FF 35 The idea of surrealism involves that of being able to roam mentally at random. Surrealism was a cultural phenomenon of great significance. Until fairly recently art reflected the level of thought of the age. These days art takes off on perverse trips of its own.
CC 39 The unified culture of the Renaissance had a higher value than even some of the more intense phenomena of our modern art and literature, surrealism for example. The experience of surrealism is contained in the in the art of the Renaissance. Surrealism is a limited protest against a culture which had become limited and limiting, so much so that it seemed like a strikingly original departure. In fact there is nothing new under the sun . The same applies to absurdism.
VV 152 L’Age D’Or on TV. Bunuel, Dali, Max Ernst. Reflections on Max Ernst. He had an uncompromising need for liberty, he says. He went to America. The surrealists were for long considered to be very outrageous people. It is said that nowadays surrealism has lost its capacity to shock, that it has become assimilated into the standard iconography of our time, a commonplace of advertising. I would say that Ernst is one of the great men of the twentieth century. The point of such a person was not his protoytpicality, whatever it was. Liberty. It cannot be said that anything has been solved. The point is to lead others, to dominate minds. That is the true secret of what is important in the surrealists. It was not their desire of liberty that made them great. Nor is it something to be measured in technical terms or technical accomplishments.. He desired liberty. America is the land of liberty and yet… a great man cannot be duplicated or mass produced.
Giordano Bruno was tremendously great as a heretic. In a sense we are all heretics now, and yet we are not. Nor are we by any means surrealists.
What makes a man? We can look back on Ernst and say there was a man. In his day he might have seemed an irresponsible madman. But he was somebody something great in the cultural history of this century.
Europe between the wars, fascism communism, polarisation. Americanism with all its commercial values. A really sympathetic alternative, surrealism. Ernst, the world of dreams. Profoundly subversive and critical.
America. Inadequacy of American liberty. The passion for liberty, not to be mass produced. The home of the post-war avant garde found in the US as for Solzhenitsyn.
The secret is not freedom but power; one calls for freedom, struggles for freedom, but one’s greatness, one’s sense of life, is more than that.
GG 221 Surrealism was the culmination and perfection of the symbolist movement. The conquest of the irrational, in Dali’s phrase. A triumph of logic or over logic, the reign of sheer delight, cutting across all the logical necessities which appear to make for suffering.
Surrealism, the victory of the imagination, reaching its apotheosis in the great painter, Dali. His admiration for the insects with the hard skeleton outside, leaving them to be completely soft inside.
XX 118 Surrealism less of an ideology or philosophy than a style. It think there are people who would tend to dismiss me as a surrealist.
Is not the onus perhaps on someone who claims to reject surrealism to explain what his own ideology is?
AE 288 The hyperphysical quality of gothic architecture. What is this but surrealism? the triumphalism of freedom of the spirit, the acid high. Salvador Dali.
IX 28 My recent poems contain several layers of meaning, but I cannot help thinking of Louis Wain’s cats and the disordered mind. Burroughs could almost be interpreted as anarchy, as might even my view of he world. The reasons for adopting a certain philosopher for talking in a certain way are a little arbitrary. Never mind. Surrealism is profound art form but in its profundity it is completely chaotic. For immediate purposes it is probably a good thing to take the world to pieces, but we can hardly leave no more heritage than a mass of disintegrated fragments for the edification of our descendants. Yet all systems which are more than this, which are all encompassing, Buddhism, Christianity, Marxism, Manichaeanism, psychoanalysis, scepticism leave out things. How could such systems possibly be created and developed if they were not believed and lived? Yet we anarchists just want to play about with the pieces, to hop from one system to another in a haphazard fashion. I have degraded even the noble concept of meaning so it permits of disintegration.
A 22 Basic problem of Indian philosophy reconciling the feeling that reality is fundamentally mental with objectivity. The solution is to postulate a mental point where these two are no longer seen as contradictorily “ultimate enlightenment” (second surrealist manifesto).
