As we have seen over the past few weeks, a succession of avant-garde movements, for Impressionism and its aesthetic ideas, accelerated at the beginning of the 20th century and culminated in the collapse of the absolute principles of Art, discrediting the academies, and ultimately questioning the usefulness and legitimacy of Art itself. All these were elements that fed Dada’s negation.The objectives of today’s lecture are:To give you an insight into the reasons motivating anti-art attitudes, irrationality and the assault on culture and communication integral to Dada and Surrealism AND to introduce the key artists and ideas of Dada and Surrealism
Dada was a radical art movement that ran from about 1914 to the mid 1920s. The basic premise of Dada was a reaction to the society involved with World War I, using “anti-art” to reject the traditional society that traditional art reflected (I will return to this term ‘anti-art’). The outbreak of the First World War in 1914, after a century of peace in Europe, and the stalemate that ensued during the four years of trench warfare on the Western Front, came as a devastating disillusionment to a generation of young artists. In certain neutral capitals in the years 1915-10916 a number of artists, fortuitously came together, expressing their disgust and contempt for the degradation of the European culture which the aggressor states professed to be defending even whilst the conduct of war hastened its collapse. As a conscious protest, not so much against cilvilisation itself as against the uses to which art had been put in their societies, the groups in NY and Zurich staged a calculated revolt. Dadaists pushed social and governmental change as a solution to the violence-supporting WWI society Europeans faced. Dada also deconstructed social values and conventional concepts about the arts. To go against the traditionally accepted art world, Dadaists used new art making techniques like collage in place of oil paintings, as well as conceptual art works called “ready-mades,” like Duchamp’s “Fountain.” The conscious act of breaking away from convention made Dada a vital predecessor for Surrealism and many other radical art movements to follow the early 20th century.
Dada can be defined as: a rebellion against the insanity of war and genocide, arms production, nationalist policy, and petty bourgeois narrow-mindedness used shock, provocation, and irrationality as a weapon against the Establishment asked the question: what kinds of culture would condone the industrialized murder of WW1 mocked the ‘seriousness’ and sanctity of traditional art believed that traditional art had been purged and that this new movement was gong to start culture from scratch sought to liberate art from authority and institutions, definitions and philosophies vehemently opposed conformity, banality, and logic encompassed literature, music, drama, photography, and other mediums was a sweeping force that disturbed not only the art world but also the world at large
“Dada” As a word, Dada holds multiple definitions. The Kru tribe calls the tail of a holy cow Dada, while a certain region in Italy calls the cube and mother Dada. In French, Dada is a hobbyhorse. To many languages, Dada is an infant’s first word. “In other words, it means nothing” (Kristiansen 457). Dadaists chose this word to fit their already existing artist movement. One story is that an artist picked it at random in a French-to-German dictionary. The important part of the word, however, is the way it has been repeated in Dada poetry and art. The works suggest that “Dada” is simply a reminder of how arbitrary verbal language is.
There were six main cities in which Dada existed throughout its 1914-1924 lifetime. Dada began in Zurich and ended in Paris, and locations of Dada artists were influenced directly by the war; many artists were refugees. Certain artists such as Francis Picabia and Tristan Tzara seem to have been part of almost all Dada centers, and the internationality of Dada is evident in its ability to draw artists together across countries.
Although the first stirrings of the new spirit can be traced to the activities of Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and Man Ray in New York in 1915, the fact that the movement first found its name through more organised manifestations of the Dada group in Zurich makes it appropriate to discuss the events in Switzerland first. “In light of the close connections between Dada and the First World War it is not surprising that the movement was founded by German, Rumanian, and French war refugees fleeing to the neutral land of Zurich. Having come into close contact with the atrocity of war in their homelands.Having left their homelands, these artists were ready to break away from the past to create completely new art and ideas about what makes art, both physically and conceptually. In Zurich, these refugee artists congregated in cafes and clubs. In February 1916 Hugo Ball (1886-1927), a German writer and theatrical director arrived in Zurich where he established Cabaret Voltaire, as a centre for creative activity “to remind the world that there are independent men, beyond war and nationalism, who live for other ideals.” Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans Richter, and Jean (Hans) Arp all became involved in Cabaret Voltaire. It served as a gallery, stage, and club for like-minded, radical intellectuals. Here, chaotic poetry and music was performed, composed of multi-lingual recitations, odd noises, and employed performances with costumes often constructed out of cardboard or other unusual materials.
