Conference Paper

Possessed by Bugs Bunny: Animals and Ecology in Chicago Surrealism

Publication

Author
Kristoffer Noheden

Conference
Swedish Association for American Studies conference, Stockholm University, 28–30 September 2018

Abstract

Soon after its foundation in 1965, the Surrealist Group of Chicago adopted Bugs Bunny as its trickster-avatar. In 1968, the group inaugurated their Gallery Bugs Bunny with an exhibition manifesting the continued life of surrealism. In the immense 1976 exhibition Marvelous Freedom, Vigilance of Desire, one of eleven mythological domains was devoted to the cartoon rabbit, who was endowed with the capacity to possess “in the voodoo sense.” In the catalogue, Franklin Rosemont, co-founder of the group, described Bugs Bunny as an embodiment of class struggle and a promise of future victory over all the repressive Elmer Fudds in the world. But beyond such symbolism, Tex Avery’s rabbit also speaks to the prevalent place afforded to a radical politics of animals and ecology in the Chicago group’s activities, art, and writings. Continuing a long lineage of interest in, and concern for, the nonhuman world within international surrealism, the Chicago group added appeals to wilderness, rooted in an American tradition of nature writing, alongside their appropriation of Bugs Bunny as a mediator between the human and animal kingdoms. In this paper I explore how the Chicago surrealists, possessed by the spirit of Bugs Bunny, took stands for animal rights and articulated ecological positions. Drawing on journals, collective tracts, and visual art, I demonstrate that as they undermined anthropocentrism and human exceptionalism, the group never lost sight of the importance of imagination, humour, and myth in their development of an “ecology of the marvelous.”

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Details

  • Type:
    Conference Paper (peer reviewed)
  • Conference:
    Swedish Association For American Studies Conference, Stockholm University, 28–30 September 2018
  • Published:
    2018
  • Language:
    English

About the Author

Kristoffer Noheden

Kristoffer Noheden is a researcher in cinema studies at the Department of Media Studies. He holds a PhD in cinema studies from Stockholm University, and an MA in film studies and a BA in cultural studies from the University of Gothenburg. From Oct... Read more

Reference

Noheden, K. (2018). Possessed by Bugs Bunny: Animals and Ecology in Chicago Surrealism. In: Swedish Association for American Studies conference, Stockholm University, 28–30 September 2018.