One should not chase the electric dream, but strive to become an extension to its dreamer.
last edit: 2023-08-09
Surrealism is pure psychic automatism1.
unix_surrealism is pure psychic automatism in the age of the children of Unix.
Both are creative processes, which allow the author to produce with no constraints. This applies to visual art, writing, programming, etc. It is by definition the purest expression of human work, as the output will always reflect the subconscious perception of the world in which the mind resides.
As opposed to certain ascetic beliefs of aging surrealists, unix_surrealism does not shy away from incorporating machines into the process of automatic creation.
It is important to highlight that machines cannot perform surrealism on their own. Or in the very least, not until true machine sentience exists. LLM-golems, 'AI' scrapers and other variants of machine-learning output can emulate certain ideas about a surreal aesthetic, but are incapable of producing automatic art. A mind of one's own is an important prerequisite to surrealism.
In the machine age, the word automatism may be misleading. Automatism in relation to surrealism is akin to a stream of consciousness.
Inherently, the terms automatism and surrealism are synonymous.
This is perhaps the most common misconception of surrealism, primarily due to its vast commercialization and is mainly related to surrealism output in visual art. Surrealism does not have a unifying aesthetic. There is no such thing as 'in surrealistic style'. As will become obvious, surrealism, as the expression of the subconscious mind, can, and will, take on countless forms, always dependant on the surrealist's medium, skill and individual hand writing. What is today often considered surrealism, is only attempting to mimic the resulting aesthetic of surrealist output of the last century. However, surrealist art cannot ever be produced with any intent and cannot therefore aim to create a specific aesthetic.
The resulting aesthetic of surrealistic output is always a by-product. Indeed there is a recognizable style to the last century's surrealistic works, but it was a result of that age. True surrealism of today will not produce similarly looking visual art, because today's minds are influenced much differently from the minds of the old surrealists.
The weird, the dreamy, the disjointed bleak that are often attributed to modern surreal art, is a mere bastardization of a misunderstood idea of what surrealism is. The aesthetic by-product of that age's surrealism was captivating. It was the first true free expression of the mind. It is not a coincidence that much of modern pseudo-surreal art will feature a coca-cola can.
Art that is surreal, won't always be surrealism.
Choose your medium.
To perform surrealism, one needs only themselves, but in order to produce a physical output of surrealism, in the very least, one will need a pen and a piece of paper. In the case of machine-enhanced surrealism, or unix_surrealism, as I've come to call it, this is the step where one chooses their preferred tools. Pen and paper, a drawing tablet, a programming language... Surrealism will always adapt to the medium one is working with. Similarly it will make use of one's skills, like the ability to draw, create programs, or compose poetry.
Debates could be held on what the ideal state of mind should be, when performing surrealism. Some would claim that a sort of a meditative state is the best, as the mind is in its most calm, while others would argue that calming the mind results in an unauthentic expression, since it is not its natural state. Furthemore, the surrealists, who partake in various substances will swear by their method, proclaiming that the intoxicated mind is more easily influenced to disregard boundaries and brought to its purest state. In any case, surrealism does not bother itself with the actual state of the mind, but with the processes that happen within it.
The only fundamental requirement of the mind, or rather the person attached to the mind, is to not discard anything that comes to them.
Pick up the pen and start putting down everything that your mind comes up with. Disregard any societal taboos or your personal boundaries. Your intuition will attempt to sway you. Do not listen to it. Do not look for any aesthetic value. Simply archive the momentary expression of the passing thoughts. The longer you go on, the more the mind will start forming connections in what you are producing, eventually resulting in a comprehensive output.
If you choose to write, begin by putting each and every word, phrase and sentence that appears to you onto the paper. If you feel the inclination to disregard lines, do so. Write on whichever place you feel is right for the moment. Soon your mind will start to guide you and syntactically correct sentences will appear, or perhaps you will begin to create a visual image out of symbols. Keep going.
