Thursday, July 01, 2010

Salvador Dali Dives for Surrealism & Almost Doesn't Return-


July 1, 1936: During The International Surrealist Exhibition in London, Salvador Dali attempts to give the lecture 'Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques' while wearing a deep-sea diving suit, but almost suffocates and has to be rescued by the young poet, David Gascoyne, who arrives with a hammer in the nick of time. In his 1942 autobiography Dali recounted the adventure-

“Lord Berners was in charge of renting the diving suit in question, and over the telephone they asked him to specify exactly to what depth Mr Dali wished to descend. Lord Berners replied that I was going to descend to the subconscious, after which I would immediately come up again. With equal seriousness the voice answered that in this case they would replace the helmet with a special one.”

“I got into the diving suit, and the mechanic from the diving-suit establishment bolted my helmet on tight. The diving suit had extremely heavy lead shoes which I could barely lift. I therefore had to walk very slowly, leaning on friends who helped to move me, as though I were completely paralysed, and thus I appeared before the audience holding two luxurious white Russian wolfhounds on a leash.

“My apparition in a diving suit must have had a very anguishing effect, for a great silence fell over the audience. My assistants managed to get me to my seat behind the microphone. It was only at this moment that I realised that it would be impossible for me to deliver my speech through the glass window of my helmet. Moreover, I had been shut up in this thing for 10 minutes and became heated from the exertions I had made in walking across the stage to reach my chair, so that I was dripping with perspiration, and felt faint and on the point of suffocating.

“I made the most energetic gestures I could to have the helmet of my diving suit removed. Gala and Edward James, immediately understanding my painful situation, came running to take off my helmet. But it was solidly bolted on, and there was nothing to be done, for the worker who had put it on me had disappeared. They tried to open a slit between the helmet and the suit with a billiard cue so that I would be able to breathe. Finally they brought a hammer and began to strike the bolts energetically to make them turn. At each blow I thought I would faint.

“The audience for the most part was convinced that all this was part of the show, and was loudly applauding, extremely amused at the pantomime that we were playing so realistically. When I at last got out of the diving suit everyone was impressed by my really deathly pallour, which constituted the accurate gauge of that Dalinian dramatic element which never fails to attend my most trivial acts and undertakings.”

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There is, of course, no video of this, so I had to make do with this Dali-esque moment-

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