Melvin Moti

Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA)

Melvin Moti’s 16-mm film on DVD The Black Room, 2005, is a montage of two apparently disparate elements: footage of wall paintings from a village near Pompeii and a sound track consisting of an imaginary interview with the Surrealist poet Robert Desnos. In the interview, based on a variety of historical sources, a female voice interrogates “Desnos” about the famous/infamous “période des sommeils” just before the official launch of Surrealism, in 1922–23. During this period, the group around Breton experimented with hypnotic sleep, or trance. The interviewer voices her concern that the proto-Surrealists’ disregard for safety and for their mental health brought them to the brink of an abyss; Desnos tries to make light of the incidents she brings up, such as the one in which he chased Paul Eluard with a knife. All the while, the video projection shows details of the Pompeian frescoes, the

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