This was first published in Bomb Magazine in 1984. It still seems to make sense. –G.O’B.
“Parody has become so real, we’re gonna stop doin’ parody.” —Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler
“Doctor Yen says I know too much about everything.” —Burt Reynolds in Operation CIA
“How do you take your Sanka?” she asked. “Coffee-mate with Sweet ‘N Low,” I said. She handed me a cup and sat down on the leatherette kitchen chair. She lit up a True Blue and offered me one. I thanked her but lit up a Merit with artificial tobacco flavor. “Writing is a coffee lover’s dream,” she said. “Nine out of ten people agree,” I said. She seemed shy. She stared down at the marbleized Formica. I looked out the window and noticed that the Astroturf lawn needed washing. So did the brickface siding. I would have to get out the hose. Even without the wig, the eyelashes, the nail extenders, and the padded bra, she was a beautiful woman. I assumed she was a woman, but it didn’t really matter. It’s the thought that counts.
We rose, silently, and moved to the leisure area. I turned on the electric fireplace and put on a tape of Redwood forest ambiance. We sat on the Castro Convertible. I removed my clip-on bow tie. She ran her fingers through my toupee. She couldn’t tell. Her hands smelled of lemon fresh joy. She must have been soaking in it. She looked extra absorbent. I gave her a maxi strength kiss on her wet look lips. Silently she stood and slipped off her pre-faded, pre-shrunk designer jeans. She sat next to me and began playing with the velcro on my fly. “Do you have any mayonnaise?” she asked. “I have Miracle Whip,” I responded.
(To Be Continued)
DALI BY NUMBERS
Quarters still look like they’re worth twenty five cents, but if you look at the edge, where they are milled, you can see the copper under that silver coating. Quarters are pennies in drag. The funny thing is that if it weren’t for the milling you might be fooled and the milling was originated centuries ago so that precious metals could not be shaved from coins.
In some machines you can still get a cola for two quarters. Cola is the drink of progress: no cocaine since 1912, no sugar since 1967, no caffeine since 1983.
Coke used to be a dime, but so did a dime.
That was before surrealism.
Coke used to be in a coke. Soon they’ll be sniffing lactose around here.
Surrealism is still changing the world. Still? More and more and more. Less is more—Orwell said that.
TWO PIECES OF ID
“How low can you go?” —Chubby Checker, “Limbo Rock”
Europe was discovered by the Indians in the fifth century. They landed in Brittany, found the people, climate, and food entirely disagreeable, and left. They returned to America with the omelet, tea strainer, step ladder, and sketches of the horse. They did not bring back wheels, which they obviously knew about already, for religious reasons.
The Indians had no word for subconscious mind. They called the dreamworld “beyond the tinhorn gates.” They assumed that when they dreamed something it was usually to save them the trouble of doing it in real life. This is why the Indians still have no words for dominatrix, premature ejaculation or pedophilia.
Sometimes, the Indians believed, their dreams did mean something, were prophetic. This is why they preferred near extinction to integration and cultural absorption. They dreamed that the white man was bad news.
There are no Indian surrealists, although there are many Indian expressionists and realists. Surrealism, say the Indian artists, is for whitey.
I discovered Subrealism shortly after the massacre at Jonestown. It was then that I realized that Surrealism was not going to just go away by itself. People were getting hurt. It was out of control. We couldn’t just ignore it anymore and assume it would go away.
The days before Jonestown were crucial ones for the art world. Despair and confusion were much in evidence and not paying off. The techniques that had been working for years were experiencing a tremendous drop in profitability. Artists were worried that the Subconscious mind was played out, nothing left to mine from the depths of the mind. It seemed that every deranged fantasy had been depicted, all major and minor nightmares staged, every conceivable inconceivable gesture made, every gratuitous combo of symbols juxtaposed. The depths of randomness seemed fallow. Everything seemed to have been dredged up that wasn’t attached. Could we have sounded the bottom of the bottomless pit? Could art be over?
Surrealism had so effectively covered realism that a new approach was needed if there was to be any access whatever to realism.
I realized we had to “get down.”
Just in the nick of time they appeared: the Monsters from the Id.
