Surreal House at the Barbican

Pottered off to the Barbican yesterday in search of something to get the arty juices going and I think I found it!

I'd say it's a brilliantly curated exhibition filled with some rare never seen before gems all set to an eerie soundtrack created by a medley of sound and video pieces.

I wasn't sure if it was really my thing when I got into the first room: the CONCEPTUAL ART alarm bells were ringing and as partial as I am to the occasional bizarre readymade, there's a lot more to surrealism than that. Surreal House covered all the areas: painting, photography, sculpture, video, illustration, etching etc etc etc…..

My all time favourite parts were seeing the 1930s editions of the Parisian periodical edited by Andre Breton and Pierre Mabille entitled Minotaure and the genius films made by Jan Svankmajer…however they deserve full blog posts all to themselves and I need to get some research done there!

"I shall live in my glass house where you can always see who comes to call, where everything hanging from the ceiling and on the walls stays where it is as if by magic, where I sleep nights in a glass bed, under glass sheets, where the words who I am will sooner or later appear etched by a diamond."
This was said by the great Mr Breton and this exhibition includes a video of his home at 42 rue Fontaine which is said to be the archetypal surrealist home – filled with books, deities, totems, stuffed animals…all manner of things you expect to find in a surrealist illustration. One of the strange things about this exhibition is that you're surrounded by so many odd and dream-like things that you become accustomed to it, so after the first couple of rooms strange feels normal. So when the camera pans around Breton's study to focus on the window, looking out at that ordinary Parisian street you're suddenly brought back to reality and it hits you how bizarre and eccentric a home it is: a surrealist's haven away from mundane everyday life.

….i tried to find a video of it on the net but can't – oh well you'll just have to go see the exhibition!

The first quarter or so of the exhibition focuses on the Freudian idea adopted by the Surrealists in the 1930s of the home as a reflection of the body, and Breton's home is certainly a reflection of his own mind. 
Goes to show how important an artist's surroundings are to the nature and success of their work.

The exhibition is divided into sections such as Femme Maison, Panic Space and Haunted House and all explore slightly different areas of surrealism and the home or the body. There's plenty of big names such as Louise Bourgeouis, Francis Bacon, Breton, Duchamp etc etc and also some other artists, particularly photographers that I hadn't heard of before.

Claude Cahun is one of these, a Parisian writer and political theorist in the 1920s and '30s, it turns out she's a pertty fascinating woman. Her work explores gender ambiguity (she herself changed her name from Lucie to the more androgynous Claude)and the self, she made several self portraits using disguises and costume but never exhibited any of these works as they were meant for self-discovery rather than to be shown. Tate Modern only had a few on show in Surrealism Desire Unbound in 2002 so this is a rare opportunity to have a look!

Francesca Woodman is another photographer whose works are on display, she began taking photographs at 13 and produced over 800 images before her suicide at just 22. Not part of the 1930s Parisian circle, she produced work in the 70s but the images work alongside the earlier pieces.

That's the thing about this exhibition, the work ranges from etchings made in the 1500s after the old master Hieronymous Bosch's drawings to work made in the last twenty years. 
All the pieces work together though as they explore the elements of madness we all have always had and always will.
Worryingly, I found this one of the easiest exhibition to relate to out of all I've seen.

Go see it. It's nice to spend a day in a dream.

hint… Metal Fucking Rats… look at the silhouette. curious? ha. 

ohh ohh and also… 1941 Clarence John Laughlin (check out the pic below) The Repulsive Bed: where Tracey Emin stole her Unmade Bed from methinks. Well kept secret…?

images: Francesca Woodman untitled and untitled, Rhode Island 1975-8; Rebecca Horn's eerie Concert For Anarchy; Clarence John Laughlin's Repulsive Bed (the original Emin).




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