Surprise Me: Lecture Two; Surrealism, Dadaism and Innovation.

Today we had our second ‘Surprise Me’ lecture, this time Theo Humphries led the discussion, which included debate on several notable movements in art and design. The point was made that the most memorable art and design pieces come at periods in history where major events were taking place, and therefore the pieces were a reaction to these historic events. The pieces are remembered most often because they were, at the time, surprising and new. A prime example of this is Dadaism and surrealism, which came as a reaction to the waves of horror seen across the world during the First World War. An example Theo and Steve chose to show us was the 1928 Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali film; ‘Un Chien Andalou’.

The film has seemingly no real narrative but a collected jumble of dream like harrowing images, each as surreal as the next.

We were then shown a clip from the film ‘Eroica’, which details Beethoven’s music writing methods for a piece of the same name. The clip shows not only the importance and sense of occasion given to music, but also the real emotion caused by its presence. Most importantly however, we see how Beethoven breaks boundaries on music, by being the first composers to introduce a horn solo off-beat into his music. This is a good example of how an artistic surprise might be accomplished by breaking with convention.

We finished this lecture with a group exercise, each having twenty minutes to produce our own surrealist game which could then be played in the lecture room. Our group came up with an idea generation game, which involved two groups of people (a and b) being given two keywords, for example in the case of designing a new music system, they might be given the words ‘punk’ and ‘festivals’ for instance. Each group knows only their keyword, they are then instructed to sit in the order a b a b… The first person is fed with a word that they then have to consider, along side their own to produce a design idea, for example ‘ghetto blaster’. Upon completing it, it would then be handed to the next person, they would then draw a design informed by both this image and their keyword, before handing only their drawing to the next person. These ideas could then be applied or recycled to produce a design of a completely different type, for instance a vacuum cleaner.

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