To the visual surrealist, start with a single line or a shape and submit to the desires that make your hand continue. Soon you will see recognizable shapes attempting to form, indulge them and continue until the page is covered, or you are satisfied with the result.
The hacker chooses his programming language. Perhaps the initial thought will be of the final purpose of the program, and the rest of the experience will be a session of creating it. Or maybe you will start by defining variables, or functions that come to you and those will eventually form connections and further ideas on how to incorporate them.
In many cases, the beginning surrealist will be put off by the ideas that come to them - this is normal and only serves as a reminder that the mind is affected by many things it is not normally allowed to express. A side effect of such a boundless expression can often be therapeutical, just as it can be damaging. One may come across radicalizing beliefs in their work, some may find incestuous2 desires, others could very well rediscover deeply rooted traumata. But then there are the processes that will lead to revolutionary ideas, captivating works of art, calming experiences, or thought provoking outputs.
It is important to realize that the hand that produced the output, is not its true author. The true author is surrealism, which is its own entity.
Surrealism constructs its own reality from the toolkit of the mind's experience and the author's skill and ability. But it is up to the surrealist to make use of what they helped produce.
Analog Nowhere is a universe conceived by me, prahou3, in 2013 through surrealism. It is a seemingly bleak world mirroring the state of the 21st century through the goggles of surrealism.
It began as a series of random illustrations of various beings and creatures in obscure situations. My understanding then was that the pictures were akin to an experience of finding old photographs in an abandoned house of someone you never knew. Photos of situations alien to the viewer, yet somewhat captivating, but without any context.
Back then I headed a group of young Czech surrealists of the machine age, members of which have since gone on to either abandon their artistic endeavors in favor of corporate gains, or to pursue their own luck, fueled by individualistic desires, either leaving a sour taste on my tongue. I've come to despise art.
The process of creating a world is a lengthy one, especially if one has no innate desire to do so and is simply compelled by their subconscious will. The snapshots would come to me as I would produce them, not knowing who the characters were, only aware of the fact that they shared a common world. Over the years and through my distaste of the art world I have gravitated towards machines. Hacking and programming becoming a much more worthwhile effort to me, but the calling to draw never subsided. Eventually I realized the machine and linework were not mutually exclusive.
The world of Analog Nowhere began expanding once again. Now much more defined. Life was given to much lore of the dystopic machine age, just as it came up with lore to the fabled New Cyberia Coin Laundry business4, which has since become a permanent resident in the same universe.
The toolkit with which my surrealism worked grew significantly in size, influenced by the many cyber faces and friends, I have come to know and revere.
Eventually, through the alchemy of combining surrealism with digital anti-art, the Techno-Mage would appear, mirroring my love for the BSD family of operating systems, my subconscious desire to give back to the computing world that has enriched me so much, in a way that I could, and of course my deeply rooted appreciation of all things dark-haired. Deep down I knew I wanted the Techno-Mage and her crew to be an inspiration to new generations of hackers arriving into the FOSS world, as well as a brief satirical respite to the veterans of the cyber wars.
By now you might be wondering:
I mentioned that surrealism works with whatever medium you provide it with. It operates through the surrealist, working with the skills they have. In the case of the Techno-Mage, my medium is not so much a drawing tablet, but the characters themselves. I sit down before the machine, knowing I will create another obscure poorly-drawn snapshot from the world of Analog Nowhere, featuring the Techno-Mage, but that is all that I know or expect. While it may be hard to believe, no image of the Techno-Mage, be it a comic, a snapshot, or a faux-poster I ever produced, was planned.
Some may say that surrealism is but a fancy name for untamed 'creativity'. To which I must reply: "this is just a magnetic dream."
Techno-Mage is a set of story snapshots set in the universe of Analog Nowhere in the 26th century, following the life of a hacker girl in a dystopic world. Her story is written through surrealism via disconnected portrayals of her adventures.
I'm glad we had this talk. Until next time I remain:
temporality through Prague
Child, you want to be a surrealist? But you already are one.