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Photography and surrealism


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1he automatic image
In the process ot condensation dream-thoughts, in
varying degrees, are omitted and the ones that remain
represented in the condensation are lett because they
are over-determined by their content. An over-
determined image is organized by several determinant
tactors, tor example, the image ot a man condenses,
combining teatures ot several individuals.
3I
1he second
mechanism ot displacement, or veering on, seeks
to avoid censorship by translating one thing into
another. lor example, clothing might be the displaced
(metonymic, sign tor an individual associated vith it.
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It is these mechanisms, condensation and displacement
vhich account tor the strangeness, the rebus puzzle-like
quality ot dream-images in surrealism, like Bretons man
cut in tvo by a vindov. 1hrough condensation and
displacement, an unconscious thought emerges disguised
vithin the preconscious-consciousness system.
lreuds +,+ essay on 1he Lnconscious shovs the
compatibility ot surrealism vith, at least, his theoretical
viev ot the production ot thought processes close to
the unconscious:
In the last tev pages ot The Interpretation of Dreams,
vhich vas published in +,oo, the viev vas developed
that thought-processes, i.e. those acts ot cathexis vhich
are comparatively remote trom perception, are in
themselves vithout quality and unconscious, and that
they attain their capacity to become conscious only
through being linked vith the residues ot perceptions
ot words. But vord-presentations, tor their part too, are
derived trom sense-perceptions, in the same vay as
thing-presentations are, the question might theretore
be raised vhy presentations ot objects cannot become
conscious through the medium ot their ovn perceptual
residues being linked vith vord-presentations is
not yet the same thing as becoming conscious, but only
makes it possible to become so
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1hus, properly speaking, the psychic automatism claimed
by the surrealists (the stimulation ot an enigmatic
image, is a means to invoke unconscious ideational
representatives, thing-presentations vith a successtul
image, as Breton puts it in the Manifesto, vhere its
obscurity does not betray it.
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+ lreuds example is the
condensation ot his Lncle oset
and his triend P. See Chapter
in The Interpretation of Dreams.
: I am draving here on Llla
l. Sharpes account ot dreams in
her Dream Analysis (Iondon:
Hogarth Press, +,;,, p. :. She
dravs the analogy betveen
tgures ot rhetorical speech and
the mechanisms ot the dream-
vork long betore acques Iacan.
Sigmund lreud, 1he
Lnconscious, On Metapsychology,
PlI ++, pp. :o;:.
Breton, Manifesto of Surreal-
ism, p. ;.