El único punto de resistencia

Cultural, Linguistic and Medial Transgressions in the Surrealist Journal VVV


  • Andrea Gremels Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France


This article argues that the transgressive strategies of VVV, a New York-based surrealist journal published in the early 1940s, are designed as a means to create a space of surrealist resistance against the totalitarian forces dominating its time. The periodical’s medial transgressions imply the transformation of its pages by cut-outs, paper embossing or inserted objects. Works like Marcel Duchamp’s Genre Allegory and Frederick Kiesler’s Twin Touch Test and Design Correlation thus involve readers in an interactive play and at the same time radically challenge their perception. VVV’s readers are also bewildered by the illogical confusion of language choice and a performative play with translation. This concerns especially the Latin American participation of the Chilean Mandrágora group and the surrealist poets from Peru. The multilingualism of their contributions, varying from English to Spanish and French, makes clear that the aleatory play with languages across nations and cultures is part of VVV’s surrealist strategies meant to refuse assimilation to any hegemonic cultural context. That the journal emphatically exposes its transculturality is also analyzed with regard to Aimé Césaire’s, Wifredo Lam’s and Maria Martins’s contributions in VVV that evoke the Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian spirituality of Candomblé and Santería as a form of resistance against colonialism. Altogether, the transgressive strategies illustrate the surrealist periodical’s revolutionary endeavor to develop a “total view,” as stated in its manifesto. In contrast to the totalizing and repressive world visions of colonialism and fascism, the total view of Surrealism unfolds ever new realities underneath the surface of appearances.

Author Biography

Andrea Gremels, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France

Andrea Gremels studied Romance languages, sociology and American studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt where she has been working as a Research Associate and Lecturer at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures since 2008. In the area of Latin American and francophone Literature and culture her main research interests are transcultural studies, postcolonial literary theory, inter- and transmedial approaches and the Carribean. In 2013 she finished her dissertation on exile and transculturation in contemporary Cuban literature in Paris (Kubanische Gegenwartsliteratur in Paris zwischen Exil und Transkulturalität. Tübingen, 2014). As co-editor she published the volume Cuba: La revolución revis(it)ada (together with Roland Spiller, Tübingen, 2010).  Her current research project focuses on the transnational interconnections of surrealism in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. To pursue her research in Mexico City, Havanna and Paris, she has received several travel grants and an Alexander von Humboldt-Scholarship.