Study Guide

Walter Benjamin - The Surrealists

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The Surrealists

These guys are at the cool table. Benjamin is never exactly sure where he fits in, but he is definitely down with all of their explorations of the mind and their embrace of the imagination and the dream world. Our guy has never been as into Freudian psychoanalysis as the rest of them, but he thinks they use it to produce some pretty trippy writing and art work—not to mention Man Ray's great reverse exposure images. They meet whenever they can just to talk about things like being haunted and the transitoriness of existence. That's right: Benjamin loves him some ghosts.

Andre Breton


Look, the guy wrote the "Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924, so he pretty much had an in when it came to choosing a president. Benjamin really looks up to this guy for having the courage to say shove it to rationalism and moral obligations. Breton leads workshops and seminars on automatic writing and loves to riff on ideas he had gleaned as a student studying mental illness.

Man Ray


When it comes to photography, Man Ray just kills it. Plus he always has hot girlfriends. He presents slide shows to the Surrealists and has this wacky way of turning normal things into crazy, suggestive, even kinky objects. A woman as a cello? A sadistic spiky iron? Why not? And he invented those pioneering rayographs. This guy was doing Surrealism before Surrealists were doing Surrealism.

Salvador Dali

Outlier, Multimedia Artist, and Walking Freakshow

Dali's not just about the moustache and the melting clocks. The guy had a few really cool ideas to contribute to the Surrealists. Everyone loved his work with dreams and hallucinations, but it all came to a screeching halt when he started spouting reactionary rhetoric. He got booted from the group in 1934. They kind of missed his lobster telephone.

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