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

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 In making compositions out of what is out of date.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

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

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