The Art of Provocation II

Papin Sisters Before, After-Le Surrealisme au Service de la Revolution May 1933
A dramatic subversion of a convention even before it had become a commonplace. The Papin sisters were responsible for one of the most sensational murder cases in 1930’s France. After seven years exemplary service as domestics in the Lancelin household they killed and mutilated Madame Lancelin and her daughter when a blown fuse threw the house into darkness. The sisters promptly confessed, however it was revealed during the brief trial that they were locked in an incestous lesbian relationship.

This wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last that the Surrealists venerated criminals. Earlier in the first issue of La Revolution Surrealiste they had placed mugshots of themselves around a photograph of Germaine Berton, an anarchist who had assassinated the leader of a far right party organization. Later they would advocate for Violette Noziere who poisoned both of her parents and whose subsequent spectacularly deranged testimony gripped the nation.

Dreams of Desire 21 (Enmeshed)

Portrait Through Wire-Man Ray 1930
A highly fetishistic portrait by the master Surrealist photographer Man Ray who in his work makes everything appear fetishistic. Portrait Through Wire first appeared in Le Surrealisme au service de la Revolution in July 1930. The wire enmeshes the body, hands (always important for Man Ray) and face is suggestive of an all over silk stocking and renders the model alluringly exotic and other. However the sadness in the eyes with their mute appeal makes us aware that the wire is also a physical barrier behind which she is trapped. Her inaccessibility paradoxically increases her erotic appeal.