So I finally got myself together and headed out to our lovely Gallery of Modern Art to finally check out the famed Surrealism: Poetry of Dreams display that was trouncing past my sub-conscious for the past few weeks. I’ve been desperately wanting to check it out for a while now, and I finally snagged the chance last Wednesday. I assumed that you had to be in the right state of mind to go to one of these exhibitions – and it was best to go by yourself if you really wanted to take your time – and I was right.
Firstly, I realised that I never really understood Surrealism and quite frankly, I still don’t particularly understand it. From what I’ve read, heard and fervently Wikipedia’d, Surrealism was formed in the spirit of revolt that characterised the European avant-garde inthe 1920s. Just like the Dada movement, in which some of them had participated, these poets and artists denounced the rationalist arrogance of the late nineteenth century, which had been halted in its tracks by the First World War. However, rejecting Dadaism, the surrealists broke away to proclaim the official existence of their own movement in 1924.
So, wandering about the gallery display, with a brochure in one hand and clicky-inky pen in the other, I scrawled notes frantically. To my surprise I found out that, dominated by André Breton, Surrealism was, at first, essentially a literary movement. The surrealist artists, “introduced the theory of the liberation of desire through the invention of techniques that aimed to reproduce the mechanisms of dreams.”
Breton wrote the Surrealist Manifesto (once you call anything a “manifesto” you pretty much have it made) in 1924 – that defined the purposes of the group. He included citations of the influences on Surrealism, examples of Surrealist works and discussion of Surrealist automatism. He defined Surrealism as:
Dictionary: Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.
Encyclopedia: Surrealism. 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 other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.
Clearly, we weren’t allowed to take shots of the main display area – so I managed to accrue a plethora of photos from around the display – and in particular, the children’s area. Yeah, I know it sounds a little creepy, but I always love the kids interactive area – there’s always something magnificent going on in this area – and the eye-popping aesthetic of these spaces alone is something to view in awe. I’ve always seen the kids area as a bit of a shock to the system – with many children not understanding the full meaning behind the works that they are creating – as art is often filled with overpowering sense of sexuality and anger – and in a great many of works, violence – I find children happily playing in these areas slightly morbid and quite frankly, a little creepy. But, creepy good, not creepy bad.
AUTOMATISM: The most alluring concept that I found in Surrealism, is the idea of Automatism, a technique which strove to reduce the role of consciousness and the intervention of the will by basically letting your brain spit out any ideas – in writing, drawing, prose – onto paper – creating a random flow of inspiration out. This seems like a randomised way of achieving genius, but is essentially what we go through day after day – many things are unplanned, many idea are spontaneous. And by reading my posts, you can see I’ve got as much literary skill as an otter, but I keep pouring out a mess of words despite of myself. CLEARLY GENIUS.
EXQUISITE CORPSE: Now, to be frank, I didn’t know that there was such a morbid name for this “technique”. Also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse), this is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds their own component to an original composition – the results can be both alarming and in most cases – incredibly disturbing. Awesomely enough, the name is derived from a phrase that resulted when Surrealists first played the game, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”) – So morbid, but so lovely.
Now a trip out to a special event isn’t complete with out some sort of tacky souvenir that reminds you not of only the experience but of your gullibility. My experience certainly wasn’t complete…until I bought myself these two unbearably fantastic items from the glorious little exhibition shop:
- A cola candy mustache.
- A “ce n’est pas un badge” (this is not a badge) badge.
Once again, with feeling:
1. A cola candy mustache.
2. A “ce n’est pas un badge” badge.
Kids, it doesn’t get much cooler than this.
BORING STUFF (TICKETS AND BLAH) YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Members $15 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members)
Secondary students $10
Children (12 years & under) FREE
Family (1–2 Adults & Children aged 13–17) $50
Season adult $60
Season concession $48
Season member $45 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members)
Purchase your tickets in advance online at qtix or telephone 136 246 (booking fee applies).
Tickets are also available from the exhibition entry from 11 June – 2 October 2011. Please note the ticket desk closes at 4pm daily.