Erotic Utopia - Free Upbringing, Free Sex and Socialism: Wilhelm Reich’s Influence on Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen's Danish Surrealism

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In the first decades of the 20th century, new theories of children, upbringing and sexual education evolved in the wake of Sigmund Freud’s writings on children’s sexuality. Also Expressionist, Dadaist and Surrealist artists took an interest in the child, glorifying its unspoiled spontaneity and open-mindedness. Common to both theorists and artists of the period was a focus on liberation; this, however, could be understood in many ways and to different extents. German psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich held one of the most radical beliefs, that a sexually free upbringing would ultimately lead to a perfect socialist society. The aim of this article is to investigate and contextualise the role of the child in some of the revolutionary utopias of the 1930s.
Danish artist Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen (1909–1957) published the first comprehensive introduction to Surrealism in a Nordic language, Surrealismen. Livsanskuelse. Livsudfoldelse. Kunst (Surrealism. Outlook on Life. Conduct of Life. Art), 1934. The book is in many ways close to the concept of Surrealism found in André Breton’s first “ Manifeste du surréalisme”, 1924, one key difference, however, is that Bjerke-Petersen was inspired by Reich, who fled to Denmark in 1933. The article will address how Reich’s psychoanalytical and socialist theory influenced Bjerke-Petersen’s Surrealist utopia, especially regarding the role of the child. Reich’s writings will be contextualised by means of writings by child theorists Albert Moll, Hans Zulliger and Nelly Wolffheim as a way to understand how radical Reich’s theories were in comparison to the more pragmatic approaches suggested by other – otherwise progressive – thinkers of the time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUtopia : The avant-garde, modernism and (im)possible life
EditorsDavid Ayers, Benedikt Hjartarson, Tomi Huttunen, Harri Veivo
Number of pages15
Place of publicationBerlin/Boston
PublisherDe Gruyter
Publication year2015
ISBN (print)978-3-11-042709-7
StatePublished - 2015
SeriesEuropean Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies

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