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.
Simone Breton and the gendered labour of the surrealist automatist Work hazards My preoccupation with reading surrealism’s psychic automatism as a subversive form of gendered labour begins by chance, while I am at work, teaching an introductory undergraduate art history class. I am looking with my students at a reproduction of the cover of the first issue of the journal La Révolution surréaliste from December 1924 ( Figure 2.1 ). There are three images of black-and-white photographs by
exaggerated compliance to regulations. The first section of the chapter examines a series of landmark photographs of the Bureau of Surrealist Research in Paris taken by Man Ray in 1924. Utilising reception-based and historiographic methodologies, I argue that Simone Breton, wife of André Breton, performs symbolic labour in a photograph by Man Ray when she poses at a typewriter to take automatist dictation. Reviewing the scholarly debate on the role of women in surrealism that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, I initiate
mirrors, trick photography, painted scenes with passe-têtes or holes for the head (as in the photograph of a cardboard clown with the head of Breton). More complex scenes were not rare: planes, bicycles or cars, as in the photograph dated 1923 of Éluard (at the wheel), Simone Breton, Jacques Delteil, Gala Éluard, Robert Desnos and Breton, with Ernst alongside on a bicycle (figure 6.2). Any pretence of photographic naturalism was, obviously, irrelevant, given the visible artifice of the mise-en-scene, gaily underscored by the stiff pose of the figures in a spontaneous
Révolution surréaliste in December 1924 in conjunction with a preface declaring the movement’s allegiance to dream content. 118 The cover of that inaugural issue featured three additional photographs by Man Ray, one of which showed Simone Breton, as we have seen in Chapter 2 , seated at a typewriter, that other exemplary instrument of women’s industrial labour. Although the concealed and bound sewing machine in Man Ray’s photograph has typically been interpreted as an evocation of the mystery shrouding the