Discussing the 'uncanny' from Sigmund Freud's essay 'Uncanny' in relation to surrealism
Publication date: January 2005
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In 1919, the inventor of the psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, published his psychological essay on the 'Uncanny'. He did not know that he gave the still young Surrealist movement a welcome scientific base for their subversive, new way of art. Although the 'Uncanny' is only one of many means surrealism is playing with, the relation to Freud and its theories is close and essential to the movements artists. It is a key that is required to reveal the secrets of their sometimes not easily decipherable works, be it photos, sculptures or paintings. The surrealist movement saw Freud's exploration of the 'unconscious' as their legitimating of the view of the world, as for them, the reality was nothing but a fake idea whereas dreams and the unconscious state of mind inhabited the true world. I shall depict the phenomenon of the 'Uncanny' and how the surrealists used it for their purposes in this essay. Therefore, I consider it necessary to depict Freud's psychological explanation of the 'Uncanny' in full length. While comparing his essay to the works of the surrealist group, it will become clear that there is hardly any detail of the examples for the 'Uncanny' given by it that is not transferred into a piece of art. However, did it mean the same to all artists? How about the observer of the works? According to the fact that Freud's 'Uncanny' is psychologically related to women, and undoubtedly women play the major part in the surrealist's works, too, how did surrealist women see it? If women are the personification of the 'Uncanny', what was the 'Uncanny' for the uncanny then? There are a few surrealist women who contributed with their works to the answer of this question, but unfortunately, they did not feel the urge to explain their oeuvre to the posterity, unlike the numerous literal outpouring of their colleagues. So I shall let the pictures speak to themselves and refer to my own, female, sense for the uncanny.