“What we are celebrating is at once a buffoonery and a requiem mass…”“The Dadaist fights against the death-throes and death-drunkeness of his time. Averse to every clever reticence, he cultivates the curiosity of one who experiences delight even in the most questionable forms of insubordination. He knows that this world of systems has gone to pieces, and that the age which demanded cash has organised a bargain sale of godless philosophies. Where conscience begins for the market-booth owners, mild laughter and mild kindness begins for the Dadaist.”Hugo Ball (1916) Dada Fragments
TristianTzara was the agent provocateur who belligerently and subversively attacked contemporary culture. To an extent abstract art was one of the weapons Tzara and his companions used in an attempt to destroy the bourgeois values that they held responsible for the atrocities.
The artistic production of the Zurich Dadas was inconsiderable in comparison with their propaganda. Tzara’s seven Dada manifestos, each more incomprehensible to the public than the one before, gained the Dadas a reputation for malicious iconoclasm.“Dada means nothing”“There is no ultimate Truth. The dialectic is an amusing mechanism which guides us […] to the opinions we had in the first place. Does anyone think that by a minute refinement of logic he had demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease.”“I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order […] I am against systems, the most acceptable system…Is to have none”Dada Manifesto 1918 TristianTzara
After the Armistice of 1918 the political and social tensions in Zurich relaxed, and there was less sympathy, even interest in Dada antics. The rein of Zurich as a Dada centre ended with the end of WWI in 1918 when refugees could again travel Europe.The other Dada centers produced art throughout the timeline of 1914-1920’s, but the war directly influenced where artists worked. New York was a secondary refuge for European pacifists and war resisters. American Man Ray founded a branch of Dada in New York in 1919 together with Duchamp and Francis Picabia. However, New York Dadaists are best known for one man’s conceptual works. Marcel Duchamp, a French refugee, who was the figurehead of New York Dada. His experimentation and theories about art and anti-art led to radically new art forms, such as the “ready-mades” and “ready-mades assisted”. Ready-mades” are every day objects “which were declared to be works of art on the basis of some purely arbitrary declaration by Duchamp. Duchamp was looking for a way out of artThe Bicycle Wheel, bottle-rack, and the urinal were all valedictions to accepted mores of aesthetics, styles, and taste. “What is an art?”“What makes art?’“Who is an artist?”Duchamp answered these questions – not as a theoretician, but as a means of tongue-in-cheek demonstration.
The most famous example is “Fountain,” which is a urinal that was displayed as art. The act of declaring seemingly random objects as art challenged the way that we understand art; the focus turned to an idea and intention rather than the object itself. In place of esthetics and content portrayed traditionally or even pictorially, Duchamp used “ready-mades” to provoke the art world. Duchamp had not physically created the objects, nor had he altered them much, but he claimed authorship and the art became the ideas behind the “ready-made.” Using art as a conceptual critique was highly innovative and radical to the early 20th century art world. Duchamp formulated his objections to painting and its ‘retinal’ approach in an aphoristic object. His readmades maintain that art is a question of definition, an agreed term.The artist themselves, their autobiography, their feelings, have nothing to do with it. Art is what is place on a plinth rather than on a department store shelf. This was an effrontery against the ‘aura’ of the art and a rejection of the Romantic notion of the creative artist (a notion that was also renounced by the Russian Constructivists).These objects are by no means mysterious, or enigmatic. They pose critical and subversive questions about the condition of art itself.
Duchamp stated that“…the choice of these ‘readymades’ was never dictated by aesthetic delectation. The choice was based on a reaction of the visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste…in fact a complete anethesia.”
In Berlin, Dada’s force was intensely political. Due to the unstable environment of Germany, whose empire was under attack in the war, Dada reached a more militant and abrasive value system that directly supported anarchy, or at least a revolution of government and social structure.
