(Found) Object Lessons: Dalí, Cornell, and Convulsive Cinema
According to the gallerist Julien Levy, in December 1936 Salvador Dalí and several other “artists, critics and select movie enthusiasts” attended a special screening at Levy’s gallery of several surrealist short films including Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart (1936). The story goes that Dalí, became increasingly more furious as he watched Cornell’s film, resulting in a confrontation with Cornell. Levy recounts that Dalí, claimed, “It is that my idea for a film is exactly that, and I was going to propose it to someone who would pay to have it made. It isn’t that I could say Cornell stole my idea…I never wrote it or told anyone, but it is as if he had stolen it.”
Although this incident is mentioned by several critics, most of these elide the question of why Dalí, was so outraged by Cornell’s film, or what exactly Dalí, had in mind for his own production. It is my contention that the answer to this question throws considerable light upon both Dalí, and Cornell’s research and artistic output during this period and has a considerable bearing on what they would produce after this this time.
Indeed, this article proposes that Cornell and Dalí, although so different in many ways, and setting out on different, individual artistic paths, converge in their discovery of a common ‘cinematic’ approach that would offer a possible solution for each artist’s particular concerns. Most notably, this occurs in relation to their experiments with the object and film, or more accurately, the intersections between these and the interplay between reality and representation.