I thought I'd use this homework-free week to catch up on blog posts and air out some ideas/things that I've found in my search for sources.
For the past couple of weeks, I've been desperately trying to understand the Western/Southwestern themes that we see periodically in our studies. From the dusty and sepia-toned collages of Dadaism to Dali's barren landscapes, the Wild West "wasteland" aesthetic seems not deeply but freshly embedded in the minds of poets and artists of the 1920s and 30s. There are regional magazines, like Sunset and Laughing Horse, that focus primarily on local art and talent, but what I am eager to discover is the idea of possible ethnographic tourism on the part of self-proclaimed surrealists or modernists, and hopefully, this can be found within transition magazine.
Before I speak on transition magazine, I first wanted to lay out something intriguing I learned while researching this area of interest. First, Andre Breton himself was an ethnographic tourist. Second, he was the owner of a travel notebook coined "The Hopi Notebook." There really isn't much information on this, other than the scans which are hard to read, and that it was something he kept with him during a trip to the Southwest in 1945, during which he and his wife (I think) observed Hopi and Zuni pueblos. Perhaps the dates are too late, but it tells me that a key surrealist figure was extremely interested in the cultural goings-on in the Southwest United States (source).
Further, the editors of transition had this to say in the first volume ever of the magazine:
"Perhaps, because America is young, from the white man's standpoint, and has constantly been adapting itself to changing conditions, without a single tranquil decade, it has been less affected by literature, music, or painting than any other land. Surely, it is the only country, in recent centuries, which has accepted ready-made cultures from other peoples before having developed one characteristically its own. The earlier settlers, if their architecture is indicative, were not insensitive to beauty, but they destroyed or ignored the wealth of art which the Indians offered them and let the amazing monuments and relics of the Moundbuilders be broken with plowshares.
Lately, Americans have shown unmistakable signs of artistic awakening. Poets and novelists have come forward with work of unquestionable genuineness and originality."
They go on to state that transition aims "to offer American writers an opportunity to express themselves freely, to experiment if they are so minded, and to avail themselves of a ready, alert and critical audience." (1st issue, pg 136-37).
There's also a term in the 15th issue used by editor Eugene Jolas: "Super-Occident," he calls it, and it seems to represent something different than what was at first desired in the introduction? But also it doesn't? Jolas states,
Continental man who may well become the universal man. I should like to imagine a super-America which might be the idealistic intensification and sublimation of the Occident. But a long struggle must face us, before a super-occident can be realized. We must continue to oppose the present plutocratic materialism, fight for a new orientation of life based on the need for a universal humanity on the idea of the American mythos. In relation to the dynamic century, defend at all costs, man's inalienable right to dream and rebel and create in himself the possibilities of the organic cosmos. We must strive for the duality of the infinite and the material, the primitive arid the mechanical, the hallucinatory and the concrete. The art of the future must be conceived as a universal art, with regional autonomy. We want the most completed decentralization in life and expression, while, at the same time, working for the new humanity, which will, as always, be biologically monistic, but evolutionary in manifestation, totalistic and autochthonous.
This idea of the "Super-Occident" is so fascinating and, to me, alienated. I don't know think that I've personally come across something so keen on universality and bringing together opposing forces like mechanics and nature, dreams and reality, and so on. Everything always seems so distinct, like this is European, this is American, and so on. But maybe that isn't even the point! This perspective is new, and it's something I'm still trying to wrap my head around.
Apologies for the block quotes, but I think they're quite crucial in my searching for the golden thread. I haven't found it yet, but I think I'm getting closer and pulling loose threads together. Also, I apologize if it is messy. I'm most definitely in the beginning phase.