The destructive ideals were depicted in collages and poetry. Collage was an innovative art making technique that juxtaposed mass produced images.it is important to recognize that Germany was in a “state of general misery” during its height of Dada . Compared to the wealth and political ease found in Zurich, Berliners struggled, living on the bare minimum. The Dadaists in Berlin were vehemently political, pushing anarchy in their disgust with the government systems and what the war had done to their lives. German nationalist pride was rejected by Dadaists making “propagandada,” or art that directly challenged nationalism and military actions.Here art was used to enforce political motives rather than portray conventionally accepted forms of art, much less art that supported nationalism. The focus in Berlin was not the esthetic experience of viewing art, but to push the audience into critical thinking that would, Dadaists hoped, create a social revolution. This was another way that Dada was nontraditional and challenged the roles of art.
While Duchamp in New York provoked the art world to reconsider traditional art, Berlin used art in a new, political way that was dramatically different from the canonized idea of art. Berlin artists included Hannah Hoch, Johannes Baader, George Grosz, and RaoulHausmann. Hausmann and Hoch employed newspaper clippings and advertisements in collages. They provocatively juxtaposed and rearranged their material in collages and photomontages in order to undercut the propaganda spread by the mass media
Huelsenbeck’s Manifesto“The highest art will be that which in its conscious content presents the thousand fold problems of the day, the art which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its libs after yesterdays crash. The best and most extraordinary artists will be those who every hour snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the frenzied cataract of life…”“The word Dada symbolises the most primitive relation to the reality of the environment; with Dadaism a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a simultaneous muddle of noises, colours and spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodified into Dadaist art.”Huelsenbeck, 1918
There were several women artists in Dada, such as Emmy Hennings, Sophie Tauber-Arp, and Hannah Hoch. While allowed to participate and be part of the movement, these women were typically given “subordinate” positions, or not considered quite as equal to men within Dada. Dada women often worked with men or were introduced to Dada through their lovers. Sophie Tauber-Arp often worked in textiles as a collaboration with Hans Arp’s abstract imagery, but also focused on Dada dance and making puppets on her own artistic terms. Although their contemporaries may have not given them the full respect they deserved, the Dada women’s works are certainly given a notable weight in art history texts and museums today.
Hannah Hoch’s photomontages linked women with Marxist revolution ideals while degrading the current political leaders. The New Woman of Weimar Germany was a sign of modernity and liberation, and in fact conditions for women in Germany had changed dramatically in the first two decades of the century.Women were empowered by voting and breaking away from traditional gender roles, and were allowed to work for pay instead of being obliged to only domesticity. Hoch’s photomontages supported this role and encouraged further liberation. While other Dadaists were interested in contemporary feminism and worked to support radical politics, Hoch was the only artist to link feminism with Marxism. She “assigned women a catalytic role within an opposition posited between the revolutionary Dada world associated with Marx and the anti-Dada world of the paunchy President Ebert.” In her post-Dada years, Hoch used photomontage to work through her own sexuality and concepts of gender roles, further breaking away from traditional, canonized art.
Collage was an important methodology in Dada, preferred for its spontaneity and ability to be quickly assembled. Spontaneity was a core value of Dada in that it was a new way of thinking about art in comparison to conventional painting. Oil painting was the most conventional art medium of the time. The medium of collage not only rejected oil painting as a medium, but also challenged the way that art is made through the idea of spontaneity. Spontaneity followed a Dada theory based loosely on Freudian principles (which I will return to shortly); the act of oil painting by nature requires time and effort spent consciously working on imagery, therefore negating the ability to follow subconscious impulses. Collages were used in direct rejection of canonized art mediums. Spontaneity was a value encouraged by Dadaists in all their works to fight against the traditional art making processes. Collages and other Dada art were “works that disturb or humiliate traditional concepts of art”.
