The Surreal in the Everyday

My Everyday

Some work from a recent university project on the uncanniness of everyday life…

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Photography has a unique relationship to surreal art. As Sontag notes ‘what could be more surreal than object which virtually reproduces itself, and with the minimum of effort?’ By taking a photograph we stop movement of real life, we frame a scene thus disregarding the rest of reality and we remove it from that reality by viewing it in other circumstances. We can make a sign directly from reality, a sign that does not have to pass through the interpretive phase that a painting does, for example. The Surrealists sought representation without interpretation, without aesthetic concerns. Automatic writing, and representations of dreams were popular ways for surreal practitioners to create meaning without applying their influence, to find a more truthful reality that is not warped by our perception of it.

For this project I attempted to emulate the Surrealist practice of representing dreams. My photography was automatic in that I include images that I have dreamt and therefore have not decided to create. I attempted to note down any dreams that I had had during the night when I awoke. Much of the time I did not have any dreams (or more accurately I could not recall them when I woke up). Sometimes I could only remember a fragment or a single image. Sometimes I was only left with a prevailing emotion as I woke up.

The images were shot in my everyday environment: my flat. For the viewer however it is an environment that is private and only to be seen upon invitation. This concept of home as private and personal is similar to that of dreams of which the scenes in the montages refer. The flat therefore represents my unconscious. The living room scene and the study scene are several photographs roughly put together to suggest the fragmented nature of dreaming and the sense of strangeness associated with it.

The living room scene shows an image of a pig- a single image that remained with me from a dream I desperately tried to remember. The baby was the son of a king that was to be assassinated. I had tried to warn the king but he did not listen. I was left with his child as he went to his death. The baby could talk and I was trying to find a way to tell him his father was about to be murdered. The scene of me paddling in the box refers to a time I had the impression of my living room being a vast sea. Influences on my work appear as the Dali painting on the wall and the scene from the film Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry on the laptop screen. The television and the window refer to outside influences on my psyche.

The study scene deals with worry about work and paranoia. I had a dream that I was trying to work but I kept getting pop ups about Flash (the animation program). My work is quite literally on top of me in this scene. I have recurring dreams about being trapped and here I am trapped under the desk. The dragon refers to a dream about a giant lizard that chased me. The colour of the light gives a feeling of unrest and books I should read pile up and fly around me.

The bedroom scene refers to the most vivid and shocking dream I had during the time I was conducting this exercise. I dreamt that my girlfriend, Zara and I were on a plane and an announcement came over the intercom that we were going to crash. We did not panic, we said our good byes, held hands and the plane began to plummet. Then I woke up. The reason we are in bed in this scene is to make the viewer think about the trauma of waking. Often we wake at the moment in a dream when we are about to die or have a great shock. Conversely sometimes we are enjoying our sleep so much that when we wake we have a feeling sadness that we have to get up and deal with the real world.

I enjoyed using the technique of using dreams to create a montage and the opportunity to think in detail about dreams that I would normally have forgotten about by lunchtime. As I progressed with the project I realised that while the initial subject matter came from my unconscious and was therefore not influenced by me the process of montage was conscious and therefore at the mercy of my subjectivity. I could have simply took one photo for each dream and presented them chronologically one after another. The sequence would have created a narrative totally beyond my influence. Pictures of my flat would be surreal without the inclusion of imagery from my dream because they would be both everyday and strange. I feel that I have two surreal photographic projects here and until now I have not realised it. In the future, when undertaking assignments, I will try to write project analyses as I progress. It is pleasing to think that in the spirit of Surreal Art as a process of discovery I have learnt something valuable about the way produce work for my degree.

Look the work of my fellow students on this project here.

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~ by peterdarch on March 26, 2007.

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