Surrealist game

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Surrealist games, also called Surrealist techniques, are a bunch of more or less serious techniques that were deviced to bring automatism into art, and enable unconscious creative processes by circumventing the conscious mind and it's planning capacities.


Surrealism is an artistic, cultural and intellectual movement that emphasizes using the powers of the unconscious mind. Many artists and thinkers using a diverse array of techniques were part of the movement. It flourished during the first half of the 20th century, predominantly in Europe.

The Surrealist movement has been a fractious one since its inception. The value and role of the various techniques has been one of many subjects of disagreement. Some Surrealists consider automatism and Surrealist games to be sources of inspiration only, while others consider them as starting points for finished works. Others consider the items created through automatism to be finished works themselves, needing no further refinement.

Surrealism in art, poetry, and literature utilizes numerous unique techniques and games to provide inspiration. Many of these are said to free imagination by producing a creative process free of conscious control. The importance of the subconscious as a source of inspiration is central to the nature of surrealism.

Uses in magic

Many of the surrealist techniques are suited for any purpose one would use simple automatic drawing or writing. They also yield good results if you want an ikblot type picture to meditate on. Some have specific applications in magick or divination, which will be explained under the headline of the respective games.

Magickians who are also artists may find inspiration in them. Some of the actual techniques are mainstram now, others seem dated, so they should primarily be an inspiration to invent your very own techniques.

Chaotes and Discordians have been suggesting to look into surrealist games such because of their playful nature. If you want to learn automatic drawing or somesuch, they can be a great way to relax and just do it, instead of worrying weather you're "psychic" enough to make it work. Games like exquisite corpse might be good for group work, for things like obtainig collective sigils, or simply for warmup/getting to know each other.

Aside from magick, many of those techniques make wonderful activities for young children, or not so young children who want to be silly for a while. But then, there's always magick in playing with kids, or acting like one.

Automatism as used by the Surrealists

The Surrealists used automatic painting, drawing and writing extensively. The objective was not communicating with spirits, or any other magical process, but communicating with the artist's own unconscious mind. Many of the surrealist techniques are in fact very specialized techniques to achieve this, either alone or in interplay with other people. However, many surrealist didn't use the pieces of automatic work as works of art on their own right, but as an inspiration for more traditionally done works of art.

Automatic poetry is poetry written using automatic methods. It has probably been the chief surrealist method from the founding of surrealism to the present day. One of the most obvious uses of automatic writing bevore the advent of surrealism by a great writer was that of W. B. Yeats. His wife, a spiritualist, practised it, and Yeats put large chunks of it into his prose work, A Vision and much of his later poetry. Yeats, however, was not a surrealist. But he was a Golden Dawn member, so we can suppose he knew what he did.

"Automatic poetry generators" exist online, but they do not actually generate automatic poetry in this sense. But the more extreme surrealists would have liked this anyway. (See paragraph about suautomatism). Would the use of this cound as a method of bibliomancy, when properly done?

See also


A few techniques invented by Romanian surrealists are named surautomatism. Their objective is to take automatism to it's "most absurd limit". Basically, they are methods that will generate some sort of picture without much human influence on it at all. This could include statistical methods such as Cubomania and senseless doodling such as indecipherable writing. See the following citation as an example of their reasoning.

In their 1945 statement Dialectique de la Dialectique, Romanian surrealists Gherashim Luca and Dolfi Trost wrote,

We have returned to the problem of knowledge through images... by establishing a clear distinction between images produced by artistic means and images resulting from rigorously applied scientific procedures, such as the operation of chance or of automatism. We stand opposed to the tendency to reproduce, through symbols, certain valid theoretical contents by the use of pictorial techniques, and believe that the unknown that surrounds us can find a staggering materialization of the highest order in indecipherable images. In generally accepting until now pictorial reproductive means, surrealist painting will find that the way to its blossoming lies in the absurd use of aplastic, objective and entirely non-artistic procedures.

It is debatable weather such methods are fundamentally different of other surrealist methods or not. But this line of thinking does seem different to that of other surrealists, who simply wanted to express themselves more directly than it seemed possible with traditional art.

