This week, the Frist will open Real/Surreal: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art — it’s an exhibition of paintings, photos and prints that examine the way 1920′s European Surrealists like Dalí and Magritte influenced the American artists of the 1930′s, 40′s and 50′s.
Even if you’re not in Nashville, the questions the show raises are curious ones — the most important being “What are we talking about when we talk about the surreal?” Antonia found an old episode of the BBC show Arena that offers a great little primer on the subject: “Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist” features British critic/singer George Melly recounting his own surrealist roots and name-checking the other U.K. artists whom he counted among his comrades in arms. Along the way he traces European Surrealism from the nihilism of Dada through the shock of Duchamp. Melly died in 2007, but not before he gave us these eloquent lines about dreams, freedom and poetry:
Surrealism is the spirit of the dream coupled with reality. It’s reality as it might be. It’s reality infused with poetry. It’s not mystical — it relies only on what is there, but it combines these two to produce a world totally free.
Here is “Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist”…