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 Surrealism: A critical analysis

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PostSubject: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:22 pm

Surrealism occupies a unique niche in the arts. Heavily inspired by Dadaism and Futurism, Surrealism, developed following the trauma of WWI and all of the political/philosophical questions that emerged in its wake. The genuinely interestingly variety at least, refers to a style of art which deliberately misrepresents the world as it can be observed. It presents itself as being far more insightful, and far less ambiguous than other forms of modern art, which, necessarily, allow the viewer to project what may or may not be evident in a given piece, feeding upon the trend towards equality of aesthetic taste that is so prevalent in modernity.

Surrealism takes art to its logical limit and poses (mostly) visual paradoxes which create within the mind of the viewer, the opportunity to question the limitations of their own, and, by extension, human perception.
In this way it is not dissimilar to critical analyses of language ('nothing is a nothing', 'absolutely no absolutes', 'the noumenon is not the actual phenomenon') and mathematical/numerical devices (if differentiation is the rule in nature what is a '1'? '0' as a purely human construct with no real world referent) which expose the incompleteness of the synthesis of human constructs which can be labelled 'knowledge', 'science' etc. (Perhaps moreso given that sight is a more primordial characteristic than spoken language or deductive reasoning).

By forcing the viewer to visualize something which is absurd or illogical in the world of apparent forms, surrealist artists can produce works which juxtapose themselves to the real and force consciousness to question and re-affirm itself by comparison.

Some examples:







Surrealist art can often be more cerebral than actually aesthetically beautiful, but in accordance with the generally deconstructionist direction of the early 20th century, owing to the bewildering and perhaps previously un-experienced pressures that characterize this age (relative abundance, increasing and heterogeneous populations, technological advances, the impersonality and automatosation of War) Surrealism, I believe, set the tone for an age in art where the screen dominates.

In an era where the state provides and protects its populations, emasculating them, classical political caterogies (left/right capitalist/communist) no longer function in operational binaries (owing to high levels of state debt, government interference in the social, educational, productive elements at a legal and institutional level).
This creates a modernity where vast swathes of the population are divorced from a coherent philosophy or ideology which can align itself with more natural dispositions cultivated in times where uncertainty, unpredictability, scarcity where the experienced norm.

As such all forms of politics and media which occupy the mainstream are necessarily dogmatic, unrealistic, rhetorical and utopian in order to pacify populations and reinforce illogical and immature psychological dispositions which make effective resistance against the desired assimilation minimal and promote conformity and uniformity.

For the more philosophically and metaphysically alert artistic mind, this presents an opportunity to reintroduce reality to an audience in a way which makes use of social tendencies towards incoherence. I take Stanley Kubrick as an example to highlight this purpose. In his work can be seen an appreciation of the medium itself as a means to distort reality in ways similar to surrealist painters, but on a more inconspicuous or even sub-conscious level.




With camera and filming techniques, Kubrick was able to create visual and physical impossibilities which are deliberately unnerving. Although it may pass one by on a conscious level, the viewer is often subject to an eerie dis-ease and heightened state of tension owing to the illogical nature of the world as pictured in the film. If one does become aware of the techniques (or that there are techniques at all) being used to to create this instability, then they may be inspired to search for a more coherent narrative elsewhere in the film, peeling away the layers to explore more complex themes which may not be received well if stated outright. By utilizing our intelligence, pattern recognition and developing an understanding of psychology, politics and history we are subtly urged by artists like Kubrick to recognize parallels between reality and the world represented in the artistic creation (fantasy).




Another example of Surrealist imagery and themes as a vehicle for artistic representations comes from that old KT favourite, The Hannibal Series. Here I talk about the version containing Hopkins as opposed to the earlier film, the series or the books themselves. Hannibal, although ostensibly a serial killer and cannibal, is really an allegory, a depiction of a certain discriminating taste which enacts it own sort of justice but is forced to hide from and amongst the unaware populations. His keen awareness, collected disposition and intellectual superiority are always tempered by a sound and consistent mentality and only devour inferior types when they are unable to contain their vulgarity and mediocrity behind manners, courtesy. When these thresholds are breached, or his wellbeing is under threat, he offers no forgiveness and imposes himself unleashing his brilliance. Apart from the character himself, the film is an exploration of many complex themes including: sex/gender, decadence, transformation, psychology but these must occupy a more obscure position in the film needing to be sought by a higher typse of mind. The reference to the art of Dali in the concept artwork elude to this deeper narrative.



A final example of Surrealism can be evidenced in the Matrix concept. To emphasize the idea that an automatized system births, indoctrinates and sustains most of the population we bear witness to a disturbing scene where Neo wakes to find himself attached by cables to a 'human field'. As he coughs and splutters, emerging from the warmth and comfort of his ignorant slumber, we are reminded that keen senses do not always reveal beauty but reveal truth. Although the film was heavily inspired by Baudrillard and the death of the real/the emergence of hyperreality, the surreal or super-real visual and psychological elements in the film are what connect the impossible/fantastic/absurd to the perceptible world beyond the film and the underlying philosophical concepts.

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Please feel free to add your interpretation of Surrealism in the arts. Also, as I am by no means an expert and explore this primarily from a philosophical perspective, so upload any interesting art or artist that use or the Surrealist style or were influenced by it.


Last edited by Strongarm88 on Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:29 pm




There is some evidence that Dadaism and Surrealism originally split along political lines right/left. Both forms of cerebral art and both sets of artists wished to shock and undermine middle-class conformist values.
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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:34 pm





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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:04 pm

Realism would be concerned with depicting the world as accurately as possible, using sensual data.
The mind looking outward, wanting to recreate what he sees.

With surrealism, I think, the world is really a backdrop.
The art is a recreation of the mind looking inward, at its own abstractions.
Because these abstractions are his own creations, are noetic, he can manipulate them in strange unrealistic ways.
The art depicts the mind manipulating the sensual data.

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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:28 pm

Satyrr wrote:
Realism would be concerned with depicting the world as accurately as possible, using sensual data.
The mind looking outward, wanting to recreate what he sees.

With surrealism, I think, the world is really a backdrop.

I agree. In modern times where art is so overproduced and technology reduces the level of skill required to realistically depict the real, surrealism confronts the mind with paradoxes through sight, which is particularly unusual. This causes a mental rift forcing the mind to posit unusual questions to itself, reminding itself of why something is not real or why the unreal can masquerade as real from a distance, before closer inspection (Elephants by Dali as an example).
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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:33 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:58 am

Satyr wrote:
Realism would be concerned with depicting the world as accurately as possible, using sensual data.
The mind looking outward, wanting to recreate what he sees.

With surrealism, I think, the world is really a backdrop.
The art is a recreation of the mind looking inward, at its own abstractions.
Because these abstractions are his own creations, are noetic, he can manipulate them in strange unrealistic ways.
The art depicts the mind manipulating the sensual data.  

Is there a notable difference in surrealistic artists whose abstractions have an original thread to their own perceptions, even if from many years earlier, and those whose abstractions are based mostly on the perceptions or abstractions of others?
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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:04 am

Creativity, and imagination, is always apparent in quality.

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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:15 am

I find Dali's work good, but I wouldn't know an imitation without first studying his work significantly.
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PostSubject: Re: Surrealism: A critical analysis Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:40 am

Its a leap day… make the leap.


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