The techniques


Aerography is a technique in which a 3-dimensional object is used as a stencil with spraypainting. This may produce quite inpredictable, but interesting results.


Bulletism is shooting ink at a blank piece of paper. The artist can then develop images based on what is seen.


A calligramme is a text or poem, of a type, or the word for which was, developed by Guillaume Apollinaire in 1918, in which the words or letters make up a shape, particularly a shape connected to the subject of the text or poem.

Reference: Examples of calligrammes


Collage is the assemblage of different forms creating a new whole. For example, an artistic collage work may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or hand-made papers, photographs, etc., glued to a solid support or canvas. Today, collage is considered a legitimate and widely used artistic technique, but in their time it was quite innovative, and few of the less avantgardistic artists and critics approved of it. The modern non-art of scrabbooking is the hobby version of it.

Today, collage can be done the traditional way, with scissors and glue, or using a computer and Photoshop (or Gimp, that's free and works for linux people too). Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, generally it's best to do what's easiest for you, and for what you have the resources availiable. Collage can be a very good method of visual expression for those who can't really paint or draw. It also takes some advice and practice to achieve really good results, but it's definitely easier than learning how to draw.


A coulage is a kind of automatic or involuntary sculpture made by pouring a molten material (such as metal, wax, or chocolate) into cold water. As the material cools it takes on what appears to be a random (or aleatoric) form, though the physical properties of the materials involved may lead to a conglomeration of discs or spheres. The artist may utilize a variety of techniques to affect the outcome.

This technique is also used in the divination process known as ceromancy.

External link: Use of molten wax.


Cubomania is a method of making collages in which a picture or image is cut into squares and the squares are then reassembled without regard for the image. The technique was first used by the Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca.

(This definition of cubomania is to be distinguished from the use of the word to mean "obsession with cubes.")

External link: Alternate definitions for cubomania.

Cut-up technique

Cut-up technique is a literary form or method in which a text is cut up at random and rearranged to create a new text.


Decalcomania is a process of spreading thick paint upon a canvas then - while it is still wet - covering it with further material such as paper or aluminium foil. This covering is then removed (again before the paint dries), and the resultant paint pattern becomes the basis of the finished painting. The technique was much employed by artists such as Max Ernst. When working with paper, it is also possible to spread the paint on a hard surface and then put the paper on it and peal it off again. Originally, gouache or oilpaints were used.

Basically, this is the good old inkblot technique, only using two papers and avoiding symmetry this way.

Painters are adviced to try that with acrylic paints, and use glass or plastic instead of the disposable paper. They are cheaper and dry more rapidly. You'll get amazing effects when you mix soft, transparent acrylic gel with a small ammount of colour (so that it will retain some transparency), and play with it that way.

Dream resume

The dream resume takes the form of an employment resume but chronicles its subject's achievements, employment, or the like, in dreams, rather than in waking life. Sometimes dream resumes contain the achievements of both, however.

Echo poem

An echo poem is a poem written using a technique invented by Aurélien Dauguet in 1972. The poem is composed by one or more persons, working together in a process as follows.

The first "stanza" of the poem is written on the left-hand column of a piece of paper divided into two columns. Then the "opposite" of the first stanza, opposite in whatever sense is appropriate to the poem, is composed in the right-hand column of the page. The writing is done automatically and often the "opposite" stanza is composed of a sound correspondence to the first stanza.

For a longer work, the third stanza can then begin in the left-hand column as an "opposite" or a sound correspondence to what preceded it in the right-hand column. Then the fourth stanza might be an "opposite" or sound correspondence to what preceded it in the left-hand column, and so forth. When the poem is completed, the opposite of the last phrase, line, or sentence, generally serves as the title.

Entoptic graphomania

Entoptic graphomania is a surrealist and automatic method of drawing in which dots are made at the sites of impurities in a blank sheet of paper, and lines are then made between the dots.

