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Video transcript

[Music] we're looking at a painting by Salvador Dali in the Tate Modern it's the metamorphosis of narcissus and it dates to 1937 it's a pretty wild painting so what I see that relates to that is this hand that seems to be emerging from the earth that holds an egg from which seems to be hatching narcissus except that so many of Dolly's paintings and rendering in Dolly's paintings which are painted in a kind of classical manner in terms of it's sort of a very real it's precision it's careful rendering of space even if that space is distorted of shadow of line if you look at the egg from which the flower is emerging it seems to be emerging from a crack that is also the shadow of the flower at the same moment and so it's both those things sort of simultaneously and in fact the whole painting seems to be about forms being one thing and at the same moment another because there is behind that hand another hand that seems to be emerging from a pool of water this time not rock but something because it's brown I mean it seems more earth-like and holding also an egg-like shape but actually looks a little bit more like a walnut but it also has a crack and from that seems to emerge hair that looks like a flame because the hand is in that second iteration not so much a hand as actually a crouching body the body of narcissus can see knees and arms but what's wonderful is that where is the figure that's yellow on the Left slightly further back is a body where the head is a walnut on the right it's more clearly a close-up of a hand holding an egg and yet they're precisely the same forms it's that doubling if that mirror that's so incredibly disconcerting all this needs to be contextualized what in the world is dolly doing well what he said he was doing and what Andre Breton lauded him for he was writer of often seen as one of the leaders of the surrealist movement and he wrote the surrealist manifesto right all of the surrealist manifestos released a number of them yes they called the ability of Dali to do to see things simultaneously as more than one thing the result of a psychological state which they call paranoiac critical activity around scary and dangerous well I think they loved the fact that it was scary and dangerous and it was based on the kind of willfulness reading of Freud you know Freud talked about the filters that kept the unconscious and the conscious mind apart but Dali claimed that in this state of paranoia critical activity you could actually embrace both the conscious and the unconscious simultaneously so that his conscious mind could actually do the painting the brilliance of understanding that form is both a hand and a body as flesh and stone' simultaneously that Dali would have claimed was absolutely a result not of the rational mind impossible in the rational but it was the result of the irrational of a conversation between those two states in this state of paranoid critical activity ok it was incredibly important to the surrealist to access that unconscious to access something that was more authentic that lacked the control of the conscious mind for them that was the engine of creativity absolutely was this mother lode of the creative I mean when we think back to the 19th century and we think back to artists like Gauguin wanted to get back to nature of corbeil wanted to get back to nature the unconscious for the surrealist that was the great goal you know that was it so it's so interesting is this realist go at this from a number of different points of view people like Nero will try to in a sense allow for the unconscious to emerge and to paint using an automatic method that is not allowing the conscious mind to interpret whereas Dali is sort of wanting both he wants the perfection of the academic style to render the inspiration of the unconscious [Music]