Both men were well informed about the recent political developments in France, and with the political position of the surrealist group as well. Both were in favor of independency for the arts in a revolutionary setting. Breton and Trotsky agreed to write jointly a manifesto on the arts: For a independent revolutionary art. There should be no authority, not the slightest trace of command! The Second World War changed deeply the political situation in the world.
Thanks to the efforts of the American philanthropist Varian Fry, Breton and his family got a visa for America. There he worked for the French radio programs intended to listeners in occupied France. Breton reflected on the chances of the surrealist movement in the uncertain future, after the struggle between fascism, communism and capitalism.
In this text, Breton gave a short review of the first twenty years of surrealism and he reconfirmed the principles formulated in that period. Then, he made a few speculations on the future. He condemned all kinds of conformism, surrealist conformism as well, such as the many imitations of earlier texts and images. Such conformism caused much confusion, he felt. Those ideas have announced the tremendous enrichment of surrealist activities after , even if they were ridiculed by many critics as a flight into mysticism.
Surrealism is what will be. After the defeat of the armies of Nazi-Germany and after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, two super-powers, the U. The surrealist movement that had spread over several countries in Europe, was faced with the fact that important groups of surrealist artists in Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Serbia were forbidden as from , while in West Europe, the new generation of experimental artists had radicalized during the war, and took sides with the communist parties.
The new fashionable existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre tended to be pro-soviet, and it was in controversy with the surrealist ideas. It has inspired many of them to get in touch with the surrealist group in Paris. It made essential texts from the period between the two world wars available for the first time.
The liberation from Nazi oppression was eclipsed to some extent by a climate of permanent fear with the European population of a nuclear war between the two superpowers. It was held in the famous art gallery Maeght. The exhibition turned out to be a huge success. At the same time, it indicated Capitalism and its permanent pillar: the Christian Church, as the main causes of exploitation and oppression in the world. The main animator of this protesting group was the Walloon poet Christian Dotremont. However, the Communist Party expelled the collaborators of the journal immediately, because it was not in line with the policy of the Party.
Dotremont, Asger Jorn, Constant Nieuwenhuys and some other artists founded in the new movement Cobra, that was to get much attention in the Parisian art scene. It was a vehement attack of the Catholic Church. It was a direct response to speculations in the press that the surrealists were becoming religious and in favor of metaphysics. In the fifties, the surrealists did much research on the creative secrets of non-Western culture, as well as on the sources of inspiration of alchemists and occultists, but they did never look for possible religious traces.
They aimed at vitalizing the surrealist movement and taking it over. The group agreed with their proposal. The collaboration, however, was short-lived. Their polemics against surrealism and their tentatives of patricide did not stop there. Back to the fifties: Notwithstanding the fact that the surrealist group was no longer associated with a political party, its political convictions and aims were fully alive.
The fifties were a period of vehement tensions both in France and international. The group has spoken out on several important occasions by issuing pamphlets and declarations which were often commented in the press. Get away with the theology of the Bomb! The French government had installed strong censorship, and it prohibited any press comment on the Algerian war.
The government of General De Gaulle was furious, and all signatories were prosecuted. A few years later, in , the Cuban surrealist painter Wifredo Lam organized a large international exhibition of free experimental art in Havana, in order to celebrate the freedom of creation in Cuba. Many surrealists have participated, and several of them were present. These words were a concept of the socialist philosopher Charles Fourier , expressing that by choosing a deviant way, one may do great discoveries, like Columbus did when he discovered the Americas.
He had personified surrealism in a unique way since its first beginnings. He had conducted the group for more than forty years in making its decisions on the course of the intellectual adventure that is surrealism. Everybody realized that he could not be replaced. The group in Paris continued its daily meetings under guidance of Jean Schuster, who had been a very active member since He had been assigned by Breton himself to guard the course of surrealism.
Schuster aimed at strengthening the political profile of surrealism in order to make it more prominent in society again. Not all of the members of the group agreed with him to politicize the movement again, and the internal discussions and tensions stifled often the atmosphere, and instead of the usual friendly way of sharing views, a mutual mistrust was growing. Nevertheless, a major event in the spring of was the renewed collaboration with the Czechoslovak surrealists, after eighteen years of Stalinist rule in their country, by which surrealism was strictly forbidden; the government in Prague had accepted some liberation.
The exhibition was successfully shown in Brno, Prague and Bratislava. It took twenty-two years more before Czechoslovakia became a free country again. The revolt of French students and workers in May , seemed also to become the confirmation of the surrealist hopes and ideals, and the group participated activities in the revolutionary happenings. The whole country was preparing for revolution against the capitalist government.
