Edinburgh Art Festival surrealist exhibition Another World leaves potential unfulfilled
Impressive, if surprisingly straightforward, collection of surrealist works
This article is from 2010.
For a source so rich in departures for radical flights of enquiry, this presentation of surrealist paintings, objects, journals and sculptures is alarmingly straightforward. By marrying a host of mesmerising works by the likes of Dali and Magritte to a linear, chronological presentation – flowing from Dada works of 1916 to the late surrealism of the 1940s – the pieces are situated within a world disillusioned by the destruction of the Great War, the devastating atrocities of civil war, a system of ethics that tolerates both extreme riches and extreme poverty, and a morality that so subverts sexual impulses as to drive humans to madness.
It’s the surrealist objects and sculptures that leave the greatest impact here, and while the chronological hang is understandable, one can’t help but feel that something a little more searching could have been done with the vast, impressive collection on show. Found objects such as Duchamp’s epochal porcelain urinal ‘Fountain’, Man Ray’s metronome ‘Indestructible Object’ and Conroy Maddox’ Cathy Wilkes-esque mannequin assemblage ‘The Cloak of Secrecy’, scream for comparison with contemporary practices. Meanwhile, a host of feminine-facing sculptures by Giacometti and Duchamp remain the most intriguing works on show.
One senses a glimpse of a slightly more experimental mode of display with the selected works on show in the Keiller Library. The room immerses the viewer both in piano music based on pieces performed at a Dada festival and a vast selection of books, periodicals, lithographs and ‘curiosities’ (surrealist objects of inspiration). While delivering a heightened sense of some of the movement’s key tenets – including the idea of automatism and the supremacy of the oneiric – this busy install does not go far enough in resolving common problems relating to the display of rare publications.
The great influence and reach of this roaring movement upon European culture has been unquantifiable, and so to try to conclude this survey with a room of works representing its legacy is a tough task. But one just can’t help but feel disappointed to be returned to familiar sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (and his permanently recreated studio).
Dean Gallery, 624 6200, until 9 Jan, £7 (£5).