*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
… both Surrealism’s birth and infancy coincided with probably the most momentous period in the history of physics. The first Surrealist text, written by Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault and titled Magnetic Fields, deployed the spontaneous technique of ‘automatic writing,’ which supposedly allowed direct access to unconscious material. It appeared in 1920 but was written in the previous year, coinciding with the expedition led by the English astrophysicist, Arthur Eddington, to observe the solar eclipse from the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa. It was this journey that proved predictions set out in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (1916) about the gravitational deflection of light by the sun. Eddington’s experiment led not only to Einstein’s instant, mythic status as the ‘new Copernicus’ and the swift popularization of Relativity, but more specifically its appearance in the early theoretical writings of Surrealism’s principle spokesman, Breton, which helped lay the foundations of the movement. Breton’s subsequent manifesto texts of 1924 and 1929, extending his discussion of what he deemed the narrow, restrictive logic of Western though, can be situated within the same historical context that bore the revolutionary discoveries of quantum mechanics, culminating in 1927.
“Sibylline Strangeness: Surrealism and Modern Physics,” by Gavin Parkinson in Science in Surrealism, published by Gallery Wendy Norris
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A: I always have the stereo on when I work in my studio, either tuned in to WBGO (the Newark-based jazz station), WNYC (for news and talk radio; Leonard Lopate, Fresh Air, etc.), WFMU (Fordham University’s radio station, to learn what college kids are listening to) and other local radio stations. I still listen to cd’s, I read the lyrics and the liner notes, and I prefer to listen to music the way artists intended it, meaning that I listen to entire albums from start to finish instead of jumping around between single tracks by different artists. When it comes to music, I’m interested in everything: jazz (especially classic jazz artists like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakely, etc.), blues, classical, pop, rock, world music (especially artists from Brazil, Cuba, and any country in Africa), electronic, indy, experimental, ancient music, etc. You name it, I probably listen to it, and if I don’t, I’m eager to learn all about it. When I’m working, certain artists are better to listen to at particular points in a painting. For example, one of my favorite artists to start a new painting with is Lady Gaga. The beat, her energy, and sheer exuberance are perfect when I’m standing in front of my easel with a blank piece of sandpaper in front of me. Gaga’s music gets me moving and working fast, putting down colors instinctively without thinking about them, just feeling everything.
It’s a different story when I am at my apartment and am shooting a photo setup. Then I might or might not listen to music. Lately it’s more about working fast (I shoot 24 images in about 15 minutes), choosing a variety of interesting vantage points, getting surprising effects, etc.
Comments are welcome!