Rather than use Dada as a purely political critique, artists like Max Ernst and Hans Arp used Dada for its innovation in non- traditional art making methods and self-expression during their years spent in Cologne. An interesting aspect of Ernst’s collage making process was his use of photography. After assembling a collage, Ernst took a photograph of it and considered the photograph the work of art rather than the physical collage. In Cologne, Arp and Ernst worked together although their individual art styles eventually became distinctive from other Dadaists. Arp worked in collage and sculpture, dealing with solid colors and biomorphic (curvilinear and organic) shapes that vaguely suggested human forms, while Ernst thrived in experimenting with unique art practices. Ernst developed frottage and other innovative techniques during his Dada years that would impact his more well-known Surrealist career.
Hanover, Germany, held one primary artist related to Dada, Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters utilized collage with unusual materials, and dealt with collage poetry. Schwitters ran his movement called “Merz” as parallel to but separate from Dada. The fact that collages are a nontraditional medium was not enough for Schwitters. He rejected canonized art mediums even further by incorporating fabrics, pieces of metal, random paper scraps, and any kind of “rubbish” he could find.The use of unusual materials in art was another way Dadaists rejected the traditional art canon. Traditional art usually revolved around oil painting as mentioned, and any three-dimensional materials were bronze, marble, or any other normal sculptural material. Schwitter’s use of nontraditional materials that weren’t necessarily sculptural and his use of the innovative collage was a full dismissal of canonized art ideas. His art was totally new both in art making technique and materials used.
Around the end of the war, artists flocked to Paris and the year 1920 was the high point of the Paris Dada movement, involving a gathering of all European and New York Dadaists and becoming “almost fashionable” in mainstream society. Paris was already filled with a rich art scene, especially in poetry, performance, and film; primary French artists were Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau, and Philippe Soupault. The international collaborations culminated in a series of mass demonstrations and performances that ultimately divided and weakened the Dada movement. Various groups split off to form new groups as Dada died down in the following years. Breton strongly led the way into Surrealism, while Tzara and others insistently continued Dada performances. Dada paved the way for any avant-garde art including Surrealism, Neo-Dada, Constructivism, Letterism, Situationism, Fluxus, Pop and OpArt, Conceptual Art and Minimalism: most twentieth-century art movements after the 1920s have roots to Dada. It also highly influenced beat culture. Dada artists changed how we view art, made us ask what is art, how art is made, and what art is made of. Subversive and irreverent, Dada, more than any other movement, has shaken society’s notions of art and cultural production. It was fiercely anti-authoritarian and anti-hierarchical, Dada questioned the myth of originality, of the artist as genius suggesting that everybody should be an artist and that almost anything could be art.Through new methods like “ready-mades” and collage, Dada broke conventional art standards down, opening the floodgates for future artists to work outside of such constraints.
The transitional phase between Dada and Surrealism is a period of some confusion, as the evolution of changes in approach, motives and intentions is clouded by overlapping chronology, personal clashes between Breton and the Dadaists (some of whom were to become Surrealists), and ambiguities as to the relation of the work of individual artists to changing emphases.Three views of the transition from Dada to Surrealism can be discerned:(1) Surrealism as a constructive solution to Dada nihilism(2) Surrealism as a movement separate from but parallel to Dada from the beginning(3) Surrealism as one of the many embodiments of Dada in Europe -in short, Surrealism as French Dada
Surrealism was launched in Paris in 1924 by French poet André Breton with publication of his Manifesto of Surrealism. Breton was strongly influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud identified a deep layer of the human mind where memories and our most basic instincts are stored. He called this the unconscious, since most of the time we are not aware of it. The aim of Surrealism was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life. The Surrealists did this in literature as well as art.Breton’s manifesto delineated the goals and challenges of surrealism, it begins with a defense of the rights of the imagination (even as far as the limits of madness), and the importance of dreams was emphasized, because they reinforced the idea that thought, in humankind, had a much wider scope than the dominant tradition.
SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism with which one proposes to express the real process of thought, either orally or in writing, or in any other manner. Thought's dictation, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, outside any esthetic or moral concerns.ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of hitherto neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dreams, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to banish, once and for all, any other psychic mechanisms and to replace them in the resolution of the principal problems of existence.
