Artist ITEM IDEM's (Cyril Duval) creation for PERFORMA 13 focuses on investigating core components of Surrealist imagery, by mimicking and translating its timeless oniric fantasy through the prism of contemporary culture (beauty pageants, fashion presentations...), whilst investigating XIXth century signals which might have nurtured the symbolic at work behind the notorious art movement.
French romantic and symbolist poet Gerard de Nerval's (1808-1855) unique originality and life trajectory act as a revealing precursory embodiment of Surrealist themes, and the mystical references to occultism, numerology and astrology he constantly applied to his life in poetry, sometimes standing as proto-dadaist pranks or hoaxes intended to produce contemporary shock values "pour epater le bourgeois."
Perfuming his beard, wearing spectacles in bed to envision dreams better, no story mixing romanticism, dandyism, onirism, and mysticism could have been better unbodied than through the urban myth of Thibault the lobster, Nerval's legendary companion he would notoriously have walked in the Jardin du Palais-Royal in Paris, attached to a blue ribbon.
André Breton himself, almost a century later, even acknowledged Nerval's 'supernaturalism' as Surrealism's most direct antecedent, whilst Dali, the movement’s most iconic figure, would appropriate the reference of the mythical decapod with his 'Lobster Telephone' (1936), smartly defining a notorious and influential piece of his own iconography.
But furthermore than a tragic example of his life commitment to the failing psychoanalytic self-remedy he applied to his troubled somnambulism and possible schizophrenia; what stands out from the legacy of Nerval's shattered existence is a vivid interpretation of his desperate obsession with Symbolism and the occultism behind the Tarot, as a poet entirely focused on his dead-end commitment to walk the lucid dream and blur the distinction between onirical worlds and waking reality; or what Nerval would himself unambiguously emit as "Le reve est une seconde vie." All photos: Gerard Garvey / Gayletter.
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