Surrealism Friday

by Abigail (’14)

Have you ever watched a Key & Peele sketch? As we discovered on Friday, November 1st, they’re not just a great way to procrastinate—they’re educational.

Next time you find your cursor hovering over the YouTube icon, try these two videos: “I Said B*tch” and “Check That Sh*t Out.” While you’re watching, think about the surreal elements of each 2-minute narrative and how they point out the strange/ridiculous nature of some common human experiences.

CWI and CWII spent Friday together, learning about Surrealism—a timely subject to be studying the day after Halloween, the most surreal holiday of all. After Key & Peele, we watched segments of a lecture also found on YouTube introducing us to some of the main figures, themes, influences, and artworks of the surrealist movement.

We acted out a short, (very) surreal play by Jack Spicer, a poet CWII has been studying. Jules played Buster Keaton. Colin played Buster Keaton’s bicycle. Olivia W. played an owl, of course. Midori and I played Adam and Eve. Other characters included a rooster, an American, and four angels. Buster Keaton gets on his bike and…I can’t quite think of a way to summarize the rest, but it caused us to debate the function of surreal writing. Does it have a place in today’s world, or is it outdated?

During discussion, we came up with the general conclusion that surrealism is still relevant. (Happily, we have Key & Peele backing us up.) Surrealism reminds us of the innate strangeness of the world—which may be a reminder not to take things too seriously. What is “real,” anyway? What is “normal?” Most “normal” behaviors seem bizarre if you think about them too hard.

Does all creative writing have a surreal side? Many poems, at least, cannot be understood in a completely logical way. Here’s some reliable backup for that idea, too: former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall wasn’t even sure what his own famous image, “white apples and the taste of stone,” signified when he wrote it. Here’s the interview in which he discusses this fact: http://billmoyers.com/content/423/ (go to about 23:00 minutes). Language itself can feel surreal too: say any word over and over, and it will suddenly lose its meaning and start sounding like a mere collection of sounds…

In conclusion, some words of wisdom from poet Hugo Ball, who appeared in the lecture in a funny hat I’m pretty sure he made himself: “wulubu ssubudu uluw subudu…ba-umf…ba-umf.”

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