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Related: eye - surrealism
Titles mentioned: Histoire de l'oeil / Story of the Eye (1928) - Un Chien Andalou (1929)
The Significance of Anti-visual Imagery in Story of the Eye and Un Chien Andalou or
Bataille, Bunuel &The Decay of Vision in Surrealism
The faithful alliance between the eye and the body came under severe attack with the oncoming of the first world war. The effects of trench warfare on peoples' perceptions caused them to question and reevaluate the confidence they had once put into their sense of vision. The experience of trench warfare was characterized by confusion due to not being able to see the enemy, indistinguishable shadows, gas-induced haze, and sudden spurts of blinding light (Jay 174). As a result of this lack of visual clarity, a nationalistic movement in interwar France emerged towards visual lucidity that was evident in the declining interest in Cubism and the subsequent appraisal of Purism (Silver 79). The directive of this movement was to restore a unified sense of vision that would coincide with what was desired for the reemerging postwar society. This attempt to reorganize the shattered sense of perspective, however, encountered dissonance in many of those that were involved in the war.
Many of the Surrealists, including Breton, were forced to participate in the war, and their experiences in it left them disenchanted (Jay 182). The war helped to contribute to their overall feelings of nihilism and to what Breton described as their "campaign of systematic refusal". Breton elaborated on this "systematic refusal" in his essay "What Is Surrealism?" by discussing "the incredible stupidity of the arguments which attempted to legitimize our participation in such an enterprise as the war, whose issue left us completely indifferent", and defined their refusal as "against the whole series of intellectual, moral and social obligations that continually and from all sides weigh down on man and crush him." The eye was not, it seems, impervious to the scope of this "systematic refusal". Breton and his group of Surrealists perpetuated their ideas beyond the text and into the eye through the use of painting and photography, while at the same time redefining the roles of these forms of media.
Sourced at http://www.utexas.edu/depts/grg/ustudent/gcraft/fall97/brown/brown.html
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