Behind the Curtain: Dis/Appearing in Surrealist Art. Claudia Blümle

Nowhere in the visual arts has the relation between disappearing and appearing been dealt with as explicitly as in Surrealism. Concealing curtains indicate what is half hidden; veiling fabrics let one sense an object’s plasticity beneath. These were central techniques in Surrealist painting and photography. Giorgio de Chirico’s Enigma of the Oracle (1909) and Man Ray’s long term project The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse (1911-1970) can be cited as examples. Framed by a manifesto about the role of the dream, Man Ray’s Enigma was already printed on the front cover of the first edition of the paper La Révolution surréaliste in 1924. Accordingly, Ray’s veiled and photographed object gained manifesto-like status within the Surrealist movement for visualizing the undefinable and foreign «something» in a paradigmatic way. In doing so, this artistic strategy that was already central to the work of de Chirico points to a specific representation of the unveiling, which presents a veiling at the same time. As will be shown in this paper, the relation between disappearing and appearing, between veiling and unveiling, is not simply visualized in Surrealism. In its structure of presence and absence, it is, instead, dissected analytically and, at the same time, sensuously.

BIO/BIB ­— Claudia Blümle has been Professor of History and Theory of Form at the Institute of Art and Visual History at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2014. From 2009 to 2014 she held a Professorship for Aesthetics and Art Sciences at the Academy of Fine Arts, Münster. She has been co-editor of the journal Regards croisés. Deutsch-französisches Rezensionsjournal zur Kunstgeschichte und Ästhetik since 2014. Her research interests lie in the field of aesthetics and art theory, law and image in early modern times, science and art in the 19th century, and French visual theory of the 20th century. Selected writings: Blickzähmung und Augentäuschung. Zu Jacques Lacans Bildtheorie, eds. Claudia Blümle and Anne von der Heiden, Berlin / Zurich: Diaphanes 2005 (2nd edition 2009); Struktur, Figur, Kontur. Abstraktion in Kunst und Lebenswissenschaften, eds. Claudia Blümle and Armin Schäfer, Berlin / Zurich: Diaphanes 2007; «Henri Maldiney», in: Bildtheorien aus Frankreich, eds. Kathrin Busch and Iris Därmann, 2011, 255-264; «Visuelle Emergenz. El Grecos Verkündigungen», in: Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren, eds. Gottfried Boehm and Matteo Burioni, Munich 2012, 189-221, and «Farbe – Form – Rhythmus», in: Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch, eds. Stephan Guenzel and Dieter Mersch, Stuttgart: Metzler 2014, 340-346.