“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of the self. So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence. Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time. I only take drugs that are given to me.”
“Automatism, by allowing for the free flow of the uninhibited imagination, is at the heart of the surrealist project. Automatic writing or drawing practices need not submit to any mannered stylistic interference or be forced to bow down before confining aesthetic considerations. Though popular conceptions of surrealism tend to focus on such clichéd and easily imitated tropes as Dali’s melted clocks, the surrealist embrace of automatism seeks to unleash the radical imagination revealing knowledge and inspiring possibilities located outside of the narrow boundaries of reality. Eschewing any particular form of aesthetic expression, and rejecting the certainty of authority in favor of the surprise of a chance encounter with the Marvelous, surrealism is experimental in nature rather than didactic.
In rejecting the impoverished version of reality that we are expected to embrace, surrealism is sometimes unfairly accused of being escapist. Rather, instead of accepting an artificial dichotomy between dream and reality, in André Breton’s conception, the two can be seen as “communicating vessels” which can be reconciled in action. In this transformative sense, surrealism cannot simplistically be reduced to one of the passing cavalcade of avant-garde art movements in painting, literature, film or sound. The latter mediums of expression are merely expedient points of entry in the surrealist quest to create a more exalted reality by realizing poetry in everyday life.
What then is the nature of the passional attraction between surrealism and the anarchist notion of direct action. If a radical subjectivity is needed to overcome the miserabilist stranglehold of mutual acquiescence, then the revolutionary romanticism of surrealism can be a fecund basis for mutual aid. From the very start, the surrealist movement, in word and in deed, has allied itself with the struggle for freedom. Embracing what I will refer to as a “radical inclusivity,” surrealism has not confined itself to the art world but has repeatedly sought out kindred free spirits from among those that the dominant society dismisses or condescendingly labels as “other”. Rather than perceiving oppressed peoples exclusively as victims, surrealists have seen as mentors and accomplices all those who desire to, or who in effect, actively sabotage the absolutism of the reigning reality of industrial civilization with the poetic truth of the dream. In this struggle, the affinity between surrealism and direct action is a combination of radical refusal and emancipatory exhilaration.”
excerpt from “The Surrealist Adventure and the Poetry of Direct Action”, by Ron Sakolsky, in The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Issue 8, Winter 2011. Continue reading here