[NetBehaviour] José Pierre, editor, Investigating Sex: Surrealist Discussions 1928-32 – Camden New Journal.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Sep 25 19:13:09 CEST 2012

José Pierre, editor, Investigating Sex: Surrealist Discussions 1928-32 – 
Camden New Journal.

Kate Webb is a journalist and critic. She lives in London.

That the surrealists in their unbridling of the imagination and the 
subconscious challenged conventional ways of thinking – or preferably 
not thinking – about sex, will come as no surprise. Less well known is 
that with the subversions of their art, poetry, drama and fiction, they 
also undertook scientific research. Their unique method, combining 
investigation with collective experience, was derided as unscientific, 
but as they weren’t aiming to impress the establishment this didn’t 
trouble them. What they wanted was to produce a body of 
counter-knowledge about neglected aspects of everyday life, and to 
create an archive of the kinds of human experience usually obscured by 
propriety, censorship or fear.

With this in mind, in October 1924, André Breton, the movement’s founder 
and principle theorist, together with a group of friends, set up the 
Bureau of Surrealist Research on the Rue de Grenelle in Paris, inviting 
the public to drop by with stories of chance and coincidence or ideas 
about how life might be different. From here they also produced their 
journal, La Révolution Surréaliste, publishing in 1928 the first of 
twelve inquiries into the meaning and practice of sex – a subject then 
so taboo it could land a speaker or writer in jail. Their recherches 
took the form of group discussions which proceeded by means of 
testimony, disagreement and interrogation (Breton was a trained 
psychoanalyst). As JoAnn Wypijewski notes in her Introduction to 
Investigating Sex, there was “no unity of desire” among the 
participants, “even on the small matters.”

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