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Abigail Susik


Department Chair, Associate Professor of Art History
Specialty: Modern and Contemporary Art History

Headshot of Abigail Susik

Contact Information

Salem Campus

Ford Hall, Room 308
900 State Street
Salem  Oregon  97301


  • B.A., Barnard College, Columbia University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
  • M.A., Ph.D., Columbia University, with distinction

Research and Teaching

In her wide-ranging research devoted to modern and contemporary Art History and visual culture, Professor Susik focuses on the intersection of international surrealism with anti-authoritarian protest cultures. Her secondary research areas include new media aesthetics and contemporary art. 

Surrealism, Bugs Bunny, and the Blues: Selected Writings on Popular Culture

At Willamette, Dr. Susik offers courses on 18th- through 21st-century Art History, the History of Photography, methodologies of Art History, and special topics in modern and contemporary art. Selected books by Professor Susik include Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work (Manchester University Press, 2021), Radical Dreams: Surrealism, Counterculture, Resistance (Penn State University Press, 2022), Surrealism and Film After 1945: Absolutely Modern Mysteries (Manchester University Press, 2021), and Resurgence! Jonathan Leake, Radical Surrealism, and the Resurgence Youth Movement, 1964-1967 (Eberhardt Press, 2023).

Susik is a founding board member of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism and co-organizer of its 2018, 2019 and 2021 conferences. Between 2015 and 2019, she was an Associate Editor of the College Art Association publication, Media-N, Journal of the New Media Caucus and a member of the New Media Caucus Board of Directors. Professor Susik was the 2009-2011 Postdoctoral Fellow at Millsaps College, and her research has been supported by The National Humanities Center, The Graves Awards in the Humanities, The Mellon Foundation, The Council of Independent Colleges, and other institutions. She curated a major survey of Imogen Cunningham’s photographs at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in 2016. 

Her book Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work uncovers the history of surrealism’s radical anti-work position through an analysis of American and European surrealism between the 1920s and the 1970s. Works across media by Man Ray, André Breton, Óscar Domínguez, Joseph Cornell, Simone Breton, Salvador Dalí, Meret Oppenheim, Konrad Klapheck, Giovanna, and others, are examined in relation to the intransigent surrealist concept of permanent strike. Combining a social art history approach with labor history and theory, and a focus on surrealist subversions of the hierarchy of binary gender, this interdisciplinary study establishes the transatlantic continuity of the surrealist work refusal over the course of the twentieth century.

Professor Susik is currently working on a new curatorial project entitled Touch of the Marvelous: Surrealism and the West Coast, devoted to surrealism and surrealist influence in North America after 1945. In-progress book projects include: the edited volume Surrealism and Animation: Beyond Still Life and a second monograph about surrealism called Change Life.

Dr. Susik is guest editor of two forthcoming journal special issues: Guest Co-editor with Grégory Pierrot, Afrosurrealism: Cymbals of Deeper Experience, special issue of  African American Review forthcoming in 2025, featuring essays by Terri Francis, Robin D. G. Kelley, Aldon Nielsen, Kathy Lou Schultz, and Rochelle Spencer, with poems by Will Alexander and Bernardo Wade; Guest Editor, Surrealism and Anti-Authoritarianism, special issue of the  Journal of Avant-Garde Studies, forthcoming in 2024, featuring essays by Anne Foucault, María Clara Bernal, Steven Harris, Michael Löwy, Michael Richardson, Raymond Spiteri, Stevphen Shukaitis, and Abigail Susik.


Read Dr. Susik's recent op-eds for The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Here is a recent article about Dr. Susik's work. Willamette University also published this article about the surrealist war on work.

This review by Sasha Frere-Jones of the Met/Tate Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition also discusses Dr. Susik's current research. 

See a review of Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work in The Brooklyn Rail.  Artforum also dedicated a significant review to Dr. Susik's book.

Also see Dr. Susik's recent interviews with Rosalind Krauss and Andreas Huyssen in Los Angeles Review of Books, and her cover feature about the surrealist war on work for Idler magazine, based in the UK.

A discussion of her book Radical Dreams was recently published in Frieze. ILL WILL has published a preview of Dr. Susik's new book on the Resurgence Youth Movement.


