Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Ontological Friendship of Surrealism

When two people come together and form a Friendship, this Friendship evolves into a separate entity and takes on a life of its own, which is oftentimes more influential than the two individuals who have conceived it; this relationship exists within the realm of the Ontological. The relationship abides in the memory of those who bore it, as well as of those who witnessed it. The essence of Friendship is imbued with an individual existence that is separate from the two or more individuals who create the relationship. Therefore, it is possible to argue that the existence of the Ontological may be revealed through the incorporeal, yet perceivable nature of Friendship.

Maurice Blanchot, in his The Infinite Conversation, identifies the essential quality of the existence of Surrealism to be rooted in Friendship as the Other. Surrealism does not exist due to the created artifacts of each individual artist; rather Surrealism is the two or more who are gathered together in the name of Friendship.

“Surrealism—we cannot sense its destination otherwise—is and has always been a collective experience…making surrealism each one’s Other, and in the attraction of this Other taken as a living presence-absence (a beyond the day at the horizon of a space unknown and without a beyond), of living it with friendship in the most rigorous sense of the exacting term: making the surrealist affirmation, in other words, a presence or a work of friendship.

“…Were the surrealists, then, no more than a group of friends?...Surrealism is always a third party in friendship; an absent third term through which passes and through which issues the relation of tension and passion that effaces characters as it gives rise to and motivates initiatives and attractions. ”

Surrealism came into significant fruition only through the expressed participation of each individual artist engaging the group as a whole. From the onset, a variety of collective experiments were undertaken by the Surrealist. The grounds for which were made evident when the Surrealists crafted a poster comprised of 16 portraits, one of each artist with his eyes closed, encircling a painting of a female nude by René Magritte.

A possible interpretation of this poster is that the Surrealists are in a hypnotic trance, communicating with the ontosophia –a term coined in 1647 by German philosopher and theologian, Johannes Clauberg-- designating the existence of being only through the continuous conscious existence of an Ontic Being, where thoughts are often forced upon human beings.

Regardless of whether the Surrealists believed in an Ontological/Divine Being or not was irrelevant to their practice of creating occult techniques, in which external supernatural forces--possible evidence of the Ontological Friendship--influenced and guided the conscious development of their artistic crafts; by which was disclosed in their grand creation, the Surrealist's Friendship. The Surrealists’ prevailing designs were due to their participation with one another, and were ultimately manifested in the Ontological Friendship that wielded influence, through the whisper of the ontosophia, over the conscious expression of each individual artist within the artifact of the collective work. But the group could not maintain itself in the faces of success and fame; thus the suicide of Surrealism, but not the suicide of the Surrealism’s Friendship that resides within the magnetic memory field of the Ontic Reality. AndrĂ© Breton, by systematically excommunicating each member and ultimately concluding with himself, euthanized Surrealism in the natural world. And yet Surrealism continues though not in a new expression, but rather in our memories of their relationship with one another, which created the Third Being known as Surrealism. And it was this Surrealism that signified each individual member as a Surrealist, finding their significance in the collective Friendship; while the artifacts of prose, poetry, paintings, photographs, and sculptures were merely an expression of Surrealism; whereas, the actual existence of Surrealism was solely made evident in the Ontological Friendship of those artists engaging each other within the collective body and spirit forming a unified, singular entity separated from each member of the Surrealist, who by the very act and nature of their coming together created the Ontological Being known as Surrealism.

It, therefore, may be argued that Surrealism and Ontology are intricately connected, and that the bond of their affiliation is rooted in the Being of Friendship.

Localizing the free mandate of friendship within the Ontological. (Photography by Jim Lopez)

The following photographs depict two clothed men and a Third Being representing Friendship.

Photograph #1 portrays one of the men handing a toy rocket to the other. The toy rocket symbolizes the relationship and its propulsion into the unknown.

In the remaining photographs the incorpreal Friendship is given an unclothed body solely to illustrate the existence of the Third Being, who is the Friendship.


I like the general direction in which you're headed here. For the most part I am in agreement with the general hypothesis; it seems entirely feasible and indeed realistic to me to suggest that the Surrealists' friendship resulted in the existence of an ontological entity which has since transcended the concerns of those particular figures to become an being to be encountered and communicated with via "the magnetic field of the the ontic reality". As you point out, the entity of Surrealism is something which claims our collective psyche with an identifiable shape and texture of its own, wholly irrespective of the artists involved and work produced under its influence. Also, the evidence of unconscious contemporary Surrealists who do not discover their own links to Surrealism until at an advanced stage in their lives/careers is considerable, and might be taken as further evidence.

I consider myself of this mode for a start - I knew virtually nothing of Surrealism until independent studies of my own, post-high school, at which point I recognised the connection I already shared with those artists - that I was arguably expressing the experience of witnessing the ontological entity borne by the Surrealist friendship.
I also remember, some 25 years or so ago, David Lynch professing that he knew next to nothing about Surrealism prior to his filmmaking and only much later did he appreciate the relationship he shared with those artists - one perhaps forged by the ontological Surrealist being itself.

There are a few difficulties in defining this however; Surrealism was/is a movement based on the expression of the subconscious and, as such, there's no reason to be surprised that artists who pursue that impulse almost invariably produce work which is at leat quasi-surrealist in nature. Is there solid enough reason to think that any ontological being might claim a monopoly on these modes of expression? Or is human subconsious homogenous enough to ensure such accord without its influence? (I know this is moving slightly away from the main thrust of the piece, but if one's concern is to prove "that the existence of the Ontological may be revealed through the incorporeal, yet perceivable nature of Friendship" then the proof of those perceptions and the extent of them in a larger cultural context are worth examining).

I think you've argued the case here exceptionally well, but it does strike me that the statement "Surrealism and Ontology are intricately connected" may require some backup. I actually agree with the statement, but I'm wondering how one might prove or illustrate it in more concrete terms.

For instance, are there reasons why Surrealism bears a connection to the ontological in a way in which the products of other Friendships do not? To take an almost diametrically opposed example, is there any reason why the Friendship represented by the inner circle of the Nazi Party might not have resulted in a similar connection - a (heaven forbid) Fascist Ontological Being transcendent of the concerns and activities of Hitler and his co-conspirators? Could it be that the rigid, authoritarian nature of that kind of ideology negates such a connection to the ontological, or is that a facile assumption?

In other words: what specifically gave the Surrealists the advantage (if indeed they had one) in forging this ontological connection?
These are questions worth considering.

Bringing it down to our own sphere of experience: Are we currently forging an Ontological connection via Paraphilia? Could there be a Paraphilia Friendship Entity; a unified, singular being distinct from the individual contributors? It already seems quite logical to think so. Perhaps a little further inquiry into what kind of Friendships provide the most fertile ontological soil (and as such, why Surrealism presents such a fine example) might be in order.

Craig Woods