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Lecture 009 - The Surreal and the Suffering.docx

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Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2158A/B
Sonia Halpern

Lecture 009 – The “Surreal” and the Suffering November 13, 2012 Midterm Notes - Incorporating the significance; take answer to most logical conclusion possible - Provide visual evidence for your point - Speak in the positive, not the negative; say what the artist is doing, not what they aren’t doing (what are women doing and men doing as different) th - Final Exam: Monday, December 17 @ 7 PM - The Surrealist Movement: An art movement that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s - Surrealism: The Surrealists were a group of artists highly influenced by dreams - Freud; The Interpretation of Dreams provided a huge resource for surrealist artists - Dreams can reveal a lot about people, how they think, their true desires - If you really wanted to know somebody, you learn what they’re dreaming about - Dreams are so significant because dreams are not controlled by anything or anybody; you have no control over what you dream about, and for this reason, dreams are really a window into someone’s psyche and soul - The Surrealists argued that it is essential to look at dreams to understand people because when we walk around in our conscious lives, we are so regulated by the rules of society – no possible way to really get insight into people by watching their behaviour on a conscious level does not reveal how people really are - Surrealist artists loved dream imagery; borrowed some components of dreams like strange juxtapositions (objects beside each other that don’t make sense), odd proportions (things that are really big or small that don’t resemble how they look in real life) - Our dreams are virtually always representational; can identify the objects in our dreams - Surrealist art is always representational; you can always recognize the motifs even if they don’t really make sense - Can’t quite piece it altogether to make a cohesive story – trait of surrealist art - A lot of surrealist works are quite disturbing; make sense given that a lot of our dreams are disturbing - Surrealists primarily a brotherhood of artists; did not embrace women into their group, sometimes described as misogynistic o Female surrealists typically the wives of male surrealists (way of infiltrating the group) - Because the male artists tended to be quite misogynistic, their works reflected this – works often show a lot of violence against women Premonition of Civil War (Dali, 1936) - A work about the Spanish Civil War that was looming (started in 1937) - Violent imagery against women - Big muscular male arm with disturbing hand squeezing a female breast - This kind of motif was quite common in misogynistic surrealists Dream Caused By the Flight of a Bumblebee (Dali, 1944) - Nude woman lying down, tigers leaping over her; very violent - Reclining nude position (vulnerable position) - Threatening sharp claws of tiger, point at the end of the bayonet poking right at her Rape (Rene Magritte, 1935) - Transposition of human characteristics - Tunnel vision, idea that when a rapist is looking at a woman’s face, all he sees is the objectification of her various body parts - Notion of the appropriation (taking something that isn’t yours and using them for your own purpose) of female body parts and decontextualizing them - Violent image against women Menaced Assassin (Rene Magritte, 1928) - Perfect example in which we see a series of opposites to show tension in the room; all men are standing, woman is lying down; men are dressed, woman is nude; men are alive, woman appears dead; all men dressed in darkness, woman is illuminated - Whatever is going on has been detrimental to the woman - Surrealists not just violent to women in paintings; many were sculptures as well and we see the consistency of the violence against women theme infiltrate their sculptures as well Woman with Her Throat Cut #2 (Giacometti, 1932) - Violent image - What were woman surrealists different than what the male surrealists were doing? - Women did incorporate violence in their work; but what is significant is that the violence was depicted in 3 distinct ways o Unlike the men, the violence was directed toward themselves, not to other people o Violence that the women artists often showed was justifiable because it was auto- biographical – usually based on a real-life experience that happened to them, not just for the love of violence generally o The violence was typically medically based, and not criminally based – had something to do with some kind of medical procedure or violent reaction in the human body, but nothing to do with any kind of criminal factor like rape or homicide o Men liked violence because it aroused them sexually or they liked the violence against women to keep them in their place - Freida Kahlo was a Mexican artist, born in 1908, and when she was a teenager, she was in a horrible traffic accident and suffered extensive injuries – broken leg, spine was completely crushed, and crushed pelvis - One of the poles from the street car had impaled her - Over the course of her lifetime, experienced 45 or so surgeries to try and heal all of these problems; also prescribed a lot of paraphernalia to wear – body braces, plaster corset, etc. - Much of her life spent in wheelchair; at the end of her life, had to get one of her legs amputated - While recovering from the accident, she started to paint full time - Generally speaking, Freida Kahlo is considered a surrealist; chronologically, she fits in the time period, and her closest artist friends were all surrealists – seen as belonging to this group; also her works contained the visual language of dreams - Leader of the Surrealist movement - Breton – saw Frida’s work and said she was the most surrealist of them all - She said that her work is not based on dreams, that it is based on her own lived reality - For this reason, describing Frida as a surrealist is problematic Henry Ford Hospital (Kahlo, 1932) - Went to Detroit where the hospital is located because her husband Diego Rivera was a famous muralist in Mexico and was commissioned to paint a bunch of murals in Detroit - Suffered a horrible haemorrhage; unclear if whether this was the result of a miscarriage or a self-induced abortion - Because of her injuries, she was able to conceive a child, but not bring it to full term - Lying in bed, in her own
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