Pearls from artists* # 418September 2, 2020
*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
… both Surrealism’s birth and infancy coincided with probably the most momentous period in the history of physics. The first Surrealist text, written by Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault and titled Magnetic Fields, deployed the spontaneous technique of ‘automatic writing,’ which supposedly allowed direct access to unconscious material. It appeared in 1920 but was written in the previous year, coinciding with the expedition led by the English astrophysicist, Arthur Eddington, to observe the solar eclipse from the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa. It was this journey that proved predictions set out in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (1916) about the gravitational deflection of light by the sun. Eddington’s experiment led not only to Einstein’s instant, mythic status as the ‘new Copernicus’ and the swift popularization of Relativity, but more specifically its appearance in the early theoretical writings of Surrealism’s principle spokesman, Breton, which helped lay the foundations of the movement. Breton’s subsequent manifesto texts of 1924 and 1929, extending his discussion of what he deemed the narrow, restrictive logic of Western though, can be situated within the same historical context that bore the revolutionary discoveries of quantum mechanics, culminating in 1927.
“Sibylline Strangeness: Surrealism and Modern Physics,” by Gavin Parkinson in Science in Surrealism, published by Gallery Wendy Norris
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