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87

LOOKING BACK ON SURREALISM

IIEIE

Looþing

B

øck on Surreol'i,srn

supposed to be a mere dream always leaves reality untouched, whatever damage is done to its image. But that theory does not do justice to the matter. That is not the way

people dream; no one dreams that way. Surrealist constructions are merely analogous to dreams, not more. They suspend the customary logic and the rules'of the game of empirical evidence but in doing so respect the individual objects that have been forcibly removed from their
context and bring their contents, especially their human contents, closer to the form of the object. There is a shatteringanda regrouping, but no

dissolution. The dream, to be sure, does the same thing, but

in the

trrtt currently accepted theory of l- Surrealism, which was set down
in Breton's manifestos but also dominates the secondary literature, links it with dreams, the unconscious, and perhaps Jungian archetyges, which are said to have found in collages and automatic writing an emancipated
image-language uncontaminated by the conscious ego- Dreams, according to this theory, treat the elements of the real the way the method of Surrealism does. If, however, no art is required to understand itself-

dream the object world appears in a form incomparably more disguised and is presented as reality less than it is in Surrealism, where art batters its own foundations. The subject, which is at work much more openly and uninhibitedly in Surrealism than in the dream, directs its energy toward its own self-annihilation, something that requires no energy in
the dream; but because of that everything becomes more objective, so to speak, than in the dream, where the subject, absent from the start, colors and permeates everything that happens from the wings. In the meantime the Surrealists themselves have discovered that people do not free associate the way they, the Surrealists, write, even in psychoanalysis. Furthermore, even the spontaneity of psychoanalytic associations is by no means spontaneous. Every analyst knows how much trouble and exertion, how much effort of will is required to master the involuntary expression that occurs through these efforts, even in the psychoanalytic situation, to say nothing ofthe artistic situation ofthe Surrealists. It is not the unconscious

and one is tempted to consider art's self-understanding and its success almost incompatible-1þ6¡1 it is not necessary to fall in line with this programmatic view, which is repeated by those who expound Surrealism. What is deadly about the interpretation of art, moreover, even philosophically responsible interpretation, is that in the process of conceptuahza' tion it is forced to express what is strange and surprising in terms of what is already familiar and thereby to explain away the only thing that would need explanation. To the extent to which works of art insist on explanation, every one of them, even if against its own intentions, 'Were Surrealism in fact perpetrates a piece of betrayal to conformity. nothing but a collection of literary and graphic illustrations of Jung or even Freud, it would not only duplicate, superfluously, what the theory itself says rather than giving it a metaphorical garb, but it would also be so innocuous that it would hardly Ieave room for the scandal that is Surrealism's intention and its lifeblood. Reducing Surrealism to psychological dream theory subjects it to the ignominy of something official. Companion piece to the well-versed "That is a father figure" is the selfsatisfied "Yes, we know," and, as Cocteau well knew, something that is

in itself that

light in the world-rubble of Surrealism. Assessed unconscious, the symbols would prove much too rationalistic. This kind of decoding would force the luxuriant multiplicity of Surrealism into a few patterns and reduce it to a few meager categories like the Oedipus complex, without attaining the power that emanated from the idea of Surrealism if not from its works of art; F'reud too seems to have responded to Dali this way. After the European catastrophe the Surrealist shocks lost their force. It is as though they had saved Paris by preparing it for fear: the destruction of the city was their center. To conceptualize Surrealism
comes to

in terms of their relationship to the

along these lines, one must go back not to psychology but to Surrealism's artistic techniques. IJnquestionably, they are patterned on the montage. One could easily show that even genuine Surrealist painting works with its motifs and that the discontinuous juxtaposition of images in Surrealist

