The Warburg Institute
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The Persistence of Memory: Revivalism as Nationalism in the South-East Mediterranean.
At the intersection of the historiography of Surrealism and the history of modern art in the Arab World and Turkey, this project charts the emergence of ‘the surreal’ as a critical historiographical term: a quality attributed to objects in Surrealist quarters, ‘the surreal’ bestowed upon artworks the iconological power to go beyond its present historical circumstances, extending into the past or the future, across geographical borders, and connecting diverse individuals and artworks under shared aesthetic and philosophical aims. Through key case studies across different outputs, ranging from art writing in 1950s Turkey by Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu (1886-1978) and Mazhar Şevket İpşiroğlu (1908-1985), to discourses of art and science in 1940s Syria, to the ceramic production of Abidin Dino (1913-1993) between Istanbul, Rome and Paris, I argue that the trans-historical and transnational concept of ‘the surreal’ was articulated in a context of cultural exchanges in the South-Eastern Mediterranean between the period 1930s-1960s with particular nationalist and political attachments in newly formed nations such as Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. Moving away from a univocal focus on easel paintings, my analysis privileges drawings, ceramics, prints and images from the press, in a way that mirrors the ability of artists to produce art through multiple artistic vocabularies.
Ambra D’Antone is a historian of Surrealism, global modernism and modern intellectual history, with a particular focus on early to mid-twentieth century art practices and historiography of Turkey and the Arab World. She is an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Candidate at The Courtauld and Tate, working on a thesis titled “Translating Modernity: Surrealism of the Levant” (expected autumn 2021), and an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld. Her dissertation is the first analysis in English entirely dedicated to Surrealism in Greater Syria and Turkey between 1920s-1960s, investigating how Surrealism assisted an ongoing reconfiguration of knowledge in the Levant that allowed artists to account for modernities that did not fall in step with discourses of Euro-American progress.
D’Antone, Ambra et al. “Selected Artists’ Biographies”, in Surrealism Beyond Borders. Edited by Stephanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021: 316-321.
D’Antone, Ambra. “Looking Past: Turkish Surrealism in Translation”. Forthcoming chapter in Surrealism in North Africa and Western Asia: Crossings and Encounters. Ed. Monique Bellan and Julia Drost, Orient Institut Beirut (Forthcoming 2021).
D’Antone, Ambra. “Taking Time: Fateh Moudarres’ Works on Paper and Syrian Chronology between Modernity and Contemporaneity”, in Fateh-Adonis: Hiwar. Atassi Foundation (Forthcoming March 2022).
D’Antone, Ambra. “Below the Surface: Anneka Lenssen’s Beautiful Agitation: Modern Paintings and Politics in Syria”. Review commissioned by the Association of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab world (AMCA), May 2021.