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April 29, 1939 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1939-04-29
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V - w - if


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Page Six






This once was Earth. This scorched and crusted sphere,
this surface pricked by barb and pocked by shell,
once cherished life. No living thing is here:
no single seed remains, nor single cell.
Now that the world is wholly dead and still,
no more will the wounded moan and, tortured, cry:
no longer can the cannon belch and kill,
with all remaining thunder in the sky.
Now all of man's impeccable prided art
has reached its ultimate and done its part.
Each misered bit of genius in the brain
has burst itself. War will not come again;
for man has moved deftly, ignorant of where,

S URREALISM is, as the well known
New York art dealer, Julien Levy,
says, "not a rational, dogmatic and
consequently static theory of art,
but a point of view, and as such applies
to Painting, Literature, Play, Behavior,
Politics, Architecture, Photography and
Cinema." Hence we are all surrealists in
certain of our tendencies. The true sur-
realist has this point of view in regard
to everything he comes in contact with
or experiences.
The line between surrealism and any-
thing out of the ordinary or fantastic,
however, must be distinctly drawn. To
the average American, anything that
does not make sense, yet has been put
before him in all good faith, can be
labeled surrealist. Correspondingly, any-
thing the average American creates that
does not make good sense he calls sur-
This misunderstanding is reflected in
the magazine articles published in this
country on surrealism. The majority of
the authors of these articles, have not
the least idea of the true philosophy of
the movement they are writing about.
Therefore, their articles read like a
Ubangi savage's dissertation on mag-
netism. Another place where the mis-
understanding is evident is in the art
museums. An enterprising director will
gather together a sample or two of sur-
realist art, add to that a touh of cub-
ism, a sprinkle of dada, a bit of futur-
ism, a little symbolism and a number
of samples of pure trash, and label the
whole surrealist. No wonder the Ameri-
can public has been led astray!
What, then, is surrealism? According
to Andre Breton, leader and co-founder
of the group, surrealism is
Pure psychic automatism, by which
it is intended to express, verbally,
in writing, or by other means, the
real process of thought. Thought's
dictation, in the absence of all con-
trol exercised by the reason and
outside all aesthetic or moral pre-
occupations. Surrealism rests in the
belief in the superior reality of cer-
tain forms of association neglected
heretofore: in the omnipotence of
the dream, and in the disinterested
play of thought. It tends definitely
to do away with all other psychic
mechanisms and to substitute itself
for them in the solution of the
principle problems of life.
Therefore, surrealist painting is the
recording on canvas of the unconscious
thought of the artist. Surrealist litera-
ture is the recording on paper of the
unconscious ideas of the writer. In Iact,
the basic premise of surrealism is the
validity of unconscious thought as a
material for art. The surrealists believe
that the unconscious mind holds the
secret of reality which they attempt to
portray in their paintings and writings.
Since surrealism is not a "rational,
dogmatic" theory of art, no accurate,
definite, and all inclusive definition or
explanation can be made for the term.
Breton's definition may explain sur-
realist production, but it does not fully
cover the surrealist point of view. A
clear understanding of this can be ar-
rived at only by an inquiry into the sur-
realist philosophy.
"Nothing can assure me of reality,"
says Louis Aragon. "Nothing, neither
the exactness of logic nor the strength
of sensation, can assure me that I do
not base it on the delirium of interpre-
tation." And the rest of the surrealists
corroborate his statement. What is real-
ity? What is logic? Can our brains tell
us what is or is not real? Or our minds?
Or are our brains and our minds one and
the samei.j, i
Bergson argues that mind is not iden-

Beware, swift wild things flying south!
Beware! I watch your flight!
Defeat is bitter in my mouth .. .
I fear the winter night ...
Yes, I have seen your wild hearts stilled
And I have known your pain.
I have been empty ... I have killed .. .
And I shall kill again.

tical with brain. The surrealists take
him up on this statement and add that
what goes on in the unconscious mind
is more real than what the brain makes
of the outside world. To back their be-
lief in that, the surrealists turn to Freud.;
and also are encouraged anew by Berg-
son, who says
To explore the most sacred depths
of the unconscious, to labor in the
sub-soil of the consciousness: that
will be the principle task of psy-
chology in the century which is
opening. I do not doubt that won-
derful discoveries await it there.
This unconscious, or real, mind is
made up of impulses and desires which
have not been modified by the forces of
civilization which act upon the in-
dividual, according to Freud. Thus,
the surrealist points out, the uncon-
scious represents the real being, un.
tainted by his environment, uninflu-
enced by the customs and habits of man-
kind, and there, in the unconscious, may
be found the key to the greater reality,
surreality, surrealism.
As for considering the dream as a

words, portraying on canvas the uncon-
scious thought of the artist.
It would be nearly impossible to paint
maturely and yet conform with Andre
Breton's original definition of surreal-
ism. The surrealist painters have devel-
oped several methods whereby the repre-
sentation of unconscious thought and
art may be linked. Three of these are
the dream picture, the association pic-
ture and the resemblance picture, or
frottage, a style invented by Max Ernst.
In painting the first type of picture,
the artist remembers his dream, and
from the dream selects a particularly
vivid scene. This scene he reproduces
on canvas as accurately as possible,
painting from the vision in his mind,
just as he would paint a portrait of a
posing figure. In the second type he
paints an object in the middle of his
canvas. Around this he fills in other ob-
jects that the first one makes him think
of, doing so quickly so as not to inter-
rupt his train of thought, and not forc-
ing himself to make any associations.
In painting the third type of picture,
the artist stretches his canvas over some

reliable iey to the

unconscious, the sur-

on to his own extinction-unaware
Old Mrs. Haskins stood by her gate,
Picking roses her grandmother planted.
The roses were sweet and eternally young.
But the gate was old and it slanted.
Old Mrs. Haskins looked at the gate
And heaved a regretful sigh.
It had been such a well-hung gate, before
That Yankee jerked it awry.
Short and long in the sunset
The mountain wife and her man
Walked back from their day in the city
By a road where busses ran.
She kept her eyes fixed silent
On the concrete tape of the road,
And shifted the bag of flour
And the fatback, to ease her load.
He walked free-handed before her,
And searched with his woodsman's eye
For the Indians and grizzlies that lurked there
When Daniel Boone went by.


