The Artist’s Books of Tristan Tzara: A study day


  • 2pm - 4.30pm

  • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two), The Boardroom
    75 Belford Rd,
    Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

The Artist’s Books of Tristan Tzara - A study day at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Tristan Tzara created artist's books working with an astonishing number of the 20th century’s great artists. The library of the SNGMA holds a number of them, with visual art by Arp, Picasso, Miró, Ernst, Masson, and Janco. These works have been very little studied. Tzara’s poetry, as it appears in them, had itself been rarely read until recently; and almost no work has been done on the relationship between text and image in the books. This may well be the first ever study day to look at them.

This event aims to begin with completely open minds, and to ask: what happens when we look at the books as total objects, taking into account the poetry, the visual art, and the format of them?

In the morning, two experts on the artists who worked with Tzara (Kathryn Brown from Loughborough University and Eric Robertson from Royal Holloway) and two experts on Dada poetry (Stephen Forcer from University of Birmingham and Peter Dayan from University of Edinburgh) will meet, look at the books, and think through the questions we would like to ask about them.

In the afternoon, we will have space for up to 15 people to join us: we will present the books, our thoughts, and our questions, and, in round table format, talk through what we might do to appreciate these wonderful works as they deserve.

The afternoon session will begin at 2pm and finish at 4.30pm, with a tea break in the middle.

This event is part of the programme of the Edinburgh Dada & Surrealism Research Group, and is led by Professor Peter Dayan.

Speakers' Biographies

Kathryn Brown is a lecturer in art history at Loughborough University. She has published widely on nineteenth-century and modernist French art and literature. Her books include Women Readers in French Painting 1870–1890 (2012), Matisse’s Poets: Critical Performance in the Artist’s Book (2017) and, as editor and contributor, The Art Book Tradition in Twentieth-Century Europe (2013), Interactive Contemporary Art: Participation in Practice (2014) and Perspectives on Degas (2017).

Peter Dayan is Professor of Word and Music Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His research is about the relationship between poetry, painting and music in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is the author of several articles on the role of music in the Dada movement, and of a forthcoming book entitled The Music of Dada: a lesson in intermediality for our times, to be published by Ashgate in 2018.

Stephen Forcer is a Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Birmingham, where he is also Head of the Department of Modern Languages. He studied at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford, and has written two books: the first on the poetry of Tristan Tzara (2006), and a second on Dada as Text, Thought and Theory (2015). The latter title was shortlisted for the 2016 R. H. Gapper Prize, awarded to the best book by a French Studies scholar in the UK and Ireland. He has co-edited a special issue of Nottingham French Studies (2011) on the French avant-garde, and written articles on other topics in experimental culture including Luis Buñuel, Jean-Luc Godard, and the avant-garde in Spain and Romania. He is currently working out what to do with ideas around Surrealism and terrorism.

Eric Robertson is Professor of Modern French Literary and Visual Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published widely on Dada, Surrealism and the European literary and artistic avant-gardes (authored and edited books on Arp, Robert Desnos, Yvan and Claire Goll, René Schickele, and on Dada art and poetry). He co-curated the international retrospective exhibition Arp: The Poetry of Forms (Kröller-Müller Museum/ Turner Contemporary, 2017-18) and co-authored the accompanying book.

Image: Detail of Robert Delaunay, Portrait of Tristan Tzara, 1923.