The Dadaists discovered the unconscious mind and the dream as sources of a new reality and artistic inspiration. Surrealism calculatedly explored the world of dream, chance, and free association, was originally more a literary movement than an artistic one. Painters such a Dali and Rene Magritte mirrored the surreal in the real and trawling the depths of subconscious to come up with iconographies as bizarre as they were precise.Freud he paved the way for the Surrealist, given that they were generally exploring clandestine and suppressed desires, a tendency towards issues that are sexual or pathological, is almost to be expected. The forbidden, censored depths and taboos in which lust is linked to violence, pain and loathing, are brought to the fore. Giacometti’s Disagreeable Object, and his Caught Hand enmeshed in some strange instrument of torture, are extreme expressions of this.
Surrealism followed Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious and his ‘free association’ technique for bypassing the conscious mind. And as such we can identify the major difference between Dada and Surrealism being that Surrealism applied automatism and related practices in a more systematic way than Dada. They believed that automatism was a better way to tackle societal change than the Dada movements attack on prevailing values. Surrealism stressed the subconscious or non-rational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chance effects, and unexpected juxtapositions.
“The information psychoanalysis aims to retrieve from a patient is very intimate. For this information concerns what is most intimate in his mental life, everything that, as a socially independent person, he must conceal from other people, and, beyond that, as a homogenous personality, he will not admit to himself.”
“Two of the hypotheses of psychoanalysis are to insult the entire world and have earned its dislike. One of them offends against intellectual prejudice, the other against an aesthetic and moral one.”“First…Psychoanalysis declares that mental processes are in themselves unconscious and that all of all mental life it is only certain individual acts and portions that are conscious…In saying this psychoanalysis has from the start frivolously forfeited the sympathy of ever friend of sober scientific thought.”
“Second…Is an assertion that instinctual impulses which can only be described as sexual…Play an extremely large and never hitherto appreciated part in the causation of nervous and mental diseases. It asserts further that these same sexual impulses also make contributions that must not be underestimated to the highest cultural, artistic, and social creations of the human spirit.”
Surrealism also aimed at social and political revolution and for a time was affiliated to the Communist party. There was no single style of Surrealist art but two broad types can be seen. These are the oneiric (dream-like) work of Dalí, early Ernst, and Magritte, and the automatism of later Ernst and Miró. Freud believed that dreams revealed the workings of the unconscious, and his famous book The Interpretation of Dreams was central to Surrealism. Automatism was the Surrealist term for Freud's technique of free association, which he also used to reveal the unconscious mind of his patients. Surrealism had a huge influence on art, literature and the cinema as well as on social attitudes and behaviour.
In his manifesto, Breton formulated four questions to try to define a terrain for research: What are the possibilities for the continuity of dreams and their application to life's problems? Do dreams explicitly harbor the causes of our preferences and our desires? What form of reason "broader than all others" gives dreams their "natural allure," where everything seems possible, for as long as the dream lasts? How can one conceive the "future resolution" of dreams and reality, apparently so utterly contradictory, in "the surreal?”SUBSEQUENT CRITIQUES/FREUDIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS HAS BEEN DETHRONEDThe relationship of the conscious to the unconscious needs clarification. The overemphasis on irrationality and the unconscious in early experimentation with psychic automatism is later replaced by a more balanced interaction of conscious and unconscious.The evolution of Surrealist theory and products suggests that any definition that is seized upon to interpret the works of the whole movement will have only relative validity.
Dada and surrealism
Dada and Surrealism
Lecture aims:• To give you an insightinto the reasonsmotivating anti-artattitudes, irrationality andthe assault on culture andcommunication integral toDada and Surrealism• Introduce the key artistsand ideas of Dada andSurrealism
The Dadaist response to the horrors of war was a profound disillusionment with the patriotism, religion, moderneducation, and technology that brought about and justified the war.
