Princip Slasti, 1968

Fijalkowski, Krzysztof (2021) Princip Slasti, 1968. In: Stephanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale, eds, Surrealism Beyond Borders. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ISBN 9781588397270


This essay considers a little-known international surrealist exhibition, the only one held behind the iron Curtain during the Cold War era: Princip Slasti (The Pleasure Principle), devised by the Paris surrealist group in conjunction with Czechoslovak colleagues in Brno, Prague and Bratislava between February and April 1968. Developed at a crucial moment for both circles, their contrasting histories come together in this exhibition: where the Paris group, following the loss of their leading member André Breton in 1966, would collapse into several factions the following year, the Czechoslovak group was experiencing a period of unexpected public visibility in wake of the Prague Spring after decades of underground existence, a moment curtailed by the entry of Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia in August 1968. While the story of the exhibition itself reveals deep differences in perspective between surrealists facing very different circumstances, it was the intellectual encounter between the groups – made possible by Parisian surrealists visiting Prague, cementing friendships and generating key collective positions - that would help orient the future direction of the surrealist movement: their joint statement The Platform of Prague remained a confidential document, but its orientation and its intransigent critical position in relation to communist and capitalist ideology alike remains a touchstone for international surrealists.

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