At Hyperallergic, BB pal Mark Dery mourns the loss of "the Internet's kitschiest, most surreal" flea market and laments its new role as "the world's largest mall."
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(In the 1920s,) the Surrealists preferred “Les Puces,” as the flea markets on the outskirts of Paris were called. Andre Breton, the group’s self-appointed leader, wrote in his novel Nadja that the market at Saint-Ouen was “an almost forbidden world of sudden parallels” and “petrifying coincidences,” where unexpected encounters with dreamlike objects lurked around every corner.
EBay, the first e-commerce site, was until recently the web’s kitschier, crummier answer to (cultural critic Walter) Benjamin’s arcades or Breton’s Saint-Ouen. In its early years, its hit-or-miss search engine was conducive to close encounters of the absurd kind. Stumbling around the site, you’d find yourself in some obscure corner, staring in slack-jawed amazement at William Shatner’s kidney stone (auctioned off in 2006 for $25,000) or a Lilliputian suit of armor handcrafted to guinea-pig proportions, guaranteed to keep the dauntless rodent “protected and secure in all situations.” Unlike its sleeker competitor, Amazon, whose algorithms ensure you only see things like those you’ve already seen, eBay seemed, for a while, to facilitate chance meetings with the offbeat and the downright bizarre.
Lists of the most curious, absurd, abject, and grotesque eBay auctions have taken their place in the folklore of consumer culture: the grilled cheese sandwich miraculously emblazoned with an apparition of the Virgin Mary, which sold for $28,000; four golf balls (not just any golf balls; they’d been surgically removed from the belly of a python, who’d mistaken them for hen’s eggs); your advertising slogan tattooed, for $10,000, on some cash-strapped woman’s forehead; a corn flake shaped like the state of Illinois; a Dorito shaped like the pope’s miter; the meaning of life, on offer from a seller who claimed to have “discovered the reason for our existence” and was “happy to share this information with the highest bidder” (which he did, for the dispiritingly small sum of $3.26).
It is always summer in Phoenix. [via
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One of Salvador Dalí's unpublished notebooks is up for auction at Sotheby's in Paris. Part of a fantastic array of Dada and Surrealist items for sale by the Bibliothèque R. & B. L. From CNN:
Among what has been deciphered is a page of writing devoted to "cadavres exquis", the address of filmmaker and friend of Surrealists Rene Clair and the name of Corti, a depository of the Surrealists' publications.
The book, currently owned by Bibliotheque R. & B. L., is believed to date from 1930-1935 and Sotheby's estimates it will sell for between $45,000-$56,000 (€40,000-50,000) in an auction in partnership with Binoche and Giquello.
Auction: Bibliothèque R. & B. L. Dada-Surréalisme
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The famous Swiss surrealist leaves behind some of the twentieth century's most impressive and startling artwork. Here are our favorite biomechanical wonders.
Hang the Bankers has a set of photos from 1972 surrealist ball hosted by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild at the Château de Ferrières, with Salvador Dali in attendance. Hang the Bankers cites this as evidence of "the underlying ideology and the mind state of the occult elite," which sounds like hogwash to me. I mean, I'm all for reflexively condemning the hyper-rich, but if you're a weird shadowy billionaire aristo, better you should be spending your unimaginable riches on cool dress-up parties than tacky mega-yachts or sabotaging health care bills.
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Milos "Sholim" Rajkovic is like a Belgradian anti-war Terry Gilliam, who produces the most remarkable surreal animations made from decomposed heads -- authority figures like generals and ranking clerics are a favorite -- filled with weird gears, fleshy pulsing puckers, crazy clocks, tiny frantic people, and more. I could watch this stuff all day long.
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BB contributor Mark Dery wrote a fascinating rumination on the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, best known for his 1929 short film collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou. (Yes, the one with the infamous eyeball-slicing scene, above.) From Dery's essay at Thought Catalog, titled "Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh":
Buñuel is a philosopher — a moral philosopher, to be exact, albeit one who makes his case with gleeful, Surrealist savagery, using images dredged from the depths of the unconscious. A sardonic satirist and inveterate practical joker—he once strolled down the boulevard Montparnasse dressed as a nun, complete with false eyelashes and lipstick—he is, at the same time, shadowed by the existential melancholy from which the lapsed Catholic never fully recovers. He loves disguises, and it can’t be mere coincidence that he gets a perverse kick out of passing as a priest. Religion is his abiding theme, there from the first in Un Chien Andalou, in the two priests yoked to the protagonist and dragged unceremoniously across the floor, the dead weight of so much obsolete belief; there at the end in his last movie That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), where the bombing campaign of a gang of absurdist terrorists calling itself the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is the backdrop to the movie’s May-December romance (itself fairly explosive!).
"Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh
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BB contributor Mark Dery says:
Rick Poynor, an unapproachably brilliant writer on design and visual culture, has generously posted at Design Observer the glossary of Surrealist concepts from his catalog to an exhibition of Czech Surrealist works. BB readers should print this out and keep it within handy reach on the night table, to be repurposed as a road atlas for dreaming.
"A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image" Read the rest
Before Rimbaud, before the Surrealists, there was Nerval (1808 - 1855), living his life as if it were a lucid dream. Of course, it didn't hurt that his mental skies flickered with the chain lightning of madness—bouts of insanity that condemned him to periodic stays in asylums and, ultimately, self-murder.
When Brooklyn-based painter Stella Im Hultberg was working on her latest paintings, she read Haruki Murakami's novel 1Q84. Twice. The Japanese surrealist's writing has long been an inspiration to her.
"I find that there are parts of any of his books where i feel he actually can describe some of my ideas for my art better than I can," Stella says.
I first discovered Stella's paintings in 2006 when she she was a young Brooklyn artist/toy designer who had just started showing her work in galleries. At the time, I said her work "makes me think of Egon Schiele and Ralph Steadman meeting in one of Aubrey Beardsley's absinthe dreams." Stella's painting has evolved considerably since then and my love for it has continued to deepen. In 2007, my wife and I purchased one of her large watercolors, seen here, and it remains the centerpiece of our living room.
This Saturday (9/29), Stella has an exhibition of new work opening at Culver City's Thinkspace Art Gallery. (The show, titled "Borrowed Memories," is a joint exhibition with Georgia-based painter Tran Nguyen, whose dreamlike juxtapositions are also beautiful to behold.) I'm thrilled to share a preview of Stella's paintings, several of which represent a new approach for her that incorporates sculpture.
"Most of the works in the show include or touch on the idea of a 'disconnect' - the disconnect from oneself, the disconnect from the world, the disconnect from others," Stella says. "I feel that most people will feel some kind of disconnect - the kind you felt during pubescent years that people tell you to get over, shed and move on to become an adult - a part of the grown-up world. Read the rest