Dada:• a rebellion against the insanity of war and genocide, armsproduction, nationalist policy, and petty bourgeois narrow-mindedness• used shock, provocation, and irrationality as a weapon against theEstablishment• asked the question: what kinds of culture would condone theindustrialized murder of WW1• mocked the ‘seriousness’ and sanctity of traditional art• believed that traditional art had been purged and that this newmovement was gong to start culture from scratch• sought to liberate art from authority and institutions, definitions andphilosophies• vehemently opposed conformity, banality, and logic• encompassed literature, music, drama, photography, and other mediums• was a sweeping force that disturbed not only the art world but also theworld at large
The term‘Dada’ issimply areminder ofhowarbitraryverballanguage is.
Dada CentresThere were sixmain cities in whichDada existedthroughout its1914-1924 lifetime Francis Picabia Tableau Rastadada, 1920
“What we are celebrating is at once abuffoonery and a requiem mass…”“The Dadaist fights against the death-throes and death-drunkeness of histime. Averse to every cleverreticence, he cultivates the curiosityof one who experiences delight evenin the most questionable forms ofinsubordination. He knows that thisworld of systems has gone to pieces,and that the age which demandedcash has organised a bargain sale ofgodless philosophies. Whereconscience begins for the market-booth owners, mild laughter and mildkindness begins for the Dadaist.” Hugo Ball (1916) Dada Fragments
The absurd and the grotesque, the illogical and the paradoxical “We had lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished. We would begin again after the tabula rasa. At the Cabaret Voltaire we began by shocking the bourgeois, demolishing his idea of art, attacking common sense, public opinion, education, institutions, muse ums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order” (Foster and Kuenzli 12)
“Dada means nothing”“There is no ultimate Truth. Thedialectic is an amusing mechanismwhich guides us […] to the opinionswe had in the first place. Doesanyone think that by a minuterefinement of logic he haddemonstrated the truth andestablished the correctness ofthese opinions? Logic imprisonedby the senses is an organicdisease.”“I detest greasy objectivity, andharmony, the science that findseverything in order […] I amagainst systems, the mostacceptable system…Is to havenone”
New York Duchamp was looking for a way out of art. The Bicycle Wheel, bottle-rack, and the urinal were all valedictions to accepted mores of aesthetics, styles, and taste. “What is an art?” “What makes art?’ “Who is an artist?” Duchamp answered these questions – not as a theoretician, but as a means of tongue-in-cheek demonstration.
Duchamp had notphysically created theobjects, nor had healtered them much, buthe claimed authorshipand the art became theideas behind the ‘ready-made.’Using art as aconceptual critique washighly innovative andradical to the early 20thcentury art world.
“…the choice of these ‘readymades’ was never dictated by aesthetic delectation. The choice was based on a reaction of the visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste…in fact a complete anethesia.” Marcel DuchampRroseSélavy (Marcel Duchamp). 1921.Photograph by Man Ray.
BerlinIn Berlin, Dada’s force wasintensely political. Due to theunstable environment ofGermany, whose empire wasunder attack in the war, Dadareached a more militant andabrasive value system thatdirectly supported anarchy, orat least a revolution ofgovernment and socialstructure. John Heartfield DerKreig/War 1933
Berlin In Berlin, Dada took on the aspect of a revolutionary uprising. The members of the group uncompromisingly expected to make an immediate effect on politics. They attacked Church and State in no uncertain terms. The Berlin artists and writers explored the realms of the unconscious and automatism, polemicizing at Freud . John Heartfield The Cross (1933)
They provocatively juxtaposedand rearranged their material incollages and photomontages inorder to undercut thepropaganda spread by the massmedia.RaoulHausmannDada Cino (1920)
“The highest art will be that which in its conscious content presents the thousand fold problems of the day, the art which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its libs after yesterdays crash. The best and most extraordinary artists will be those who every hour snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the frenzied cataract of life…” “The word Dada symbolises the most primitive relation to the reality of the environment; with Dadaism a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a simultaneous muddle of noises, colours andGeorge Grosz spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodifiedThe Engineer Heartfield, 1920 into Dadaist art.” Huelsenbeck, 1918
