The real importance of automatism lay in the fact that it led to a different relation between the artist and the creative act. Where the artist had traditionally been seen as someone who invents a personal world, bringing into being something unique to his own 'genius', the surrealists conceived themselves as explorers and researchers rather than 'artist' in the traditional sense and it was discovery rather than invention that became crucial for them.
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In this stillness that is at the same time movement, in this darkness that is at the same time light, change is found not in the realm of ideas but in the energizing desire that is realized through precipitation. Desire tends towards its own realization and change takes place when the desire for it shatters the bounds of the possible, breaking the dialectical equilibrium holding together the framework of what is existent. It is at such moments that the imaginary flows into the real and overwhelms it, inundating it until it has been absorbed.
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The fantastic is in complicity with the realist model, in the claims that realism makes to represent the true face of reality. It points to the gaps and inadequacies of realism, but does not question the legitimacy of its claims to represent reality. The concept of 'suspension of disbelief', that beloved criterion of positivist criticism supposedly serving to establish the legitimacy of the fantastic, confirms this hegemony.
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In our modern world, this elemental quality of storytelling is denied. We live today in a world in which everything has its place and function and nothing is left out of place. Storytelling is thus at a discount and like everything else in a world ruled by the laws of exchange value, literature is required to submit itself to the requirements of the market and must learn, like any other commodity, to adapt and serve needs that lie outside of itself and its concrete value. It is forced to stand not for itself but for an ideological cause of one sort or another, whether it be political, social or literary. It cannot exist for itself: like everything else it has to be justified. And for this very reason the power of storytelling is automatically devalued. Literature is reduced to the status of complimentary utilitarian functions: as a pastime to provide distraction and entertainment, or as a heightened activity that would claim to explore 'great truths' about the human condition.
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Equally, the surrealists consider words as witnesses of life acting in a direct way in human affairs. To use words properly it was necessary to treat them with respect, for they were the intermediaries between oneself and the rest of creation. To abuse them was immediately to set oneself adrift from true being. Words need to be coaxed to reveal a little of their true nature, so as to close the breach that exists between the writer and the universe. The world is not something alien against which man is in conflict. Rather man and cosmos exist in reciprocal motion. We are not cast adrift in an alien or meaningless environment. The universe is intimate with us and, as Breton insisted, it is a cryptogram to be deciphered.
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By giving words the latitude she does, (Marianne) Van Hirtum emphasizes their contagious qualities: they become almost like viruses, with which it is necessary to put oneself in harmony by sympathetic magic if one is not to be overwhelmed... What is essential is to become one with the sickness, that is, in the context of language as a whole, to enter into contact with words.
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As Peret asserts, the value of such stories resides in the fact that they respond to direct social necessity but in a way that is not obvious in a society dominated by what is utilitarian and functional. Rather they represent a natural surplus of imaginative abundance that may confound or reinforce the way we perceive the world, but which never does so in a simple way. Even though they may have no direct social use, they nonetheless embody the actual state of real relations between people.
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A stubborn refusal of the conditions of 20th Century 'reality', surrealism has denied intransigently and consistently that modern man can live without a sense of wonder at the world that was once embodied in myth. In approaching literature, it has aimed at restoring to the word its magical qualities. And at giving back to language the elemental power it once had within society. This determinism lies at the heart of the surrealist attitude and distinguishes it radically from the modernism which took shape contemporaneously with it.
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