Academic Sessions: Glasgow 2010

AAH Annual Conference 2010
15 - 17 April, University of Glasgow

Dada and Surrealism in Play

Session Convenors:

David Hopkins, University of Glasgow,
Debbie Lewer, University of Glasgow,

This session seeks to explore the relationship between Dada, Surrealism and their legacies and notions of the infantile, the child-like and the adolescent. As is well-known both Dada and Surrealism generated objects that were toy-like and strategies that were game-like, but comparatively little analytic work has been done on the these aspects of the movements. This session explores ‘transitional objects’ and babble, rhymes and rituals, toys and children’s games, puppets and dolls, tall-tales and make-believe. At the same time it examines artistic strategies that are playful, humorous, roguish, regressive, badly-behaved, disruptive and so forth. The papers mainly concentrate on Dada and Surrealism, but trace paths out of these traditions into the present, covering a number of disparate artists and practices in a broadly chronological framework.

All in all, the session aims to come up with a different conception of its topic than the clichéd study of the influence of ‘child art’ or the veneration of the spontaneity of childhood. We are more interested in how and why artists and theorists in the Dada-Surrealist vein sought to return to child-like states and conditions or to re-animate the paraphernalia of childhood, in ways which were often perverse or recalcitrant, and not necessarily nostalgic. Dada, Surrealism and their legacies are increasingly made to appear as morally worthy and ‘grown-up’, when in fact these attitudes were frequently anathema to them. We hope, then, to put Dada, Surrealism and their legacies back into play.


Sabine T. Kriebel (University of Cork)
Left-wing Humour, or, Heartfield’s Holy Hate

Debbie Lewer (University of Glasgow)
Dada, Carnival and Folly

Bradley Bailey (Saint Louis University)
Duchamp’s ‘Playthings’: Toys, Dolls, and Dada

Oliver Watts (University of Sydney)
Creating Sovereignty: Tristan Tzara and the Barrès Trial

Catriona McAra (University of Glasgow)
Of Broken Toys as Anti-tales: Fairytale Fetishism in Surrealism?

Charles Palermo (College of William and Mary, Williamsburg)
Miro’s Toys

Susan Laxton (Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University)
Formplay, or the Politics of Puns

Rachael Grew (University of Glasgow)
Children and Erotic Play in the Art of Leonor Fini

James Boaden (University of York)
Preserving Play: Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage’s ‘Centuries of June’

Susannah Gilbert (University of Essex /Tate Research)
Mail Art Misbehaving: Play, Provocation and Resistance

Grischka Petri (University of Bonn)
‘Through puberty to success’: Kippenberger’s adolescent art strategies

Neil Matheson (University of Westminster)
Keeping it in the Family: Paul McCarthy’s Cultural Gothic

David Hopkins (University of Glasgow)
‘The Soul of the Toy’ from Baudelaire to Mike Kelley