Melting clocks, lobster telephones – the perplexing images of surrealist art are instantly recognisable to millions. But for psychotherapist Philippa Perry the radical ideas which inspired the original artists are often overlooked. In this film, Philippa takes us on a playful journey into the unconscious to discover the deep roots of surrealism in the political upheavals of 1920s Europe and new ways of understanding the human psyche.
Among her surrealist adventures, Philippa sets up her own Bureau of Surrealist Research on the streets of Paris and invites members of the public to tell her their dreams, she uncovers the role of women in the surrealism movement and has a go at being an artist’s muse herself, rolls up her sleeves to try some surrealist techniques with art critic Adrian Searle, and puts on a screening of Dali and Bunuel’s famous film Un Chien Andalou for a group of unsuspecting art students.
How to Be a Surrealist
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects, and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”.
Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary movement.
Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.