I discovered Surrealism and avant-garde literature when I was a teenager, and it made me want to fashion out my own life in the image of Anaïs Nin and Simone de Beauvoir. I wanted to be just as fascinating with a touch of crazy as André Breton’s Nadja. Later, I tried to just be myself—which was already quite something!
As I prepared this 6th edition of Phénomena and jumped back into Surrealism and Dadaism, I realized that my vision has greatly changed from the days of my naïve youth. How those little Surrealist and Dadaist cockfights over the movement’s founder and the purity of its intentions seem ridiculous now! Not to mention how profoundly absent women are throughout the movements’ history—movements that have been so significant in the history of art!
If Woman was the subject par excellence of Surrealist literature, painting, and photography, women were not particularly welcome in the “boys club”. As for the Dadaists, the marvellous Hannah Höch managed to make a name for herself, but at the price of relentless persecution while enduring countless humiliations. And we know little about Emmy Hennings who, outside of being the wife of Hugo Ball, was an important performer in her own right at the renowned Cabaret Voltaire.
We have begun to place women back into their rightful position within art history, and we now have a much better understanding of the work of Frida Khalo and Hannah Höch. These extraordinary women are known for having loved passionately (and generously!) while pursuing their artistic crusade to create a world at once personal and poignant. I like to think that these women were, in their own way… filles électriques.