The stairs are out of order, please use the lift: Tapping AS/A2 Surrealism for creative ideas David Porter AS/A2
Introduction David Porter is former Head of Performing Arts at Kirkley High School, Surrealism is an art/literature movement from the 1920s which sits well with the Lowestoft, teacher and one-time genre-blending approaches of today. It has a broad scope in performance and is children’s theatre performer. Freelance characterised by the juxtaposition of incongruous images which include dream or writer, blogger and editor, he is a senior fantasy elements from the subconscious mind. assessor for A level performance studies, IGSCE drama moderator and GCSE drama At first glance, Surrealism has little place in our contemporary exam and examiner. assessment environment. However, it’s a fun and challenging way into the
performing arts in general, and drama in particular at any age. Albert Smirnov The exam boards’ new AS/A level specifications require study of texts and plays from different periods; the work of varied practitioners; devising; deconstructing and wide contexts. Surrealism as a stimulus introduces team work, problem solving and innovative creativity in students at the outset, as warm-up for exam work or as end of term fun. This scheme will look at some bizarre, absurd and off-beat ideas. It’s worth also looking at my previous scheme Using Postmodernism in Drama and Theatre Making on the Teaching Drama website.
Learning objectives In the surreal world almost anything is By the end of this scheme students will have: possible ffConsidered Surrealism’s approaches to the performing arts ffDeconstructed, analysed and devised surrealistic material ffPut ideas into social, historical and cultural contexts Definitions ffStimulated creative thinking, problem-solving and team work through It is easy to get lost in definitions and examples; http://www.Surrealism. performance org has some simple explanations and ffDeveloped devising and performing skills using surrealistic material. illustrations. Scheme in summary Lesson 1: Opening the mind Related performance term An introduction to the mocking, non-traditional ideas behind Dadaism, the Absurdism: something at odds with forerunner of Surrealism, to open minds to this unexpected, often offensive, reality, ridiculous, false, ludicrous, always challenging art. farcical, preposterous, illogical, senseless, laughable, incongruous, Lesson 2: Getting to grips with Surrealism irrational, meaningless, unreasonable Taking first steps to apply some surrealistic concepts into a piece of group devised and idiotic. work, including metaphor and automatism and the nature of truth. Lesson 3: The unconscious mind Using some of the psychological theory, particularly on dreams and memory, that Descriptions underpin Surrealism as a concept, and developing collaborative drama from them. This genre is not liked by everyone; some call it mad, crazy, pointless, silly, a Lesson 4: The sane person in an insane world joke, foolish, insulting, patronising, self- Develops the idea through devised drama that as everything becomes ever more indulgent, abstract, obscure and time surreal in an apparently normal world, can anyone hold onto sanity – and what is wasting. All of these may be useful in creating drama. sanity anyway? Lesson 5: Let’s have a show! Bringing together the best of the learning (the most enjoyable) and developing it into a shared performance that pushes the boundaries a little bit further.