Cologne • Collage was an important methodology in Dada, preferred for its spontaneity and ability to be quickly assembled • Spontaneity followed a Dada theory based loosely on Freudian principles of ‘free association’ Max Ernst The Postman Cheval (1932, collage)
Max Ernst - At the Rendez-vous of Friends 1922Seated from left to right: René Crevel, MaxErnst, Dostoievsky, ThéodoreFraenkel, Jean Paulhan, BenjaminPéret, Johannes Baargeld, Robert Desnos. Standing: Philippe Soupault, JeanArp, Max Morise, Raphaël, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Giorgio
Hanover“The word Merzdenotes essentially thecombination, forartistic purposes, of allconceivablematerials, and, technically, the principle of theequal distribution ofthe individual materials…. A perambulatorwheel, wire-netting, string andcotton wool are factorshaving equal rightswith paint.” Schwitters Merz 94 Grunflec (1920)
Dada to Surrealism Three views of the transition from Dada to Surrealism can be discerned: 1. Surrealism as a constructive solution to Dada nihilism 2. Surrealism as a movement separate from but parallel to Dada from the beginning 3. Surrealism as one of the many embodiments of Dada in Europe -in short, Surrealism as FrenchJewelry designed by DadaSalvador Dali
SurrealismSurrealism was launched inParis in 1924 by French poetAndré Breton with publicationof his Manifesto of Surrealism.Breton was strongly influencedby the theories of SigmundFreud, the founder ofpsychoanalysis.
SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism with whichone proposes to express the real process ofthought, either orally or in writing, or in any othermanner. Thoughts dictation, in the absence of anycontrol exercised by reason, outside any esthetic ormoral concerns.ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests on the belief in thesuperior reality of certain forms of hitherto neglectedassociations, in the omnipotence of dreams, in thedisinterested play of thought. It tends to banish, onceand for all, any other psychic mechanisms and to replacethem in the resolution of the principal problems ofexistence. Andre Breton
Surrealism The Dadaists discovered the unconscious mind and the dream as sources of a new reality and artistic inspiration. Surrealism calculatedly explored the world of dream, chance, and free association, was originally more a literary movement than an artistic one Painters such a Dali and Rene Magritte mirrored the surreal in the real and trawling the depths of subconscious to come up with iconographies as bizarre as they were precise.
Surrealists believed that automatism (automatic writing and drawing) was a better way to tackle societal change than the Dada movements attack on prevailing valuesAndré MassonAutomatic drawing (1896-1987)
Joan Miro A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress(Paintin g Poem) 1938“The information psychoanalysis aims to retrieve from a patient is veryintimate. For this information concerns what is most intimate in his mentallife, everything that, as a socially independent person, he must conceal fromother people, and, beyond that, as a homogenous personality, he will notadmit to himself.”
Andre Masson Battle of Fish (1926)FREUD:“Two of the hypotheses of psychoanalysis are to insult the entire world andhave earned its dislike. One of them offends against intellectual prejudice, theother against an aesthetic and moral one.”“First…Psychoanalysis declares that mental processes are in themselvesunconscious and that all of all mental life it is only certain individual acts andportions that are conscious…In saying this psychoanalysis has from the startfrivolously forfeited the sympathy of ever friend of sober scientific thought.”
FREUD: “Second…Is an assertion that instinctual impulses which can only be described as sexual…Play an extremely large and never hitherto appreciated part in the causation of nervous and mental diseases. It asserts further that these same sexual impulses also make contributions that must not be underestimated to the highest cultural, artistic, and social creations of the human spirit.”Yves TangyyExtinction of Useless Lights(1927)
The Interpretation of Dreamswas central to Surrealism.Automatism was the Surrealistterm for Freuds technique offree association, which he alsoused to reveal the unconsciousmind of his patients. Surrealismhad a huge influence onart, literature and the cinema aswell as on social attitudes andbehaviour.
What are the possibilities for the continuity of dreams and their application to lifes problems? Do dreams explicitly harbor the causes of our preferences and our desires? What form of reason "broader than all others" gives dreams their "natural allure," where everything seems possible, for as long as the dream lasts? How can one conceive the "future resolution" of dreams and reality, apparently so utterly contradictory, in "the surreal?"Rene MagritteThe Reckless Sleeper (1928)