Research: Surrealism and Society

My initial research stemmed from the topic of surrealism, memory and examining what is real and imagined, whilst continuing research on the interaction between the emotional and rational states of mind. Focusing on these contrasting forces to begin with, I came across the quote:

“We are persuaded by reason, but we are moved by emotion.” (Carnegie)

I find this description very interesting as the word “moved” suggests that an element is being lifted or carried with ease, much like how the siphonophores are carried by water currents. Conversely, “persuaded” implies being lured or caught which I can relate back to arthropods who can be quite aggressive in snapping their pincers. Regardless, I found this quote to be enlightening as to the processes of the mind, and this reading went on to state:

“Take note that emotion will always win over login and that imagination will always win over reality.”

This related nicely back to my interest in surrealism and how the mind is capable a fabricating images from our own memory. I would really like to explore this notion further and might put it towards the rest of my group. Delving further into surrealism, I looked in Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ which has a great comparison of the art movements Surrealism and Dadaism:

“…two currents which mark the end of modern art…Dadaism and surrealism are at once historically related and opposed to each other…Dadaism wanted to suppress art without realizing it; surrealism wanted to realize art without suppressing it. The critical position later elaborated by the Situationists has shown that the suppression and the realization of art are inseparable aspects of a single supersession of art.”

What I enjoyed about this examination was the acknowledgement that these apparently separate concepts were actually “inseparable aspects” of a whole, an interesting point to consider when realising that emotional thought and logical thought are opposites yet they both play a part in our overall thought process. Additionally, I liked the use of the word “currents” in relation to aquatic environments. Debord’s reflection on man’s disengagement in society and Dean Walsh’s opinion on society’s disconnection with the natural environment had become very prominent ideas in my mind at this stage. Continuing with my research, I came across Roger Caillois’s autobiography on his work and the writer’s outlook on the ‘death of man’ in society. There was a beautiful section that really spoke to me for this topic:

“The work is structured by an allegory of the mythical freshwater river Alpha, which coursed through the saltwater sea and emerged wholly untainted on the other shore. The sea represents the realm of science (technology), letters, and language. In contrast, the tenacious undercurrent…represents Caillois’s latent lyricism or unmediated contact with the world, a “meager and personal existence, whose haunting memory I had preserved against currents and tides.”

Not only does this analogy reference “science” and “lyricism” as two contrasting concepts that match perfectly with our examination of logic and emotion, but the imagery of a freshwater river moving untouched through the saltwater ocean parallels incredibly well with our overarching themes and initial inspiration of how these different waters meet and mix together in estuaries. The flowing imagery of “currents” and “tides” emphasises this further, evoking a sense of push and force that are experienced when one state of mind becomes dominant over the other. Another visually inspiring quote from this text is:

“…a bubble, brackets off his absorption in the saltwater sea to let him focus…on the essential origin and conclusion of his life.”

The “bubble” imagery is highly engaging as a representation of an individual being as it is so ephemeral and could be very interesting to develop a narrative around a bubble-like form that meets its end. The recount of Caillois’s anthropological study, ‘Man and the Sacred’ delivered me a quote that directly references our main theme:

“The sacred is what gives life and takes it away, it is the source from which is flows, and the estuary in which is loses itself.”

Whilst I had trouble deciphering what “the sacred” represents in the context of Caillois’s work, I definitely appreciated the notion of give and take, of two opposing forces working in conjunction around each other and I think this will be very applicable in our examination of the working of the emotion and rational mind.


Caillois, R. 2003, Frank, C., The Edge of Surrealism: A Roger Caillois’s Reader, Duke University Press, accessed January 29 2017.

Carnegie, D. N/A, ‘The Rule of Balance – Logical Mind vs. Emotional Heart’, Toastmasters International, accessed January 29 2017, < >

Debord, G. 1967, The Society of the Spectacle, Buchet-Chastel, France, accessed January 29 2017.


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