Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Nurit Shany, "Massengers of art", oil on canvas, 100X150cm
Surrealism is the name of a radical group that emerged from the Dada movement in the early 20th century. The group gave expression to inspiration in art from the imagination, dreams and hallucinations that disrupt the perception of reality.
What can be understood about art if one understands the French word, Surrealism not in the sense of 'superior reality', the meaning given to it by the surrealist movement but literally 'sur le realite' meaning 'on reality?'
In order to get an answer, I will observe the creative triangle art work-artist-audience from two perspectives, from the point of view of 'reality' and from the longing for the 'disruption of the forms of reality, which characterizes surrealism.
In Hebrew, the term 'reality' derives its meaning from the verb to find, so it suggests that all a person finds is his reality in the outside of the boundaries of his own physical body, where things are organized in space according to physical principles and laws (gravity, centrifugal forces, centrifugal forces, wave motion, mass, reaction to light, etc.).
Because perception of reality is a cognitive processing of sensory stimuli, and sensory sensitivity varies from person to person the stimuli also differ in their intensity and essence. It turns out that perception of reality is not the same in different people.
Each sense creates a dimension based on its characteristic input, so there are several sensory dimensions: a visual dimension in which shapes, colors and textures exist. An auditory dimension in which sounds, rhythms and textures take place. The dimension of smell in which there are smells and textures, and the touch, a sensory dimension in which textures take place. The dimension of the sense of balance that creates a consciousness of space. Feelings and sensations fill the space with pleasant or unpleasant experiences. Emotions are a response to sensory stimuli in the various dimensions. Thoughts are a summative response to the sensory experience.
Because the information received by the senses is a product of a personal interpretation, the sum up that creates the concept of reality is always a partial personal narrow angle. There for the perception of reality is a lackluster presentation that requires continuous correction, disassembly and assembly. This is how paradigms are created and renewed.
What motivates people to re-examine their perception of reality and change paradigms is the motivation for spiritual growth. It appears as an awakening that is expressed by the inner space, as images, dreams and desires that often appear without a logical connection to environmental events. Or as a result of a painful external event that force change.
In order to examine whether any art work is surrealistic and is created and based on reality, we must agree that most people's attention is directed to reality as it is perceived in their senses. Everyone spends time learning the features of reality and researching its organizing laws. Everyone creates a perception of reality according to the threshold of his own senses sensitivity and learns to use the knowledge he has found to survive and develop.
We need to agree that learning reality is not enough for the human race. Because apart from the awakening of the senses to create an interaction with stimuli from reality everyone learns about a spiritual dimension within him, about the creative imagination, about dreams and hallucinations that indicate that there is an interaction with internal content. Sometimes it is difficult to make a connection between what is perceived on the outside and what is perceived on the inside because the imagination distorts the forms of reality and does not present the inner space in a logical sequence but in a symbolic language.
What is the role of the imagination in the game of distractions?
Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher) claimed that the imagination does not invent, only selects particles of experiences from reality and assembles new forms from its parts. Hence it is possible that it is an assembly inner form that offers combinations.
The imaginative plots and objects are connected by a relationship of 'association' and equality of form or trait, driven by a spiritual message aimed at expanding consciousness. Reality is a "laboratory" from which it draws and to which it returns its owner check out reality, in order to create a new paradigm.
Why do we need a new paradigm?
Because the old one is no longer relevant as it lacks data. In order to create a new paradigm, one must learn about the inner space, but most cultures do not allocate time to the study of inner space.
In order to learn how to benefit from imagination, one must take time to turn attention to the inner space, just as one does when he checks out reality, in the space outside the body’s boundaries. Time is an important component and a lifestyle that enslaves people to productivity, money, result-oriented action and reward to measurable resource does not offer enough time for introspection for it is not accompanied by a product. So the doing and doer are not appreciated. People enslaved to work or livelihoods find it difficult to find time for introspection.
Internal observation requires nerve relaxation, proper breathing, removal of external stimuli and nuisances. A productive lifestyle aimed at by most people is contrary and interferes with introspection, however the need to disrupt the forms of reality and its habits does not disappear, the longing for spiritual development continues to knock at the door of consciousness. And old paradigms hurt their owners who long for a new paradigm.
In the line that runs between a spiritual longing for a new paradigm and a lack of leisure to engage in its creation, people meet and awaken to works of art.
Can we agree that art is a social representation of the collective imagination and that all artistic expressions are surrealistic in the sense that it and its meaning rely on reality and distort form to a small or great extent.
Unlike others, artists devote time to introspection as part of their lifestyles and professional needs. Presenting their works to the public is a tribute that allows the public to enjoy the forms created by them. The public is invited to tour art events to see, hear, experience and peek through ‘windows’ that reveal optional experiences that rely on reality and create new forms.
As Maimonides has already said, every artist uses reality to create. There for every work of an artist relies on reality. The choice of the artist and the touch of his hand affect the form in different ways and organizations that are characterizes by the media.