34~t P EG~aP30IXJC/gAa1Iiue4.


: 1939

Stern marshland. and stern sky,
A frozen lane opening to the sea,
One insurgent gull high
Above the maiden birds chambered
In a dark tree.

realists turn once more to Freud, who
says, "The interpretation of dreams is
the Via Regia to the knowledge of the
unconscious in mental life."
Though the surrealists, in this man- -
ner, seek philosophy, psychology and
theory for their movement from Berg-
son and Freud, they have built around
their movement a philosophy of their'
own, original to a great extent, forming
a workable theory and a worthwhile
purpose for surrealism.
Under this new philosophy, surrealism
appears as a protest against the habit of
analyzing and rationalizing. The sur-
realists become social revolutionaries.
They believe that "one great obstacle to
reform is the ossification of the term-
inologies which condition mass action.
As a solvent to a logical difficulty they
apply an analogical cure. By the juxta-
position of unrelated objects or processes
in their pictures, and unrelated words
and ideas in their writing, they hope to
set in motion in the mind of observer
or reader a revolutionary train of
thought which will culminate in an apt-
itude for the revision of the social con-
James Loughlin IV truly says that the
type of mental process which prevents
a man from thinking that watches could
drip from tree branches is identical to
that which prevents a banker from
thinking that industry could be so.cial-
Perhaps of all surrealists' activities,
their painting has attracted the most at-
tention. It is in this field that the sur-
realist can interpret his theories visually,
so that the world can see.
What, to a surrealist, is painting?
Surrealist Salvador Dali calls painting
"photography, by hand and in colors, of
concrete irrationality and the world of
the imagination in general." In other

object'and rubs pigment on it. The re-
sulting light and dark smudges are
then touched up, a few lines added to
give unity or coherence to the picture,
and the result is anything you might
want to call it. All three of these methods
then represent the workings of the un-
conscious mind.
One thing that always bothers the
layman looking at a surrealist picture is,
what does it mean? He does not, cannot,
understand them. Of course he can't
understand, not knowing the philosophy
of surrealism. Still, he asks, why do the
pictures baffle me so? Amid Dali answers,
it seems to me perfectly obvious
when my enemies, my friends and
the public in general pretend not
to understand the meaning of the
images that arise and that I tran-
scribe in my pictures. How can you
expect them to understand when I
myself, who am their 'maker,' un-
derstand them as little? The fact
that I, myself, at the moment of
painting, do not understand my own
pictures, does not mean that these
pictures have no meaning; on the
contrary, their meaning is so pro-
found, complex, coherent and in-
voluntary that it escapes the most
simple analysis of logical intui-
tion. To describe my pictures in
everyday language, to explain them,
it is necessary to submit them to
special analysis and preferably with
the most ambitiously objective sci-
entific rigour possible. Then all ex-
planation arises a posteriori, once
the picture already exists as phe-
Surrealist painting and painters may
generally be divided into two types, al-
though they are not entirely independ-
ent of one another. One type of artist
records vividly what he experiences,
concretely, so that the layman might
pass through the same experiences vicar-
iously. The other records his reactions
to the experiences in an abstract man-

ner, so that t
reaction, rat]
The first type
as Dali and I
is more that
G. Frey labels
ers, the secor
perhaps diffe
calling the fi
the second a
An exampli
picture entit
painted by R
shows a man
in the skin o
style. His left
bell, one ball
front of wher
The face sho
His right han
ing a bone. i
a barrel, on
rectangular s
cut through
triangular ho
and cubes is
they are refle
a background
Perhaps th
realist pictur
Memory," pa
first type. I
watches dra
dead tree, o
from which
a horse-like o
center. In t
with a rocky
the right,
The second
harder to des
example is
throwing a st
1926. The "pt
a ghost-like
distorted foot
bird, flying u
fluff surmoui
head equippe
Attached to t
line on a dar
moon. The v,
dark arc. T
drops from t
noted by a d
bisected by a
passes across
age." The ei
definite and u
The most a
ment at the
Dali. He wa
Barcelona, S
he was able
masters, yet c
of technique,
the technique
He greatly ad
Dali was ex
in Madrid f
then to Paris
there in 1927
Ism, and beg
panel hardly
He painted, w
assisted in t
two surrealist
and "L'age ID
the United E
exhibiting he
Julien Levy.
One of the
concerns a 1
give in Londc
He appeared
stomped dowr
ing a deep-s
dagger at his
cue in one h
Russian wol
Nearly overec
helmet could 1
"I just wante
ing deeply in
The greates
to Picasso. F
around 1927,

In today's European winter Englishmen
Withdrew to an alien and narrow bough.
No Puritan, no Miltonic gull cleaves
With AREOPAGITICA the impoverished lean
Evening below.
With wild snorting and pawing
of academic ground, and rolling
of red, goaded eyes tie bull pursues
the lecture-stand matador who is '
waving the Aristotelian crimson and deftly
evading, stepping away, enticing,
infuriating, intangible, maddening-
Oh to stamp that Schopenhauer in dust !
Oh to toss thatPlato high on triumphant horns!

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