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Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s,

and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group

Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected

juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists
and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical
movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact.
Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism
was above all a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities of World War I and

the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the
1920s on, the movement spread around the globe, eventually
affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many
countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice,
philosophy and social theory.

Surrealist Theatre
Surrealist Theatre depicts the subconscious experience, moody tone
and disjointed structure, sometimes imposing a unifying idea.

Antonin Artaud, one of the original Surrealists, rejected Western

theatre as a perversion of the original intent of theatre, which he felt
should be a religious and mystical experience. He thought that
rational discourse comprised "falsehood and illusion," which
embodied the worst of discourse. Endeavoring to create a new
theatrical form that would be immediate and direct, linking the
unconscious minds of performers and spectators, a sort of ritual
event, Artaud created the Theatre of Cruelty where emotions,
feelings, and the metaphysical were expressed not through text or
dialogue but physically, creating a mythological, archetypal,
allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams.

These sentiments also led to the Theatre of the Absurd whose

inspiration came, in part, from silent film and comedy, as well as the
tradition of verbal nonsense in early sound film (Laurel and Hardy,
W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers).
Virginia Woolf's only play Freshwater conjures surreal images by
suggestion using a collective identity.

Antonin Artaud

Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud, better known as

Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896, in
Marseille – March 4, 1948 in Paris) was a
French playwright, poet, actor and theatre
director. Antonin is a diminutive form of
Antoine (little Anthony), and was among a
long list of names which Artaud used
throughout his life.

Biographical Information
Artaud's parents, Euphrasie Nalpas and Antoine-Roi Artaud, were of
Greek origin (Smyrna), and he was much affected by this
background. Although his mother had nine children, only Antoine
and two siblings survived infancy.
At the age of four, Artaud had a severe attack of meningitis. The
virus gave Artaud a nervous, irritable temperament throughout
adolescence. He also suffered from neuralgia, stammering and
severe bouts of depression. As a teenager, he was allegedly stabbed
in the back by a pimp for no apparent reason, similar to the
experience of playwright Samuel Beckett.
Artaud's parents arranged a long series of sanatorium stays for their
disruptive son, which were both prolonged and expensive. They
lasted five years, with a break of two months, June and July 1916,
when Artaud was conscripted into the army. He was allegedly
discharged due to his self-induced habit of sleepwalking. During
Artaud's "rest cures" at the sanatorium, he read Arthur Rimbaud,
Charles Baudelaire, and Edgar Allan Poe. In May 1919, the director
of the sanatorium prescribed laudanum for Artaud, precipitating a
lifelong addiction to that and other opiates.
In March 1920, aged 24, Artaud moved to Paris to pursue a career
as a writer but quickly discovered he had a talent for avant-garde
theatre. Whilst training and performing with the most acclaimed
directors of the day, most notably Charles Dullin and Georges
Pitoeff, he continued to write both poetry and essays. At the age of
27, he sent some of his poems to the journal La Nouvelle Revue
Française; they were rejected, but the editor, Jacques Rivière, wrote
back seeking to understand him, and a relationship in letters was
born. This epistolary work, Correspondence avec Jacques Rivière, is
Artaud's first major publication.
In 1925, Artaud effectively took over directing the surrealist
movement, writing many of the articles for The Surrealist Revolution
and running the Bureau of Surrealist Research, a loose affiliation of
surrealists interested in exploring automatic writing, recording
dreams and engaging in anything which rejected rationality. After
about 18 months he grew increasingly frustrated by what he
perceived as the surrealists' unwillingness to do any more than
disrupt bourgeois art events and create scandal. They in turn,
spearheaded by André Breton who possibly felt his leadership of the
movement to be threatened by Artaud's dynamic energy and
extreme radical commitment, set about ejecting him from the group
after he publicly began to call their revolutionary bluff.
Artaud also cultivated a great interest in cinema as well, writing the
scenario for the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the
Clergyman, directed by Germaine Dulac. Dali and Bunuel, two key
Spanish surrealists, took their cue for Un Chien Andalou from this.
He also acted in Abel Gance's Napoleon in the role of Jean-Paul
Marat, and in Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc as
the monk Massieu. Artaud's portrayal of Marat used exaggerated
movements to convey the fire of Marat's personality.
In 1926-28, Artaud ran the Alfred Jarry Theater, along with Roger
Vitrac. He produced and directed original works by Vitrac, as well as
pieces by Claudel and Strindberg. The theatre advertised that they
would produce Artaud's play Jet de sang in their 1926-1927 season,
but it was never mounted and was not premiered until 40 years
later. The Theater was extremely short-lived, but was attended by
an enormous range of European artists, including André Gide, Arthur
Adamov, and Paul Valéry.
In 1931 Artaud saw Balinese dance performed at the Paris Colonial
Exposition. Although he did not fully understand the intentions and
ideas behind traditional Balinese performance, it influenced many of
his ideas for Theatre. Also during this year, the 'First Manifesto for a
Theatre of Cruelty' was published in La Nouvelle Revue Française
which would later appear as a chapter in 'The Theatre and Its
Double'. In 1935, Artaud's production of his adaptation of Shelley's
The Cenci premiered. The Cenci was a commercial failure, although
it employed innovative sound effects—including the first theatrical
use of the electronic instrument the Ondes Martenot--and had a set
designed by Balthus.
After the production failed, Artaud received a grant to travel to
Mexico, he met his first (Mexican) Parisian friend, the Painter
Federico Cantú. in 1936 where he gave lectures on the decadence
of Western civilization. He also studied and lived with the
Tarahumaran people and experimented with peyote, recording his
experiences which were later released in a volume called Voyage to
the Land of the Tarahumara. The content of this work closely
resembles the poems of his later days, concerned primarily with the
supernatural. Artaud also recorded his horrific withdrawal from
heroin upon entering the land of the Tarahumaras; having deserted
his last supply of the drug at a mountainside, he literally had to be
hoisted onto his horse, and soon resembled, in his words, "a giant,
inflamed gum". Artaud would return to opiates later in life.

