Possibly my favourite Surrealist would be René Magritte, one of the main reasons what because he ignored the previous 30 or so years of art and went back to basics, combining realism with surrealism. For example: in the painting ‘The Son of Man’ he painted an apple that looks like an apple (realism) but the apple was placed in front of a mans face (surrealism). Another artist that did some similar was Paul Delvaux and his reason for this; “to produce poetic shock by putting heterogeneous but real things together in an unexpected way.”
Poetic Shock has been used a lot nowadays, most notably in the 70’s by British graphics arts group Hipgnosis. The difference between Hipgnosis and the Surrealists was not only LSD, but the graphic design group used Poetic Shock to send very basic messages. Look at two Pink Floyd albums done by the group, Wish You Were Here and Animal. Wish You Were Here depicts two business men shaking hands but one is on fire (Getting burned in a business deal) and Animal simply has an inflatable Pig floating through the air (Pigs can fly). Magritte’s The Lovers shows two people sitting back to back with their face covered by a white sheet. Though Magritte never explained the meaning of his paintings, many have believed it’s a picture of loneliness and alienation.
Poetic Shock has also been used in Movies to scare people, one of the best example of this is the 1980’s horror classic The Shining. Danny was riding his bike around the Overlook Hotel and ran into the twins. Where normally people would think nothing of this, in the movie the twins were not expected to be there, leading to a perfect example of Poetic Shock in a movie.
André Breton, not only a poet but the founder of the Surrealist Movement took a big interest in Freud’s works on the unconscious mind. Breton found an unexpected beauty in the ravings of the unconscious patients. In attempt to capture that untapped beauty, Breton discovered Automatic Writing. A process of writing where the content does not come from a conscious thought from the writer. In some cases the writer does it in a trance but most of the times the writer does not thing about what he writes, they just write to see what comes out.
This lead to Automatism; which coved Automatic Writing, Drawing and even Music (most commonly in Free Jazz) is part of the bases of the Surrealist Movement. André Breton described the movement as “Pure psychic automatism” an attempt to capture pure untapped beauty.
Now days Automatic Writing is not used too often, but projects like NaNoWriMo, though not intended as a Surrealist project seems to push writers into a state of Automatism.
NaNoWriMo is a creative writing project that takes place in November where the participants try to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days. With a time frame like that, planning and story boards are out the window for the writer. This kind of deadline tends to lead to a lot of Automatism, giving a writer insight to a whole new way of writing.
Automatism seems to produce some very random and unusual content, but also some unexpected beauty.
Canadian philosopher/scholar Marshall McLuhan’s work is sometimes referred to as the cornerstone of media and communication theories. But what exactly does the phrase “The Medium is The Message” mean?
Well you could read his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” to understand it fully or I will attempt a brief sum up. McLuhan believed that the media and not the content that had the affects the society. Let me try to break this down by trying to explain this by using three different times of History.
Ear Oriented: In the early days stories and knowledge was passed down verbally, from elders to the younger. This was the social norm; to get all the knowledge told to them verbally. This means that the media around back; their medium for getting the message out there would be verbally.
Eye Oriented: With the invention of the printing press came a change in the way people would get there news. Socially, people changed the way they receive their news. Have you heard the saying ‘I won’t believe it until I see it in black and White’? That is a shining example of the shift in society.
Now Days: Now with the invention of Television and The Internet people will get their news both audibly and visually. The AV society is moving towards a different and completely new way to obtain the knowledge. I have no fancy name for it like McLuhan did with Ear and Eye Oriented but I believe that people are choosing to gain the information themselves.
Soon it will be “You are the Message”
With the resources on the internet, people are choosing not to believe things from one source but looking though different sources to gain a better understanding.
Does this mean we will have a society with individual opinions?
Will people become only have a tiny bit of information on a broad range of subjects? And will this be the end of the so-called experts?
Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant scientist but one thing people don’t know about him, is his desire to be morally perfect. This is often known in philosophy as Perfectionism. It is important to know that the perfectionism does not believe that one can attain a perfect life or state of living. Rather, a perfectionist practices steadfast perseverance in obtaining the best possible life or state of living.
Benjamin Franklin set himself 13 virtues to live by in his attempt;
“TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
“SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
“ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
“RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
“FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
“INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
“SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
“JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
“MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
“CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
“TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
“CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
The more I read the more I discover, but also the more I find that I need to read. I keep finding more and more books that I really want to read. Like the ‘1001 Books you must read before you die’ I want to read all of them. I never use to be a read and I wish I trained myself to read when I was younger. I feel like I’ve missed so much by not reading. But now, with a passion for writing has also come a passion for reading and I want to explore this passion more and more.
For some reason I seem to ignore most of the modern books and I rather go for the classics. Not that it’s a bad thing; It is a great thing, though I feel like I’m reading a language that doesn’t get used anymore. The old 1800’s books have such beauty and elegance in the way they are written, it’s a shame that the English language has changed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Philosophy lately. As most people know philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is an interesting concept and something I truly want to understand in greater detail.