The method was invented by Dolfi Trost, who as the subtitle of his 1945 book ("Vision dans le cristal. Oniromancie obsessionelle. Et neuf graphomanies entoptiques") suggests, included nine examples therein. This method of "indecipherable writing" (see below) was supposedly an example of "surautomatism," the controversial theory put forward by Trost and Gherashim Luca in which surrealist methods would be practiced that "went beyond" automatism. In Dialectique de Dialectique they had proposed the further radicalization of surrealist automatism by abandoning images produced by artistic techniques in favour of those "resulting from rigorously applied scientific procedures," allegedly cutting the notion of "artist" out of the process of creating images and replacing it with chance and scientific rigour.

External link: Example of Trost's entopic graphomania.


Collage is perceived as an additive method of visual poetry whereas Étrécissements are a reductive method. This was first employed by Marcel Mariën in the 1950s. The results are achieved by the cutting away of parts of images to encourage a new image, by means of a pair of scissors or any other manipulative sharpened instrument.

Exquisite corpse

Exquisite corpse is a method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. It is based on an old parlour game called Consequences in which players wrote in turn on a sheet of paper, folded it to conceal part of the writing, and then passed it to the next player for a further contribution.


Frottage is a method of creation in which one takes a pencil or other drawing tool and makes a "rubbing" over a textured surface. The drawing can either be left as is or used as the basis for further refinement.


Fumage is technique in which impressions are made by the smoke of a candle or kerosene lamp on a piece of paper or canvas. This is in fact the divination technique known as Knissomancy, and under many other names.

See Incense.


Grattage is a surrealist technique in painting in which (usually dry) paint is scraped off the canvas. It was employed by Max Ernst and Joan Miró [1].

Indecipherable writing

In addition to its obvious meaning of writing that is illegibile or for whatever other reason cannot be made out by the reader, indecipherable writing refers to a set of automatic techniques, most developed by Romanian surrealists and falling under the heading of surautomatism. Examples include entopic graphomania, fumage and the movement of liquid down a vertical surface.

Involuntary sculpture

Surrealism describes as "involuntary sculpture" those made by absent-mindedly manipulating something, such as rolling and unrolling a movie ticket, bending a paper clip, and so forth.

Latent news

Latent news is a game in which an article from a newspaper is cut into individual words (or perhaps phrases) and then rapidly reassembled.


A mimeogram is a type of automatic art made by peeling off the backing sheets of mimeograph stencils.

Movement of liquid down a vertical surface

The movement of liquid down a vertical surface is, as the name suggests, a technique, invented by surrealists from Romania and said by them to be surautomatic and a form of indecipherable writing, of making pictures by dripping or allowing to flow some form of liquid down a vertical surface.


The outagraph is a photograph in which the subject, what the photograph is "of," is cut out. The method was invented by Ted Joans.

Paranoiac-critical method

Paranoiac-critical method is a technique involving the use of the active process of the mind to visualise images in the work and incorporate these into the final product. An example of the resulting work is a double image or multiple image in which an ambiguous image can be interpreted in different ways.


Parsemage is a surrealist and automatic method in the visual arts invented by Ithell Colquhoun in which dust from charcoal or colored chalk is scattered on the surface of water and then skimmed off by passing a stiff paper or cardboard just under the water's surface. Basically, that's a more complicated, but even more random way of sand painting.


Photomontage is making of composite picture by cutting and joining a number of photographs. Today, this is widely regarded as legitimate method of art and illustration. It is often done using Photoshop and digital images rather than traditional cutting and glueing. it was somewhat innovative in their time.


Glue is smeared randomly over paper or canvas, then sand or some other powder is sprinkled all over it. The result can be left as is or further manipulated. If you want to create something of lasting value it is advisable to use transparent acrylic gel instead of glue. Most glues wil yellow over time, or even become brittel and let the sand fall off. Similar visual effects can be produced with ready-made acrylic paint containing sand, but that's much less fun.


Soufflage is a technique in which liquid paint is blown onto a surface to inspire or reveal an image

See also


  • [2] original article, retrieved 4.1.2006
  • [3] Wikipedia on Surrealism
  • [4] Wikipedia on Surautomatism