In 1937, Artaud returned to France where he obtained a walking

stick of knotted wood that he believed belonged not only to St.
Patrick, but also Lucifer and Jesus Christ. Artaud traveled to Ireland
in an effort to return the staff, though he spoke very little English
and was unable to make himself understood. The majority of his trip
was spent in a hotel room that he was unable to pay for. On his
return trip, Artaud believed he was being attacked by two crew
members and retaliated; he was arrested and put in a straitjacket.
1938 saw the publication of The Theatre and Its Double, his most
well-known work. This book contained the two manifestos of the
Theatre of Cruelty, essential texts in understanding his artistic

Final years

The return from Ireland brought about the beginning of the final
phase of Artaud's life, which was spent in different asylums. When
France was occupied by the Nazis, friends of Artaud had him
transferred to the psychiatric hospital in Rodez, well inside Vichy
territory, where he was put under the charge of Dr. Gaston Ferdière.
Ferdière began administering electroshock treatments to eliminate
Artaud's symptoms, which included various delusions and odd
physical tics. The doctor believed that Artaud's habits of crafting
magic spells, creating astrology charts, and drawing disturbing
images, were symptoms of mental illness. The electro-shock
treatments have created much controversy, although it was during
these treatments — in conjunction with Ferdière's art therapy —
that Artaud began writing and drawing again, after a long dormant
period. In 1946, Ferdière released Artaud to his friends, who placed
him in the psychiatric clinic at Ivry-sur-Seine. Current psychiatric
literature describes Artaud as having schizophrenia, with a clear
psychotic break late in life and schizotypal symptoms throughout
Artaud was encouraged to write by his friends, and interest in his
work was rekindled. He visited an exhibition of works by Vincent van
Gogh which resulted in a study Van Gogh le suicidé de la société
(Van Gogh, The Man Suicided by Society), published by K éditeur,
Paris, 1947 which won a critics´ prize [1]. He recorded Pour en Finir
avec le Jugement de dieu (To Have Done With the Judgment of god)
between November 22 and November 29, 1947. This work was
shelved by Wladimir Porché, the director of the French Radio, the
day before its scheduled airing on February 2, 1948. The
performance was prohibited partially as a result of its scatological,
anti-American, and anti-religious references and pronouncements,
but also because of its general randomness, with a cacophony of
xylophonic sounds mixed with various percussive elements. While
remaining true to his Theater of Cruelty and reducing powerful
emotions and expressions into audible sounds, Artaud had utilized
various, somewhat alarming cries, screams, grunts, onomatopoeia,
and glossolalia.
As a result, Fernand Pouey, the director of dramatic and literary
broadcasts for French radio, assembled a panel to consider the
broadcast of Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de Dieu. Among the
approximately 50 artists, writers, musicians, and journalists present
for a private listening on February 5, 1948 were Jean Cocteau, Paul
Éluard, Raymond Queneau, Jean-Louis Barrault, René Clair, Jean
Paulhan, Maurice Nadeau, Georges Auric, Claude Mauriac, and René
Char. Although the panel felt almost unanimously in favor of
Artaud's work, Porché refused to allow the broadcast. Pouey left his
job and the show was not heard again until February 23, 1948 at a
private performance at the Théâtre Washington.
In January 1948, Artaud was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He
died shortly afterwards on March 4, 1948, alone in the psychiatric
clinic, seated at the foot of his bed, allegedly holding his shoe. It
was suspected that he died from a lethal dose of the drug chloral,
although it is unknown whether he was aware of its lethality. Thirty
years later, French radio finally broadcast the performance of Pour
en Finir avec le Jugement de Dieu.