Surrealism: Art and the Unconscious
Is there a distinction between art and life? Can art express the passions that we repress in life? Can our imaginations bypass the control of reason? Does art contain revolutionary potential? These are some of the questions we’ll be exploring in Introduction to Surrealism. Born as a literary movement in the wake of the horrors of World War I, surrealism was described by André Breton as a revolution of the mind. It was also political, drawing to varying degrees on psychoanalysis and Marxism to explore the often contradictory states of dreams and waking life. But, how can the unconscious be expressed artistically? Can the playful and fantastic have a compelling political edge? How does (can?) surrealism’s distinct concatenation of politics, psyche, and provocation inform aesthetic and theoretical practices today?
In this class we will take a look at several themes, objects, and fetishes in Surrealist literature, painting, photography, and film. We’ll begin with the origins of Surrealism and Breton’s 1924 manifesto in order to ask: How do dreams inform our everyday experiences? Can surrealist objects change our relationship to the material world? Is there a way to playfully, and artistically, liberate the subconscious? We’ll read or look at works by Arthur Rimbaud, Sigmund Freud, Louis Aragon, Walter Benjamin, Eugène Atget, Bressaï, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Georges Bataille, Rosalind Krauss, Roland Barthes, Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dali, and Luis Buñuel, among others.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
October 20 — November 10, 2021