapters of the book follow more or less also a historical logic – in this attempt, one of its closest possible models could be Sarane Alexandrian’s Surrealist Art, where the different historical stages are connected to major themes and techniques.
Obvious or not, surrealist mythology is strongly connected to the story of the Labyrinth. One of the key figures of the mythology outlined by art historian Didier Ottinger in his book is the Minotaur, another one is Pasiphae, the Minotaur’s mother. Ariadne with her thread leading Theseus out of the labyrinth is herself the heroine of the second chapter in the book. Dionysos who ‘marries’ Ariadne has also a chapter of his own.
All this means that the author insists on surrealism’s attempt to create a new, collective mythology – in Breton’s and Aragon’s terms –, and also that the focus of the book is on the later phases of surrealism, after the publication of one of the most interesting reviews that involved surrealist artists: Minotaure (1933–1939).

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