By Oliva Hammond, VI Form
How Surrealism Shattered Social and Artistic Conventions in the European Interwar Period
One of the most iconic Surrealist images is a single deep laceration into the eyeball of a subdued woman. It comes from Un Chien Andalou, a short movie by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel (Addendum 1).[2,3] The film exemplifies the horror and confusion that pervades Surrealism, but instead of employing it in a static painting, Dali and Bunuel prolong the enigmatic discomfort for over twenty minutes. Although the effect of the film may be horror, that was not its intent. Rather, the creators intended to forcefully open the minds of viewers to what they felt was the optimal perspective: the total loss of rationality and reason. Un Chien Andalou has many disturbing sequences of images, and, since it is a silent film, there is no explanation for the rapid changing in themes and characters.
In this movie, there are many unexplained phenomena that do not exist far outside the realm of our reality, but the film is still indecipherable when looked at with a traditional lens. This is the nature of Surrealism. In response to the turmoil of the First World War, there were certain groups that sought to change Western culture. These included the Dada artists, who created chaotic and unexplainable artwork, as well as avant-garde writers and musicians. Through their respective mediums, they took previous conventions and changed them to reflect the utter devastation that overcame Europe and made many question the rules of the existing order. Surrealists are perhaps the best-known example of a radical fringe group that worked toward the reversal of cultural norms during the interwar period. Just as in Un Chien Andalou, they coupled familiar concepts with disturbing alterations in order to provoke personal discomfort from their audiences.
Olivia Hammond is a VI Form boarding student from Framingham, MA. She has a passion for art, sugar, and weird stuff.