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Lenka Bydžovská - Karel Srp

Neptun ve skafandru

This article focuses on Salvador Dalí's famous 'diving-suit lecture', which took place in the summer of 1936 at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London, where he tried to use his body to metaphorically demonstrate to the assembled audience how he created his work by submerging himself in the unconscious. He turned into a 'being-object' and opened up numerous questions attached to the relationship between the surface and depth, the outer and the inner, the collective and the private. The diving suit, a theme that Dalí resourcefully employed, was well ensconced in the list of icons embraced by the inter-war avant-garde: it acquired various meanings in art and literature. An interesting example is a photographic reproduction of a diving suit printed in the German magazine Die Koralle (1925), which a number of authors (László Moholy-Nagy, Hannah Höch, Jindřich Štyrský and Toyen) incorporated into their collages. The article also notes impulses from the sphere of theatre (Oskar Schlemmer, Jindřich Honzl), where a diver often took the stage paired with a seductive dancer, together embodying the polarity of technology and pleasure. The work of the painter Toyen revealed a certain shift, away from her initial enthralment with Purist and Artificialist style in the painting The Diver (1926), to the cover of the Czech edition of Breton's Les Vases communicants (1934), where she used a historical image of a diving suit, taken from a book on alchemy and magic, to place this motif back in association with traditional sciences. Each stream of the avant-garde adopted the diving suit in its own way: Dadaism and Constructivism, Poetism and Surrealism. On the one hand, its technical perfection, facilitating exploration of uncharted places, evoked a sense of wonder, and on the other hand, as Hal Foster demonstrated, it became one example of unheimlich, the uncanny, the alien. These perspectives give rise to thoughts about the nature and design of Dalí's London performance, effectively employed to strengthen his own fame and commercial success, but going beyond the bounds of merely just a 'trivial stunt'.

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