Bataillean Surrealism in Mexico:

S.NOB Magazine (1962)


The first translations of Georges Bataille work available to a Mexican audience were made by writer Salvador Elizondo. After having read Les larmes d’eros (The Tears of Eros) in 1961, he founded S.NOB magazine one year later with the help of a wide group of collaborators that included Surrealist artists like Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna. S.NOB set out to oppose the closed-off nature of Mexican ‘official culture’, at the time dominated by State-promoted cultural nationalism. The magazine was part of a wider crisis of Mexican art and identity triggered in the 1950s and later known as la Ruptura (the Rupture). This new wave was concurrent with the growth of youth and mass popular culture, which found weapons of revolt against cultural nationalism in foreign cinema, music, and other emergent culture industries.

This essay will argue that S.NOB articulates an avant-garde, surrealist discourse that departs from the main current associated with André Breton. Instead, it closely follows the late writings of Georges Bataille via Elizondo’s translations and interpretations of his work. It will overview the theoretical aspects of Elizondo’s reading of Bataille in order to assess images and texts of the magazine, primarily Kati Horna’s photography, Alberto Gironella’s paintings (reproduced in print), and Tomás Segovia and Fernando Arrabal’s writings.

The objective is to show, through a sample analysis of the magazine’s discourse, the Bataillean construction of this particular collective’s avant-garde revolt. In it, the legacy of the surrealist movement in Mexico finds itself at a distance from the recurrent associations of Breton’s proclamations about the country, as well as the polemics derived from the "International Surrealist Exhibition" held in 1940 and the status of the “fantastic” in the history of Mexican art thereafter.