Paranoiac-critical method

The paranoiac-critical method is a surrealist technique developed by Salvador Dalí in the early 1930s. He employed it in the production of paintings and other artworks, especially those that involved optical illusions and other multiple images. The technique consists of the artist invoking a paranoid state (fear that the self is being manipulated, targeted or controlled by others). The result is a deconstruction of the psychological concept of identity, such that subjectivity becomes the primary aspect of the artwork.

The Surrealists related theories of psychology to the idea of creativity and the production of art. In the mid-1930s André Breton wrote about a “fundamental crisis of the object”. The object began being thought of not as a fixed external object but also as an extension of our subjective self, which strongly relates to C.G. Jung’s concept of Synchronicity. One of the types of objects manifested in Surrealism was the phantom object.

According to Dalí, these objects have a minimum of mechanical meaning, but when viewed the mind evokes phantom images which are the result of unconscious acts.

The paranoiac-critical arose from similar Surrealistic experiments with psychology and the creation of images such as Max Ernst’s frottage or Óscar Domínguez’s delacalcomanie, two Surrealist techniques, which involved rubbing pencil or chalk on paper over a textured surface and interpreting the phantom images visible in the texture on the paper.

The aspect of paranoia that Dalí was interested in and which helped inspire the method was the ability of the brain to perceive links between things which rationally are not linked. Dalí described the paranoiac-critical method as a “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena.”

Employing the method when creating a work of art uses an active process of the mind to visualize images in the work and incorporate these into the final product. An example of the resulting work is a double image or multiple image in which an ambiguous image can be interpreted in different ways.

André Breton (by way of Guy Mangeot) hailed the method, saying that Dalí’s paranoiac-critical method was an “instrument of primary importance” and that it “has immediately shown itself capable of being applied equally to painting, poetry, the cinema, the construction of typical Surrealist objects, fashion, sculpture, the history of art, and even, if necessary, all manner of exegesis.”

In his introduction to the 1994 edition of Jacques Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, David Macey states that “Salvador Dalí’s theory of ‘paranoic knowledge’ is certainly of great relevance to the young Lacan.”

Presentation by Dalí

Paranoia and critical
The method is based on a “faculty” that only some have, that of being inhabited by “associations and delusional interpretations”. This is the ” paranoia ” part of the method. Whether in the framework of an authentic delusion or that of an ordinary fantasy, the extravagant ideas at the origin of the work are organized in a structure. It is this structure, specific to what is the theme of an obsession, “objective”, and not the subjective thought of the artist, which systematically generates and links the images from one and several obsessive ideas.

However, these images of obsessive ideas will “be objectified a priori by the critical intervention “, that is to say, thanks to distant reflection, the eye of the artist. This is the “critical” part of the method. The role of the artist is to be receptive to these “associations” of images and to understand the system that associates them, “interpret” their meaning, to organize them into a work.

The artist is less inventor than revealing but a creative revelator, rich in the scrolling images that inhabit it and that it belongs to him to interpret in a signifying vision.

The example of Narcissus
The Metamorphosis of Narcissus “first painting obtained entirely (…) from the critical paranoia method”, in 1937, is exemplary of Dalian poetic art. The painter starts from a haunting idea, that of the artist’s image of himself. This obsessive idea is, for him, the idea that the artist has something in his head, an “onion in the head” in the Catalan sense of obsession, which leads to the production of a work representing what he alone sees or understands when he contemplates his own image, the fruit of a flower onion. Narcisse literally see what he is, a narcissus, as the table shows the process by literally abyss of it.

This metonymy, precisely this syllepse, is realized by the final metamorphosis of the character, on the left of the painting, in flower, represented on the right. It unfolds from the obsessive idea into a structure of ideas associated by analogies and splitting. These are painted in the back of the painting in a series that passes from the contemplation of the Creation by the Creator to the vision of the self in the other. No symbolic meaning, no allegoryin these images, only a repetition in different registers of the same obsession. The very composition of the painting, a series of images, is the literal transcription of the association of ideas as facets of the initial idea.

The photographic model
Dalí, an early artist sensitized to the contributions of different photographic and cinematographic techniques, compares the creative genius to a camera and its creation to a development in three stages:

the shooting,
the passage to the developer,
the attachment in a work.
The completion of surrealism
This method, with unlimited possibilities, applicable in all sorts of areas of art, is very close to surrealism as André Breton defines it, “psychic automatism (…) in the absence of any control exercised by the reason (…) ».

It is, however, an overflow of the passive process of the automatic writing, which is only of the mentalism, a simulation of the small mental automatism starting from hypnagogic hallucinations. She even wants to exceed the decomposition technique and image reconstruction technique also invented by the Surrealists that Dalí himself practiced but is reputed as the escapism, an invitation to fantasies.

In a rambling ideas in ideas proposed by the surrealism from a fantasy or something that reveals this fantasy, critical paranoia adds an interpretation, an interpretive system explaining the direction of travel of a haunting idea to other in “a coherent set of systematic and significant reports”.


