Transferring Surrealism: Árpád Mezei and the Theories of Hybridity

„Comme les pièces de monnaie, les mots possèdent deux faces: ils sont à la fois signe et signification. […] Un mot est [selon Platon et Leibniz] construit de fonctions particulières qui lui donnent une structure analogue à celle de la chose exprimée. (…) Le surréalisme est né de la découverte que la réalité est entièrement construite sur le principe d’équivalence. Le mot ’surréalisme’ exprime cette nature double de la réalité. Le dadaisme, qui a précédé le surréalisme, correspondait simplement au principe d’incertitude, antithèse du principe d’identité: les dadaistes faisaient un usage indistinct des deux cotés du mot. Le surréalisme part des réalités distinctes du conscient et de l’inconscient et va vers la synthèse de ces composantes.”[1]

These words exploring the possible connections between sounds and signification, material aspects and meanings, can be found in the catalogue of an important surrealist exhibition, Le Surréalisme en 1947, and were written by Hungarian philosopher and art historian Arpad Mezei (1902–1998), co-author with surrealist painter Marcel Jean of several volumes on surrealism and its contexts: Maldoror (Paris, 1947), Genèse de la pensée moderne (Paris, 1950), Histoire de la peinture surréaliste (Paris, 1959). In my presentation I will argue that a re-reading of surrealist texts and images could be inspired by one of Mezei’s key concepts: hybridity. It is important to identify the historical role of such conceptualizations within surrealism itself (that is, the role of hybrids in postwar surrealist art), but this concept may help also to individualize surrealism among other currents of avant-garde or modernism. With the increasing interest of scholars towards the theories of hybridity within the context of globalization and multiple identities, the theories rooted in surrealism may add another dimension to the issue.

 

Fragment of a talk given at the following conference: Material Meanings. Third Biannual conference of the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM), University of Kent, 7-9 September 2012


The research was undertaken with the support of the project Humanistic social sciences in the context of globalized evolution development and implementation of the postdoctoral study and research programme code POSDRU/89/1.5/S/61104, project that is co-financed by the European Social Fund.

[1] Arpad Mezei, ‘Liberté du langage’, in Le Surréalisme en 1947, Maeght Éditeur, Paris, 1947, p. 59, 61.

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