Greg Mason Burns

Redefining The Surreal (Novo-Surrealism)

Redefining the Surreal

Redefining the Surreal: What does the gap look like?

While some of my work may have a hint of Surrealism in it, I am not a Surrealist by definition. And yet I feel as if I am a Surrealist in spirit and maybe by nature as well. To start, I care nothing of dreams and the contradiction between them and real life. This, shown with great realism, is the definition of Surrealism. However, there is a deeper meaning to Surrealism, and if AndrĂ© Breton was right in that Surrealism was a revolutionary movement then I certainly fit in. I do so via approach as opposed to what the painting looks like after. What is surreal to me is how we live our lives, not how we contradict between real life and dreams. I believe there’s a difference between how we live our lives and how we’re “supposed to” live our lives.

Surrealism as Perceived Reality

I don’t see the world in terms of the contradiction of dreams and reality. Instead, I see it in terms of perceived reality and reality. By “perceived reality” I specifically mean what the media and marketing organizations want us to believe is real, and then I contradict this with how we actually live our lives.

To be blunt, let me use porn as an example. For those of us who grew up without online access to porn, there isn’t, or shouldn’t be, much of a disconnect between what porn is telling us is normal and what is normal. There may be unfortunate disillusionment among some, but we didn’t grow up thinking that what porn shows is normal. But for those who have grown up with access to online porn their entire lives, there is a movement to eliminate porn from the Internet because of the distortion between porn’s marketing and real life. In other words, they have grown up thinking that what porn shows is normal because marketing, through the influence of the media, has a huge effect on our behavior.

Marketers collect so much data about us that they know more about what we want sometimes before we even know, so imagine a kid with little-to-no knowledge of real relationships learning from a porn site. When that kid enters into a real relationship at some point in his or her life, he or she will enter into a state of confusion because what he or she learned isn’t how things really work. This is not a dream; this is a real phenomenon.

The gap could contain chaos

The Gap in What We Interpret

So there’s a gap between what we’re being told and what we actually see. However, I don’t see this gap as black and white with grey in between. I see this gap as black and white with green trees, blue rivers, and white houses in between. In other words, the blend between what the powers that be, whoever that is, want us to believe and what we really believe is not as obvious as it once was. I don’t see a blend. I see an actual gap, a chasm where something else exists that probably wasn’t there before. The fact that there is a gap, and not a blend, is surreal to me because we’re all supposed to be connected.

Edit: a perfect example of the gap that I am speaking of is brilliantly written out by David Miranda in The Intercept. The gap here is the Brazilian media’s attempt to hide its bias when everyone knows that it is there. It is the difference between what the media is selling versus what is actually known to be true.

The gap is not definable today, but it will be in the future

It’s Intentional

What is even more surreal is this notion that we’re also connected. Being connected would suggest an unstoppable blend, and this blend really does exist because we are connected. But the gap also exists at the same time. How? Because those who want us to be separate are trying hard to keep things separate, except they don’t want us think there’s a gap between them and us. The gap is accidental. There’s black and there’s white, and as long as the general populace thinks it can maneuver through the grey to achieve power, status, or success, then those with power, status, or success continue to maintain that level of power, status, or success. They maintain it because they know that moving through the grey is extremely difficult. It’s intentional, and the more they stretch the grey, the longer the grey becomes, thus making the journey longer.

This grey line used to be quite short, but over time it has grown longer and it has done so deliberately. But they’ve managed to stretch the grey so much that the fabric has torn. And there it is – that gap that wasn’t supposed to be there. That gap that everyone feels but can’t put their finger on. The stress, chaos, anger, or love that people sense that is there that wasn’t there before. That gap which really should be uncross-able. The grey was designed to be uncross-able, too, but there were still connections and some could make it through. There was hope, and that served those in power quite well. But now many people see that it’s not possible to cross, and that’s where the gap has become apparent.

Redefining the Surreal

When you put all of this together with politics, advertising, intellectual debate, getting your car fixed, picking your kids up from school, and buying groceries you get this idea that the fabric of society has ripped. And that leads us to the obvious question: what does that look like? What does that rip actually look like? That is surreal. That is what I work on, trying to discover what that gap looks like. At this stage in my career it is mostly abstract and reductive. I suspect that it will develop in time into more physical objects. But the important point here is why I consider myself a Novo-Surrealist: because of the idea that something else besides grey exists between black and white. That is surreal.

A place of comfort or a prison?