We were at the art gallery tonight, in what turned out to be a semi-insane attempt to attend a gallery talk on Surrealism and Science. Because two or three hundred other people seemed to have the same idea (go figure: Tuesdays are pay-what-you-will). So there we were crammed into the nooks of a gallery exhibit. Hot and crushed and part of a very real swarm of art enthusiasts. But once the lecture started, it all faded away.
Surrealism may be my favourite artistic movement. The subversion of it. Reinvention and reordering. Disorder and absurdity that isn’t nonsense. It turns sense on its elbow and I like that. Although I’ve tried out cultivating order, rationality, and logic in my daily interactions, they aren’t my native tongues. I feel at home in the images of Surrealist works. Bizarre and unsettling and chaotic as they sometimes seem, they remind me that not everything is understood scientific or rational terms.
That’s where it all began to resonate; the Surrealists movement was a reaction to the rationality and scientific emphasis they had been raised with in the context of dealing with World War I. These concepts were (to them) inadequate tools for deciphering the psychological aftermath of the war. So they pushed into myth and subconscious and attempted to recreate understanding by reassembling the known and unknown outside of reason.
In listening to the talk, I realized I often place too much emphasis on making sense of the world using tools that are mostly foreign to me. Like handing a mitre box to a weaver and expecting a brilliant charcoal sketch. I try to use reason to process and communicate my world; I don’t intend to dismiss reason and logic, but I need to recognize that I don’t live in those spaces. I live in the soaring rustle of crows’ wings, the crunch of gravel under bicycle tires. In rain falling through the trees outside my front window. In the sweep of colour against a stranger’s skin. A laugh, a phrase, a perfectly timed exchange passing through my hearing. Goldfish in all the wrong-but-right places.
I knew this. But I had forgotten. I will likely forget again. And this is ultimately what art is for: to come inside and kick around the furniture we thought we had placed so perfectly. Remind us of all the cubby holes where we tucked ourselves away.