Selected Awards

Fellow, National Humanities Center, North Carolina, 2023-2024

Tyson Scholar of American Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 2023

City of Vienna/IFK Senior Fellow, IFK International Research Center for Cultural Studies, Vienna, Austria, 2022-2023

Lawrence D. Cress Award for Faculty Scholarship, Willamette University, 2020

The Graves Award in the Humanities, "South American Surrealism: Expanding Modernism's Canon Through Teaching and Research in Art History," for six weeks of funded travel in Peru, Chile, and Argentina, Pomona College, 2020

Council of Independent Colleges seminar fellow, The Art of Storytelling in French Painting and Sculpture 1600–1850,” Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, July, 2015

Faculty Achievement Awards in Teaching and Research, Willamette University, 2015

Curated Exhibitions

Alan Glass: Surrealism's Secret, forthcoming

"For Myself": Nudes by Imogen Cunningham, 1906-1939, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, February 13 – May 1, 2016




Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work (Manchester University Press, 2021).



'This original and enthralling work is not only indispensable for understanding the political and revolutionary core of surrealism but for rethinking strategies of resistance and creation in the present. With this lucid critical study, Abigail Susik recovers an insurgent surrealism at a moment when global capitalism is escalating the immiseration of human labour and when its productivist imperatives are devastating the planet.'
—Jonathan Crary, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Columbia University

'Abigail Susik's brilliant account of surrealism's sustained aesthetic subversion and outright attack on compulsive wage labour and its genealogy in the late-nineteenth century radically reorients our understanding of this influential international movement. With great erudition and conceptual savvy, she places surrealism in the social history of work-place rationalisation, labour struggles and the feminisation of white-collar labour. Surrealist automatism is shown to function like work-to-rule sabotage. Automatic writing emerges as a gendered subversion of the automation of the work place present in surrealist photography and in the eroticised imagery of the typewriter and the sewing machine. Surrealism can still inspire challenges to the nature and organization of work in the information age.'
—Andreas A. Huyssen, Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

'Charting the rejection of the so-called "work ethic" by the surrealists in their theory and art, this groundbreaking study sheds new light on the activities of the surrealist movement in the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, across two continents. Abigail Susik's deeply impressive investigative scope, combined with precise attention to historical, social and economic context, yields new interpretations of a wide range of work-resistant, pleasure-principled, anarcho-Freudian forays into poetry, painting, photography and sculpture by surrealists, drawing upon a truly extraordinary range of scholarly sources. Mentored by theorists from Marx to Marcuse, surrealist techniques and imagery are revealed as instruments of the saboteur. Meanwhile, urgent questions that are so rarely broached today with the kind of clarity given them by workshy surrealists and their ultra-left allies - who works, for what, at what cost and why bother? - are raised on every page of this illuminating book, demonstrating that surrealism lives, loves and plays, but does not labour: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
—Gavin Parkinson, Senior Lecturer in European Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art

“Most scholarly works on surrealism tend to ignore or minimize its strong political dimension, its radical anticapitalist attitude and its commitment to revolutionary human emancipation. This is not the case with (Susik’s) brilliant essay, which does not ignore the highly explosive, radical and subversive nature of the movement founded by André Breton in 1924.” —Michael Löwy, Modernism/modernity 29, no. 4 (November 2022): 889–891.


“Susik’s dense and careful prose bears the weight of assiduous background research, and her pluralist approach to social history results in engrossing formal exegeses...Susik succeeds in eliciting tantalizing frictions around the relation of avant-garde movements to leftist politics in her study of the Surrealists’ attempts to “reconcile their revolution of the mind with the Marxist call for a proletarian overthrow.”— Kaegan Sparks, Artforum (August 18,2022). 


Radical Dreams: Surrealism, Counterculture, Resistance, coedited with Dr. Elliott H. King (Penn State University Press, 2022)

REVIEWS FOR Radical Dreams


Radical Dreams reignites Surrealism’s revolutionary appeal from the 1960s and 1970s and rewrites an often forgotten chapter of the movement.”—Stephanie D’Alessandro, Leonard A. Lauder Curator of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art



Surrealism and Film After 1945: Absolutely Modern Mysteries, coedited with Dr. Kristoffer Noheden (Manchester University Press, 2021).




