Tapping the Subconscious: Automatism and Dreams
Influenced by the writings of psychologist Sigmund Freud, the literary, intellectual, and artistic movement called Surrealism sought a revolution against the constraints of the rational mind; and by extension, the rules of a society they saw as oppressive. Freud and other psychoanalysts used a variety of techniques to bring to the surface the subconscious thoughts of their patients. The Surrealists borrowed many of the same techniques to stimulate their writing and art, with the belief that the creativity that came from deep within a person’s subconscious could be more powerful and authentic than any product of conscious thought.
In psychology, “automatism” refers to involuntary actions and processes not under the control of the conscious mind—for example, dreaming, breathing, or a nervous tic. Automatism plays a role in Surrealists techniques such as spontaneous or automatic writing, painting, and drawing; free association of images and words; and collaborative creation though games like Exquisite Corpse. Surrealists were also deeply interested in interpreting dreams as conduits for unspoken feelings and desires. The works explored here did not begin with preconceived notions of a finished product; rather, they were provoked by dreams, or emerged from subconscious associations between images, text, and their meanings.
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