The president of the republic, General de Gaulle, decided even to flee to Germany, and the government did not know what to do. Civil war is the only justified war. On May 30, President De Gaulle, supported by the Communist Party that suddenly had dissociated itself from the revolt, announced the dissolution of the parliament and new general elections. From that moment on, the revolutionary spirit and an imminent civil war were gone. Less than a year thereafter, in February , a vehement discussion was held in a meeting of the surrealist group of Paris, presided by Jean Schuster.
His point of view was that the group was unable to realize its revolutionary ends because of too many differences of opinion, so it had no future anymore. In his view, the group could better be fully discontinued. Twenty-seven other members of the group commented upon the situation on March 23, , in a circular letter as well. They were of the opinion that the deep crisis, that they had never wanted, was a fact that now had to be accepted; the organizational structure of the group was no longer viable, and had to be stopped until further orders.
However, their decision involves a purely organizational crisis that concerns the Paris surrealist group alone, and that does not put at stake in any way the international surrealist movement, that has never behaved as a political party demanding the application of its resolutions by all of its allies. And many other surrealists were of the same opinion. The international surrealist civilization -- with highlights of the period Vincent Bounoure, who had been a member of the surrealist group since , took the initiative to start an international enquiry on the future of the surrealist movement.
All responses were positive. Everybody was of the opinion that surrealism could not be stopped as a collective adventure, but that is should continue more vitally than ever. It opened its windows wide to surrealist groups abroad.
Surrealism in Greece An Anthology Edited and translated by Nikos Stabakis
Obviously, a new era was beginning, in which the former group in Paris did not set the pace anymore. In the last fifty years, the principles of surrealism have not been changed. But many new applications of those principles have been created, in surrealist games, in collective automatism, in the critical study of the environment, in the focus of poetry, to mention some of the new areas of exploration. The surrealist movement, that had internationalized in the thirties of the 20th Century to England, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Tenerife, not to forget the strong surrealist activities of many Belgian painters and poets since the twenties, got a new impulse in the seventies.
Paradoxically, after the crisis of the group of Paris, unprecedented palmy days were beginning for surrealism in many other countries. New groups were created by the younger generation all over the world. Many international exhibitions of surrealism have been held around the globe since the seventies, in most cases combined with a poetry festival and other manifestations.
The most spectacular shows have been:. I mention here my personal selection of just twelve essential new surrealist publications from the recent decades, among many other books and documents which together demonstrate the spectacular vitality of contemporary surrealism :. Paris, This book is a unique anthology of the international dimension of surrealism since , with files of documents from Spain, England, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Rumania, Amsterdam, Brazil, Cuba and the Arabic world.
This militant book would certainly deserve translated editions in other languages. The first global overview of surrealist photography, showing the many wonderful experiments that have been done from the twenties till the seventies, with a comprehensive introduction and detailed information about the photo artists. Anthology of surrealist poetry from many countries, in German translation, with a splendid essay by Petr Kral.
More than authors on pages. Such an anthology should be available in more languages as well. This bimonthly journal was started in and is still an indispensable source of information about global surrealism. Up to now, some 2, pages of information on new exhibitions, journals, books, films and notices about their creators. Brilliant essays on the crucial moments in the revolutionary history of surrealism. They need to create new courses, or rather, to trace these themselves in the field: the walker creates the road. The detailed critical history of the last decade of the surrealist group in Paris, culminating in the destructive crisis of , by an insider.
Ron Sakolsky, Creating Anarchy. Liberty, Tennessee USA , Tenerife Canarian Islands, Spain , , second edition Its elaborate surface was created by pressing fluid paint between two sheets of canvas and peeling them apart to reveal a luxuriant texture. Ernst would then search this complicated mass for familiar shapes much in the same way that a psychologist would use the 'Rorschach inkblot test' to extract meaning from an 'automatic' response.
Once he had unearthed some recognizable figures that formed a subliminal narrative, he would enhance their details manually. Finally he would edit the overall composition by painting out the negative shape of sky to liberate the 'unconscious' image that was hidden within its entangled form.
It is an apocalyptic vision of the aftermath of war; a scorched world of rotting remains that are inhabited by the deformed shapes of man and beast. A woman with her back to us stares longingly at the distant horizon grieving for her lost world, her calcified body eternally anchored to this barbarous terrain. A sentry wearing a bird mask helmet and holding a spear stands guard beside her, an ironic symbol of the 'great European New Order' that Hitler proclaimed in a speech of January the year of the painting at the Berlin Sportpalast.
Ernst experienced the devastation and futility of war having served on both the Western and Eastern fronts in World War One. In his autobiography he dealt succinctly with these harrowing events, 'On the first of August , M E died. He was resurrected on the eleventh of November '. All that remains is a ravaged world and a scarred humanity whose new guardian now wears a different mask. When interviewed about the relationship between dreams and reality in his work and the strangeness of the images he produced, Ernst replied "If painting is a mirror of a time, it must be mad to have a true image of what the time is.
