Bureau of Surrealist Research

The Bureau of Surrealist Research, also known as the Centrale Surréaliste or “Bureau of Surrealist Enquiries” was a Paris-based office in which a loosely affiliated group of Surrealist writers and artists gathered to meet, hold discussions, and conduct interviews in order to “gather all the information possible related to forms that might express the unconscious activity of the mind.”[1] Located at 15 Rue de Grenelle, it opened on October 11th, 1924 under the direction of Antonin Artaud, just four days before the publication of the first Surrealist Manifesto by André Breton.

“La Centrale Surréaliste“, Man Ray, c.1924

«The Office of Surrealist Research, headed by Andre Breton, sought to develop an “archive of the unconscious”. In doing so, the Surrealists created a bipartite archive, one that collected documents of social life and the manuscripts of the Surrealist research office, and one that collected documents and transcripts of dreams (and thus the unconscious). The primary organizing system for the Surrealists was the index card and the mechanical computation. At the heart of the Surrealists’ notion of archiving was the attempt to discover order in chaos (rather than impose it, as archivists do), and to detect the emergence of organization in the din of the unconscious cacophony.»

[Lau: Review: The Big Archive – Art From Bureaucracy, Steven Spieker, 2008]

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