Reality as mental. The feeling that that by rising on the mental plane our experience make take on new configurations and the fundamental realities become under the control of our minds. This gives us a great feeling of power, but seems to deny the objectivity of these realities. This is resolved by a form of monism, which asserts that the contradiction remains until that state of ultimate enlightenment is reached, which by definition resolves it. This state of ultimate enlightenment is but one manifestation of the total freedom of mind. It comes by “grace”, because there is a contradiction in the idea that the mind is free where this freedom includes the “overcoming” of objectivity. The free mind is to most rational thinking a subjective mind. The mind just fools itself , yields itself up to something outside itself. The subjectivity of mind in Indian philosophy seems to spring from something more fundamental than the verbal problems which troubled Descartes according to Ryle and others, namely a will to control reality by the power of mind, a will to work magic.
AD 225 Blue Velvet. The director David Lynch, draws inspiration from surrealist films. The effect is of an extreme kind of satire. playing around with all kinds of clichés. He creates humour, and an obvious exposure of the hollowness those clichés. Notably the forces of goodness and light, the American Christian ideal of happiness.
252 Idea that Freud’s theories are a mixture of obsolete medicine and what virtually amounts to a cocaine psychosis. Many features of his work are said to be characteristic of the cocaine user, also perhaps of other forms of heavy drug involvement. Might this perhaps partly explain the appeal of his work to surrealists like Dali? The relation of surrealism to Freud’s work is not exactly that of pupil to teacher. It is rather that Freud’s work is itself a surrealist phenomenon, a visionary construct of the same order of things as Dali’s paintings. One can appreciate Freud in the same kind of way as one appreciates Crowley. In Crowley one has many of the same phenomena, messianism, numerological preoccupations, sexual obsession, especially perverse sexual obsessions.
But Crowley is not respectable, nor is he widely upheld as scientific. He is enjoyed for his own sake. One enjoys stuff like this as a triumph of will and imagination. From this point of view one would not mind that it is not scientific in the strict sense of the term. Whether or not you would want to call it pseudoscience is irrelevant….relation to Dali, Crowley.
AT 199 Saw the film of Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me. It was better than it might seem, surrealist fantasy. A genuine work of art dealing with a genuine theme. American teenage girls and the hostility they inspire in their sexuality.
283 At the surrealism exhibition. The Tate Modern ethos. Revolting feminism. Second rate female surrealists selected and given prominence. Emphasis on the personal social lives of the surrealist group.
292 Surrealist art as the art of young men, expressing young men’s desires and ambitions. All the sexual fantasy which is not what it is usually said to be.
Decadence, those who support decadence. Playing other people’s games by the rules they set and winning their approval. Being upset by their disapproval.
Surrealist art as the art of desire. Against that a repressive culture that developed. How repressive culture can develop, so easy to understand. Those who want a share.
AV 158 Lots of Czech surrealists. Prague in the 1980s. Mysterious place.
186 Troublesome thoughts on Bataille. Nietzsche interpretation. Bataille as a kind of surrealist, not someone that appeals. First published Derrida and such people. Antifascist theme. Antifascist surrealists. As with Freud, idea of complete liberation of instinct contained within a politically acceptable framework. Abandoning morality etc. Is surrealism itself a weak idea? Different views on surrealism. Nietzsche, desire. Can one have complete libidinal fulfilment? Wrongness of Freud as interpreted. The revolutionary carnival, the restraint placed upon libidinal excess. Dali as motivated by will to power.
What constraints do we have? The constraints of the criminal law and whatever other opposing desires spring up. The wrongness of freudianised Nietzsche.
AQ 261 Concept of sexism used to criticise the surrealists. Some Paris exhibition on Love and Surrealism. How hatefully and despicable such criticism is. Such a censoring concept being used on a sincere creative expression. See how I want to lift myself quite out of the range such criticism. I am like the Devil who chooses to be dammed want to make myself the most explicit enemy of the idea that I shall become converted. I am the martyr, the inhabitant of the gulag. I am the class enemy, I will not be wiped out.
AU 258 Link from symbolists like Bocklin forwards to the surrealists and in his old age to Warhol.
272 Exhibition illustrating Herbert Read’s thesis that surrealism was already present in England with Blake and Lewis Carroll.
BG 140 Surrealism a way of seeing the world. Also a way of seeing Paris, as we could not quite see London.
AW 308 Brian Sewell on surrealist exhibition, with its emphasis on Breton and Bataille, rather than Dali whom he recognises as the greatest. Interesting how something can grown into a sort of perfection. “The difference between a surrealist and myself is that I am a surrealist”. Yet he was a latecomer He recognised something implicit in the original idea, taking it beyond the intentions of its founders.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License