America and its suburbs were inured to every sort of crime, the despicable was commonplace. Mass murder was typical, atrocity was average, hideous passions were to be expected. But Jonestown was something different. A breath of fresh death. A crime that restored faith in the incomprehensible, a crime perfect enough to be labelled “demonic.”
In the past there had always been the possibility of demonic crime. Repression made it possible for demons to burst forth with spectacular results. But through the techniques of psychoanalysis and mass permeation of the surrealist aesthetic the demons had been let loose, not to terrorize the world but to be accepted by it as average Joes. If they weren’t repressed they wouldn’t have to bust out. If they were considered eccentrics they would be rendered harmless, even amusing.
But Jonestown, Jonestown was a rebirth of the terrible. It was a perfect crime of the sort that had been considered extinct since World Wartime.
A perfect crime is an insoluble crime. A great perfect crime was a priori insoluble. But usually such crimes were not crimes of passion, they were carefully, painstakingly planned. The Kennedy assassinations, or the King assassination were perfect crimes because they were insoluble, but it was only through the process of attempting to solve them that they became insoluble.
In the modern perfect media crime, the crime cannot be solved because there is no solution, there are a host of solutions. The actual events (sic), the coverage, the rumors, the novelizations, the dramatizations and docudramarizations are all equally valid. All theories reach a kind of Gordian equilibrium. Kennedy was shot by Oswald acting alone, but he was also shot by several gunmen who were part of a widespread conspiracy. Oswald was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Oswald was a CIA agent. There were two Oswalds. There was one. Such perfect crimes resulted from logic and information overload, combined with the neat emotional symmetry of the masses, occurring with the scientific predictability of a problem in fluid mechanics.
Jonestown was different. Here as in other perfect media crimes “everything is true,” but here it was not even necessary to sift through the evidence to discover there was no solution from the earliest reports. Here was a deep cover crime—so deep that it was no longer known what it was covering. Jonestown gave artists new hope. They may have struck the bottom, but there was something under that bottom. There were forces at work below the subconscious. When artists called me up to ask me who was behind Jonestown, I said: “No man, man. It was monsters from the id”
“Everything is true, nothing is permitted.” —The young woman of the valleys
The monsters from the id may destroy the world, but they may save art while they’re at it. In the film Forbidden Planet a space ship from earth visits a scientific outpost on a distant planet, a planet once inhabited by an advanced race whose extinction was sudden and mysterious, a planet now populated only by a research scientist devoted to studying the demise of that great race, and by his lovely daughter and by Robby the Robot.
Although the advanced race is gone their technology survives them in bunkers below the planet’s surface, still in excellent working condition. This race had committed their knowledge to the computer banks. Select programmers were permitted to access these banks—for depositor withdrawal. A very special terminal was developed for these data transactions, a sort of gnosis helmet that looks like a salon model hair dryer. This service provided its wearers with a direct link to the massive memory banks and to the vast power of the planetary electromagnetic grid. Their thoughts were amplified mightily. And pretty soon strange things started happening. And pretty soon that planet began to look like Wall Street on Sunday. Soon the helmet and the planet were quite vacant.
Well, so the spaceship arrives full of handsome crewmen randy from the long, confining, all male spaceflight and on this planet of call they meet a foxy scientist’s daughter who says things like “What’s a bathing suit?” Although this is the future they are not subtle.
The scientist is subtle. He’s urbane. But he knows too much. You see he too has been wearing the helmet, absorbing the mind of the whole planet.
Pretty soon monsters show up. Even though the monsters are invisible, they are intent on eating, goring, gouging, and clawing the randy spacemen. We see only their big footprints and we can see them outlined when they walk into the spaceship’s protective forcefields.
It turns out that these are Monsters from the Id. While amplifying the logic of the mind is a great thing, creating a magnificent labor saving technology and a high minded society; the secret, dark, forgotten depths of the brain are still around, though not so obvious, and they get amped up too. At first you don’t notice it, but then some guy looks at your daughter and later that night he gets eaten by an invisible electron dinosaur.
This movie is a warning to us. It says “Don’t amplify the unspeakable.” Well, so much for that. The unspeakable is all that’s spoken, the unthinkable is all that’s thought. The unprogrammable is on every channel. So they’re loose on the world. But the thing is that these Monsters from the Id can be housetrained. I’ve got one named Zippy.
