November 21, 2008

Louis Scutenaire

Apparently it's the 110th anniversary of the birth of René Magritte today, at least if Google is to be believed (and why would they lie about it?). He's one of those artists who it's tempting to take less than seriously. His images have become so mediated and compromised that it's hard to look at them as anything more than blueprints for adverts. Last autumn, however, I read an article by Bernard Marcadé about Magritte's Période Vache, a kind of (failed?) revolt against the snobbery and growing dogmatism of the French surrealists. As much as the art, though, what really captured my imagination was a quote from the introductory essay written for the original exhibition catalogue by Louis Scutenaire, a fellow Belgian Surrealist and close friend of Magritte's: "We’d like to say shit politely to you, in your false language. Because we bumpkins, we yokels, have absolutely no manners, you realise.” It seemed so perfect for the book which I was just about to send off to the printers that I added it as one of the quotes at the front. The translator of the piece, Shaun Whiteside, had not seen Scutenaire's original essay, "Les Pieds Dans Le Plat," so I tracked it down to make sure the two sentences ran into one another. The first page, which I photocopied, is (badly) reproduced above. I wish someone would write an English translation of the whole piece. As for Scutenaire himself, if Wikipedia is to be believed (and why would they lie, haha) he became disillusioned with the commercialisation of Surrealism immediately after the war. So he was a little way ahead of me...

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