Despite its reputation as being either strictly an artistic or poetic movement, Surrealism, in its original form, was, in acuality, a movement seeking a revolutionary transformation of life -- a revolution in the service of poetry, not the other way around, in other words, a movement that aimed for a lived poetry. As an exploration of consciousness, surrealism sought to break through the separation of consciousness and unconsciousness, to dissolve the walls that imprison the ego, and to bring into the world the playful, enigmatic, and awesome psycho-powers of the unconsciousness. That is why much of Surrealist art has a feeling of blending or transposing of realms of experience -- because the surrealists were aiming to directly express the unconscious and fuse it with what we think of as our "normal" experience. The methods employed were not those of conceptual planning, inhibited intellectualizing, or the con scious manipulation of symbols -- but rather a direct experiemental experience that sought the dissolution of the barriers of repressed consciousness, that sought the manifestation of the expressive power of the unconscious. Dreams, automatic writing, found objects, juxtapositions, spontaneous and seemingly random expression, wandering through landscapes, poetry, etc. all became weapons in the surrealist assualt on consciousness.
Those who might dispute our right to employ the term SURREALISM in the very special sense that we understand it are being extremely dishonest, for there can be no doubt that this word had no currency before we came along. Therefore, I am defining it once and for all:
"SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
"ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life...."
We are still living under the reign of logic: this, of course, is what I have been driving at. But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism that is still in vogue allows us to consider only facts relating directly to our experience. Logical ends, on the contrary, escape us. It is pointless to add that experience itself has found itself increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge. It too leans for support on what is most immediately expedient, and it is protected by the sentinels of common sense....
The imagination is perhaps on the point of reasserting itself, of reclaiming its rights. If the depths of our mind contain within it strange forces capable of augmenting those on the surface, or of waging a victorious battle against them, there is every reason to seize them -- first to seize them, then, if need be, to submit them to the control of our reason. The analysts themselves have everything to gain by it. But it is worth noting that no means has been designated a priori for carrying out this undertaking, that until further notice it can be construed to be the province of poets as well as scholars....
And, as I said, this movement was not intended to be merely an "artistic" movement, that is, to be confined to the artistic or intellectual ghetto. Rather what was intended was a real and radical change in life, a movement that subverted and superceded the powers of the status quo, that embodied and expressed the "return of the repressed"...
"Man proposes and disposes. He and he alone can determine whether he is completely master of himself, that is, whether he maintains the body of his desires, daily more formidable, in a state of anarchy. Poetry teaches him to. It bears within itself the perfect compensation for the miseries we endure. It can also be an organizer, if ever, as the result of a less intimate disappointment, we contemplate taking it seriously.
The time is coming when it decrees the end of money and by itself will break the bread of heaven for the earth! There will still be gatherings on the public squares, and movements you never dared hope participate in. Farewell to absurd choices, the dreams of dark abyss, rivalries, the prolonged patience, the flight of the seasons, the artificial order of ideas, the ramp of danger, time for everything! May you only take the trouble to practice poetry...." (Breton)
"It was a question of going back to the sources of poetic imagination and, what is more, of remaining there."
A radical change of life expressed through the eruption of the Marvelous.