The wonderfully wacky and intellectually zany will overtake campus beginning today at 4:30 p.m. and extending through Monday night for the Surrealist Symposium.
The first event of its kind at UT, internationally renowned writers, artists and academics will be present at 13 different symposium events to discuss and celebrate Surrealism's impact. The cultural movement's intent, as defined by one of its most illustrious figures, the painter Salvador Dali, is to help free society of the "shackles limiting our vision."
"This is going to be a dialogue between older scholars and young people, between critics and poets, painters, photographers, artists and historians," Marilyn Kallet, director of UT's creative writing program and event organizer, said. "There will be something for everyone, I hope."
The symposium, which is being collectively brought to UT by the Creative Writing and English Department Speakers' Fund, the Office of Research and Engagement, and University Libraries, will feature a roster of culturally significant speakers, a three-day Surrealist Film Fest and a Dadaist field trip.
Richard Hermes, Ph.D. student in English, who in collaboration with Nathan Smith, freshman in cinema studies, organized the film festival, said the schedule of surrealist films will "take students for a ride outside their comfort zone."
"Students should expect to be challenged by these films," Hermes said. "Most people associate the Surrealist movement with the images and logic of dreams, and this is certainly true, but that process of taking an internal, subconscious world and making it external can also be a disruptive one.
"The surrealists believed that this was a healthy disruption – even a politically revolutionary one."
The screenings will all take place within the John C. Hodges Library Auditorium. Among them are "Alice," the 1988 twisted fantasy rendition of Carroll's wonderland, "Synecdoche," one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last acclaimed performances, and the film version of William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch."
Disruptions and revolutions aside, Hermes believes one of the main draws of surrealism is its playfulness.
"One of the pleasures of surrealism is that it often reminds us that art is about play," he said. "A lot of surrealist work is just plain fun."
A prime example of this frivolity will be the Dadaist field trip, which will take place Monday at 1:30 p.m. at to the Fountain of Europa and the Bull next to McClung Tower. The inspiration for this hoax lecture, which will be delivered by Beauvais Lyons, Chancellor's professor in printmaking, comes from some of the original Dadaists themselves, Kallet said.
"In France, the start of (Surrealism) was Dadaism, which was a kind of wild, anarchic anti-art movement," she said. "One of the things the Dadaists did in Paris was they had a mock-serious field trip involving the great poets and painters of the day who all went to an old church together dressed up in suits and ties and stood outside in the rain."
For UT's nod to this historic artistic event, Lyons will lead a mock-serious discussion about his "astonishing" inventions, Kallet said, and a dress code a la the original Dadaists will be enforced.
Rounding out the Symposium's eclectic mix of events, prominent Surrealist experts will speak at a series of lectures beginning at noon on Monday.
Among these is Kallet herself, who was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in poetry in 2005, Mark Polizzotti, director of the publications program at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Jonathan Eburne, co-president of the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism. Additionally, the library will be displaying a rare collection of Surrealist texts and art, including Dali's "St. Anthony in the Desert," in Special Collections.
Hermes, who noted that there is a tendency for art lovers to get caught up in the specificities of what and who define certain movements, said the symposium will be devoted to a pure and inclusive appreciation of art.
"I think it's best to put the big category titles aside and just approach and appreciate these works of art on their own terms," he said.
For a full schedule of Surrealist Symposium's events, all of which are free and open to the public, visit the Department of English's website here.