The Ubiquitous Presence Of Massurrealism
reprinted from Art Media Journal

Classical surrealism broke all possible boundaries when it broke onto the art scene. Rules on what defined art's "subject" became irrelevant. Links to the real world became tenuous at best - usually, surrealist work bears only fleeting shapes of semblance with the real world. In the mid-20th century, as surrealism took shape, technology as we know it in the early 21st century was beyond the wildest dreams of virtually all humans, so tools of surrealistic expression were limited, at least by our standards. Paint on canvas, or some variation of that, was the main tool of choice.

Though the subjects became outlandish and imaginary, the tools used to depict those outlandish subjects hadn't changed in a fundamental way. Half a century on, technology has changed so drastically and so quickly that all modes of expression are now faced with near limitless opportunity to change, combine and mutate styles within artistic disciplines. This is very much the case with regards to advertising art where one can see some very innovative things being done to capture the public attention. The Pepsi Max campaign is a good example of clever use of both art and technology creating massurreal art in a real life situation. Many componants are used here including transparent screens, motion sensors and video, producing the 'Unbelievable Bus Stop' where people wait for their bus end up experiencing for a brief moment various unexpected events, ranging from a UFO attack to a wild tiger walking down the street. Computers and smartphones are actually capable of more than the human psyche can comprehend; significantly more.


So until humanity's experiment is somehow reset into a whole new paradigm of existance, art as we know it here in the 21st century has been changed forever. The days of classical surrealism are over. Or rather, to be more specific, the days of surrealism as "art nouveau," or the newest level of possibility on the art stage, are over. When art of any kind is divided into movements or styles, those defining traits tend to boil down to certain artists making certain kinds of work at a particular time, in light of specific cultural and artistic realities. Once that movement has happened in time, it's locked into the past, and can never happen again—which means that "classical" surrealism, as made by Dali and so many others, can't happen again. It can be imitated, of course.

An artist can still pay homage and create a piece that echoes what has already been done, but that by definition is retrospective, it considers something that is already complete. Such an exercise may be inspiring and incredible in its own right, but when a piece casts its gaze backward for inspiration, it limits its ability to speak to the current, immediate world an artists resides in. So without classical surrealism, is massurrealism the next logical step? By definition, massurrealism is surrealistic imagery executed using 21st century technological mass media. In this case mass media can mean social media, videos etc, and it can also mean media which are mass produced items, i.e. common, easily purchased items. This can include something as commonplace as hair care products. A metro stop ad is created to activate each time a train approaches the station, becoming momentarily "alive" to those waiting on the platform, emulating an experience simular to the protagonists experience from an episode from the classic TV series "The Twilight Zone" .


So when people create what some may think is surrealistic images using the tools they have at hand in the modern day (computers, smartphones, digital manipulation, common mass produced items) it seems safe to say it could be called massurrealistic art. With so much of massurrealism arising from seemingly mundane, common objects and technologies in our modern world, the connection of art with the everyday objects and experiences around us is deeply impactful. Art rooted in universal, shared experiences allows for the possibility of continuous, ongoing creativity for many many people, not just the bourgeois elite of society.

One of the truest measures of art's impact is its real life effect. If a song, film, book or poem continually commands memory and attention to itself long after first seeing, hearing or reading it, it seems safe to consider that art. Good art can resurface again and again, inciting conversation after conversation as the world around us changes in light of its fresh perspective. Founding massurrealist James Seehafer in several of his works transcend the traditional gallery wall to combine even a simpler method of combining classical techniques, digital manipulation, and mass communication techniques.

When viewers engage his mixed-medium piece (aluminum base with acrylic on canvas, topped by giclee collage print) they find a QR code. With a swipe of a smart phone, viewers unlock a second leg of this piece's journey, a video of the self-same titular Austrian stamp sitting on a real life cobble road, amidst traffic and city noise. Until it pops away into non existence.

The previous examples successfully break down walls between art and human consciousness. It's a natural reflection of the ubiquity of communication technology, and also inherently massurrealist. In reality, a huge amount of work produced in the early 21st century is of this nature - our Western world is comprised of vastly advanced technological marvels which are constantly being moulded into art by the forward thinking artists of our time. Art in traditional styles is still made all the time, of course, by amateurs and professionals alike, but the bleeding edge of art, those on the cusp of new frontiers, are today illustrating as many realities and subjective contexts literally transformed from fantasy imagery into our modern day reality. In this way, massurrealist art in all forms successfully highlights inherent absurdity.

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Specifically, our culture's technology has advanced so quickly that our animal brains are struggling to keep up, advanced though we are. Instant cross-global communication would be seen as magic or witchcraft 200 years ago, and science fiction 80 years ago, and yet this fiction is now our reality. Massurrealism helps us understand our confused mental situation for what it is - the struggle between technology and subjective truth. •



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