Surrealist automatism

Surrealist automatism is a method of art-making in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway. Early 20th-century Dadaists, such as Hans Arp, made some use of this method through chance operations. Surrealist artists, most notably André Masson, adapted to art the automatic writing method of André Breton and Philippe Soupault who composed with it Les Champs Magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields) in 1919. The Automatic Message (1933) was one of Breton’s significant theoretical works about automatism.

Automatism has taken on many forms: the automatic writing and drawing initially (and still to this day) explored by the surrealists can be compared to similar or parallel phenomena, such as the non-idiomatic improvisation. “Pure psychic automatism” was how André Breton defined Surrealism, and while the definition has proved capable of significant expansion, automatism remains of prime importance in the movement.

Automatic drawing and painting
Automatic drawing was pioneered by André Masson but artists who also practised automatic drawing around the same time include the English artist Austin Osman Spare and in France Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jean Arp and André Breton.

The technique of automatic drawing was transferred to painting (as seen in Miró’s paintings which often started out as automatic drawings), and has been adapted to other media; there have even been automatic “drawings” in computer graphics. Pablo Picasso was also thought to have expressed a type of automatic drawing in his later work, and particularly in his etchings and lithographic suites of the 1960s.

Automatic drawing (distinguished from drawn expression of mediums) was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious. In automatic drawing, the hand is allowed to move “randomly” across the paper. In applying chance and accident to mark-making, drawing is to a large extent freed of rational control. Hence the drawing produced may be attributed in part to the subconscious and may reveal something of the psyche, which would otherwise be repressed. Examples of automatic drawing were produced by mediums and practitioners of the psychic arts. It was thought by some Spiritualists to be a spirit control that was producing the drawing while physically taking control of the medium’s body.

Most of the surrealists’ automatic drawings were illusionistic, or more precisely, they developed into such drawings when representational forms seemed to suggest themselves. In the 1940s and 1950s the French-Canadian group called Les Automatistes pursued creative work (chiefly painting) based on surrealist principles. They abandoned any trace of representation in their use of automatic drawing. This is perhaps a more pure form of automatic drawing since it can be almost entirely involuntary – to develop a representational form requires the conscious mind to take over the process of drawing, unless it is entirely accidental and thus incidental. These artists, led by Paul-Émile Borduas, sought to proclaim an entity of universal values and ethics proclaimed in their manifesto Refus Global.

As alluded to above, surrealist artists often found that their use of “automatic drawing” was not entirely automatic, rather it involved some form of conscious intervention to make the image or painting visually acceptable or comprehensible, “…Masson admitted that his ‘automatic’ imagery involved a two-fold process of unconscious and conscious activity….”

Basic Principles
The non- rational is the base.
The unconscious predominates and dominates.
Memorization is of secondary importance; preponderance is given to instinct
Knowledge and information is the fundamental basis of creation.
Observation is the cornerstone of design.
Decision making must be immediate without concrete purposes, assuming all the necessary risks.
There are no mistakes, only opportunities; the minimum error must become the fundamental piece of a masterpiece.

Some Romanian surrealists invented a number of surrealist techniques (such as cubomania, entoptic graphomania, and the movement of liquid down a vertical surface) that purported to take automatism to an absurd point, and the name given, “surautomatism”, implies that the methods “go beyond” automatism, but this position is controversial.

Paul-Emile Borduas
The notion of automatism is also rooted in the artistic movement of the same name founded by Montreal artist Paul-Emile Borduas in 1942; himself influenced by the Dadaist movement as well as André Breton. He, as well as a dozen other artists from Quebec’s artistic scene, very much under restrictive and authoritarian rule in that period, signed the Global Refusal manifesto, in which the artists called upon North American society (specifically in the culturally unique environment of Quebec), to take notice and act upon the societal evolution projected by these new cultural paradigms opened by the Automatist movement as well as other influences in the 1940s.

Contemporary techniques
The computer, like the typewriter, can be used to produce automatic writing and automatic poetry. The practice of automatic drawing, originally performed with pencil or pen and paper, has also been adapted to mouse and monitor, and other automatic methods have also been either adapted from non-digital media, or invented specifically for the computer. For instance, filters have been automatically run in some bitmap editor programs such as Photoshop and GIMP, and computer-controlled brushes have been used to “simulate” automatism. Grandview — a software application created in 2011 for the Mac — displays one word at a time across the entire screen as a user types, facilitating automatic writing.

Theories (according to the automatons)

Automatism is the reflection of the unconscious, the mirror of the interior of the individual. It is a form of expression that has always existed and that for years has been mistakenly considered a technique, this being a movement in itself, which gives rise to other forms of expression such as surrealism.

André Breton used it only as a descriptive form of surrealism and not as a movement in itself; Breton defined:

“Surrealism is pure psychic automatism, through which one tries to express verbally, written or in any way the real functioning of thought”.

That is to say, a dictation of the thought without the intervention some of the reason; Although the intention of the French writer was that surrealism was nourished by the previous, this was transmuted into something very distant from the initial objective. Although at its base the automatism is nourished by Freudian theories, it is closer to the analytical psychology of Jung, since it does not work based on dreams. The majority of surrealists dedicated themselves to painting dreams and memories, when that contradicts the conceptual origin of the movement. When working from a dream memory is resorted to, to memory, therefore the unconscious does not predominate; but the conscious and with this loyalty is lost. In the automatism must demand the minimum of previous planning. This is where automatism becomes the rebellious son of surrealism, of which he was initially the father, etymologically speaking.

