Diagrammatic Surrealism
Diagrammatic Surrealism is a new art genre I'm attempting to single-handedly develop over the course of the summer. The idea originated in response to French Surrealism, which claimed to cast light on the desolate corridors of the Freudian subconscious. Artists like Dali channel a dream-realm of condescend symbology, in which slippery, ever-shifting permutations of the real and invented supposedly encode neurosis and desire. 
But looking at these famous Surrealist paintings, a few things don't ring true to my own experience of dreaming. They depict sprawling, immersive environments that stretch to all sides of the canvas, offering a window onto that world like a traditional landscape. My eye might enter the work diagonally through the spindly leg of an elephant and exit through a low-hanging mass of storm clouds on the farther side. But my real dreams I never feel in control of my movements, but rather stuck inside a cursor, unable to control how/when I enter and exit that space. There is no exit, besides to wake up. Instead of fully furnished worlds they are floating and self-contained entities- fanciful traps- with a symbolic logic that bends back on itself. Additionally, while Surrealist paintings sear themselves into my mind's eye, I can hardly ever remember my real dreams, only that they occurred. So what is self-contained, floating and instantly forgettable? 

Graphics. Specifically the graphics with which we adorn our clothing and consumer products. 

They are endlessly pervasive and endlessly frivolous, either going unnoticed or dissolving into the ether immediately. They are tiny, irrelevant worlds within our own, meant to furnish some lost fantasy of meaningful, individualized, handmade objects in the age of mass-production. Like dreams, they are a coping mechanism with only an incidental symbology. One object is projected onto another, but whether or not this is intentionally meaningful is subject to interpretation. 

A particularly interesting example is T-shirt graphics. T-shirts on websites like threadless often feature two competing references, united by linguistic affinity (i.e. pun) or visual affinity and bound into a self-canceling moebius. For example, on one recent shirt, "Chomping Ball," Princess Peach from the Mario videogame franchise evokes Miley Cyrus in the Wrecking Ball video, sitting naked atop a chomping ball character. The shirt is clever because the two balls -one a construction tool/mechanism of liberation from Cyrus's squeaky-clean image, the other an anthropomorphized dungeon trap- are visually similar. But the other end of the metaphor, equating the bland, kidnapped Princess Peach to bawdy Cyrus doesn't resolve whatsoever- one reference twists into another without suggesting how either is situated within our wider sociocultural stratosphere. Another level of unresolved metaphor is the relationship between graphic and wearer, t-shirt and body. There is mild humor stained by nerddom, a cutesy pop reference gone bad with age- and to wear this shirt, the image flush to the heart, lungs and stomach, such implications extend to one's entire person. But at the same time this screen-printed image is contemplated only in passing with the irreverence of a dream and quickly forgotten, if never unseen. 

The "Diagrammatic" of "Diagrammatic Surrealism" refers not necessarily to figures illustrating quantitative information, but to the language of graphic design in its clean and comprehensive approach to representation- favoring the figure and neglecting the ground, or the world around it. 

In this series of drawings, I spun the referential, yet impoverished logic of cell phone and T-shirt graphics into a more complex series of formal and symbolic meditations . I employed the repetition with variation of recurring dreams/variegated products ("7 fun colors to choose from!")/client-dictated constraints of graphic design by producing four variations on three different images. All share some element of the corporeal and the abject, an oscillation between inside and outside, subject and object, body and soul, wholeness and decay, as the French Surrealists did as well. If we eat with our eyes, can we see with our mouths? In a space of darkness and compression, the void of conspicuous consumption, in which one symbol bleeds into the next, I claim that we all, as Foucault puts it, "twist the world into the ring of a single night." (A mighty oral fixation, indeed.)

-Liby H. Summer 2015

(Quote from "Madness and Civilization")
Diagrammatic Surrealism
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Published:

Diagrammatic Surrealism

Diagrammatic Surrealism is a new art genre I'm attempting to single-handedly develop over the course of the summer. The idea originated in respon Read More
7
192
2
Published:

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