THE GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT
“Reduction, ever reduction.” —Tristan Tzara
Not since paganism has anybody given the globe much credit for having brains. Sure we have a little pantheist craze now and then, but for the most part man is considered to be the brains of the outfit.
As for uh “higher intelligence,” since God has gone out of vogue (died or gone deist or whatever), the only intelligence recognized as superior to a man’s is men’s—i.e. collective human smarts.
The collective human intelligence has been around for eons, but it has gotten progressively smarter than your average guy. Human life started out with only a couple of specialties or divisions of labor and intelligence, like man and woman. As civilization developed more and more specialties came into being, but as late as a thousand years or so ago the exceptional person could know just about all there was that was worth knowing. Well, those days are gone forever they say. Specialization is the ticket from here on. The collective info bin holds much more than thousands of men could know.
Well, that’s where the Global Brain comes in. Actually it came in, officially, over a hundred years ago—explicitly in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, Chapter 17, in which the meta-senescent Uncle Clifford rhapsodizes on the miracle boon of electricity which, he posits, shall transform the globe into a vast head, an enormous conglomerate intelligence.
From now on this world of ours would no longer be modeled on the macro-cosmic man, but on the macrocosmic grey matter. The rub was that nobody knew too much about how the brain functioned. But the race was on to find out.
Freud, the Moses of Surrealism, divided up the world when he divided up the human intelligence into compartments. Everybody was expecting the Mass Consciousness, but pretty soon we had a Mass or Collective Unconscious, too. Then of course there would be the Global Ego, the Global Superego, and that old Global Id.
Actually the Global Brain was born of a multiple schizophrenic, but one in which each of the mass egos, mass personalities, was determined to be “cured,” that is to bump off all of the others. Some of those personalities would not go quietly.
That’s where Surrealism came in, determined to save the world through global psychoanalysis.
The Surrealists planned to heal mankind by applying to Macro-man the techniques Freud used on the individual. The problems that the Collective Conscious processes could not resolve (viz. WWI) might be resolved by putting humanity on the couch and delving into its mass dream life. Enter Andre Breton: the global headshrinker.
“We are still living under the reign of logic…But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest.” —Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924.
The reign of logic, when was that? The reign of belief sure, the reign of terror I remember well—the reign of logic escapes me completely. Sure Voltaire escaped with his head, but that’s another story. Anyway, whenever it was, this reign of logic, apparently the Surrealists were still living under it. But, like Superfly, they were trying to “get over.”
Now I can see how logic has been involved all along, from the very beginning when, according to St. John, there was the logos divine. But since the beginning it would seem that the logos has not held sway, among men at least. Every reign has certainly used logic, but logic hand in hand with its flip-side: chaos. Show me a reign of logic and I’ll show you a very small world, about the size of a cockpit.
“Withholding deduction is not withholding evidence.” —Ellery Queen
“It’s not over till it’s over.” —Yogi Berra
Subrealists do not consider logic a ball game that is over. Logic is not a cadaver, hieroglyphics, or meatloaf. Logic is a process. It’s what’s happening. Logic is in progress.
Subrealists considered logic an object, an artifact, a fait accompli. They revolted against logic because they considered it a failure. Like blaming the gun for bad aim.
The French were the first to deify logic, so it was not surprising they were the first to defy it. “I think, therefore I am” is rather miniature thinking, but it’s not the limit of logic.
Subrealism says: “I think, therefore I talk.”
The surrealists revolted against logic because they were not very good at it. Despite the many cop-like attributes of Breton and other surrealists, they could never deduce their way out of a paper bag. Sherlock Holmes would have, no doubt, considered the whole movement to be the handiwork of Professor Moriarety. Breton may have turned to art after failing to make the police academy. Under Breton, Surrealism allied itself with Stalinism, thrilling to the exploits of the Mass Unconscious Up In Arms.
Reality is the last political issue.
A woman looks out of her hi-rise apartment window and a car is climbing the building, “Dodge 600 Turbo,” growls the announcer, “the dream is for real.”
I have a dream…
What does it mean?
Miss Piggy is climbing the Chrysler Building. She’s gigantic and Michael Jackson is clutched in her hoof. He’s wearing a Chanel suit and high heels. The planes come but they’re not biplane fighters, they are Braniff airliners painted by Calder…
HAIR SPLITTING GUFFAWS
As a subrealist I say: There is no subconscious mind. That goes for the unconscious too.