Madness as artistic reference (1918-1927)
In 1922, the publication of a treatise by Hans Prinzhorn gives the question of the role of the artist’s madness in his artistic production 4 a renewed interest in surrealists. The leader of these, André Breton, was a psychiatric nurse during the Great War, which upset psychiatry, in France by the enigmatic cases of lethargic, in Austria-Hungary by cases of traumatic neurosisthose of these soldiers returned from the front without injuries but unable to resume a normal life.

The question of madness in art is old and goes back to the Aristotelian theory of creative genius and melancholy. She crossed the xix th during which the analysis of dreams and all that escapes reason, initiated by the scientific study of psychotropic, pursued by those of hypnosis and of hysteria is became a fashion supported in the late 1860s by a symbolist movement engendered twenty years earlier in the club Hashischins. Exasperated by Lautréamont £ 1the eternal question was theorized by Nietzsche, who sees the creation coming out of an antagonistic Dionysian structure of Reason. It finds its relevance during the Roaring Twenties in the diffusion of the Freudian theory, more particularly the Interpretation of dreams, confidentially introduced for the first time in 1910 by Franz Hessel T 1 in the symbolist circle Vers et prose that animates The Closerie des Lilas Jean Moreas, André Salmon, Paul Fort and Pierre Roché, and popularized by Angelo Hesnard from 1914.

Dalí, newly enrolled at the Royal Academy, discovered Freud with passion at the age of eighteen, in 1922, with his classmates from the Residence of Students of Madrid, Lorca and Buñuel, the future Generation. Thereafter it will focus also said that Prinzhorn capacity of schizophrenic, which however has no delusions built interpret indeterminate forms and to guess a hidden meaning to the images. However, the outstanding painter receives, like Marie Laurencinor Pablo Picasso, an academic training and, while cultivating an extravagant dandyism, he began his career in a neoclassicism, the noucentisme, which he will not be deferred until 1927 by painting Honey is sweeter than blood.

The painter fragmentation (1928-1929)
Salvador Dalí was introduced in 1928 11 into the surrealist movement by Joan Miró and Luis Buñuel, who films in an Andalusian Dog his dreamlike world. This universe, as shown in the scenario he wrote that same year, 1928, is already haunted by a recurrent fragmentation anxiety that the young painter has nourished his early interest in the New Vision and the New Objectivity and that he will analyze as a fundamental theme of his work going back to childhood memories. At theSurrealist, Dalí finds the theorization of a technique of exploring fantasies, especially about women, by the fragmentation and re-gluing of images and the ideas they represent, a technique of juxtaposition of signifiers, illustrated in particular by Max Ernst and Man Ray and implemented by Luis Buñuel, from a second scenario of Dalí, in The Golden Age.

Dalí then met paranoia during a holiday in Cadaqués, in the case of an erotomaniac of the theoretician of the noucentisme Eugenio d’Ors, who harassed the latter with letters. Lydia, the widow of a fisherman from the village of her childhood, confides to Dalí her delusional interpretations by which she nourishes her illusion of being loved by the critic, particularly messages secretly intended for her alone, of which she is the only one to understand the meaning. The case fascinates him and sends him back to his own story, that of a child and then of an artist interpreting his dreamsof a night but the world as he sees it, that is to say as person.

In 1929, the art critic Sebastià Gasch, reader of a manual of psychiatry, presents the works of Dalí as the product of a process described in 1908 by the alienists Gabriel Dromard and André Antheaume, who he quotes, under the name of “reverie”. Spotted in particular by Arthur Rimbaud, it is a disconnection of consciousness, which frees the unconscious from logical reasoning and triggers associations of ideas, such as synesthesia. Baudelian. What is covered by this notion of creative reverie ψ 9 is a sequence that imposes its own logic on a diverted but not abolished consciousness, and unfolds automatically and consistently, that is to say in a completely different from the free association described in 1898 Sigmund Freud, whose two neurologists ignore the work, but which corresponds on the other hand to what Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault, psychiatrist of the Special Infirmary, named in 1905 about the big delusional paranoids ‘ mental automatism “. Reverie described by Dromard, a pupil of Ribot inspired by the psychological automatism of Janet, is not a disinhibition of consciousness but also a conscious activity of interpretation comparable to delirium, which deals obsessions.

Triggering and invention of a method outrageous (Spring 1930)
Dalí laid the foundations of his method two years after his installation in Paris, and a few months after Gala, met in 1928, left her husband Paul Eluard to focus on the young prodigy. It does so in two manifesto, Posicío moral del surrealismo, published in March 1930 in a Catalan magazine, and The rotten donkey, published three months later in a surrealist magazine and committed that animate André Breton and Louis Aragon. This last article is a critical study of a homonymous painting of 1928 to which Bunuel refers, by the image of a dead donkey invaded by flies, in an Andalusian dog.

It is for the artist to analyze, to criticize the “mechanism” of his own paranoia as a generator of subconscious images and to use the obsessive images and the hallucinations that it generates in a creative goal. By that Dalí than technical documentary he thought he had adopted in 1928 by painting his picture, one that Jean Epstein has theorized and a Man Rayfor example, implementation, which consists of a subversive glance and techniques borrowed from science to break up bodies and recompose images. Rather than playing the travesty of the world, he now intends to reveal, make sense of what he feels is the real secret of the world, the fragmented vision that has the psychotic, that of a donkey rotten example or, like Baudelaire, that of a carrion.

