Critical Paranoia

Critical Paranoia was introduced into the world of surrealism by Salvador Dali. The name is what probably confuses most people but then again so do many elements of surrealism. Critical Paranoia is neither critical nor paranoid thinking. Dali defined it as 'irrational knowledge' based on a 'delirium of interpretation' which in simpler language means a new way of looking at the world around you.

Critical Paranoia has the same characteristics as a sleeping dream with the exception that you are awake when in happens. In essence it is an extremely profound daydream. Everyone has experienced Critical Paranoia. It is a profound thought like when you are staring at the shapes of clouds in the sky looking for pictures in them without really thinking about it.

Dali - Swans reflecting elephants.

Dalí, though not a true paranoid, was able to simulate a paranoid state, without the use of drugs, and upon his return to 'normal perspective' he would paint what he saw and envisioned therein.

Dalí was able to create what he called 'hand painted dream photographs' which were physical, painted representations of the hallucinations and images he would see while in his paranoid state. Although he certainly had his own load of mental problems to bear, it can be said that Dalí's delusions and paranoid hallucinations did not totally dominate his mind, as he was able to convey them to canvas.

Being a painter of miraculous skill, he was capable of reproducing his myriad fantasies and hallucinations as visual illusions on canvas.

It is in this context that one of Dalí's most famous statements takes on a whole new meaning and understanding.

'The only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not mad!'

In Dalí's own words, taken from his Conquest of the Irrational:

'My whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision...'

He then goes on to say:

'Paranoiac-critical activity organizes and objectivizes in an exclusivist manner the limitless and unknown possibilities of the systematic association of subjective and objective 'significance' in the irrational...'

' makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality'

Dali - Hallucinogenic Bullfighter.

Salvador Dali developed the concept of Critical Paranoia for establishing a creative state of self-induced psychosis. "Paranoia makes use of the external world to impose the obsessive notion with the disturbing particularity of making valid the reality of this notion for others . . . The reality of the external world serves as an illustration and a proof, and is put in the service of the reality of our mind" (Dali). "It is a question of speculating ardently on that property of uninterrupted transformation of any object on which the paranoiac activity seizes; in other words, the ultra-confusional activity which takes its source in the obsessive idea . . . This uninterrupted transformation permits the paranoiac to regard the very images of the external world as unstable and transitory, if not as suspect, and it is, disturbingly, in his power to impose the reality of his impression on others . . ." (Breton).

'Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.'

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