Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A playful museum - Dawn Ades and Fiona Bradley

In the late 1920s, Georges Bataille - described as "Bataille the impossible" by his friend Michel Leiris - represented an intellectual opposition to the surrealist movement led by André Breton, which attracted many of the best non-conformist poets, artists and writers of the age. He was a scholar, a pornographer, a numismatist (specialist in the study of coins and medals), a social critic and an idiosyncratic philosopher - but Bataille's most visible contribution to contemporary thought was in the form of the review Documents, which ran for 15 issues from 1929 to 1930.

Conceived as a "war machine against received ideas", Documents drew in several dissident surrealists such as Leiris, Joan Miró, Robert Desnos and André Masson. As, in his own words, surrealism's "old enemy from within", Bataille was uncompromising in his disdain for art as a panacea and a substitute for human experience, his problem remaining "the place that surrealism gave to poetry and painting: it placed the work before being".


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