The Prerealist logo

The Prerealist logo

A truly prerealist work is one created simply, honestly, and spontaneously with (hopefully) little interference from external stimuli. ‘External stimuli’ may include drugs, alcohol, previous teachings or influences, consciousness, purpose and intent – depending on your situation and beliefs. With all these things stripped away, or at least reduced, all that’s left is your individual creative force. If you can concentrate, if you can focus in on this creative force within you (within us all), then you are but one step away from developing your own personal method or style to express this new found wealth. Of course, in order to concentrate on the creative process itself (pre) you must ignore the greatest external stimuli of all – realism.

How can this be accomplished ? There are those with strong wills and determination that can defeat the influence of reality quite easily, without even realizing it at first (a key point). But for others, this proposition may seem impossible or even absurd. How can these people be convinced that they all have the ability within them to achieve the ‘impossible’ ? Some people will obviously need some guidance. They need to be shown to the gate before they can choose their own path. That is what these prerealist exercises are designed to do. They are simple, honest tools by which you can alter notions of reality, or ignore it all together if your will is that strong. They will demonstrate to you the powers of the human mind (your mind) and the creative process therein – formerly hidden to most. By bringing these powers to light, the exercises will hopefully set you on a course by which you, as an individual, can best make use of your talents.

It is important to note that nearly all of these exercises were developed when I was a child. They are free from the external influences described previously, unless otherwise noted, and were developed with honesty, simplicity, curiosity, and good intentions. The only purpose I can recall for their creation, if there was any purpose at all, was to relieve the boredom of a Saturday afternoon with a harmless distraction.

Exercise 1) Altering Visual Perception of Realistic Objects.

Sitting in your living room with a friend, you are immediately trapped by notions of reality. The chair you sit in, the lamp next to you, the television set, the hanging light, the potted plants, the pictures on the wall, and your friend’s face are all so familiar to you that they are commonplace – not worth any further thought. Without even knowing it, your creative potential is being stifled. You have allowed the repetitious nature of these objects to lull you into a false sense of comfort which forbids you from viewing things differently. To break loose from these restraints, to let your imagination take over, simply draw the blinds and turn off all the lights.

Complete darkness must be ensured. Now return to your seat. While waiting for your eyes to adjust to your new surroundings, you may remain silent or converse with your friend. It is important, but not essential, that you have someone else there with you so you can both share in what is about to happen, making the impact of it all the more effective.

As your eyes become accustomed, you will notice that those everyday objects take on new shapes, sizes, and proportions. Your friend’s face will become unrecognizable to you, having become more primal-looking perhaps. You have just opened yourself up to new interpretations in a completely natural way, effectively stirring creative energies. Many of these distortions of reality will illicit fear; this feeling must be embraced. Fear, being the strongest of human emotions, is also the greatest creative driving force.

This process is what causes small children to cry out in the night, demanding that their parents stay with them or at least leave the light on. This innocence, this failure to accept reality in view of its distortions, is what keeps the creative force alive in them. I admit, I was about nine or ten when I first started such experiments (although I didn’t consider them experiments at the time) and my friend and I still cried out and raced to turn on the lights, provided that we weren’t paralysed by fear. The effects were that strong. It is hoped that this process will illicit a similar response in adults, returning them to those days when their imaginations ran wild to the point that they felt victimized by it, without realizing that it was having a positive influence on the paintings, drawings, and stories that they brought home to astonished parents.

Exercise 2) Altering Audio Perception

This exercise is incredibly simple and will undoubtedly aid musicians while providing others with another way to twist the notion of reality. While playing some familiar recording of your choice, leave the room and wander the house freely (this is best done in a large house, preferably with a basement). Every once and awhile, stop and listen carefully. Notice how the once familiar song, now drifting throughout the house, has changed. It is more stripped down and primal; it is returned to the prerealist state. A basic beat may be all you hear. Lyrics are obscured and your mind compensates by replacing them with something completely foreign from the singer’s original intentions. Try this from several different standpoints. The same old song, that you thought you knew inside out, that you felt so comfortable with after repeated listening, is no longer stagnated in reality. It is open to many new interpretations – a platform for further creation.

Exercise 3) Altering Audio and Visual Perception

Television – repetitive, plagiaristic, and constantly recycling according to mass market whims. Few things can be held more responsible for the stifling of creativity. But such an oppressive force can be used to fuel creative powers through the use of prerealist techniques. The key is to distort the message you are receiving, so that there can no longer be a preconceived notion or purpose on the part of the mass media. Break apart the transmission so that you can attach your own personal meaning, a creative act, instead of allowing yourself to be hypnotized and forced to accept mediocrity (it is no mistake that ‘media’ is implied within the word ‘mediocrity’).

