expansion of surrealism’s ongoing attempt to forge an ideologically autonomous, pro-revolutionary art that rallied behind the cause of a proletarian overthrow of capitalism and sought to transform life in ways that exceeded the sphere of politics. 5 In order to chart these shifts in surrealism’s critique of wage labour during the 1930s, I consider – broadly in the context of the 1934 general strike against fascism and related socio-political developments – the case of surrealist Óscar Domínguez. This chapter
Surrealist sabotage and the war on work is an art-historical study devoted to international surrealism’s critique of wage labour and its demand for non-alienated work between the 1920s and the 1970s. The Introduction and Chapter 1 frame the genealogy of surrealism’s work refusal in relation to its inter-war investment in ultra-left politics, its repudiation of French nationalism, and the early twentieth-century development of sabotage theory in the labour movement. Chapter 2 proposes an interpretation of surrealist automatism in 1920s France as a subversion of disciplined production in the emerging information society and also reperformance of feminised information labour. Chapter 3 is a study of autoeroticism and autonomy in Spanish surrealist Óscar Domínguez’s depictions of women’s work tools, such as the sewing machine and the typewriter, in works of art across media during the 1930s. Chapter 4 provides a historical account of labour activism in Chicago surrealism during the 1960s and 1970s, including an analysis of the Chicago surrealist epistolary exchange with German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. An Epilogue considers the paintings that German surrealist Konrad Klapheck made depicting sewing machines, typewriters, and other tools of information labour during the 1960s, in conjunction with related works by other surrealists such as Giovanna. As a whole, Surrealist sabotage and the war on work demonstrates that international surrealism critiqued wage labour symbolically, theoretically, and politically, through works of art, aesthetics theories, and direct actions meant to effect immediate social intervention.
As I describe in my account of artworks by Óscar Domínguez in Chapter 3 , Breton’s 1965 essay situates Klapheck’s still lifes of modern gadgets in the context of a timeline of self-proclaimed surrealist predecessors in avant-garde art and literature. Breton mentions figures such as Alfred Jarry and Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam as well as the theoretical writings and research of Julien Offray de La Mettrie , Sigmund Freud, and Havelock Ellis. Domínguez, who left the surrealist group in the 1940s and died
through an extended case study of artworks in different media from the 1930s by the Canarian surrealist Óscar Domínguez. I claim that the surrealist subversion of disciplined, rationalised labour in their performative theory of automatism was expanded and adapted by Domínguez into a form of imaginative transformation of the work tool during the period in which surrealism turned away from attempted collaboration with the PCF and towards temporary partnership with Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International. In the first
, and 7, The Rebel Worker becomes increasingly surrealist in content, featuring reprints of texts by René Crevel, Benjamin Péret, Leonora Carrington, André Breton, and others; copied sketches of original works by Yves Tanguy and Óscar Domínguez; and Solidarity Bookshop mail-order lists featuring translations of surrealist texts alongside IWW literature and New Left theory by writers such as Herbert Marcuse. As the journal’s surrealist allegiances grew, the fusion of IWW theories and tactics of worker sabotage