Monday, May 22, 2006


Undercover Surrealism brings together objects and images reproduced in the periodical Documents, which ran to just seventeen issues from 1929 to 1930. As the exhibition itself is quick to point out, Georges Bataille was not a Surrealist, and Documents was not a Surrealist publication: the word 'Surrealism' in the title would therefore appear to be more of a marketing device than an accurate description of the exhibition's contents or rationale. As a display of curatorship it is impressive: to have gathered such a large and disparate collection under one roof is no mean feat. But the overall effect is curiously unmoving. There are a few flashes of intensity, notably in Bataille's own Vitreous Sun drawings, but one leaves the gallery feeling as if one has simply flipped through a magazine looking at the pictures without reading the articles -- which is of course precisely what one has done, albeit in three dimensions and on a grandiose scale. The best that can be said about this exhibition is perhaps that, in so thoroughly failing to capture the passion, violence and horror of 'the vision of George Bataille', it demonstrates just how far that complex vision departs from the banalised and consumerist practices of gallery spectatorship in the twenty-first century.

Undercover Surrealism: Picasso, Miró, Masson and the Vision of Georges Bataille
at the Hayward Gallery, London, until 30th July

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