Highly recommended paper on dreaming and surrealism: André Breton and The Politics of Dream: Surrealism in Paris, ca. 1918–1924.
The use of dreams in surrealism is described in the paper André Breton and The Politics of Dream: Surrealism in Paris, ca. 1918–1924, by JACK J. SPECTOR (1989), in American Imago, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter 1989), pp. 287-317. The link here is to the first page but access to an academic library is needed for the full paper.
The paper describes how surrealists recorded their dreams, publishing them in surrealist magazines, even having public performances, termed séances, in which a person falling asleep spoke of their thoughts, images and dreams to the audience. The interest in dreams helped to counter the influence of a modern life that was supposedly rational but which had led to the First World War. It was important to the surrealists for dream accounts to be verbatim, so that they were not stylised or made literary. In the First Surrealist Manifesto, the head of the movement, André Breton, who was a psychiatrist and poet, praised Freud for his work on dreams, and stated that surrealism was grounded in associations and the ‘disinterested play of thought.’ The paper recounts many dreams of André Breton and relates these to happenings within the surrealist movement. For example, one dream from the magazine La Révolution Surréalist in 1924 is of a moveable urinal at a railway station, followed by a flying urinal which the dreamer thought was dangerous, a reference here to Duchamp’s use of a urinal in the ready-made Fountain, in 1917. The dreams of Breton in the paper include many of the leading surrealists, such as Picasso, and the ghost of Apollinaire, who had died in 1918 and had coined the word surrealism in his 1917 play The Breasts of Tiresias. In another dream Breton is in a funeral procession which, to his surprise, is going in the opposite direction to the cemetery. He finds himself abreast of the hearse. ‘On the coffin sits an older man, extremely pale, in deep mourning and wearing a top hat, who can be none other than the dead man who, turning alternately left and right, returns the greetings of the passers-by. The procession enters into a match factory.’
This is a fascinating paper in which the author described the importance of dreams to surrealism, and relates the dreams of André Breton to what was occurring in the surrealism movement and its members at the time.
11th September 2019, Freud Museum London event on the 20th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut
Spoiler alert for some of the following!
With a large audience at the Freud Museum London film researcher Mary Wild discussed Stanley Kubrick's last film with Professor of Film Studies Nathan Abrams. The event included how the film was made, psychoanalytic issues in items of the film, and the critical and public response to the film. One theme of the film is the relationship of fantasy to reality, and hence the meaningfulness, or lack of meaning, of dreams, as present in the final dialogue between Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice (Nicole Kidman). From a dream research perspective, the discussion between Mary Wild and Nathan Abrans on why the object of Alice's fantasy was portrayed as a naval officer, rather than an air force officer, or army officer, or even a surfer, was fascinating; 'why was this element chosen?' is a common question regarding film and dream content. Another link to dreams was the author of the 1926 novella Traumnovella (Dream Story), the basis for the film. Arthur Schnitzler lived in Vienna, setting the story there, and was a contemporary of and praised by Freud. At the end of the discussions we were left with the messages that what was real and what fantasy in the film was not in all cases clear, that much of the plot hinged on Bill's inability to accept being told a fantasy by his wife, and that it is our choice which to accept of the two characterisations of dreams in the film.
Jon Lipsky is Professor of Acting and Playwriting at Boston University, and also an award-winning playwrite and director. Dreaming Together describes acting-based methods for exploring and enacting dreams. The book is useful for professional actors and non-actors who wish to engage in a physical and imaginative way with their own dreams and the dreams of others. Although its main aim is to link dreaming, working with dreams, and acting, it is also relevant to group work discussing dreams, and to possible roles of dreams in the imagination and socially, including in the eliciting of empathy.
This is the first large-scale exhibition of surrealist Dorothea Tanning's work for 25 years, bringing together 100 works from her seven-decade career, from enigmatic paintings to uncanny sculptures. Included are striking uncanny buildings and interiors. The two girls peeling off the dingy wallpaper to reveal body parts underneath, in Children's Games (1942), and the two girls with a large sunflower in a shabby hotel corridor, in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943). And doors, either closed or ajar and open to the imagination. There is a wonderful detailed essay (Dorothea Tanning: Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door) in the catalogue by curator and Cambridge University art historian Alyce Mahon, a specialist in surrealism. The essay describes Tanning being drawn to surrealism after seeing the Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition at New York's MoMA in 1936, and development then, with paintings, soft body-like sculptures, ballet stage design and costumes, and a very disturbing installation of a hotel room.
From a dreaming perspective, dream content often refers to houses, rooms, even discovering new rooms. See the disturbing Dilapidated House dream in the Gallery on this site, painted in response to a dream told to us at the Freud Museum London. The painting, including the full text of the dream, is the third artwork down on the November 2018 Freud Museum archive here.
In two and a quarter hours on Super Science Sunday at the Waterfront Museum, Swansea, 87 children told us their dreams and we helped each child to paint their dream! A very fun filled and creative event!
This wonderful exhibition, from 7th October 2017 to 3rd January 2018 shows the similarities and differences between these two artistic friends.
Well known, such as ones based on the Mona Lisa, and also lesser known pieces are here.
The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes, by Marcel Duchamp (1912), has cubist style king and queen, with electrons streaming around them, love and electricity holding them together. An incredible metaphorical image.
Do email us with your favourite dream-related films!
The most intriguing? We suggest Last Year in Marienbad (L'Année dernière à Marienbad, 1961), has she forgotten him, is he lying, is one of them dreaming it? And a weird formal garden and background organ music.
The most fun? We suggest The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T, a 1953 musical fantasy written by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss).
For beauty and also poignancy Akira Kurosawa's (2000) film Dreams has eight vignettes, inspired by his dreams. Vignettes include the foxes' wedding procession, the chopped down peach orchard, the blizzard, the tunnel with march of dead soldiers, the village of the watermills. Incredibly memorable scenes.
From 26th October 2016 to 6th March 2017 Tate Britain showed a major exhibition of the surrealist and war painter, Paul Nash.
The exhibition showed his paintings of trees and gardens at dusk, very atmospheric, then his more surreal and symbolic work, and then the famous war paintings. The latter includes the well-known Totes Meer (Dead Sea) 1940-41, showing the pieces of shot down German plans at a dump near Oxford, looking like the waves of the sea.