I was looking for it for a while but it seemed to be a red herring from the word go. First of all, I can’t figure out one whit of difference between mind and consciousness. It seems that mind is consciousness. That makes the unconscious mind the unconscious consciousness. Or the mindless mind.
Consciousness means literally “Knowing together with others.” Generally we aren’t too literal about it. But maybe that literal edge of consciousness is the cutting edge. Might not the unconscious mind be the “un-together mind,” the solo mind, the secretive mind, the not-talking mind. The know but won’t say mind. Or maybe the already popular term “dirty mind” would be the best term.
“Conscious” and “unconscious” are just two sides of a coin called mind. The surrealists want a one sided coin that always comes up heads and tails. Subrealists carry a two headed coin because this world always calls tails.
But just because the unconscious mind doesn’t exist doesn’t mean we can’t put it to work. The world is now surreal. Real is now surreal. This means that manipulation must take place below the symbolic level—below the level of the real-surreal—through trained monsters from the id.
TAKE THE SUBCONSCIOUS—PLEASE
“You thought Salvador Dali had a monopoly on surrealist savagery? He looks like Disney from here.” -Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride
The problem with Surrealist analysis is that it separates the inseparable as its fundamental principle. Here’s who put the hole in holistic:
“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are so seemingly contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.” —Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism
Thus spake Breton, translating Freud into a program for Art and for Life imitating (as usual by now) Art. For a moment let’s turn the Surrealist critique over to a superior critic of Surrealism, Wyndham Lewis, who in The Diabolical Principle (1931) wrote:
“What, in the super-realist account, is omitted is the fact that all reality is a merging, in one degree or another, of the external and the internal. All reality to some extent is one reality, saturated with our imagination. Even more is that the case with the reality of art, or of myth. And this dogmatic Imagism or dream-doctrine merely wishes to make a son of official ‘reality’ of what, in art, is always (in every case in which a great creative fancy is operating) actual.”
So now let’s take time out from our busy schedules to ponder for a moment the nature of Breton’s “absolute reality.” Perhaps the best way to understand this concept is to conceive of a reality that is not absolute. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If you got one perhaps you’d best move on. Otherwise you might agree that reality is already absolute and absolute reality means about the same as real reality. Unfortunately there are circles in which real reality might ring a bell—circles where there are also “my reality” and “your reality.” If this rings a bell Subrealism recommends Solipsists Anonymous. If not you’re still okay, let’s flip back to Lewis.
“Super reality, in short, is not so much a doctrine for art as for life. It is a sort of cheap and unnecessary, popularized artistic-ness of outlook that is involved. The creative faculty, released into popular life and possessed by everybody, that is really what “super-reality” means. It is merely a picturesque phase of the democratization of the artistic intelligence and the creative faculty. It would result, in practice and in everyday life, in a radical shifting of the normal real towards the unconscious pole. If thoroughly effective it would result, even, in a submergence of the normal, conscious real in the Unconscious. For all art worth the name is already super-real.”
Uh-oh, well here we are, years later. It’s finger popping time. Wake up. You are awake? Are you sure? Absolutely? It would seem that what has transpired since Surrealism is that the fantasy element of consciousness has taken over much of the mental turf formerly controlled by more or less logical processes.
Notice how people “go with the flow,” don’t use sentences, have incredible (and I mean it literally) personalities. It even shows on their bodies—women are starting to look like Playboy playmates—nature is going along with the gag. Logic might have been in ruins when the Surrealists started their work, but today you have to dig for it. Strawberry Fields, okay, but Forever?
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, IS REAL
“Nothing can assure me of reality,” says Surrealist conspirator Louis Aragon. “Nothing, neither the exactness of logic nor the strength of sensation, can assure me that I do not base it on delirium of interpretation.”
Our first reaction is “Tsk, tsk, pauvre Louis” but one look at what the guy is getting paid to doubt in its entirety and we are tempted to think of something that will assure Louis of reality.
“How about,” as they say, “a nice Hawaiian punch.”
If not 10% real fruit juice then how about my fist and your nose.
Now I know what reality is and you probably do too, but how do you get it down there in black and white so that these highly funded intransigents get the picture.
