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Hands–On Surrealism

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Abstract:

Images of hands abound in Surrealist art and literature. From AndrĂ© Breton's writings, including his novel Nadja, to photographs published in Surrealist books and journals, the hand appears in a variety of guises. By positioning Surrealist uses of hands against the backdrop of Walter Benjamin’s essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, the unique qualities of Surrealist imagery become apparent. In Surrealist photographs by Man Ray and Maurice Tabard and books and articles by Breton and Georges Hugnet, hands figure as weird, magical, uncanny objects, as texts to be read to unlock the secrets of the psyche, as connectors between our modern world and our primitive past, and also as symbols of art and signs for art-making in an age of Surrealist mechanical reproduction.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8365.00079

Affiliations: Middlebury College, Vermont

Publication date: 1997-12-01

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