—'In this major contribution to the burgeoning canon of interdisciplinary critical work in surrealism studies, Noheden and Susik have gathered together exciting new essays by leading scholars in the field, offering detailed historical and theoretical analyses of key films and directors which will wholly recalibrate our understanding of post-war developments in surrealism and its cinematic expressions.'
Patricia Allmer, author of Lee Miller: Photography, Surrealism, and Beyond

—'The marvellous essays in Noheden and Susik's Surrealism and film after 1945 make a compelling case for post-1945 as truly the movement's "age of cinema" and a golden one at that. Sharpening our understanding of surrealist engagements with cinema and cinematic engagements with surrealism while inviting us to go expansively beyond the commonly understood historic and geographic boundaries, the essays in this collection provide a wondrous set of "enchanted wanderings" through postwar cinema, film culture and aesthetics. I am equally excited by what this collection accomplishes - in terms of a richer sense of the place(s) of surrealism in cinema's modern era and its global nature - as I am by the new inquiries and itineraries it will surely inspire.'
James Leo Cahill, author of Zoological Surrealism: The Nonhuman Cinema of Jean Painlevé


Resurgence! Jonathan Leake, Radical Surrealism, and the Resurgence Youth Movement, 1964-1967, edited by Abigail Susik (Eberhardt Press, 2023).


Jonathan Leake's contribution to surrealism with the Resurgence Youth Movement cannot be underestimated. He desired to push us and our consciousness to the very edge and over that edge. He was an explorer of the mind who realized that more was possible than was typically offered in daily life— that though we had plenty of stuff, commodities the like of which the world has never seen— television, telephones, automobiles, washing machines— still, real life somehow eluded us and was elsewhere...—Penelope Rosemont, Chicago surrealist

A resurgent 60's: not many agreed on what the REVOLUTION would look like, but all agreed upon its need. But now, with the added Environmental CRISIS, the need is even more URGENT.         —Ben Morea, Black Mask

Picturesque Snot: Polemics of the Landscape, a Collection of Correspondences between Jordan Tate and Abigail Susik, with Jordan Tate (Special Collections Press, 2019).


Selected Recent and Forthcoming Essays

"Aragon’s Modern Mythology and Surrealist Détournement," forthcoming in Dada/surrealism 25 (summer 2024).

“Towards a Politics of Surrealism and Painting, 1925-26,” forthcoming in the Centre Pompidou Surrealism Exhibition catalogue (fall 2024).

“Animating Death and Deadening Life: The Surrealist Reception of Angels’ Games by Walerian Borowczyk (1964),” forthcoming in forthcoming in Surrealism and Animation: Transnational Connections, 1920-Present, ed. Abigail Susik (Bloomsbury Press, 2025).

“Surrealism and Anti-Authoritarianism,” forthcoming introduction in Surrealism and Anti-Authoritarianism, special issue of the Journal of Avant-Garde Studies, ed. Abigail Susik, 2024.

“‘Long Live Krazy Kat! Long Live the Surrealist Revolution!’: Franklin Rosemont’s Search for Surrealist Affinities,” forthcoming in Surrealism, Bugs Bunny, and the Blues: Selected Writings on Popular Culture, By Franklin Rosemont, edited by Paul Buhle and Abigail Susik (PM Press, 2024).

“‘Art is the Armchair in which the State Sits for its Own Pleasure’: From Breton’s Surrealist Art Strike to Jouffroy’s Post-Surrealist Abolition of Art,” forthcoming in Surrealism and Anti-Authoritarianism, special issue of the Journal of Avant-Garde Studies, ed. Abigail Susik, 2024.

“The Invention of a Cinematic Tarot: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973),” forthcoming in Surrealism and the Tarot, edited by Tessel Bauduin (Fulgur Press, 2024).

“Alain Joubert and a Life of Art,” forthcoming preface in La vie d’artistes, by Alain Joubert (Editions Maurice Nadeau, 2024).

“Counterculture Cinema as Archival Labyrinth: Charles Henri Ford’s Queer Cult Film, Johnny Minotaur (1971),” Archive of Dreams: A Surrealist Impulse, Archive of Avant-gardes, The Dresden State Collections Surrealism Exhibition catalogue, May-September 2024.

"Thanatographic Automatism in Michel Leiris’ Aurora (1927–1928)." Journal of Avant-Garde Studies4(1) (Spring 2024), edited by Leanne Rae Darnbrough and Sascha Bru,151-172.

“Wage Labour as Contagion: Surrealist Sewing Machines and Liberatory Eroticism,” in Hygiene, Contagion, and the European Avant-Garde, eds. Disa Persson and David Hopkins (Routledge, 2023), 165–81.

“Automatism, Autobiography, and Thanatography in the Surrealist Novel,” A History of the Surrealist Novel, ed. Anna Watz (Cambridge University Press, 2023), 56–71.

“Surrealist Visions of Androgyny,” The Routledge Companion to Surrealism, ed. KirstenStrom (Routledge, 2023), 348–57.

