The Surrealist Manifesto

The surrealist manifesto was written in 1924 by the original member and leader, Andre Breton. It was the culmination of the writings of the surrealist group and sought to dispel the 'rationalism' which brought about the first world war. It really identifies the whole surrealist idea as a movement, with an agenda, rather than just a style of art. Some of Bretons ideas flirted with Socialism, indeed he was part of the French Communist party, although this political link for the surrealist movement as a whole is hotly debated as it is a popular notion that their work was apolitical. There follows some extracts from the manifesto of 1924.

The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.
Andre Breton, Second Manifesto of Surrealism

Let us not mince words: the marvellous is always beautiful. Anything marvellous is beautiful, in fact only the marvellous is beautiful.
Andre Breton, 1924

And ever since I have had a great desire to show forbearance to scientific musing, however unbecoming, in the final analysis, from every point of view. Radio? Fine. Syphilis? If you like. Photography? I don\'t see any reason why not. The cinema? Three cheers for darkened years. War? Gave us a good laugh. The telephone? Hello. Youth? Charming white hair. Try to make me say thank you: "Thank you." Thank you.
Andre Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism

Two realities

Below is an extract of the writings of Andre Breton, which gives detailed explanation of his idea of dual realities, indeed a reality and a 'surreality'. The worlds might also be described as the conscious and the unconscious, the rational and the fantastical but essentially the meaning is the same. It is the unification of these two worlds that surrealism attempts and it is perhaps this process that is where the art-form and the movement really sit.

"I now feel free to turn to the object of this pamphlet, which is to attempt to explain what surrealism is. A certain immediate ambiguity contained in the word surrealism, is, in fact, capable of leading one to suppose that it designates I know not what transcendental attitude, while, on the contrary it expresses - and always has expressed for us - a desire to deepen the foundations of the real, to bring about an even clearer and at the same time ever more passionate consciousness of the world perceived by the senses. The whole evolution of surrealism, from its origins to the present day, which I am about to retrace, shows that our unceasing wish, growing more and more urgent from day to day, has been at all costs to avoid considering a system of thought as a refuge, to pursue our investigations with eyes wide open to their outside consequences, and to assure ourselves that the results of these investigations would be capable of facing the breath of the street. At the limits, for many years past - or more exactly, since the conclusion of what one may term the purely intuitive epoch of surrealism (1919-25) - at the limits, I say, we have attempted to present interior reality and exterior reality as two elements in process of unification, or finally becoming one. This final unification is the supreme aim of surrealism: interior reality and exterior reality being, in the present form of society, in contradiction (and in this contradiction we see the very cause of man\'s unhappiness, but also the source of his movement), we have assigned to ourselves the task of confronting these two realities with one another on every possible occasion, of refusing to allow the pre-eminence of the one over the other, yet not of acting on the one and on the other both at once, for that would be to suppose that they are less apart from one another than they are (and I believe that those who pretend that they are acting on both simultaneously are either deceiving us or are a prey to a disquieting illusion); of acting on these two realities not both at once, then, but one after the other, in a systematic manner, allowing us to observe their reciprocal attraction and interpenetration and to give to this interplay of forces all the extension necessary for the trend of these two adjoining realities to become one and the same thing."

Rene Magritte

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Jean Miro

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