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Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics$
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Gavin Parkinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381434

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.001.0001

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date: 21 October 2017

Approximate Life: The Cybernetic Adventures of Monsieur Wzz…

Approximate Life: The Cybernetic Adventures of Monsieur Wzz…

Chapter:
(p.62) 3. Approximate Life: The Cybernetic Adventures of Monsieur Wzz…
Source:
Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics
Author(s):

Jonathan P. Eburne

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.003.0004

Acknowledging its comic genealogy and resonances of SF, this chapter explores the Surrealist roman-photo as a meditation on the ‘tribulations’ depicted in the six extant photographs that comprise the book ‘Les Tribulations de Monsieur Wzz…,’ which adopts its serial-panel form toward an exploration of ‘approximate life,’ a notion that pertains at once to the financial conditions of a group of young leftist writers who turned to screenwriting and translating as ways to make a living, as well as to broader questions about the technological and material conditions for modern life in general. The anthropomorphic Monsieur Wzz, a figure composed of twisted wire with no observable organs or mechanisms, accompanies human actors on a series of adventures that suggest the extent to which the technophilic machine-bodies of Dada had become assimilated into the photorealism of contemporary Paris. As in earlier avant-garde explorations of mechanical approximations of human life – whether the robots of Karel Capek’s R.U.R. or the mechanomorphs of Dada – it is the implied actions of Monsieur Wzz’ that become significant within the Surrealist comic book. At the same time, with no inner workings, Monsieur Wzz invokes the mystification its technophilic name suggests: life may be a ‘whizz,’ yet no less subject to tribulation. Thus the roman-photo comments no less directly on the explicit demands on life posed by the Surrealist movement’s discussions about communism, which become the focus of Tristan Tzara’s contemporaneous meditation on modern-day humanism in his poem ‘L’Homme Approximatif,’ an excerpt from which was published in 1929 in the main Surrealist journal of that decade La Révolution Surréaliste, around the time of the appearance of Monsieur Wzz.

Keywords:   Dada mechanomorph cybernetics photorealism robots

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