Surrealism and the Occult
by Nadia Choucha

140 pages with photos, £8.99
available from Mandrake
PO Box 250,
Oxford OX1 1AP

Such a book could not appear in France. The relation between art and the occult is something that has been long recognised in French culture. It is the prudery of the British cultural establishment which makes Surrealism and the Occult stand out.

The book's value lies in the fact that it collates information about the overlap between Art and occultism from Symbolism to Surrealism. Many links have been dug out through looking at primary sources. But the book does not go further than this.

Those familiar with the work of Francis Yates will be familiar with neo-platonism,which lies at the root of much western occultism. This was a prime factor in renaissance Art and science. This occult shadow has never been far away from Western Art - we would argue that this has been a structural necessity. Surrealism and the Occult provides useful evidence in support of this, even if Nadia Choucha prefers to maintain universal essentialism at a theoretical level. Choucha does not question 'Art' as a social construct of capitalist society, nor the social basis of the occult 'revival' of the nineteenth century. She loses sight of the fact that surrealism attempted to overthow existing social conditions:

"The cause of the ideological failure of surrealism was its belief that the unconscious was the finally discovered ultimate force of life. (...) We now know that the unconscious imagination is poor, that automatic writing is monotonous, and that the whole genre of ostentatious surrealist 'weirdness' has ceased to be very surprising. The formal fidelity to this style of imagination ultimately leads back to the antipodes of the modern conditions of imagination: back to traditional occultism."
(Report on the Construction of Situations . . . Guy Debord June 1957
&shyp; this was a text for the founding conference of the Situationist International).

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