Κυριακή, 8 Ιουνίου 2014

Το Παρίσι και οι σουρεαλιστές. Paris and the Surrealists

Surrealist artist and  photographer Michael Woods is the co-author of the superb Paris and the Surrealists (Thames & Hudson), together with his friend George Melly.

In a volume that is digressive yet evocative of Paris's lure, Melly attempts to "provide a parallel text" for photos by Woods. Melly is nearest his goal when he reminisces about his decidedly unglamorous youthful wanderings through the city and his 1952 meeting with his hero, esteemed surrealist Andre Breton; Woods's duotone images, their grays so warm as to appear brown, often portray shop windows, monuments, street scenes that one might witness on an aimless stroll or from a seat in a cafe. Overall, this collaboration repeatedly asserts but ultimately does not demonstrate that "although historic surrealism is entombed in libraries and museums, its marvelous phantom still haunts the city of its birth."

This book is an interesting experiment, partly a Surrealist documentary, it brings chance into the fairly predictable realm of history/autobiography. George Melly missed the Paris heydey, but did manage to meet and get to know various figures associated with the Surrealists. Moreover, Melly learned the history of Surrealism, and attempts to weave this history into a meaningful journey - much like the random journeys down the back-alleys such as the Surrealists enjoyed. Yet, the narrative itself is only partially worthwhile. If Melly was perhaps a larger figure in the history at hand, his story would gain in importance. As it stands, however, his tale remains one man's description of his brush with fame. The story is interesting only as a way of contextualizing the history.

The other "half" of the book revolves the black and white photographs contributed by Michael Woods. These images show a Paris relatively unchanged from the Surrealist era. That is, one sees objects and images similar to what Breton, et. al, may have seen, and, occasionally, one glimpses places and structures that are indeed what the Surrealists saw. Again, these images are an interesting way of contextualizing the history.
















































As an addition to a library on Surrealism, Surrealists, or 20th century Paris, this book may be worthwhile. I would not recommend it, however, as a primary source for understanding the movement of or the people involved in Parisian Surrealism.