The technique is simple and the results are often hilarious; it was developed when I was twelve or thirteen years old. With an audio recording device of some sort, record what is being broadcast on any given channel. With the device still recording, flip the channels around so that you get a good cross-section of news, melodrama, attempts at comedy, action, and so on. Tape as much as you like; a half-hour should be good. If you want, you can even concentrate on taping the show which you dislike the most. Rewind the tape, and turn the television to any given show, or perhaps another show that you dislike strongly. Turn down the television volume and play back your tape. The result is a running audio experience that is completely separate from the image being projected. This allows for all sorts of randomness, spontaneity, juxtaposition, and humour previously devoid from television.

By separating the audio from the visual message, you are reconstructing realism by returning the message to the state it was previously – prerealism. If your creative process can adopt similar techniques, then your work will be truly prereal and a joy for others to appreciate.

Exercise 4) Altering Word Associations and Literary Standards

This technique is derived, believe it or not, from a Cub Scout Guide Book I had when I was nine. Designed for children, it is incredibly simplistic, meant only as a humorous game (which it is). However, it is also a useful tool for adults to break away from preconceived notions of what literature should be, including notions of plot, structure, wording, and intent. This technique is successful in that it tears apart a piece of literature, which may be incredibly simplistic to begin with, and attaches to it an entirely new, fresh, spontaneous feeling that is both wildly humorous, thought-provoking, and inspiring.

To begin, simply write a story on any subject or use one which was created previously. The story can be on any topic, the more mundane the better, but try to ensure that it’s full of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. With the story in front of you, delete all nouns, adjectives, and verbs and keep a space so that respective replacements can be pencilled in. On separate slips of paper, make a list of whatever nouns, adjectives, and verbs come to mind; this is best accomplished with the help of a few friends, to ensure diversity. You may use specific types of nouns (i.e. request that people jot down a type of liquid, or a plural). Put all slips of paper into three separate baskets marked nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Choose a narrator. The narrator skims through the story and noticing a blank requests that either a noun, verb, or adjective be drawn at random from one of the baskets. The narrator pencils the appropriate word into the appropriate blank. When this process is finished, the original story will be completely rewritten with new words replacing old. The final result is completely random, and the spontaneous word associations will undoubtedly uncover mystery and laughter that was impossible in the original realist text.

Exercise 5) Finding Creative Strength in Dreams

There isn’t much to say about the vast creative potential locked away in our dreams that hasn’t been said already. Suffice to say that you should keep a dream journal. These are useful for mapping out your subconscious and diving into it for inspiration and ideas for creation, if not the entire creation itself. Not everyone, however, is capable of having dreams that are vivid enough to recall; or perhaps they recall nothing. If this is the case, try the following advice; I’ve found that it works when I’ve been incapable of dreaming for a long period of time. Simply allow for an afternoon nap, providing that you’re tired enough. This nap would be occurring at a time when the body and the senses are normally very alert, since the body and the mind are accustomed to the usual sleep patterns. But the conscious body and the functions of the mind are often very separate, explaining the mind’s ability to remain functioning and induce dream while the body sleeps. By effectively disrupting the sleep patterns, you’ve allowed the body to sleep yet the brain remains very active, more so than under a normal sleeping pattern, since it was conditioned, by habit, to be fully alert, governing the body’s functions at this time. As a result, your sleeping mind will fill with all sorts of imagery and your dreams will be more vivid, and more unusual, than any you’ve ever experienced before.

Exercise 6) Finding Inspiration and Avoiding Influences

As a prerealist, you must resist the urge to plagiarise or borrow heavily from a style you admire. But don’t be embarrassed if, at a later date, you discover that someone else created a similar product much earlier than your own. If you are honest about your creation, then what you have accomplished is not ‘imitation’; you have connected with another creator; you are not competing with them but joining them. In a sense, you are forming a creative community with someone who may of existed hundreds of years before yourself and lived thousands of miles away.

The influence of the collective consciousness explains these overlappings in thought (often subconscious) and creation throughout time and across borders. However, it is highly desirable to limit influences while increasing inspiration. Do not concentrate on the work of any given creator, but on the process by which they created it and the situation surrounding its creation. Read their biographies, letters, and diaries. This is prerealist inspiration. Spark your own creativity by feeling the electricity generated by someone else’s creative process (pre) and not the final product (realism). Emphasis on final products will only breed imitations and stifle individuality. If you want to create the most original work you can, the best representation of the person you are, then emphasis must always be on the creative process itself, and not the final product. Only in this manner can we form a highly original, honest, truly creative movement.
Copyright © 1995 by Cameron A. Straughan


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