Since we are already dealing with an abstraction we’ll try to avoid going farther afield by first handling this problem ideogrammatically. Reality: first cup of coffee in AM, tooth ache, cash money, tenth ring of phone, Monday, cockroach.
Still unconvinced? Okay—here’s both barrels—in Subrealism, Reality is God, that’s right, Reality is God. Reality is what is known. You might, or might not know. It’s for God to know and you to find out.
Ego has a bad name, worse in some circles than in others. It won’t make Nietzscheans bat an eye, but in many psychologies “I” is the enemy. From acid heads to Esalenites the subject of consciousness is the object of elimination. Egoism, egotism, all that begins with I is suspect of “subjectivity,” a cardinal sin in this scientific age.
The “editorial we” became a popular euphemism for I (where no other substitute was available) not so much to suggest strength in numbers as to avoid the stigma of the solo subject.
But is I so anti-social, so rude that it deserves to be so roundly discredited? l think not—therefore I am.
Einstein, otherwise a fan of Freud, thought his choice of terminology especially “ego” and “super-ego”—unfortunate, perhaps “subfortunate.”
Substitute terminology might help clear the air: how about “Hugo” and “Sub-hugo.”
It’s obvious that you can’t eliminate the ego altogether and still get out of bed in the morning, so “Hugo” might be a better word for what “ego” now means to most, i.e. lover-kill.
LEADER OF THE AUTOMAT
Here’s a Subrealist exercise. Find the errors in the following statement:
“SURREALISM: n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.” —Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism
Okay, here’s the results from the Subrealist Bureau. First of all, when you come right down to it, to reason means to think; that’s what it meant 2,000 years ago and a better meaning has yet to present itself. So basically what Breton is getting at here is thinking without thinking, a nifty trick if ever there was, one no doubt to be performed by the unconscious consciousness.
Now if we were inclined to be lenient with Mr. B and attribute this mistake to the Romance of his language then we might translate his meaning thus: “Thought without reflection.” This sounds a lot less exotic, but it’s more to the point. It’s not very exotic to us, but then we have tape recorders and have a lot easier time of it producing a facsimile of unedited thought. For those ‘ole boys the temptation to edit was nigh irresistible . It would seem that the point, really, was to reform writing, making it a bit more like speech, and speech a bit more like thought, without all these middlemen. But that’s not the way it came out.
The “psychic automatism” part is interesting too. But then again not quite as interesting as it might have been.
W.B. Yeats’ metaphysical treatise A Vision was, according to Yeats, dictated by spirit world “instructors” through automatic handwriting. This explanation may be true or it may be an elegant cover for Yeats’ involvement with the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” but in either event the text is an important, straightforward philosophical document and the alleged method of his writing shows that the author held in high regard something quite akin to Breton’s “psychic automatism.”
But Yeats’ and Breton’s attitudes toward the voice in the head are neatly polar opposites. Yeats’ psychic automatism was oracular in the classic sense. Breton acknowledged that the method was the same, but beheld Surrealist psychic automatism superior to the oracle, the random above the divine.
“To be sure, I do not believe in the prophetic nature of the Surrealist word. ‘It is the oracle, the things I say.’ (Rimbaud) Yes, as much as I like, but what of the Oracle itself? Men’s piety does not fool me. The Surrealist voice that shook Cumae, Dodona and Delphi is nothing more than the voice which dictates my less irascible speeches to me.” —Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism.
It’s easy to call Delphi an entertainer and Herodotus a liar after a few thousand years—but Breton seems much more sure of what Surrealist speech is not than of what it is. Even as he denies the oracular nature of the Surrealist exercises, Breton has his reservations, “Still, STILL…” He seems to deny that the technique is oracular because of the pettiness of the results achieved, e.g.:
on an isolated farm FROM DAY TO DAY the pleasant grows worse
Such automatic pronouncements are not about to make Delphi look bad, even after 2000 years of being out of business, so, it would seem, it’s best to make light of the whole thing.
As a budding Commie it would have been malapropos of Breton to blame his lyrics on Apollo, so Apollo is retroactively assigned to the same role as Breton, non-conformist par excellence, a high falootin’ entertainer.
