Assignment from page 122 from The Book of Surrealist Games.
I still can’t help but be reminded of Discordianism when discussing Da Da and Surrealism. There are so many parallels. Including Andre Breton calling himself the ‘Pop of Surrealism’. The basic component of Surrealism is automatism and chance. Automatic sculptures, like this weeks assignment, and other automatic methods of creation give a necessary and somewhat therapeutic break from the monotony of daily life. The process of making an automatic sculpture took more time than I would have liked to admit. It took time to turn off the part of my brain trying to organize and control. I was antsy that I was sitting there playing with clay when I there were so many other things that needed doing.
I persisted in playing with the modeling material and found I defaulted to flattening out the sections of material. Squishing and pinching it like pastry dough. I took these pinched floppy things and let them settle and stick to themselves. I chose to analyze the first such sculpture I made, but continued on and made almost a dozen The resulting sculptures on first glance look like used facial tissue or discarded handkerchiefs. The pieces I ended up liking the best were the pieces that I did not try to control how the floppy pieces of clay stuck together. It was a continuous struggle to NOT orchestrate a certain result. Eventually, I utilized the distraction of a movie and this helped immensely in removing the conscious effort from the equation. I did use the Questions to Determine the Irrational Characteristics of Objects to analyze that first sculpture. The piece is nocturnal and not favorable to love. It is capable of metamorphoses and retains no permanent position in relation to its creator. It is crushed to death and would be placed on the hip crease of a nude female, living or dead. It mutters miserably in alternating Spanish and French and frequently quote William S. Burroughs.
This word association type task is so often used in serious endeavors such as psychology that it is unusual to find it in a format designed to be absurd. Although the roots of Surrealism in the subconscious mind make it extremely fitting. Free association projects were very popular in the retinue of Surrealists and were based on various psychiatric theory’s such as that by Freud. To Freud dreams were independent and credible activities of the mind.
Surrealism took this concept further than Da Da and also lacked the anger present in many Da Da works. Surrealism also incorporated the idea of the marvelous, almost making marvelous and beautiful inseparable concepts. Which oddly seems more like a word logic puzzle of the sort you would find in an SAT or iSTEP test.
While WWII may have effectively stopped the Da Da and Surrealist movements many of their concepts and themes are prevalent today. The activities and games lend themselves quite well to ice breakers and team building exercises. I would love to hear Breton’s response to that! In fact the art center I work for has a volunteer appreciation open house coming up and we plan on leading several Da Da and Surrealist activities.
Recently the words “happening” and “experience” have been rising in use attempting to describe events that are not just observed by the audience but augmented. This is actually a core tenant of placemaking I believe – to involve the audience and for everyone to participate. These all encompassing events tend to draw audiences across sectors, music fans to art festivals and visual art collectors get exposed to new musical tastes. Although it is funny to see my Step-Dads face when I use the word happening. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s he has a different picture in his head of what it means. The core concepts are the same however and also help pull together different generations.
The recent explosion of pop art and fan art I think would be horrifying to the Surrealist artists. So much of the same. So many people claiming aesthetic as a descriptor in itself instead of know it requires additional descriptors attached. I think they would also be horrified at the ultra conceptual art of today. They would balk at how much thought and effort was supposedly placed behind a potato on the floor. When they would have put the potato on the floor just to put it there!