In Costa Rica, the International Automatist Movement is officially born, whose members work on the rethinking and vindication of the role of automatism in the history of universal art through design.

In the automatism the aesthetics and the skill in the execution are relieved to a second plane; premium the concept.

As an example, the automatism can originate from an event as simple as a telephone conversation. Humanity, through the centuries, in most communication processes has required direct contact with its receiver through one of the 5 senses. However, since the birth of the telephone, a wicket is left open to the honest unconscious expression of the individual. By maintaining a conversation, the individual remains consciously connected to the different senses that will be used to give logical form to the communication. If it is direct, they will intervene protagonically -according to the faculties of each participant- language, hearing and sight. Leaving out the visual contact, the process changes radically: see imagine, they are two completely different things. A conscious versus unconscious process. In a telephone communication, the individual consciously connects with his receiver through language, however, when the visual barrier is broken, the individual is able to develop an infinite number of tasks, some of them unconsciously; When the imagination is uncovered, a trance occurs: theautomatism. By opening the gate the I intern of the individual is completely “naked”; the simple strokes he could inscribe on a piece of paper would be denouncing his unconscious thinking, his desires, his past / present, his soul. Thus the telephone becomes a means to dissolve the conscious connection of the line and the interlocutor.

In practice, only the essence of the argument is extracted from the foregoing, since the execution of each design work would be limited in its complexity to the moments derived from a telephone conversation. Therefore we had to find a parallel factor that would produce similar results, that factor would be time. In automatism as well as in the creation of musical works, a minimum of time is used to shape a basic composition; what in music is popularly called jam session. That composition based on music translates into sounds that reflect the feelings of the artist. By reducing the time of gestation of the same, the conscious thought of the individual is limited and the unconscious is invited to participate with greater protagonism in the development of the work; then it can be perfected to create harmony.

It also originates from reading systems such as Rorschach; however, the automatist will change from reader to executor / reader.

In the short history of modern art, various trends have reduced this time of gestation and with this, stripping the unconscious Self of the artist as happens in the Happening, but in most cases the result has been abstract. In this sense, the Internet becomes the great ally of the automation proposal, reducing in seconds the time required to locate millions of words and images of free mental association. Writing a couple of lines with the first words that arise from our brain, without trying to give them logical formality, leads to something that for many would lack a rational meaning, however in the mental process of language development, all words are covered by a symbolic background translated into images and vice versa; therefore the reading and interpretation of those lines or images through psychoanalysis or the artist himself will throw the information lodged in the subconscious of the individual.

Design must be understood as a whole from which everything starts; thus, knowledge will be responsible for converting the unconscious thoughts of the individual into graphic synonyms. All the iconography produced by the individual will be enriched as his cognitive capacity increases. It is through design that there is the possibility of reaching a more concise visual automatism, because the Internet opened the doors to a faster and more efficient creation process, therefore these invoiced works have a greater degree of automatism than others.

In design, virtuosity is transmuted into the use and knowledge of some software, which should be relegated to the background, the level of learning, easily accessible to any human being. Certainly, the best designer is not the one who knows how to best manage a computer program, but the one who best uses his mind at the time of creation; today, automation aims to achieve the same with the work of the designer, vindicate his task, which has been relegated by other manifestations of pictorial cut.

Even collage could be considered a more automatic means of expression than surrealism itself; being like the design, a collection of images or photographs transformed into a more complex graphic work, with the intervention of electronic media.

According to automatons, automatism is not necessarily the genesis of surrealism, nor of cubism, nor of expressionism, nor of mannerism, nor of pop art, nor of dadaism, nor even of expressionism. automatism is the genesis of the Universe, and all other movements are just a matter of form. automatism has been the conceptual background of Everythingwhat exists It is the order within the disorder, which through nature we perceive as beauty, the way in which colors are distributed in plants is the same way in which human beings and animals on Earth are grouped. No leaf of a plant, however beautiful in its abstraction, has been painted by hand, much less a zebra or any existing natural thing; however, they are the product of an automatic / mathematical event that allows the generation of what exists.

The automatism also reconsiders the concept of masterpiece starting from the origin of this term, in the Renaissance, when the artisan happens to be recognized as an artist and his work is finally qualified as a masterpiece according to his intellect and imagination; unlike the modern concept, which includes parameters such as virtuosity; of which the automatism is divorced.

The use of collective symbols is precisely a fundamental part in the automatism, since they describe states of mind, sensitivity or identifying expressions of a personal reality, acting as mirrors of the designer. Its origin ceases to be important, author rights remain, here everything is about transmitting what the unconscious says regardless of its origin or origin.

Gaetan Gatian de Clerambault, who was director of the Psychiatric Hospital of France, spoke of automatism even before Breton, however he refused to use it as a way of interpreting or reading his patients. Breton said that automatism seemed to be more creative in verb / auditory form as opposed to verb / visual. The design gives the possibility of issuing a proposal more consistent with such a description.

Source from Wikipedia