In the final non-analysis Breton cups the plea of unreality. Surrealist psychic automatism’s ultimate use is as a means of “distraction,” a means of subverting an irrelevant reality. As Breton concludes, “Existence is elsewhere.” Well, if that is so, “Here we are. Subrealists called Delphi, come in please, over…
DELPHI CALLING COLLECT
The resolution of conflicts between “real life” and “dream life” is not a bad idea—it’s just that the way it has been done has tended to sacrifice reality in favor of a sometimes pathological dream world.
Rather than making life more dreamy why not make dreams more logical, or apply more logic and control to one’s dreams?
This is precisely what the Senoi, an isolated aboriginal tribe in Malaya, has been practicing for hundreds of years, with the result that the community which numbered 12,000 when discovered, could claim to have had no incidents of violent crime or war in two or 300 years.
Anthropologist Kilron Stewart visited the Senoi in 1935 and his report on their culture portrays a psychology that makes the efforts of surrealists seem most primitive.
“While the Senoi do not of course employ our system of terminology, their psychology of dream interpretation might be summed up as follows: man creates features or images of the outside world in his own mind as part of the adaptive process. Some of these features are in conflict with him and with each other. Once internalized, these hostile images turn man against himself and against his fellows. In dreams man has the power to see these facts of his psyche which have been disguised in external forms, associated with his own fearful emotions, and turned against him and the internal images of other people. If the individual does not receive social aid through education and therapy,these hostile images, built up by man’s normal receptiveness to the outside world, get tied together and associated with one another in a way which makes him physically, socially, and psychologically abnormal.
“Unaided, these dream beings, which man creates to reproduce inside himself the external socio-physical environment, tend to remain against him the way the environment was against him, or to become disassociated from his major personality and tied up in wasteful psychic, organic, and muscular tensions. With the help of dream interpretations, these psychological replicas of the socio-physical environment can be redirected and reorganized and again become useful to the major personality. The Senoi believe that any human being, with the aid of his fellows, can outface, master, and actually utilize all beings and forces in the dream universe. His experience leads him to believe that if you co-operate with your fellows or oppose them with good will in the daytime, their images will help you in your dreams, and that every person should be the supreme ruler and master of his own dream or spiritual universe, and can demand and receive the help and cooperation of all the forces there.
The Senoi believe that logical analysis of dreams in the waking state will lead to the power of logic becoming useful in the dream state. They also teach that the dream state is not a passive condition.
“The Senoi believe and teach that the dreamer—the ‘I’ of the dream—should always advance and attack in the teeth of danger, calling on the dream images of his fellows if necessary, but fighting by himself until they arrive.
So en garde beautiful dreamers. Let Subrealism put you in the driver’s seat. And remember what the Senoi say, “Dream of falling only means spirits of the Earth very attracted to you.” There’s no reason why you can’t be as smart in dreamland as elsewhere—you could be even smarter since it’s all in your head.
The Surrealists confronting the mass psycho-malaises of their time came up against the dislocations occasioned by the vastly accelerating division of labor and specialization of social roles. Their solution to the problems of a man with a very generalized consciousness being limited to a very narrow, specific realm of activity was to subdivide consciousness just as labor had been subdivided.
Surrealism stands for, above all, division of “un-conscious” labor. Surrealism, and its descendants —including most “conceptual art”—apply minimalist principles to consciousness, hoping to retain some “depth” through an extremely narrow range. The history of modern art is mostly taken up by the move toward highly specialized trademark fetishism.
“What do you paint?”
“I paint ears.”
“Oh—you’re figurative. I do meat performances.”
Abstraction was once a feature of all art—now it’s a kind of art. Concept was once a feature of all art—later it was enough. Under specialization no person is supposed to do what one once did alone—they can only hope to do a part of it. Even if one has the capacity, the public no longer has the attention span requited to appreciate it. The sensory and emotional functions once natural to man are now split into specialties. The surrealist solution is an infinite division of psychic labor—some people are an eat, some an eye; pity the guy who gets the heart.
By tremendously narrowing the role and scope of the artist—surrealism and its descendants have eroded and virtually eliminated the original “job” of the artist. Now everybody’s doing it—art—everybody who can afford to, that is.
This is not to say that what the original surrealists did was easy. It might have been the easy way out, but it wasn’t easy. Still they made the world safe for easy art.
Today those who are doing the job that the surrealists did in the ‘30s are not artists at all—they are in government and big business.