Once an artist chooses to document an object or a content only the expression of his sensory imprint is created. There for the experiences that the artist offers are an addition to reality and his signature further disrupts the original form. One way or another each personal style in any chosen media continues to disrupt the shape of the selected object or content. The disruption adds to reality.
When examining the degree of deviation of an art work from reality, one can, for example, define hyper-realistic works as reflecting a smaller gap from reality and an abstract form as representing a larger gap.
So, the answer to the opening question whether all art is surrealistic is: yes! because all art deals with reality and offers the artist an option for a new paradigm.
Having understood that every work of art is actually surrealistic, can one explain why artists are different in that they must engage in introspection and create forms that examine reality?
The answer is neurological. Artists have hypersensitivity in one or more of their senses. An artist's consciousness receives information through a prism different from a normative person, the senses are like a sonar that sends waves to the environment and the echo creates a state of mind. Each person gets a different echo and the hypersensitive artists get unstable echoes.
Hypersensitivity does not make it possible to determine the perception of reality and leaves unsettled boundaries. At a given moment reality is only one of many possibilities and through the sensory loopholes an artist sees layers, sensations or programming that the normative does not experience. Without boundary fixation an urge arises to examine the loophole by engaging in the sensory dimension that floods with stimuli. As an artist becomes skilled, he or she sees, hears and knows details about reality that the normative audience does not feel or conceive.
For example, when one looks at the night sky full of stars the concept of sky is an existing and fixed concept in his/her consciousness and the stars are bodies that reflect sunlight or produce energy themselves. One knows he sees what he sees." In contrast, an artist who has hypersensitivity in the visual sense may see the sky as a perforated cover through which an upper light abounds through a blanket of darkness. This is because there is no fixation of the concept of sky in his/her mind because it is only one possibility out of a set of possibilities that their appearance produces.
Seeing reality as a canopy shell on layers of other dimensions and lack of fixed boundaries creates an inner witness who looks with hypersensitivity into one of the dimensions of the senses. Auditory sensitivity produces an obsessive listening to sounds and talent for music, visual hypersensitivity - obsessive observation and a tendency to visual art, hypersensitivity in the sense of taste to engage in food, and then there are the obsessive abilities that produce dance, drama, literature and theater.
It is not always possible to express discoveries in verbal language, the experiences may also be analogical and the artist chooses another language to describe the layers of reality that are revealed in favor through the sensory “crack”.
The other dimensions have many names: aspects, perspectives, worlds, spheres. No matter what the title given to the experience of the artistic perception of reality, the fact is that consciousness cannot contain the previous perception of reality and the inner witness wanders and seeks for himself a new complement that will create another paradigm that takes shape from observing and listening to affecting events. The artist creates a product that depicts fracture, search and a corrected perception of reality.
And the audience?
As a characterization group, the majority of the normative population is content with the boundaries of reality and loves the existence within socially agreed boundaries. A non-concrete conversation is perceived as threatening or excluded as 'spiritualistic'. People spend most of their time in a discourse about products or processes that take place within the boundaries of reality or they take on the boundaries of religion and a discourse that is above reality in religious terms and beliefs.
Artists converse with the audience about sensory manifestations through combinations of forms created in the wake of puzzlement. As we said at the beginning the revelations stems from a sensory hypersensitivity and a cipher that created the piece. Works of art are evidence of events and personal experiences that have arisen from areas of ignorance or instability of existence, that have not been experienced by the other people, operating within boundaries from an experience that reality is complete. Every work of art examines reality and is a passage of exploration in a space of ignorance.
For the audience attending to art is an understandable or incomprehensible experience in a chaotic space. From the audience's point of view, all the works are presented in an ordered space that does not present and does not tell what the reason, the sequence for their formation. The artist's codes and prism are not accessible to the audience.
It is precisely the chaos and lack of information within which the audience wanders that creates an association to the space of ignorance in which the artist's inner witness wanders, in order to find a new paradigm for himself. Thus, the lack of information and chaos create a space of ignorance that allows the audience to experience a discovery and wonder. Because a normative audience tends to adopt forms rather than create it, art becomes a tool for paradigm shift and spiritual growth. A viewer falls in love with a work of art when he or she recognizes the artist's code, but usually the public does not have such prisms, ciphers and keys and viewers of art walk around with different codes in a space where many shapes are displayed, some of which are meaningless too them. The experience of the viewing and listening audience is related to its exposure to possibilities that offer breaking boundaries and fixations and a means of encouraging the flexibility of paradigms.
Agreeing that works of art are comments that rely on reality having an element of 'super-reality', creating a different order and offering the possibility of a new paradigm. Surrealism was already in use a hundred years ago for the radical group that sought to change the world through art yet distortion of reality forms continues. There for I offer to call the gap between reality and artistic expression 'imaginary reality'.