Waikato Museum launches an exhibition on Saturday designed around the 1920s principles of surrealism.

The world is large, beautiful and mostly undiscovered — a garden of surrealism, is a companion exhibition to the Hamilton Gardens' new Surrealist Garden that opens to the public on February 3.

Museum Director Cherie Meecham says museum staff recruited local wordsmiths affiliated with the University of Waikato to develop text for the exhibition through a 'semi-blind' writing process — the 'exquisite corpse' technique — developed by the early 20th century Parisian poet and surrealist André Breton.

Using this process, participants see only the line above theirs, and create a collaborative poem thought to draw from a 'shared subconscious'.


"The text they came up with has become the object labels for the exhibition and the exhibition design grew from there," says Ms Meecham.

"We want to throw a spotlight on surrealism through the actual design and development of the exhibition, rather than just through a series of exhibits."

Some of the writers who contributed to the early development of the exhibition design will also read from their works at an opening event on Friday evening.

The surrealism movement of the 1920s and 1930s, which arose in response to the atrocities of World War I, included poets, writers, artists and performers.

"There wasn't a surrealist garden movement, as there was in the other arts, but there have long been surrealist elements found in gardens and they've played an intriguing role in the story of gardens," Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel says.

He says the Hamilton Gardens' latest addition to its Fantasy Garden collection will include most of the surrealist features used in gardens around the world, including distortions of scale and strange biomorphic shapes.