Manifestoes of Surrealism by André BretonSurrealism, as explained by Andre Breton is simply the merging of dreams with reality, specifically in art but also in all aspects of life imagination is to be a person’s greatest quality. Breton argues there is no reason to make ordinary boring art that reflects reality and doing so would be to push away the subconscious which is what drives us in our everyday lives. He goes further to say that having a “realistic attitude” is equivalent to being “hostile to any intellectual or moral advancement.” I can see his argument in this that if one is to only except what is in front of them progression can never be achieved because filters are never broken down. Breton rejects mediocrity and conformity in art which is interesting considering he was part of a movement and published a manifesto proclaiming surrealism was true art, this would simply be conformity if anyone who read this agreed with the manifesto.
I gave this some thought and figured, since this was written in the early 20th century and the surrealism movement had come and went that perhaps it was absorbed into all art and media to some extent. I was thinking that video games, music, the internet, modernism and postmodern literature, and much of TV and film had incorporated surrealism but I was wrong. Something like a video game could never be considered surrealism because it is simply a distraction from reality and not a merging of reality with dreams. I think the same goes for music. In modern art whether literature, movie, television there is an influence of surrealism but not surrealist art. Twin Peaks and later the Sopranos incorporated elements of surrealism but they were not works of surrealism. There are many forms of music that could contribute to obtaining the surrealist state but I do not believe any music as being a true representation of surrealism. The most profound examples are in paintings of Picasso or Max Ernst. Breton admits there are very few true surrealists and that many artists will only be able to incorporate surrealist elements into their work, this is certainly true in contemporary terms. To assist in this matter he describes a few rules to follow (this section is actually quite funny), one describing the modernist technique of stream of conscious. I found it quite funny that he gave some rules to surrealism in the section titled “Secrets of the Magical Surrealist Art.” I could envision the beat poets attempting to stimulate and alter their minds in attempt at the surrealist state to write stream of conscious poetry.
The world and reality is chaotic and unforgiving and usually doesn’t make sense. Sometimes artists want to take the chaos of the outside world and attempt to make it appear normal (realism). Fighting this chaos to make reality normal is what Breton is fighting against, take the absurd and run with. Madness is genius and boring and dull equals dumb. I cannot say I agree with this whole heartedly but I do enjoy many of his points as well as some surrealist art. I am more interested in the incorporation of surrealistic elements in contemporary art.
I enjoyed this Manifesto and I enjoyed Breton’s style for writing an essay. I am not too familiar with surrealism besides some of the more famous painters. Breton delineates a number of influential people to the movement who I will be sure to consume and study. Much of this essay is actually quite humorous how he described surrealism and the boringness of reality in art. He calls many things stupid, which I also enjoyed. Since it was written in French and I read the translation it is hard to tell if his style was meant to be humorous but I certainly found it so.
Dada and Surrealism: Europe After the Rain documentary (1978)
Movements and Styles: Dada , Surrealism. In New York, Breton and his colleagues curated Surrealist exhibitions that introduced ideas of automatism and intuitive art making to the first Abstract Expressionists. He worked in various creative media, focusing on collage and printmaking as well as authoring several books. Breton innovated ways in which text and image could be united through chance association to create new, poetic word-image combinations. His ideas about accessing the unconscious and using symbols for self-expression served as a fundamental conceptual building block for New York artists in the s. He excelled in school and developed literary interests quite early.
It seems impossible to me to assign any limitations — economic limitations, for instance — to the exercise of a thought finally made tractable to negation, and to the negation of negation. How can one accept the fact that the dialectical method can only be validly applied to the solution of social problems? The entire aim of Surrealism is to supply it with practical possibilities in no way competitive in the most immediate realm of consciousness. I really fail to see — some narrow-minded revolutionaries notwithstanding — why we should refrain from supporting the Revolution, provided we view the problems of love, dreams, madness, art, and religion from the same angle they do. Now, I have no hesitation in saying that, prior to Surrealism, nothing systematic has been done in this direction, and at the point where we found it the dialectical method, in its Hegelian form, was inapplicable for us too. Our allegiance to the principle of historical materialism.
So strong is the belief in life, in what is most fragile in life — real life, I mean — that in the end this belief is lost. Man, that inveterate dreamer, daily more discontent with his destiny, has trouble assessing the objects he has been led to use, objects that his nonchalance has brought his way, or that he has earned through his own efforts, almost always through his own efforts, for he has agreed to work, at least he has not refused to try his luck or what he calls his luck! At this point he feels extremely modest: he knows what women he has had, what silly affairs he has been involved in; he is unimpressed by his wealth or his poverty, in this respect he is still a newborn babe and, as for the approval of his conscience, I confess that he does very nicely without it. If he still retains a certain lucidity, all he can do is turn back toward his childhood which, however his guides and mentors may have botched it, still strikes him as somehow charming. There, the absence of any known restrictions allows him the perspective of several lives lived at once; this illusion becomes firmly rooted within him; now he is only interested in the fleeting, the extreme facility of everything.