The rationalization of the method (1930-1935)
Following the publication of The Donkey rotten in Surrealism asdlr, Dalí visited by Jacques Lacan. Reader of the magazine and intern in forensic medicine, this one spent his year of study 1928-1929 near Clérambault, expert of the dangerous fools near the Prefecture and inventor of erotomania. Fascinated, Lacan comes to patiently listen in the room of the painter the Dalíesque logorrhea. Dalídeepens his presentation the following year in a text that borrows title, Daydreaming, to Dromard, never mention the, not having never can be read, knowledge is probably indirect. It also borrows from Dromard the concept and term of criticism, as activity neurologist described as joint creative reverie, and invented the dual expression of “critical paranoia” in a text of the same year repeating the same theme, La Chèvre sanitaire.

Dalí uses therefore Lacan as scientific backing and cites in his writing. He reworked the concept four years later in Last Modes of Intellectual Excitement for the summer of 1934 and in 1935, in The Conquest of the Irrational, the presentation was completed. This completion corresponds to the painter’s break with André Breton, the artistic methods of the latter, which he deems mien, and Paris.

Meanwhile, Dalí provocatively presented his method by explaining L’Angélus de Millet, a pious picture of a work ethic of poverty, as a work in which the painter has unconsciously painted the failure of the oedipal triangle. The character of the peasant is interpreted as that of a father devoid of shame, that of the peasant, as the image of a mother violated, internally torn, and shredding the earth. The representation of the field is seen as that of a corpse of a child devoured by his cannibal parents. The critical paranoia wants subversive by revealing the hidden motives and obscene moral mixing religion and prohibited sexual exploitation of men. It is this revelation that Dalí explains having painted in 1933 in The Architectural Angelus of Millet.

The life of the artist as a work of art (1936-1944)
Dalí details the applications of his method through his own life in The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, autobiography completed in New York in July 1941, translated and published in English in 1942, whose first chapter will be the subject of a development twenty years later. He claims his paranoia as the spring of his genius, which he will not yet quite like a true megalomaniac, since, besides good son full of respect and delicacy for his father, he will judge himself superior to Picasso but inferior to Vermeer, Raphael or Velasquez.

The use of the autobiography as a mode of exploration of the creative power of the unconscious could be inspired Dalí by the publication in French in 1932 from that of President Schreber. It was studied in 1911 by Freud, a celebrity he visited in London in 1938 as André Breton had done in Vienna in 1922. Dalí is more probably inspired in this approach by the autobiographical writings of Marguerite Anzieu, erotomaniacwho was also engaged in a delirious correspondence on which his friend Lacan founded his thesis of forensic psychiatry in 1932. The texts of the patient had been presented and read by Lacan during surrealist meetings.

However Dalí was preceded in this step by several artists 20. Pierre Roché, discreet witness of all the Dada and Surrealist meetings who decided in 1903 to make of his life, rather than of his story, what his friend Marcel Duchamp will name a ready-made, that is to say say an act by which the artist takes something from the everyday to reveal what he has surrealist. André Breton himself produced in 1928 Nadja, the autobiographical tale of a love in which the beloved woman sinks into madness.

Dalí takes a dual approach, practicing the autobiography as Breton, and in a way closer, but less intimate, that of Roche, by featuring himself on multiple occasions. The dandy Dalí is in itself an artistic performance, a scandal whose autobiography is only an enhancement.

Destiny metonymic method (1945-1983)
From My wife, nude, contemplating her own flesh becoming stairs, three vertebrae of a column, sky and architecture to the Dovetail, Dalí fully applies his paranoid critical method by painting the object of his obsession with the moment, this in the most raw way through other objects that literally say, without metaphors, what this obsession is.

For example in this painting of 1945, My wife naked, he paints the object that obsesses him, the naked body of his wife Gala, very realistically but in a delirious decor that says like a rebus what this woman, quite banally, is for him, namely, in his own words, his salvation, which the vertebra, raises him above the flesh by his soul, the columns of a temple that grow inside this body. In this painting, the image of Gala’s bodymeans the body of Gala. The image of the elevation of what is inside the body but which is not the body means the elevation of what is inside the body but which is not the body, the soul.

This metonymic process was invented at the same time as the method, in March 1930, when, to express that time passes slowly, especially when we wait and we have migraine, Dalí paints, without puns, soft watches. This literal and fantastic way of saying and showing things becomes systematic from 1945. In his paintings, the fragmented objects of the world are structured in a signifying chain, but which symbolizes nothing, as do the allegories of Delacroix for example. The painted image means nothing other than what it shows.

In his introduction to the 1994 edition of Los cuatro conceptos fundamentales de la psicoanálisis de Jacques Lacan, David Macey writes that “the theory of paranoid knowledge of Salvador Dalí with certainty is of great relevance in the young Lacan.”

Source from Wikipedia