Psychoanalysis as Surrealism

November 28, 2015


In the First Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton says that “The imagination is perhaps on the point of reasserting itself, of reclaiming its old rights.”  These rights are, one could say, reducible to the right of language as the legitimate locus of the poetic and of the creative.  In the place of the sovereignty of consciousness, language comes forward as a new sovereign, a new master.  For it is firmly opposed to the “the dominance of logic”; it is only from this dominance that the distinction between rationality and poetry issues from in the first place.  And so Breton appeals to poetry in the name of humans, who are called the “resolute dreamers”: “The creatress of new forms, and thus capable of grasping all of the structures of the world, whether revealed or not.”

It could be said that Surrealism owes its impulse to paint or express the mysterious and the secret to Freud’s psychoanalysis; so much so, that, however, it overturns the very kernel of psychoanalysis.  Instead of achieving, as Freud had called it, “the work of enlightenment,” of strengthening the claims of the ego against the id, and thereby, as it is formulated in the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, to achieve “Kulturarbeit, like the draining of the Zuyderzee,” Surrealism heads directly for the setting-free of the dream, and thereby, so to speak, strengthens the id against the claims of the ego and of reason.  This same reversal is found in Lacan’s writings.  If Freud says, “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden,” Lacan seeks to strip the ego of its armoring, and to thereby deepen the weight of the id: Where I was, there It writes itself.  This writing (écriture) occurs through setting signifiers free — i.e., the form of articulation of the unconscious.  These grounds open onto an originary rhetoric that plays on the keyboard of metaphor.  The preferred instrument is paradox, which advances to the gravitational center of creativity.  One could say that paradox and its counter-sense form the unconscious of speech, its drive-structure.  Poetry means nothing else.  According to the Surrealist understanding, art seeks not appearance but presence itself.  It aims for a world poetics, a poetics of the world itself.  Art can be described as “free-floating significance” — a play of moving images, words, and, importantly, things.  

from “Das Politische: Der Surrealismus” in Kunst und Medium, by Dieter Mersch (2002), pp. 61-62. trans. SJ

Extracted from file: “Aesthetics”; Cross-reference: “Crustaceans”; “Automatism”; “Dialectic of Conscious and Unconscious” 

— From the Desk of the Unconscious


Aesthetics Automatism Crustaceans Dialectic of Conscious and Unconscious