Who made world history? Not the most reasonable people, the madmen did Through one madness we oppose another madness.
Surrealist Women: An International Anthology
Salvador Dali personifies Surrealism. He was fascinated by the writings of Freud and his interest in psychoanalysis informed his best work. He proudly proclaimed "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad There is more to the nightmarish world than people think. Dali was enthralled by certain delusional aspects of paranoia: how a person sees evidence of one thing and irrationally interprets it as another. By entering a self induced paranoiac state he was able to contemplate one form and conceive it as another - a kind of illusionistic double-take.
True to Surrealist form, Dali adopts a mental disorder and turns it into an mechanism for mining the 'unconscious mind'. He called this his 'paranoiac-critical' method and he used it repeatedly in his classic surrealist paintings of the 's.
- Hold On! Im Comin.
- Surrealism in Greece.
Dali's works of this period were also very accessible to the wider public due to the virtuosity of his painting technique. He was able to create very believable images whose lifelike description convinces us that this unconscious world of his dreams is real. The 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus' was the first painting that Dali based on his 'paranoiac-critical' method. It was inspired by the various myths of Narcissus which explore an abnormal preoccupation with the self, something that Dali was no stranger to. In Greek mythology the young Narcissus was renowned for his handsome looks but he was also infatuated by his own appearance.
One day he met the beautiful nymph Echo while hunting in the woods. Echo, who was a bit of a chatterbox, had fallen in love with Narcissus but as the result of a curse, she was only able to repeat those words that had previously been spoken to her by another. So when Narcissus spoke to her she could only repeat what he said. In a confused and frustrated state he spurned her advances and ran away. Echo, heartbroken by his rejection, retreated to the wilderness where she pined away until only her voice remained. In the meantime Narcissus continued to reject suitor after suitor until Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance decided to punish him for his egotism.
She lured him to an enchanted pool to quench his thirst and as he knelt down to drink, he fell in love with his own reflection in the water. He became so spellbound by the allure of his own image that he was unable to move. Transfixed and brokenhearted, just like the lovesick Echo, he gradually wasted away to nothing and died. At the place where he knelt a flower grew which was named after him.
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Dali's tells his story of Narcissus in two forms, one an echo of the other. The form on the left is the figure of Narcissus as he bends to look at his reflection in the pool. The form on the right is his dead, petrified body which has transformed into a hand holding an egg. A narcissus grows from a crack in the egg to complete his metamorphosis. Dali crafts the rest of the painting around this 'paranoiac critical' vision. The composition of the painting is cut in half by the vertical edge of the cliff face on the left.
This draws a dividing line between the two forms of Narcissus and the symbolic balance of their color. The warm colors of the Cap de Creus rocks are used on the left, in and around the dying Narcissus, to suggest that there is yet life in his ailing body. The Cap de Creus is a headland near Figueres , Dali's birthplace, and its typical rock formations appear in many of his works. The colors on the right have turned ice cold to convey the idea that Narcissus has passed on. His metamorphosed form stands like a tombstone overrun by ants, his spirit encapsulated by the surviving flower.
Ants, which also appear in several other paintings by Dali, are used as symbols of transformation as they constantly collect and consume dead matter to recycle its energy. In the center of the painting, a winding road links both images of Narcissus as it heads off into the distant mountains. Where it passes between the two forms, a group of Narcissus' rejected suitors weep in grief for their loss. A sense of loss is further developed in the figure on the right who stands on a plinth in the center of a checkerboard. This represents Narcissus as he formerly was, glancing round to admire his own physique.
The dramatic lighting, intense color, distant perspective and theatrical arrangement of the composition all nod a debt of acknowledgement in the direction of De Chirico, but what lifts Dali's 'hand painted dream photographs'  to a higher order in the Surrealist hierarchy is the ability of his painting technique 'to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision'.
He paints commonplace images that set a trap for our rational faculties with their visual and verbal tripwires. The interplay between the titles and the content of his paintings adds another level of disorientation to these philosophical conundrums. The image on the canvas is a landscape painting which exactly registers with the view through the window. This immediately makes us pause and think, 'How do we know that the landscape behind the painting is what we see on the canvas?
Is the image on the canvas revealing or concealing a view of reality? Therefore, the reality of what exists is either accepted as an act of faith or becomes a construct of the mind, both philosophical perspectives of the human condition. The painting looks like a child's picture dictionary and is painted in that bland functional manner. However, here it does not work in three out of the four examples. The strange thing is that we do not automatically accept that the labelling system is wrong.
As one of them is correct we start to search for a new system that works, exploring new possibilities for shape, color and form to try to restore a rational sense of order.
It is at this point that Magritte has us where he wants us: absorbed in Surrealist activity by stimulating the creative potential of our unconscious mind through engaging with the impossible.
Related Surrealism in Greece: An Anthology (Surrealist Revolution Series)
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