Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Surrealism’s Relevance

Originally posted on November 8, 2017

Creativity is our new meme—the theme that is relevant for our time. The surrealistic artists anticipated this by a century, but so much creativity has characterized the many “inventions” of the 20th and beginning 21st century that it’s time we became aware that, as the philosopher Nikolai Berdyayev said (in Rissian), “Be creative, and foster creativity in others!”

My background now comes clear: A child who never entirely grew up, I became a very responsible adult while yet preserving my child-like-ness. I’ve written books about it, such as The Art of Play. I became a psychiatrist when psychoanalysis was the major orthodoxy, and then to be even more creative, a psychodramatist. I learned about “sublimation.”

Sublimation is making something gross or tacky sublime. It’s making a childish impulse useful and creative. It’s what I do. Take your wildest imaginings and tame them! There are so many channels for doing this. I work (among other things) with art, with surrealism, with Salvador Dali, Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, and others.

The goal is not to tame them too much so whatever it is becomes ordinary. It needs that sharp edge of novelty that stretches you a bit, but yet not truly dangerous wildness. This is what play does: It’s a game for capturing the thrill of adventure within the boundaries of toleration. For Hallowe’en (which has just passed) it’s being scary or weird but not too much.

Art has its surrealism in many directions. Psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and psycho-drama are reaching out to capture and tame minds—wild enough to be creatively stretching, but neither mean or hurtful, destructive of hidden structures (to loosen it up) but a little wild. Sublimation allows something to be able to be harnessed and put to good use in the service of creativity!

By some good fortune I became a physician (M.D.), then a psychiatrist (Board Certified in both Adult and Child-Adolescent Psychiatry), qualified to say who’s crazy or not (alluding to a joke made on one of the comedy record albums of Mel Brooks), but one who really wants to reclaim child-like-ness while trimming off child-ish-ness. (In other words, I really sublimated my childishness!)

We need more creativity in all directions! To this end, I’m aiming at loosening our sense of art and reality just a bit. We need to capture the freshness of the child’s imagination without taking on the burden of its being childish! That’s one way surrealism is relevant.


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