Seeing Into Investigations or
the Paranoiac-Critical Method
These projects were created by teens in the Spiral Workshop (de)Generate Painting group. Stain papers made by pooling watery white paint on black construction paper and allowing it to evaporate and dry. Medium for drawing: oil pastels.
In the late 1990s, Spiral Workshop began experimenting with Surrealist practices as a means of helping the youth artists access hidden sources of creativity. The activity of staring into blots, stains, or other stimuli, looking for images that are not there, but once found, seem to be so clearly there, became a focus of our Surrealist play. This activity is an excellent way to prove to students that each has his or her own vision and creative capacity.
Max Ernst referred to this activity as "Seeing Into"
Salvador Dali termed it the "Paranoiac-Critical Method"
Over the years, we've experimented with many versions of this project--using inks, paints, smoke, bleach, make up, and cow's blood to create the surfaces on which the students engage in seeing more deeply.
Often the grounds on which we work are mid-tone or black. We rarely begin with white paper. This is because it is difficult to attain a range of values and a sense of light when one begins on a white ground. This is why traditional academic painting often is begun on a grayed or honey-toned ground, rather than on pure white. By initially limiting the number of colors (often to black, white and one hue) as the students begin their investigations, they spontaneously experiment with the effects created by dark and light, rather than emphasizing a "coloring book approach" to drawing out the images of their imaginations.
DON'T RUIN CREATIVITY CURRICULUM WITH INAPPROPRIATE ASSESSMENT.
AS IN ALL Spiral projects as the work progresses students can use more colors, add media, or even tear into a project. It's fine to limit choicemaking at the beginning of a project as a strategy to get the students to be more attentive to particular features or forms, but ultimately students must be free to utilize or not utilize particular configurations. If through assessments (with overly rigid rubrics in a vain attempt to prove the objectivity of the objectives of arts curriculum) we force students to use particular color schemes, forms, styles, effects, etc., the students are no longer making art--they are merely demonstrating a knowledge of art vocabulary through making an artifact. This is not a authentic assessment.
Mapping the Unconscious
Uncharted Territories of the Mind
artwork by students of the UIC 2010 Foundations of Art Education course
You can find many examples of Seeing Into and other projects based on the actual practices of the Surrealist International in the description of curriculum for various Spiral groups. See the Spiral Workshop ePortfolio.
For more information and images related to the theory and practice of Seeing Into,
see the article
Playing Creativity Possibility by Olivia Gude in
Art Education, Journal of the National Art Education Association