In 1924 in the first surrealist manifesto, Andre Breton, the French poet and one of the founders of surrealism defined the essence of the movement as “Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation” The writers and artists associated with surrealism tried to reach this state of mind in order to create, by a number of means including sleep deprivation, hypnosis and drug induced states. However, after a series of disturbing incidents including an attempted mass suicide by a whole group who were in a hypnotic trance, the experiments of these extreme means of finding the unconscious were abandoned. Breton did not address these incidents in the first surrealist manifesto and rather emphasised that surrealism was a natural, not induced activity.
The visual manifestation of automatic thought can be clearly seen in the works of Andre Masson, his drawings appear as a stream of consciousness. A number of artists and writers were associated with the movement including Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, Francis Picabia, Miro, Hans Arp and Salvador Dali.
Courtesy: J. Temple & C. Walker