“Points of Convergence: Chicago 1960s,” Surrealism Beyond Borders (The Tate Modern; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2021), 112–15.

“Subcultural Receptions of Surrealism in the 1960s International Underground Press: Resurgence and Other Publications,” Cambridge Critical Concepts: Surrealism, ed. Natalya Lusty (Cambridge University Press, 2021), 380–400.

 “D.E. May and the Gift of Unknowable Intimacy,” Figuring (Eugene, OR: Center for Art Research, University of Oregon, 2021), 140–45.

“The Alchemy of Surrealist Presence in Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain,” Surrealism and Film after 1945: Absolutely Modern Mysteries, eds. Kristoffer Noheden and Abigail Susik (Manchester University Press, 2021).

“Sorprendente hallazgo: Alan Glass and Contemporary Surrealism in Mexico,” co-authored with Kristoffer Noheden, Burlington Contemporary (2021).

“Art History Hacked: Art Hack Practice as Intra-garde,” Art Hack Practice: Sites for Artistic Co-Production, eds. Victoria Bradbury and Suzy O’Hara (Routledge, 2019), 15–22.

“Panique,” “Beauty,” and “Poetics,” The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism, eds. Michael Richardson, Dawn Ades, Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Steven Harris, Georges Sebbag (Bloomsbury Press, 2019), 171–74, 282–85, 521–24.

“Dada’s Birthday Bibliography,” Modernism/modernity 24, no. 3 (September 2017):629–37.

 “Animistic Time in Hans Richter’s Vormittagsspuk (1927–1928),” in Time and Temporalitin Literary Modernism (1900–1950) (Peeters, 2016), 243–58.

“Chance and Automatism: Genealogies of the Dissociate in Dada and Surrealism,” Blackwell Companion to Dada and Surrealism, ed. David Hopkins (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), 242–57.

“Curating for a 'New' Portland: Portland Biennial 2016,” The Exhibitionist (Summer 2016).

“Getting Over Ourselves: Nonhuman Studies,” Modernism/, 2016.

“Pleasure, Texture and Digression: Douglas Crimp on Before Pictures,” interview by Abigail Susik and Dr. Kris Cohen (Reed College), in “Aids and Memory,” Drain Magazine 13 (2016).

"Snobbism, Juvenilia and 'The Children's Corner:' Carrington's Contributions to S.NOB in1962," Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde, eds. Jonathan P. Eburne and Catriona McAra (Manchester University Press, 2016).

"Ocean Semiosis," feature catalogue essay in Plastika Alaska, au. Andy Hughes with contributions by Mark Dion, Pam Longobardi, Nicholas Mallos, Howard Ferren, Carl Safina (Plastic Editions, 2015), 6-11.

"Surrealism and Jules Verne: Depth of Subtext in a Collage by Max Ernst," Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics, ed. Gavin Parkinson (Liverpool University Press, 2015), 16-39.

“Sky Projectors, Portapaks and Projection Bombing: The Rise of a Portable Projection Medium,” special double issue on video history in Journal of Film and Video 64, nos. 1–2 (Spring/Summer 2012): 79–92.

“Convergence Zone: The Aesthetics and Politics of the Ocean in Contemporary Art and Photography,” feature essay in “Supernature,” Drain Magazine 15 (Spring 2012): n.p.

“The Screen Politics of Architectural Projection,” in “Civic Spectacle,” Public: Art, Culture, Ideas 45 (Spring 2012): 106–19.             

“‘The Man of these Infinite Possibilities’: Max Ernst’s Cinematic Collages,” Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture 1 (Summer 2011): 62–87.

“Remarks on the Commodity Status and Critical Applications of the Surrealist Outmoded," in Regarding the Popular: Modernism, the Avant-garde, and High and Low Culture. European Avant-garde and Modernism Studies; v. 2 (De Gruyter, 2012), 323–39.

“Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris and the Buried History of Buttes-Chaumont Park,” Thresholds35 (Winter 2009): 62–71.

“Cy Twombly: Writing after Writing,” Rebus: A Journal of Theory and Art History, no. 3 (Winter 2009): 1–28. 

“Considerations on the Everyday as an Aesthetic Category,” Inferno: Postgraduate Journal of Art History & Museum Studies 13 (Summer 2009): 8085.

“Paris, 1924: Aragon, Le Corbusier, and the Question of the Outmoded,” Wreck: Graduate Journal of Art History, Visual Art & Theory 3, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 29–44.

Willamette University

Art History

Ford Hall
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.