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Contrary to popular belief, surrealism is not an aesthetic doctrine but an international revolutionary movement concerned with the emancipation of thought.  

Dr Robin DG Kelley, Freedom Dreams, 2001

What is Surrealism?

Surrealism is the exaltation of freedom, revolt, imagination and love. . . . Its basic aim is to lessen and eventually to completely resolve the contradiction between everyday life and our wildest dreams. By definition subversive, surrealist thought and action are intended not only to discredit and destroy the forces of repression, but also to emancipate desire and supply it with new poetic weapons. . . . Beginning with the abolition of imaginative slavery, it advances to the creation of a free society in which everyone will be a poet—a society in which everyone will be able to develop his or her potentialities fully and freely. – Chicago Surrealist Group, 1976

Surrealism, a unitary project of total revolution, is above all a method of knowledge and a way of life; it is lived far more than it is written, or written about, or drawn. Surrealism is the most exhilarating adventure of the mind, an unparalleled means of pursuing the fervent quest for freedom and true life beyond the veil of ideological appearances. Only the social revolution—the leap, in the celebrated expression of Marx and Engels, ‘from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom’—will enable the true life of poetry and mad love to cast aside, definitively, the fetters of degradation and dishonour and to flourish with unrestrained splendour.  – Franklin Rosemont, André Breton—What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings

Surrealist Group in Australia (Hillary Booth, Michael Vandelaar, Anthony Redmond, Ronald Vandelaar, Leon Marvell, Ian Jones, ), 1979:

The Domain Of the Marvellous

Humanity is characterised by its inexplicable need for the marvellous.

Pierre Reverdy

The domain of the marvellous is one of surrealism’s key concepts. What is the domain of the marvellous? It is the dissolving of contradictions between every day and our wildest dreams. If what you are experiencing,  should you wake up now, prompt you to think: ‘This was a beautiful dream’. Likely, you are experiencing the marvellous. Martinique’s surrealist poet and scholar Suzanne Césaire, who theorised the domain of the marvellous, invoked us to be ‘in permanent readiness for the marvellous’, which can lurk amidst concrete walls, like balloon dancing in the wind with the leaves. Balloon, after flirting with the corner, almost ended up in the hands of a little boy, but his mother told him: ‘you don’t know where it has been!’…Who could’ve known the balloon dwelt in the domain of the marvellous!? dancing with the leaves! Upon that rejection, our hero took the open road…give the world poetic attention, see the marvellous that is already there, create worlds for the marvellous to proliferate in the mandala of shared dreams. 

The marvellous appears at the merger of dream and waking worlds…so if you are having an experience, which, if you were to wake up would prompt you to think that it was a marvellous dream – you are in the domain of the marvellous and this is what surrealists are apt at evoking.

Ivan Levant

Surrealist Games

Surrealist games are a good way to dip your toes in surreality. Play and surrealist games offer one of the key ways for surrealists to come together and connect, evoking surprising outcomes. Here is a book with some, but by no means all of the games that can help you to arrive at the unexpected. Find one that speaks to you and play with your friends (or strangers) at a party, bus stop or general strike. You may have played one of the most renowned surrealist games – exquisite corpse – drawing on a part of a folded paper, for the unexpected collaborative creation to emerge in the end.

Image: Balancing game with Found Objects. Raise levels of balance difficulty and artistic composition. Sunnies on top of the frog – Level 3. Credit: Ivan Levant