Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Salvador Dali

Almost one year ago, I posted a drawing of A Young Girl by Haley and compared it to a drawing by Salvador Dali titled "Imaginary Portrait of Lautreamont at age 19 Obtained by the Paranoic-Critical Method" which is hanging in the Chicago Art Institute. However, at the time I posted "A Young Girl", I could not recall the title of the Dali sketch, so my description and comparison were incomplete. I recently stumbled across this sketch by Vee mack (posted above), which provides that information and a very rough sketch of how the Dali drawing appears - very rough! Dali's sketch is brilliantly and softly rendered in such a way that his pencil work looks much more painterly than any drawing I have ever seen.

While I am impressed with Dali's technical expertise, the philosophical ideas represented by Surrealism (and Dada) are of the most destructive form. Consider the definitions given in the Surrealist Manifesto:

Breton wrote the manifesto of 1924 (another was issued in 1929) that defines the purposes of the group and includes citations of the influences on Surrealism, examples of Surrealist works and discussion of Surrealist automatism. He defined Surrealism as:

Dictionary:
Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

Encyclopedia: Surrealism. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.

Wikipedia offers this further definition:

The English word "Surrealism" is a mis-translation of the French word "Surréalisme." The correct translation should be "Superrealism." Breton somewhere said that the "surréel is to the réel what the surnaturel is to the naturel." English-speakers say "supernatural". The reason why this matters is that the prefix "surr-" in English is often, not always, associated with the Latin prefix "sub" e.g. surreptitious (Fr. subreptice), surrogate (Fr. subrogé), implying exactly the opposite of the intended meaning.

Breton would later qualify the first of these definitions by saying "in the absence of conscious moral or aesthetic self-censorship," and by his admission through subsequent developments, that these definitions were capable of considerable expansion.

This excerpt from the above definition sums up the destructive nature of surreal/dada thought: "Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation." The call of the surrealist is to pursue a world view that elevates dreams, chaos, deconstruction and self-absorption in opposition to any moral or reasonable "preoccupation". No moral compass. No reliance on reason. The subversion of aesthetics (beauty). What is the natural consequence of such a world view? Imagine such a world as the surrealist propose. Oh, don't imagine it, just watch TV and read the Newspaper.

If you think I am exaggerating, consider the quotes of surrealists posted at Wikipedia:
  • "I could spend my whole life prying loose the secrets of the insane. These people are honest to a fault, and their naiveté has no peer but my own."
  • "We are still living under the reign of logic: this, of course, is what I have been driving at. But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest."
  • "Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."
  • "Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society. It will glove your hand, burying therein the profound M with which the word Memory begins."
  • "Surrealism does not allow those who devote themselves to it to forsake it whenever they like. There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do; like drugs, it creates a certain state of need and can push man to frightful revolts."
  • "In this realm as in any other, I believe in the pure Surrealist joy of the man who, forewarned that all others before him have failed, refuses to admit defeat, sets off from whatever point he chooses, along any other path save a reasonable one, and arrives wherever he can."
  • "It is living and ceasing to live which are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere."
  • "The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd."
The Surrealist Manifesto was written in 1924. Do you see how artists and philosophers, even from as far back as the 1920s, have influenced the thinking of unwitting teenagers of the present? The last two quotes, in particular, echo the madness of the Columbine shootings. Never fall for the mistaken notion that the ideas of distant philosophers and academics do not eventually appear in the hearts and minds of the common man.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

so... are you a surrealist?

Vanrensalier said...

As a young man, I would have answered "yes" to that question because I was fascinated by the images of Dali and Magritte. And I was intrigued by the idea of artwork and fiction that was (or looked like) a raw representation of a dream. I am still fascinated by dreams but I do not want to use them as a "rule of life". The point of my post was to reveal that Surrealism as a philosophy is not something lofty but rather a chaotic, self-centered and destructive world-view that has pervaded our culture whether we recognize it by the name "surrealism", or not. Am I a surrealist? Absolutely not. I am a Christian.