Friday, January 30, 2009 - 5:00am - 6:00am
Recital Hall 12:00 noon January 30, 2009
In Search of the Primordial Communists: The Surrealist Map of the World
From the 1920s through to the 1940s, members of the Surrealist group were engaged in intense anti-colonial activities as part of their commitment to international socialist ideals. During these same decades, they collected and displayed objects made by colonized indigenous peoples especially those from various parts of the North American continent. A Surrealist interest in these peoples is amply evident in this reconfiguration of world geography known as The Surrealist Map of the World of 1929. While the map defies a singular reading, several peculiarities are initially worth pointing out, most notably the amplification in scale of regions such as Alaska, Greenland, Baffin Island, Labrador and the Haida Gwaii, areas populated by indigenous peoples such as the Inuit and the indigenous societies of the Northwest Coast. Using the map as a point of departure, this presentation will explore how and why North American indigenous societies and their material culture came to occupy a central place within both Surrealist and socialist revolutionary ideology. Approached in this way, The Surrealist Map of the World can be viewed as charting an uneasy alliance between avant-gardism and politics.
Victor Semerjian graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Ph.D. in art history. His research investigated the Surrealist political interest in North American indigenous societies through an exploration of the group's collecting, exhibiting and anti-colonial activities from approximately 1925 to 1946. Currently, he is the course instructor for the Art Now distance learners in Calgary and Edmonton.