19-Surrealism - 019_Surrealism READINGS SURREALISM...

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019_Surrealism.doc READINGS: SURREALISM Background: Eugen Weber, Surrealism A Surrealist Manifesto Andre Breton, What Is Surrealism? Background: Eugen Weber, Surrealism, Movements, Currents, Trends , pp. 278-279. A world carefully reared and fed on reason, its ills treated with reasonable remedies, had by 1918 revealed itself to be deeply rotten and utterly miserable. Following upon Dada, the Surrealists sought a richer, truer reality in the unconscious, in awarenesses and techniques above and beyond realism and logic. Part of their inspiration had come from the grotesqueries of Alfred Jarry (1873- 1907) whose gross and obscure Ubu Roi had, in 1896, excited the avant-garde and shocked the bourgeoisie; part of it came from the brilliant artificialities of Cubism and Futurism; and Dada itself of course cannot be ignored as an important influence, though the nihilism of Dada becomes in Surrealist hands a hopeful though destructive approach. But the Surrealist movement as such was founded by a very few young men, quite unknown at the end of the war: Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau, Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, and Paul Eluard In the essay that follows, Breton, who has always remained the symbol of this violent and multifarious school, explains both the beginnings and the aims of his invention. Very simply, it tried to apply the lessons of Freudian psychoanalysis in art, either by the use of automatic writing or drawing (doodling from the hand of a sensitive artiste being more authentic and significant than an orderly scheme of things), or by the jolt that things seen or done in this manner might administer. The constructive, optimistic side of Surrealism led a number of its adherents, concerned with the creation of a new world based on a fresh view of things and eager to smash the old stifling bourgeois values, toward Communism. Soon both Aragon and Paul Eluard joined the Communist Party while Breton drifted very close to it. There was no obvious connection between Surrealism and Communism besides a common agreement that the old order must be destroyed before a better world could be built. Only the passing identification between Russian Communism and humanistic ideals, made possible in the 193o's by the democratic pusillanimity of the Western powers, could bring some Surrealists closer to the Party, and that not for long. Others, however, fascinated by activity for activity's sake, eagerly abandoned ends for means just as the Futurists had done in Italy. Meanwhile, the nonpolitically minded, like Salvador Dali, Cocteau, and Joan Miro, continued their experiments chiefly in the cinema and in the other visual arts, more plastic media than either political society or unwieldy words. GROVEART.COM
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19-Surrealism - 019_Surrealism READINGS SURREALISM...

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