Conversation with Wilhelm Freddie

Recorded conversation from 1972
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes

This is a summary of a conversation between Wilhelm Freddie and the Danish artist Per Kirkeby which took place in 1972. The recording is unedited and belongs to Per Kirkeby.

My notes are mostly about WF’s view on Surrealism and less about his personal story.
I made it in note form, to let his statement talk for them self and make it more easy for me to go back later.

Skærmbillede 2018-04-13 kl. 14.12.08

Surrealism is not an art direction, it is a state of mind/view of the world and the keyword is freedom. Freedom for the individual and in the society.
The Expressionist escape from reality, Surrealism wanted to find the way into reality.

Definition of Surrealism: The distance there was between dream and reality, the gap. For us, it was a matter of building a bridge over the gap. Make the inner and outer reality identical. That was Surrealism.
Aesthetics and moralism have nothing to do with surrealism. Perhaps they could have been there but then it was unconscious because it was not our intention.
Surrealism is based on the theory that the subconscious, the dream, the drives and instincts are the only absolute unchangeable in human life. This attitude was in conflict with the external political situation of the period (the 1930s). Surrealism denounced dictatorship because freedom was the solution.

WF had many cases, national and international, with police, authorities and other people; He was imprisoned, young right-minded destroyed his pictures into pieces, a man tried to strangle him after watching an exhibition, paintings were confiscated by the police and stored away, etc. Under the second world war, he escaped to Sweeden.
In 1937, he was invited to the first international Surrealistic exhibition at New Burlington Gallerie in London. His paintings were seized by customs and never arrived at the Gallerie.

The authorities were concerned about choking the audience, they thought the paintings were morally objectionable, they thought it was pornography.

The magic flower:
In connection with a happening, he would give a flower that was part of the set-up to a girl among the audience. But she did not want it, she reacted as if it was a plague-infested. The importance of the flower change.
WF understood that things may have a different meaning than the visible. It was what he describes as magic. Later on, he used this insight in his work.
Previously in the history of surrealism, the subject had a symbolic role for unconscious mental content. Now it’s replaced by a magically-functioning: image, object or action, which is being conveyed by an active mental energy that can interfere with the relationship between man and the outside world. Although this action is also symbolic, it is a symbol of real intervention

Skills are not the most important even I started as a naturalistic painter.
I was focused on the hallucinatory picture and recognizable and its value.
Now I’m interested in the value/interpretation of objects (its own value), a value I then use. All my things have a relation to the surrounded reality.
When something becomes a prop, I have to change it, find out something new.

Collage and the use of photos in painting:
The confrontation between the outer reality and my own created reality, I made it work together in one piece (picture). One highlights the other, I let the two things fit into a higher unit.

The surrealist attitude is built into me, but I am Wilhelm Freddie.
What I do today is decisive for next-generation action.

Random test

New dreams have been illustrated, and I’m close to finishing elements for a second “random Processing session”. I was curious to see how the new elements worked together, therefore, I made this analog-combined composition.

Working with the image manually make me feel closer to my material, the outcome from Processing could generate a distance as well as make new, unpredicted solutions, which at the same time could be more exact.
My experience, while working manually, is that I’m starting thinking too much, the coincidence and subconscious stops, and I’m not sure if it is real randomness.

random_test_04 copy

Dream image project: Random compositions

My experiment; cutting up words putting them together in new constellations, inspired me to do the same experiment with visual elements from my dream images instead of words. I wanted to cut out elements from the pictures and randomly put them together in new constellations and compositions.

My questions: How can I use code as a tool for randomness and how can surrealism dictate guidelines for visual compositions?

After looking at several surrealistic paintings, Miro’s “Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird” (1926), ended up being my inspiration source. The image show a classic surrealistic composition, a kind of a landscape with a horizon, sky, plateau/ground, a key figure as a foreground element and variouse minor objects.
The key figure is absurd, a big foot and an eye lets the viewer perceive it as a person. The horizon gives a feeling of a large space. The smaller elements create connection and tension to the key figure.


The principle from the game Cadavre Exquis helped me to construct the key figure. I decided to work with a two-part “person”; a head and a body. For the background I made a top and a bottom element and finally one or two objects of a smaller size.

While I was cutting out backgrounds and elements in Photoshop, I made some tests images manually, and based on those images I locked the proportions to 16:9 and the use of color tone in order create contrast between objects and background.

I had thoughts about randomness; it is hard to work conscious randomly – some kind of deliberate action rapidly takes over. To avoid that I could have used a random generator such as a dice. I could also use a computer; load in elements from my dream image and set up a code for the composition.

My colleague Stig, who has a great experience in different kind of code, offered me to create a code in Processing.
I gave Stig a catalog of png-files to work with, two hours later I received forty different images, the output from processing.


My reflection
I am quite satisfied with the outcome of this first test. Looking at the images lots of storys comes to my mind, I hear sound and see movements. It has a greater impact on me than expected.
This way of working has change my view at my Dream Images, they are no longer final and finished works of art; they are a reservoir from where the material can be transformed into other elements or expressions, and for me it feels like a relief and an opening to new possibilities. I am aware of the importance that the images are created in the purpose as finished pictures and not as elements in an other step in a production plan. If they were made as elements I would had taken over the control and lost the randomness.
I enjoyed making the catalog, it gave me a visual overview and made it easy for others to understand and help me.
Involing Stig to my project is of an incredible value. I do not have any skills in coding, to learn it would have taken me lots of time.

Whats next?
· Some of the objects have been categorized as “element” and body as the same time; it dosen´t work. An object can only goes into one category.
· Making a new category with object that can function as a micro element.
· Send the new Catalog of material to Stig and let him make a second test.

Dream image project: It’s not a crow / mov.01


Guidelines for the new part of my Dream Image Project:
· Moving scenes/images. Duration 5-10 sec.
· Use live footage, animation, mix media, etc
· Use sound
· Keep it simple
· Do it fast
· Make ten sequences and then critical reflection

Dream images project: From image to word

As an experiment, I looked at my ten dream images individual and made a list of what I saw, and what feelings I combined with the dream.
I cut the words and short sentences out and mixed them together, then invited my husband and friend to pick out ten words without seeing, they got the freedom to set the words together in a new combination.
I had now idea of how it would work. It surprised me that ten words could make stories. Some words compositions like wine nights and wrong air affected me; they were spot on, it was through the images and the random selection I came these  word combination.