So like most of my research, I started at Wikipedia, but that’s where I stopped. I’m not going to learn about Philosophy researching it. From what I can gather it is a lifelong pursuit. The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek word ‘philosophia’ which basically means “love of wisdom”.
So there you have it, Philosophy wrapped up in three simple words; Love of Wisdom. I know that love and that desire to understand the world is almost an unreachable target and many spend their lives in the pursuit, so for now I’m just going to look at those people first. Learn from them before even considering learning the ways of the world.
I’ve been reading a few articles about how to cure writers block, but I thought it was about time I weighed in on the subject. I’m in no means an expert or have any answers what so ever, but I have found something that has been writing for me lately.
For me I’ve got a passion for music, so what I did was start a music blog, I’ve written a music review every day as well as adding interesting music news. This has gotten me into the habit of writing something every day.
As this habit has grown I’ve started to build an addiction. I feel like I need to write more and more every day. I’ve decided to write a cultural lesson now and I’ve also been writing ideas and concepts to work into stories.
Also there is something else that helps me and is a good idea for every aspiring writer. I believe it was Stephen King that gave this piece of advice to people wanting to be writers. He said “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” So read, read, read! Read everything and anything, just to get styles concepts and ideas planted in your mind.
When asked, “How do you write?” He also said “one word at a time.”
I mentioned avant-garde in the previous entry so I thought it was only fitting to look at the originals. The Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood has been considered the first avant-garde movement in art. They throw away the rule book of art to create something different and exciting. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name Pre-Raphaelites.
The brotherhood rejected the rule and formula of art that were been taught by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the Royal Academy of Art. They considered the work ‘sloppy’ and formulaic, they believed that Sir Sloshua (Sir Joshua) was stopping them explore other styles, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
The brotherhood stop up against the norm and followed their own doctrine:
To have genuine ideas to express;
To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
To sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote;
And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.
Influenced by Romanticism, they thought that freedom and responsibility were inseparable so they followed the principles of realism. The Brotherhood was met with lots of controversy in there struggle against the Royal Academy of art, but ultimately they influenced and changed art history as well. When the brotherhood disbanded the artists who had worked in the style still followed these techniques (initially anyway) but they no longer signed their works with “PRB”
Because this book is known as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language, I thought I would explore the book a little more. No, I have not and probably never will read Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Ok, I lie, I would probably try to read it, if my passion for modern culture continues) but I like to learn more of these types of books.
The thing I found interesting about what I’ve learnt is this book is that the entire thing is written in an idiosyncratic language, consisting of multilingual puns and portmanteau words. This to me would mean that there would never be a correct interpretation of this book; it’s just a twisted world full of no answers.
The book is a non linear story which attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams. Which is interesting because back in the early 1900 Freud wrote a book called “The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales”. In this he made mention of dreams been a coded message waiting to be cracked. So it seems Finnegans Wake was just James Joyce deciding to follow this idea and blend it with his obvious love of puns to create a completely unorthodox book.
For a book that took seventeen years to write, it’s hard to think what the point of it is. Is this just a social experiment that Joyce was doing? Maybe he was just setting out to defy all conventions of plot and character construction. What ever the reason was it remains on of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen so far.
Just a great example of avant-garde in modern literature that doesn’t get read. I think the only people that do read it are the people fascinated with this kind of topic and the people that read it to sound intellectual.
I would love to talk to someone who’s actually read this book.
EDIT: I read somewhere that the idea of all the puns is so essentially the book never ends.
Support Knowledge Lost and my reading habits, If you wish to get a copy of Finnegans Wake do so here.
I found this book recently called “Foucault’s Pendulum” (still haven’t read it) but I’m in love with the concept. Reminds me of the John Cage Quote “Finnegans Wake is one of the books I’ve which always loved, but never read” (sorry for the tangent, just adding that quote to remind me to write about both John Cage and Finnegans Wake).
Written by Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco the novel is basically about three friends that decide they can make a better conspiracy theory then what’s out there and they set out to create the conspiracy known as ‘The Plan’. As the story progresses these three begin to forget it’s a game and become more and more obsessed with the ideas and theories and start making connections to other theories out there; like lost artefacts and the Templers. Even a very real secret society begins to believe one of the three possesses the key to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Eventually ‘The Plan’ involves connections between a whole range of different societies like;
The Knights Templar
The Bavarian Illuminati
The Elders of Zion
The Assassins of Alamut
The concept is brilliant and makes me ponder a few ideas, like ‘Will people believe anything that is printed?’ and ‘Do you start believing your own lies if you say them enough?’
I have a huge pile of books to read but I’m excited about reading this book. It has been described as “the thinking person’s Da Vinci Code” with makes me even more excited, I know the Da Vinci Code was a good read but it wasn’t thought provoking.