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Submitted on
October 3, 2013
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Thu Oct 3, 2013, 8:47 PM


orld War I (1914-1918) was a human catastrophe that devastated Western civilization and mocked the hope inherent in “modernism”. The sheer volume of the war’s slaughter was beyond belief. The horror of it all destroyed the trust in science, medicine and technology as the golden gateway to a harmonious and peaceful future for humanity. All that was thought to be good had been twisted to the evil purpose of a global war. A global sense of hopefulness was replaced with a global sense of fear and loathing.

The arts community responded with the Dada and Surrealism arts movement, with Dali’s dripping watches on canvas and Bunuel’s shocking sliced eyeballs on film. It was as if the artists were acknowledging that madness still held sway just beneath the surface of everyday rationality. The dream logic of sleeping hours became as much a part of one’s personal narrative as one’s waking perceptions and deductions. The 1920s and 30s were a time when the avant garde in the arts explored and commented upon their perceived meaninglessness of life, and the infinitely jumbled and recombined elements of surrealism became the language of their rebuke of the façade of rationality.


oday the radicalism of the surrealist movement in art is mostly gone (although there are still the occasional echoes of the original shocks, like Serrano’s 1987 photograph, “Piss Christ”), but the stylistic influence of surrealism remains indelibly imprinted on the culture, especially in design and advertising. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles designed by Frank Gehry is officially labeled “deconstructivist,” a modern aesthetic stepchild of surrealism. Advances in CGI artistry are making almost every beer commercial on TV seem like a free association exercise under influence of mild hallucinogens. This twisting and turning and melting and absurdist juxtapositioning of disassociated objects is the visual legacy of surrealism albeit devoid of its original defining spirit of anger and despair. Our civilization has managed to survive, after all.

We now value surrealism simply for its being so enjoyable in its wildly creative...


Ironically, the original meaning of surrealism is now increasingly once again heard in the public discourse. Again this comes in response to horror—this time with the advent of senseless acts of terrorism in our cities and towns. Witnesses at the Boston Marathon bombing numbly described the event as “surreal,” when unable to describe something that couldn’t possibly have happened, yet in fact had just happened. “Like being in a bad dream, waiting to wake up.” The 9/11 disaster was repeatedly called “surreal,” describing an impossible horror having just become reality. Such was the original fire that burned in the hearts of the original surrealist artists. Betrayed by the promise of peace and human progress, they retreated into their own psychic landscape of dreams and fantasies as their only respite from the madness of irrational hate and violence.  Let us hope this return to surrealism’s “original usage” is of short duration, so we can continue to appreciate the art form’s altered realities for the purely imaginative artistry of its enduring aesthetic pleasures (minus the despair).

Dadaism not only wanted to present the meaninglessness of existence but also the meaninglessness of "art" as well such as with Duchamp's ‘Fountain.’

The future of surrealism in the arts is at a crossroads. Technology has increased what artists can create by a thousand-fold.

But will surrealist images, like those in sc-fi movies, point the way to a new way forward, or will surrealism be mainly utilized as a commercial distraction away from social issues?


Do you feel that surrealism should be judged only in terms of the aesthetic and without any further political or social “textual” meaning?


Do you think that a trust in science and political democracy has given us a naïve notion of steady human progress?  Should the “irrationality” of ancient beliefs and dream visions be factored into how we define ourselves and our journey forward?


Have you ever had the feeling that the boundaries between your waking life and your sleeping life were becoming porous?  Has dream logic ever served you well solving a waking problem? Has a revelation in a dream ever proven true in the light of day?


What do you beleive in today's society motivates so many artists on deviantART to adopt surrealism?

I consider dadaism as the philosophical basis for niche art movements such as  A small movement that is not only anti-art but presents a critical eye on technology.

Surrealism initially differentiated itself from dadaism with a focus on dream states and an influence from early psychology.

World War I (1914-1918) was a human catastrophe that devastated Western civilization and mocked the hope inherent in “modernism”. The sheer volume of the war’s slaughter was beyond belief. The horror of it all destroyed the trust in science, medicine and technology as the golden gateway to a harmonious and peaceful future for humanity. All that was thought to be good had been twisted to the evil purpose of a global war. A global sense of hopefulness was replaced with a global sense of fear and loathing.

Writers: $techgnotic
Designers: $marioluevanos

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saphireta Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014   Traditional Artist
1. No
2. I guess this times of naivity are over, but I'm not sure.
3. Yes, my dreams are used to be quite realistic and so sometimes I'm not sure, what was a dream and what not.
4. Critics, escape, symbolical refuse of any system, searching for different meanings .....
eveningdarkness Featured By Owner May 27, 2014
1. No
2. Maybe
3. Yes
jedion357 Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
1. No.
2. No & Yes.
3. No.
4. Modern surrealism is the natural response of the destruction and abandonment of belief systems and morality that tell us who and what we are and our place in the universe. The human soul/spark desires to known and to understand meaning and in an environment of doubt and uncertainty where older more traditional belief structures are questioned and cast aside, surrealism answers a natural desire to understand and know by exploring symbols and ideas that would never have been possible when such belief structures were universally and powerfully held to be the only truth.

