Criticism of Surrealism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Feminist

Feminists have in the past critiqued the Surrealist movement, claiming that it is fundamentally a male movement and a male fellowship, despite the occasional few celebrated woman Surrealist painters and poets. They believe that it adopts typical male attitudes toward women, such as worshipping them symbolically through stereotypes and sexist norms. Women are often made to represent higher values and transformed into objects of desire and of mystery.

One of the pioneers in feminist critique of Surrealism was Xavière Gauthier. Her book Surréalisme et sexualité (1971) inspired further important scholarship related to the marginalization of women in relation to "the avant-garde." However these criticisms are perhaps more so of other avant-garde movements like Situationism, where women had a much more subordinate role to the men. Also, despite the theoretical objectification, Surrealism as a living praxis allowed room for women artists and painters in particular to work and produce work on their own terms.

Freudian

Freud initiated the psychoanalytic critique of Surrealism with his remark that what interested him most about the Surrealists was not their unconscious but their conscious. His meaning was that the manifestations of and experiments with psychic automatism highlighted by Surrealists as the liberation of the unconscious were highly structured by ego activity, similar to the activities of the dream censorship in dreams, and that therefore it was in principle a mistake to regard Surrealist poems and other art works as direct manifestations of the unconscious, when they were indeed highly shaped and processed by the ego. In this view, the Surrealists may have been producing great works, but they were products of the conscious, not the unconscious mind, and they deceived themselves with regard to what they were doing with the unconscious. In psychoanalysis proper, the unconscious does not just express itself automatically but can only be uncovered through the analysis of resistance and transference in the psychoanalytic process.

Situationist

While some individuals and groups on the core and fringes of the Situationist International were Surrealists themselves, others were very critical of the movement, or indeed what remained of the movement in the late 1950s and '60s. The Situationist International could therefore be seen as a break and continuation of the Surrealist praxis.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Criticism of Surrealism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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