The big ad agencies are the leading surrealists of the day. Who needs Rose Selavy when you’ve got Ronald McDonald? or Ronald Reagan.
Despite its early flirtations with old totalitarian models of the state on the left and on the right—from Moscow to Franco—surrealism is basically a control system devised to operate in modern “democratic” states.
The people, the masses, the electorate—they are the Mass Unconscious. They live in a dreamworld. Change the dream and you change their mind. What is called “the government” is now actually just a small part of the dream entertainment. The real government is the group that makes the dreams for the people, the entertainers, the media, and especially the advertisers.
Salvador Dali, probably the greatest of the Surrealists, is by and large not taken seriously by the “Art World” today. His sin in their eyes, as in Breton’s, was selling out, going commercial, doing shop windows, Hitchcock movies, whatever might sell big. But, aside from his extraordinary skills, and his lack of hypocrisy, what makes Dali the greatest of them all is precisely his ability and inclination to be popular, to sell out and to make of himself and his art a modern corporate venture.
Surrealism is basically the business of manipulating a flock of dreamers, but it still wants to be seen as their liberator.
Salvador Dali does look like Walt Disney from here, but smarter, prettier, and uncensored. I don’t object much to the slumbering masses, just what they’re dreaming about. Let’s just call a spade a spade. And the same for clubs, diamonds, hearts, and trumps.
HOW TO BE A GOOD SUBREALIST
Subrealists say what they mean. Where this would normally be dangerous the truth passes undetected because it is taken as “irony,” the State Humor: oppositism. The Subrealist stands by his word. Literal meaning will pass undetected through Freudian scanners set for cheap irony.
Where do the lights go when they go out? Where does the computer go when it goes down?
Today’s irony is not classical irony. In classical irony the character speaks more than he knows; the audience is omniscient. Today’s irony is cheap, conventionally codified meaning that everybody knows unless they just wandered in off the street out of a cargo cult.
Today’s irony is a third genre; neither comedy nor tragedy; generally the worst of both. It is the genre of everything. It is middle class dada. It is really surreal.
Subrealists are happy when laughed at. What secret agent might term their “cover” is ecliptic. Standup comedy is the main subrealist art form, even when seated. Speak the truth and they’ll be rolling in the aisles head first.
Pathologies are not aesthetic, or vice versa.
Dada, at this point, is the perfect excuse for saying nothing. Elaborating on nothing. Lots of no ideas.
Irony: to be or not to be—so what?
We love our hive.
Our paintings give the orders we dare not articulate.
Our works are filled with blatantly hidden meanings.
Our disco music fills the mind from the bottom up.
Our greatest successes are inducing the inventions of others subliminally.
Any interpretations we need we provide.
Subrealism believes in the gods and God, a God like a radio station, who is greatly amused.
Subrealism believes in Delphi, high mass, seders, baseball, bacchanal and haute cuisine.
Subrealism takes and demands work. Leisure is too hard. Play is hard work. Hard is fine.
Subrealists consider clothing natural.
Subrealists draw the line everywhere. It follows them.
Subrealism is not so much a matter of interpretation as a trained eye.
Subrealism is art to the bone.
Mr. Rogers is a surrealist; give the children to Mr. T.
Subrealism demands that artists think as much as athletes or brokers.
Subrealists pray: “God help us. We are giving the orders around here.”
Subrealism’s basic problem solving stratagem is: “If at first you don’t succeed, reverse polarity.” The basic problem is reversing the polarity of “the big picture.” After that the work will do itself. Labor will be multiplied. Psychology will be replaced by rhetoric.
But we are still living under the Surrealist World Government. We walk the streets of the minds of men, into a door that’s a mouth, looking out a window that’s an ear, watches dripping everywhere.
Who wants to be a revolting brain cell, living inside The Great Democrat, listening to thoughts we can’t stop as they whiz by on the Central Nervous Networks, fleshing out a Lowest Common Denominator for a God?
At least the mass mind isn’t well. With all of that “unconscious” material having been brought to the “surface” the depths have been left completely vacant. Subrealism will occupy the vacant depths—then when they’re looking for depths up there we can name our price. Monsters from the Id walk the streets. Down here under our manhole covers they’re just an inspiring sound, like distant thunder.