A consequence of surrealism is the freeing of creative thought that actually allows the artist to apprehend a fragment of the creator- that we too should be endowed with the ability to conceive and create is marvelous and wonderful and allows us to actually touch the face of the divine.

This is a great irony in that a movement that has many examples of questioning traditional belief systems can bring one closer to the object of those belief systems is in itself marvelous. I belief the Creator himself finds this amusing. I cannot help but think that the moral dilemmas facing us today can serve a divine purpose.
Xiao-en Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
To suggest Surrealism as a possible way forward comes a bit late. Surrealism has already been mimicked and parodied and critiqued so many times. I enjoy Surrealist art, but the movement was much more than weird at the time, it was downright offensive. When Bunuel and Dali showed their films they caused riots. 

But I think one aspect of Surrealism needs to be acknowledged. Surrealism followed up from dada, and in a way formalized some of the gestures that made dada what it was. Also, Surrealism was never as arbitrary, or even as open-ended as you might think. Breton loved to make lists, he was forever constructing hierarchies (what was that map he made with a continent-sized Labrador?).

When Surealism first emerged it was a slap in the face of "bourgeois culture." This was roughly late nineteenth century early twentieth century middle class European culture. But a lot of gestures that people found shocking back then are simply not an issue nowadays. North American culture, with its liberal education and somewhat lax attitudes to things like social conventions and rules, is fairly distant from the first shocking effects of Surrealist art. 

In order to transgress boundaries, those boundaries have to be there. When Bunuel and Dali used Catholic imagery to blast their audiences, the audiences were shocked because sacred rules and symbols resonated with them, and they understood that the imagery was making a mockery of religious sanctity. Nowadays that kind of Catholic imagery is more suited to vampire stories (that's not to say the sacred has disappeared altogether of course).

But one thing I will say about Dali, he knew how to attract buyers for his paintings. It might come as a surprise to many people, but some art did sell well. And the Surrealists participated in the art market. The art we look at in books and museums and online is now worth millions. Does that make it "commercial"? Art has always meant value, artistic and monetary.
DianeCathey Featured By Owner May 17, 2014
Diane Cathey   May 17, 2014

I was once called a surrealist by my sculpture instructor and at the time did not know the meaning.  I have since had the opportunity to study Modern Art History including surrealism and dadaism as well as graphic technical software.  I won't answer each question individually on paper but as an artist and student of the arts I have searched and still search for the purposeful meaning of my own art endeavors. I consider then that surrealism is also the artist search within our individual selves and wherever we reside.

To be free to express our individual selves through our thoughts or visions (dreams) and with our whole being in any media should still be the answer to our future journey and our children's in faith to the right God.

There are several very interesting comments and I will read more at another time.
Thank you for the article, it was very well written and the art is also great....Right!
hermesaphrodite Featured By Owner May 17, 2014

Love these works and questions.  Surrealism captures for me the archetypal reality of the individual psyche paradoxically informing the gendered hermeneutic(s) of its dialectically related mythic-body-politic.

stosser01 Featured By Owner May 17, 2014
the meaning of surrealism has been lost when it becomes a celebrity catch phrase on the red carpet...........well maybe if we covered them in ants and set their hair on return to one of its intended meaning the internal   externalised.  Painting as free form poetry and we lost a few years back one of the last of the standard bearers,  the Australian artist James as pigs in a train that's not surrealism that's social observation.  Do yourselves a favour if you have never heard of James him
Claschr Featured By Owner May 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This article relates surrealism to today; but there is little mention of the occult and no mention of communism--essential elements of 1930's surrealism. Late surrealism also acted as a bridge between the school of Paris and the school of New York...

There is also no description of Verism versus Automatism...

I know brevity is important--I hope that the point of this article is to generate interest rather than to summarize.
toomuch89 Featured By Owner May 16, 2014
1. Well, not every textual analysis was mentioned in this article. A picture says a thousand words. Or more. 

2. What trust in science and politics? I think we should take everything with a grain of salt, if you've heard that expression. No one knows from personal experience better than me the assholes all four of the kinds of people mentioned can be, the liars and shenanigans they get up to. Well someone might. Them for instance. The irrationality of ancient beliefs and dream visions. Well, they will go down in history. As we journey forward, less people will find it a good idea, and I think that's actually partly the internet. In the past it was partly their responsibility to save important information, and according to them, put people down they didn't like. Now that we have the internet we can upload information, discuss things, anyone can do it, it gives anyone a voice. People who love ancient beliefs and dream visions might have their own website, but I know at least I won't be a member. Unless drawing qualifies as dream visions. Drawing isn't irrational it makes you a great homemaker. The internet probably will completely change society. 

3. I have based stories off of dreams before. But dreams since I forget them or call them nightmares when I wake up... I don't know if that's possible. 

4. I think the artist, because they have the freedom to use their imagination, can express more than a photograph. I mean, now anyone can take a photograph. The point is it's more than a photograph. 
cocomerlo Featured By Owner May 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
<font><font>  "   le surréalisme : attitude de réaction,de défi,de méfiance,Méfiance contre les philosophes illusoires à l'échelle des naifs,Méfiance contre les morales onctueuses et sonores,Le surréalisme: révolte permanente et obstinée des hommes déchirés au delà des phrases.  "L'hermétisme : le dernier échelon de la pudeur"</font></font>
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