There is no piece of art or design that reveals our complicated relationship with our stuff quite as much as the Surrealist dream object. The Surrealist dream object has its origins in the book L’Amour Fou, published in 1937, by poet André Breton, de-facto leader of the Surrealist movement. Breton describes coming across a “slipper spoon” in a flea market. The “slipper spoon” is a tiny spoon like-object that might be used as a shoehorn. André Breton didn’t know exactly what it was, only that when he saw it, he was overwhelmed with a sense of déja-vu, because the obscure little spoon was an artifact from his dreams (Malt 77). Breton then went on to write rapturous stories about his experience of finding the “slipper spoon.”
Breton was not a visual artist, he was a poet and writer, but his ideas about dream objects resonated with the group of artists and poets who would come to form the Surrealists in the years between World War I and World War II from 1919 until 1939. In Surrealist art, there are many incarnations of the dream object. The Surrealists, influenced by the burgeoning field of psychoanalysis, began to create artistic experiments based on dreams, and the element of chance. The dream object engages with both of these ideas because it is something that one finds through luck, and its power lies in the objects’ impact on the finder’s imagination (Malt 78).
The act of confronting a dream object is much like browsing a department store for something that you can’t quite describe until you find yourself in it’s presence. Some artists interpreted Breton’s ideas as found objects, and used junk shop ephemera in their art.
Eventually many artists began to create their own dream objects out of composites of other items. These fabricated dream objects were likewise a response to André Breton’s ideas. “I recently proposed to fabricate, in so far as possible, certain objects which are approached only in dreams… To throw further discredit on those creatures and things of reason” (Ades 73). The resulting sculptures, in Breton’s words, are as “beautiful as the chance encounter of the sewing machine and the umbrella on a dissecting table.”
Categories: Life Cycles