Festival of Experimental Media

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WFIU Anthology presents Leonora Carrington

Earlier this month Cynthia Wolfe’s Books Unbound program moved from Bloomington Community Radio Station WFHB to our local NPR station WFIU.

It has a new name, Anthology, and a new time slot—Sundays at 1:00 p.m. Livestream at http://indianapublicmedia.org or tune in at 103.7 FM.

Cynthia has done a great job with the show, which uses audio editing and cut-and-fold techniques to create aurally creative, live readings of great literary works. This alone would make the show interesting to Burroughs Century audiences. But this coming Sunday, July 24, the show will feature a story by Surrealist writer Leonora Carrington, and so we are especially interested in promoting it as part of our Wounded Galaxies 1916-1968 project.

Carrington (1917-2011) was an English-born artist, Surrealist painter and writer. She became affiliated with the French Surrealists, largely through her relationship with painter Max Ernst. But while she exhibited her paintings in Surrealist shows, she never fully considered herself a part of the movement. Much of her work interrogates the image of the femme-enfant (the woman-child) so central to the male Surrealist worldview. And like Maya Deren and Frida Kahlo, she frequently uses her own portrait as a point of departure, creating multiple versions of herself within a single tableau, as a means of destabilizing a unified subjectivity and of visualizing what Franz Fanon in another context calls “double consciousness” (your awareness of your own subjectivity, on the one hand, and yourself as an object for others).   In her later life, she became an important figure in the Mexican Feminist Movement, and there is a hint of nascent feminism in the work she did while living in France with Ernst.

What she explicitly shares with the French Surrealist group is the use of dream imagery as a means of revolutionary artistic praxis, a means of showing what André Breton once famously called the “bankruptcy” of the rationalist, Enlightenment project. Fascinated from an early age with the bestiary, both her paintings and stories are populated with fantastic creatures—talking horses and hyenas, who sometimes appear as domesticated pets in her paintings. These animals appear in her work as agents of creative transformation. For her, animals –rather than women—become intermediaries between the unconscious and the natural world, between man and what the Surrealists called “the marvelous.” And her use of animal imagery is read by scholars of Surrealism, like Whitney Chadwick, as a way of redefining the image of the child-woman, “from that of innocence, seduction, and dependence on man, to a being who through her intimate relationship with the childhood worlds of fantasy and magic is capable of creative transformation through mental rather than sexual power.” (Whitney Chadwick, Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement (Thames and Hudson, 1985) p 79)

The story that will be featured in the broadcast is The Seventh Horse. It was written in 1941 in New York and was published in the American Surrealist journal VVV, nos 2-3, New York 1943. Like most of her stories, this one is not about plot or character, but excels at creating a mood and at blurring the lines between conscious knowledge and unconscious truths.