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Surrealism: The Unconscious Revealed

By Béa Aaronson

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states which in appearance are so contradictory, that of the dream and that of reality, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may call it such.”

—André Breton

Surrealism is not a “school,” not a style. It is not just another “ism,” not just another chapter in the History of Art. Like its mother DADA, Surrealism is essentially a movement of the mind, the most intense verbal and visual revolution in the 20th century, which unraveled the human mind and helped understand the mechanism of thought. Surrealism gives an objective reality to our repressed desires, dream imagery, and our unconscious.

With Surrealism, we enter the separate kingdom of the mind and meet a real alternative within life itself. Indeed, Surrealism challenges our conventional way of seeing, and offers us another perception and understanding of life, death, and love. Confronting sexuality head-on, the Surrealists also freed the libido from its tabooed boundaries.


Under a myriad of stylistic disguises and media — realism, abstract expressionism, painting, sculpture, collages, poems, objects-poems, photography, movies — the surrealist activity is a tool to liberate, project, and concretize the inner reality. In rediscovering the power of dreams, the Romantics and the Symbolists had paved the way; the Surrealists plunged themselves into automatism and paranoiac critical activity as a means to touch the fertile magma of the unconscious.

Automatic drawing, automatic painting, automatic sculpture. Games like Exquisite Corpse, both with drawing and writing. New plastic processes like frottage (rubbing), decalcomania (transfer), fumage (smoking), grattage (scraping), and collages (pouring). All reached the hidden powers of human creativity. Freed from rational control, psychic automatism attempted to record the stream of uninhibited verbal and visual imagery, while paranoiac critical activity reached the core energy of transformation, and unleashed images capturing the fluid and mysterious world of multiple metamorphoses.

Come and discover the disquieting and at times violent iconography of the Surrealist Creators. An iconography fueled by dream and imagination, nurtured by erotic fantasy. In this first part of my Surrealist adventure, come and meet poets like Aragon, Eluard, Desnos, Crevel; artists like de Chirico, Magritte. In part two, next week, Wednesday February 10, I will guide you through the imaginings of Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dali, André Masson, Frida Kahlo, Matta, Oscar Dominguez, Jean Cocteau, Luis Bunuel, to name but a few. Be ready for a plunge into yourself!


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