www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 1 Scheme of work|AS/A2 Lesson 1: Opening the mind Resources ff The story of Dada Learning objectives http://www.theartstory.org/ By the end of the lesson students will have: movement-dada.htm ffConsidered the advantages of the avant-garde ff What is Dada (1916-1923)? ffCreated performance from the everyday, drawing on Dadaist concepts http://arthistory.about.com/cs/ arthistory10one/a/dada.htm ffEnhanced presentation skills ff The Tate ffDeveloped group collaboration. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online- resources/glossary/d/dada Warm-up (15 mins) ffPairs: From a box of props, choose 3 items at random and make a short scene which uses them logically. Avant-garde movements ffSmall groups: One is very rich and is mocked for it by the others collectively. Creatives with experimental ideas ahead ffLarge groups: One is proud of belonging to his/her home town and holds some of their time; at the forefront of artistic religious or moral values dear but is roundly mocked for it by the others. progress. Other experimental movements Information (15 mins) include Futurism (characteristics of We are starting our study of Surrealism with Dada, the informal artistic the Machine Age); Cubism (replaced movement that preceded it and made it happen. Having said that, it was not natural forms with geometrical accepted as an art movement by many, including some of its practitioners who planes); Expressionism (symbolism and distortion); Constructivism (abstract art). famously said it was a movement ‘not even in favour of itself!’ Some people felt that World War I (1914–1918) was caused by undue nationalism, so as a reaction against it, in Zurich, Switzerland, there developed Dadaist artists an idea that spread across Europe and to the USA among creatives (particularly Man Ray (also made films); Marcel artists) that they wanted to mock materialistic and nationalistic attitudes in their Duchamp; Kurt Schwitters; Francis work – painting, performance art, photography, sculpture, collage. Picabia; Hans Arp, Hannah Hoch In each city the movement took a different shape and culture. It all disappeared and Hugo Ball stand out. In the late- as Surrealism came along, as we’ll see next session. twentieth century traces of Dadaism are Dada artists were not concerned with crafting works carefully, but would use detectable in the work of Jeff Koons, everyday, incongruous objects they presented as art with no manipulation or skill, Robert Rauschenberg and Damien Hirst among others. which challenged artistic norms, destroyed traditional values and made people question the purpose of art. They were an avant-garde movement, meaning they pushed ahead of others Confusion? with their innovative, experimental, pioneering, unconventional, groundbreaking If the concepts seem too remote or and way-out work that caused deliberate offence, dismay and puzzlement and ridiculous, use the session simply to take some occasional admiration. a picture or sculpture as a starting point for devising that goes in an unexpected Discussion (5 mins) direction and may be offensive, Have a look at a selection of Dadaist works. What do you make of them? How questioning or mocking. could you use one to act as a drama stimulus? Are there are appealing ideas from the Dadaist approach of mocking convention or criticising the traditional? Why? How could you translate that into a piece of group performance? Making drama (30 mins) Marcel Duchamp (1917) took a urinal from its normal setting, turned it over and called it Fountain; ‘art’ which questioned art and artists and offended many. Nowadays its pioneering boldness is regarded as iconic. Similarly, Man Ray (1920) wrapped a sewing machine with a woollen garment and tied it with string. In groups, imagine you are going to make a piece of the ordinary into a work of art. You may film it, photograph it, manipulate the technology, act around and with it, turn it upside down, paint it – but you are making a scene in which you remove the object from its normal context and make it an art object. Solo (3 mins) Volunteers explain to the class, in role as a Dadaist, the artistic merits of a car door, a dead mouse or the contents of a vacuum cleaner. Sharing (15 mins) Ask each group in turn to share work in progress. The purpose is not a polished performance, but a chance to see what learning has been done from Dadaist concepts about mockery of the traditional and how ideas have been turned or could be turned into performance. Discussion/plenary (10 mins) What has been learned? What was successful, effective and/or had potential in your Research for next session own work or that of others? Evaluate the work from a performance perspective. Check out some surrealistic artists and The main point is to open the eyes to the unusual and unexpected; to collaborate, their paintings. to deconstruct the everyday and to entertain ideas without having to agree with them. www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 2 Scheme of work|AS/A2 Lesson 2: Getting to grips with Surrealism Resources ff Manifesto of Surrealism (1924) by Learning objectives Andre Breton By the end of the lesson students will have: http://www.ubu.com/papers/breton_ ffCreated performance that draws on some surrealistic concepts Surrealism_manifesto.html ffContextualised ideas ff Metropolitan Museum of Art, definition f fEnhanced presentation skills http://metmuseum.org/toah/hd/surr/ ffDeveloped group collaboration hd_surr.htm ffStudied some theory which underpins the psychology of Surrealism. ff The History of Surrealism (1987) by Maurice Nadeau (Plantin Publishers, Warm-up (15 mins) ISBN 978-1870495035) ffPairs: Choose a character each and have a discussion about a problem you have ff Film Reference, Surrealist Cinema failed to solve in which you both tell the unvarnished truth about each other; http://www.filmreference.com/ what you really think of the other. encyclopedia/Romantic-Comedy- ffSmall groups: Develop the same scenario in which you share truth and Yugoslavia/Surrealism-SURREALIST- cause hurt. CINEMA.html ffLarge groups: Further development in which the truth is now brutally honest.
