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Dreams and Magic in Surrealism and Aboriginal Australian Art

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This article points to the confluence of dreams and magic in the discourses adopted by two very different art movements that emerged during the twentieth century. The first is French Surrealism, which adopted dreams and magic as a way of translating esoteric ideas to a global spectatorship. The second is the Australian Aboriginal art movement, which continues to use these ideas as ways of explaining cosmologies that remain alien to colonial Australia. Thus dreams and magic become means of cross-cultural translation but, more than this, they make a radical critique of Western materialism in both historical situations. In the aftermath of violent events, in the First World War and in the invasion of Australia, these concepts become ways of contemplating truths that exceed the flux of modernity. Ultimately, they point less to an art history constructed out of the specificity of historical change than to the strategic similarities of avant-gardes wanting to illuminate the potentials of human consciousness.

Keywords: Aboriginal art; André Breton; Australian art; Mabel Juli; Roger Caillois; Rover Thomas; Sigmund Freud; Surrealism; dreams; magic

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2011

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