however.88 NOTES TO LITERATURE 8s I LCOKING BACK ON SURREALISM lyric poetry is montage-like. in part literally and in part in spirit from the late nineteenth-century illustrations that belonged to the world of the parents of Max Ernst's generation. in conjunction with the more general thesis that history is progress in the consciousness of freedom. what we resemble. As a freezing of the moment of awakening. but a sentence from it. One can hardly assume that any of the Surrealists were familiar with Flegel's Phenomenology. reveals itself to be inanimate. Authentic Surrealist practice. But these images derive. that the images bring back childhood. Breasts that have been cut off. Eù: "Geh Joe. mach die Musik . that has full control of itself and is free of all consideration of the empirical world. the cost of comprehending Surrealism is equally high-it must be understood not as a language of immediacy but as witness to abstract freedom's reversion to the supremacy of objects and thus to mere nature. already under the spell of tion. The giant egg from which the monster of the Last Judgment can creep forth at any moment is so big because we were so small the first time we looked at an egg and shuddered. a death too which has no inner significance or filling. but not the invariant. as Adolf Loos called it. Súrrealism is akin to photography. The subjective aspect in this lies in the action of the montage. rather. something virtually dead. which. in them what has been forgotten reveals It thing modern. defines the substance of Surrealism: "The sole work and deed ofuniversal freedom therefore is death. a subject that has become absolute. when we were children. "Come onJoe. Surrealism forms the complement to the Neue Sach. however. It is precisely the latter which. is mobilized by Surrealist shocks."r Surrealism adopted this critique as its own. hence it is specifically not a tension of psychological inspiration. the things that are convulsively suspended in them like the tense lines of lasciviousness around a mouth. are like the changes that occur in a pornographic image at the moment when the voyeur achieves gratification. however. to be sure. which throws it back upon itself and its protest. outside the sphere of Surrealism. replaced those elements with unfamiliar ones.tøre rnlrte. The Neae SachlichÈeit's horror of the crime of ornamentation. an imitation of something social and historical."-Tmnslator's note. to have any history at all. or New Objectivity. and in the "Children's Pictures for the Modern Age" it becomes the expression of a subjectivity that has become estranged from itself as well as from the world. European Weltschme¡z turns to stone."* In this respect. The house has a tumor) its bay window. which must be considered seems Paradoxical for somethe sameness of mass produc- itself to be the true object of love. those illustrated papers' already obsolete even then. but the intention is unmistakable-to produce perceptions as they must have been then.licltÈeit. The tension in Surrealism that is discharged in shock is the tension between schizophrenia and reification. imitate that old-time music. this explains its anti-anarchistic political impulses. like the pain of Niobe. in them bourgeois society abandons its hopes of survival. The things that happen in the collages. which came into being at the same time. What Surrealism adds to illustrations of the world of objects is the element of childhood we lost. In making compositions out of what is out of date. These images are not images of something inward. This paradox estranges it. The montages of Surrealism are the true still lives. Obsoleteness contributes to this effect. mannequin's legs in silk stockings in the collagesthese are mementos of the objects of the partial drives that once aroused the libido. gave that material the aspect of something familiar. In the face of total reification. who lost her children. libido. as we know. Surrealism's models would be pornography. ahistorical images of the unconscious subject to which the conventional view would like to neutralize them. It is through these fetishes. It has been said that in Flegel's thesis the Enlightenment abolishes itself by realizíng itself. The dialectical images of Surrealism are images of a dialectic of subjective freedom in a situation of objective unfreedom. the quality of "Where have I seen that beforel" Flence one may assume that the affinity with psychoanalysis lies not in a symbolism of the unconscious but in the attempt to uncover childhood experiences by means of explosions. must have leaped out at us the way Surrealist images do now. they are historical images in which the subject's innermost core becomes aware that it is something external. There were collections in existence as early as the r9zOs. what love wants to make itself resemble. they create tta. they are fetishes-commodity fetishes-on which something subjective. In them. not through immersion in the self. which attempts-perhaps in vain. Surrealism paints this tumor: an excrescence of rA line from the "Bilbao Song" in Brecht and Weill's Happl von damals nach. Surrealism's booty is images. Thinglike and dead. through fright. were incompatible with its substance. like Alan Bott's Oør Fathers' which partookparasitically-of Surrealist shock and by doing so dispensed with the strain of alienation through montage as a kindness to the audience. rather. was once fixated.

in the. hieroglyphicily. which cannot be separated from its syatactic function but is by no meÍrns exhausted by it. Surrealism gathers up the things the Neøe Søch. Surrealism salvages what is out of date. Visually. Exclamation points are red. he exclaimed.Il it with something nourishing. "ThaËs pumpernickel!" That experience is certainly true of the figures of puncnration. Every text. they are marks of oral delivery. instead of diligently serving the interplay between language and the reader. * interplay th* t¿kes place in the interior of language. German quotation marks [""] lick their !ips. ff[ .But the George Circle was wrong in mistaking them for marks of communication because of this.læt analysis. dashes call a halt. colons green. even the most denseþ woven) cites them of its own accord-friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes ttre bod-y of language . along its own pathways. A¡ exclamation point looks con like an index finger raised in warning. they serve. an expression of its own. On the contrary. the semicolon looks like a d-rooping moustacle. a questign mark looks like a flashing light or the blink ofan eye. traffic signals were modeled on tÏerr. I am even more aware of its gamey taste. the distortions attest. says Karl l(raus. But if Surrealism itself now seems obsolete. to the violence that prohibition has done to the objects of desire. AII of them are traffic signals. Childhood images of the modêrn era are the quintessence of what the Neøe Søchlichþeit makes taboo because it reminds it of its own object-Iike nature and its inability to coPe with the fact that its rationality remains irrational. fåe more each of them acquire¡ a definitive physiognomic status of its own. Flence it is superfluous to omit tlem as being superfluous: then they simply hide. it is because human beings arè now denying themselves the consciousness of denial that was captured in the photographic nEgative that was Surrealism. opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fi. \NTen the hero of Gotdried Kèller's novel Der grüne Heiørich was asked'about the Gerrnan capital letter P. A cqlón.Iichkeit denies to human beings. Panctaøt'ion Mørþs en or to expression and the more they names. With self-satisfied peasarit cunning. an album of idiosyncrasies in which the claim to the happiness that hurnan beings fi¡d denied them in their own technited world goes up in smoke. Through the distortions.9o NOTES TA LITERATURE I ETETI flesh grows frorir the house.