Information (15 mins) Artists We may think we know what Surrealism is and what it means. After all, we Works of surrealistic artists are talk about a ‘surreal moment’ as something that is quite bizarre, odd, a strange informative and inspirational for juxtaposition; a moment that is definitely reality or realism but goes beyond stimulus material: Pablo Picasso and it into something below or besides that reality. It is about another dimension, Salvador Dali stand out as prime almost, which breaks down the boundaries of what is rational. examples. Explanations behind their works are readily available, but to see In that sense it’s a gift to creative minds in making performance because even what students themselves think they the most ridiculous has a value and can provide insights! mean first is most instructive. It started as a literary movement in the early 1900s, as experiments in automatic writing a process that tried to release the human imagination within the subconscious, which was the truest inspiration. Metaphor Andre Breton’s 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism said, ‘I could spend my whole life Metaphors were used by surrealists. prying loose the secrets of the insane’ which should be seen in the context of his It means a figure of speech applied to aim to release imagination, dreams and the subconscious. It broke rules, defied something or someone that it doesn’t conventions, offended/outraged and often produced images that are disturbing, literally describe but which suggests a shocking, inexplicable or disruptive. Not all practitioners agreed on every detail, resemblance, e.g. ‘He was a mass of jelly in front of her.’ such as how to interpret the subconscious mind. Discussion (5 mins) Consider the art of free writing and automatism. The teacher plays a short piece Automatism of music from Edgar Varese (for example) and asks for an immediate response. Allowing the pencil or pen to create in a What does it make you think of? What emotions does it stir up? Memories? How free association of ideas. Picasso let go could you use it to make a piece of drama that doesn’t say much or that says of the traditional to reach a primal art form. ‘Stream of consciousness’ writing a lot? is employed by James Joyce and Virginia Making drama (30 mins) Woolf and some think the poet W. B. Write the thoughts from the piece of music down as they come as you listen to it Yeats was interested by it. again. Then use that as a template for a group-developed piece of drama around one of the following metaphors: a. The apple of my eye b. The light of my life c. The stench of failure d. A rollercoaster of emotions. Introduce the Base Street (see Resources at the end of this scheme) to stage this and assign one area to each group. Solo (3 mins) Volunteers summarise what they know about Surrealism without using their hands or gestures to support what they are saying. Sharing (15 mins) Ask each group in turn to share work in progress in the Base Street. The purpose is not a polished performance but a chance to see what learning has been done from surrealist concepts and how ideas have been turned or could be turned into performance. Discussion/plenary (10 mins) What has been learned? What was successful, effective and/or had potential in your own work or that of others? Evaluate the work from a performance perspective. www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 3 Scheme of work|AS/A2 Was it helpful to work on a Base Street plan? Was there any group interaction? Research for next session Would it have helped if that was encouraged and why? Check out some theories of psychology that might explain Surrealism. Lesson 3: The unconscious mind Learning objectives By the end of the lesson students will have: Resources ff Surrealism and the Unconscious Mind, f fCreated performance which draws on surrealistic concepts essay ffEnhanced presentation skills http://yuricareport.com/Art%20 ffDeveloped group collaboration Essays/ ffStudied some theory which underpins the psychology of Surrealism. SurrealismAndTheUnconscious.html ff Freud Museum Warm-up (15 mins) http://www.freud.org.uk/education/ ffPairs: A patient telling a psychoanalyst about a disturbing dream. topic/10576/interpretation-of- ffSmall groups: Psychoanalysts trying to decipher and decode that dream. dreams/ ffLarge groups: Polarising arguments about how to treat one patient. ff Jung, Dali and the endless thirst for life Information (15 mins) http://www.theage.com.au/news/ national/jung-dali-and-endless- In ancient times, dreams were important, believed to contain hidden meanings thirst-for-life-one-womans- about the past and/or the future which could be interpreted. Freud’s approach, set story/2007/04/27/1177459980700. out in his book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) brought an emphasis on the html past, often with suppressed sexual or violent tendencies emerging in patients. People carried unconscious desires and fears that affected them. It is not surprising that writers, painters, film makers, choreographers and Sigmund Freud composers have been drawn to the dark waters of the unconscious, the mysteries Drama point: The relationship between of desires and denials rather than the rational behaviour of ‘normality’. Freudian dream theory and artistic Freud said, ‘The unconscious is the true psychical reality; in its innermost creation is based on it mattering less nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world.’ When the what is said than how it is said. surrealists juxtaposed things in art that could not possibly be together in real life, they believed they were releasing the unconscious mind. Carl Jung was a psychoanalyst who shared many of Freud’s ideas and they were Carl Jung Drama point: Jung interpreted dreams as friends until they fell out over the meaning of ‘symbols’. Jung argued that the one’s unsatisfied desires making up for ‘feeling of the unconscious becomes a reality.’ the inconsistency of the present. Discussion (5 mins) Without getting bogged down in theories and too much psychology, let’s develop Psychobabble a piece of drama that uses some of the ideas we have discovered. We have dreams Drama point: Psychoanalysis has been and the unconscious mind, we have images and symbols often juxtaposed in an shown to have therapeutic value, but illogical way, and we have suppressed desires and haunting memories. is often subjected to ridicule because Ask does anyone have any past traumas they are prepared to share? The of the vocabulary, jargon and language article in Jung, Dali and the endless thirst for life (see Resources opposite) is worth of dealing with people in a non- referring to. threatening, non-judgmental way. Drama work (30 mins) Working in groups, with one assigned to a specific area of the Base Street, create a family in each group: nuclear, dysfunctional, extended or ad hoc. Include a range Note to teachers of ages. To help focus some groups, almost any Create some scenes which explore these ideas: Dali painting helps, but particularly The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937), a. Dreams reveal hidden fears The Burning Giraffe (1936/37) or The b. The unconscious mind has a reality Persistence of Memory (1931). c. Not everyone can cope with reality. Solo (3 mins) Ask for a volunteer in the role of a person in the dock accused of a hideous crime explaining his/her understanding of the psychology of the unconscious mind. Sharing (15 mins) Ask each group in turn to share extracts from work in progress. The purpose is not a polished performance but a chance to see how psychology plays a part in developing performance. Discussion/plenary (10 mins) What has been learned? What was successful, effective and/or had potential Research for next session Research the very short play by Artaud, in your own work or that of others? Evaluate the work from a performance The Spurt of Blood. There are extracts on perspective. YouTube but try to read the script too.
www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 4 Scheme of work|AS/A2 Lesson 4: The sane person in an insane world Resources ff Film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Learning objectives https://www.fandor.com/films/ By the end of the lesson students will have: meshes_of_the_afternoon ffCreated performance which draws on Artaud’s theories ff Oxford Bibliographies, Surrealism and ffEnhanced presentation skills Film http://www.oxfordbibliographies. f fDeveloped group collaboration com/view/document/obo- ffStudied more theory which underpins Surrealism. 9780199791286/obo- 9780199791286-0139.xml Warm-up (15 mins) ff The Seashell and the Clergyman ffPairs: Present a 2 minute scene in which the phrase ‘the oven is green’ makes (1928), YouTube extract perfect sense. https://www.youtube.com/ ffSmall groups: Use the phrase ‘the oven is green but Sunday was yesterday’ in a watch?v=qC_fnWbCggY 2 minute scene where it makes sense. ff Artaud for Beginners by Gabriela ffLarge groups: Use the phrase ‘the oven is green but Sunday was yesterday and Stoppelman (Writers and Readers Ltd, 2000, ISBN 978-0863162916. the wheelie bin is angry’ in a 2 minute scene where it makes sense. Information (15 mins) The French dramatist and practitioner Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) produced theoretical work about the potential of ‘raw cinema’ to discover the power of Artaud (1) dreaming which defied explanation or interpretation. The image the viewer (or Artaud was attracted by the idea of rejecting established values, opposing audience in the theatre) experiences causes a violent, therapeutic unleashing of authoritarianism of the father and family emotion from within themselves. and destroying the old and rebuilding The only film that purports to demonstrate this isThe Seashell and the Clergyman from nothing. (1928) which Artaud rejected as a distortion of his concepts of Surrealism. Electric Sheep http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/reviews/2007/05/03/ the-seashell-and-the-clergyman/ has an assessment of this film and of the other Artaud (2) that lays claim to being an early surrealistic movie, An Andalusian Dog (1929), a ‘If theatre wants to find itself needed short silent surrealist film by Salvador Dali and director Luis Buñuel, which is on … it must present everything in love, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIKYF07Y4kA crime, war and madness’. His ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ ideas assaulted the senses, Discussion (5 mins) inflicted cruelty and terror and ‘truthful The work of Artaud is influential on theatre and his ideal of abolishing boundaries distillations of dreams’ to ‘confront us all with our potential’. between life and art and applying the language of gesture, sound and physicality on varied psychological levels chimes with aspects of Surrealism. It should also inform this session. You should have watched a few clips of The Spurt of Blood on YouTube and read the short script Drama work (30 mins) In groups in the Base Street, develop a piece of drama around the title The stairs are out of order, please use the lift. This was a genuine sign seen in a hotel and, while it sounds bizarre, it was probably practical and there was damage to the stairs. Use it as your starting point and go into an Artaud-like interpretation of Surrealism as you explore the possibilities in your area of the street through a range of characters of different ages. There is no reason not to use your previous characters, if you would prefer. One member of the group must think he/she is sane in a world going increasing more mad (i.e. surreal). Solo (3 mins) Volunteers debate: ‘Am I the only sane person in an insane world, or am I insane in a sane world?’ Sharing (15 mins) Ask each group in turn to share work in progress of extracts in the Base Street. The purpose is not a polished performance but a chance to see how ideas are being shaped into performance. Discussion/plenary (10 mins) What has been learned? What was successful, effective and/or had potential Research for next session Revisit the best, most preferred or most in your own work or that of others? Evaluate the work from a performance successful work done on Surrealism. perspective. Was the need to channel the work through Artaud helpful? How? Brave students would choose the ideas that worked least well and prepare an outline for presentation.
www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 5 Scheme of work|AS/A2 Lesson 5: Let’s have a show! Absurd Theatre There are connections between Learning objectives Surrealism and the ‘Absurd Theatre’ By the end of the lesson students will have: movement which was anti-reality, anti- ffEdited and polished previous material theatre. It’s the ‘who am I, what am ffCreated performance which explores Surrealism I doing here?’ school of theatre. But Surrealism is distinct from it. ffEnhanced presentation skills ffDeveloped group collaboration. Discussion Recap on the learning and discoveries through devising of the scheme. The task is to develop a performance (possibly to a small outside audience) featuring some aspects of Surrealism in the Base Street using Artaud techniques. Drama work Polish and rehearse; edit and revise. Solo Incorporate one or more of the most effective monologues into a group piece. Sharing Share the work either to the class or an audience. Given the time constraints, it may have to be stated as work in progress, but feedback will always be useful. Discussion/plenary Discuss: a. The theoretical learning b. The practical learning c. Assessment of final performance d. The application of surrealistic ideas to other (drama) work.
www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 6 Scheme of work|AS/A2 RESOURCES The Base Street For this scheme it may help to set up an imaginary street in your working area which is agreed and understood by everybody. The set in the filmDogville (2003) is a good model. It’s a Brechtian style construct with symbolic representation of a few houses and other needed buildings in a small community. Some areas are simply marked on the floor. For the Surrealism work a street or cul-de-sac with a few houses with one made into flats, perhaps a pub, a bus shelter, a corner of a park, a shop and a letter box would be suitable. The choice of ingredients is not prescriptive but should suit the layout of the teaching area. This should stay throughout the period of the scheme. If there’s space for students to sit to share group/solo work or for a small audience in the final session, that’s a bonus. The feel of the street must be very ordinary – a soap opera scenario into which the sub or sur- real can be inserted. If each working group starts with their own base in one part of the street (this could either stay throughout the scheme or be deliberately/randomly changed each session) then overflow and overlap with other neighbouring groups should be allowed if not actively encouraged.
www.teaching-drama.co.uk Teaching Drama · Summer term 1 · 2015/16 7