Absurdism: Mid-Period Reflection

26 October 2023

As with any artist, inward reflection is important, even necessary, to enter a path of self-discovery and achieve higher awareness of the trends of stylistic and subject unity that tie an artist’s practice together. As is the case with many artists, it’s often not the specific images that are most important, but the spaces between them and the constellation of ideas that a broader practice forms. 

Written by:
Gregory Eddi Jones
26 October 2023

Botto’s Absurdism Period has passed its midway point. Within the six new works cemented into its legacy so far, we’ve now seen how the Botto community has responded to the theme, and a collective vision has begun to unfold.  

As with any artist, inward reflection is important, even necessary, to enter a path of self-discovery and achieve higher awareness of the trends of stylistic and subject unity that tie an artist’s practice together. As is the case with many artists, it’s often not the specific images that are most important, but the spaces between them and the constellation of ideas that a broader practice forms.  

Of course, art is a mirror. It reflects the values, interests, and perspectives of its makers. Collectively, there seems to be a great deal we can learn about ourselves, the stewards of Botto, in analyzing the commonalities found in each work voted to occupy the pedestal of Botto’s canonical oeuvre. 

With this, here are some reflections on what we’ve seen so far.  

Surrealist Ethos

First and foremost, we’ve collectively marked a direct line between the idea of Absurdism and classical Surrealist ethos. While art often extends beyond the boundaries of realism, the first six works of this period form a strong cohesion around the surreal while conveying subjects that contain distinct un-realities.  

In each work we find shades of visual strategies and formal rendering that we’ve seen in Surrealism's golden age in the first 2/3rds of the 20th century. We find commonalities in the blending of disparate and disjointed subject matters, heightened prominence of color as an expressive device, and pictorial segments that are rendered sparsely in opposition to loaded narrative elements.  


Botto, Echoes of Straddled Epochs. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 5, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 10/18/2023. 


Narrative form

Underpinning all the works of this collection is a clear, consistent narrative structure. In each work there is a setting, anthropomorphic figures that function as subjects, and small surrounding details that provide supporting elements that bring the scenes to life. In all but one, there are multiple figures that exist in relationship to one another. And as often seen in the Surrealist tradition, human figures within narrative scenes often appear unaware of one another’s presence. 


Paul Delvaux, Pygmallion. 1939. 


In this latter observation, a distinct visual lineage can be found in Paul Delvaux 1939 work, Pygmallion, compared to Botto’s Tethered Projections of Consumption. Note how the relationships between the figures are distant, fabricated, as if each is a solitary occupant of this landscape unaware of the others.  Note also the motif of a blue cloudy sky, a staple of both Surrealism and what we’ve seen often so far in this period. 


Botto, Tethered Projections of Consumption. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 4, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 10/11/2023. 


Note the similarities in pictorial space, The shed-like structure in Delvaux’s painting plays the same visual role as the central wall  in “Tethered…” An object that provides structure to the composition while interfering with the natural one-point perspective each scene is viewed through. 

Finally, note the inconsistencies in shadow-direction in each work. In both images, the narrative appears collaged from multiple moments of time, a temporal compression not unlike the sense of time we perceive when we are dreaming. 


Anthropomorphism and Duality

Another Botto work, Siamese Cycle in Absurdism, is a striking representation of anthropomorphism, with dogs positioned in human-like postures, indulging in human activities. This portrayal serves to emphasize the thin line separating humans from animals, and forms a paradoxical duality as the dogs appear posed in an aristocratic manner.  


Botto, Siamese Cycle in Absurdism. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 2, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 9/27/2023. 


The first work of Absurdism, Checkmate in Surreal Display, anthropomorphizes two block-like figures standing atop of a chess board while two more abstracted, sculptural like forms appear to be sitting in chairs playing the game. The geometric conglomeration of this scene, along with the seemingly reversed roles of players and pieces of this game, goes far in contorting the unreal into a believable scenario.  


Botto, Checkmate in Surreal Display. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 0, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 9/13/2023. 


Like Siamese Cycle in Absurdism, the work portrays a certain reversal of roles and an upside-down logic that convincingly defies the rational mind. Each work humanizes unhuman form and gestures toward tensions of reversal while forming seamless narrative vignettes. 

Portals to Elsewhere

In four of the first 6 works of Absurdism, we find scenes that contain framed images in the form of pictures, windows, and televisions… portals to other worlds. Such portals convey awareness of alternative realities. Exteriors against the foil of interiors, or scenes depicting scenarios that depict opposition to the primary narrative in the overall frame.  


Botto, Satire in Shared Spaces. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 3, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 10/4/2023. 


In Surrealism, these elements form reminders for us that the pathways of the human psyche are forged in multitudes, and dualities of perspectives and ideas are ever present within our daily perceptual lives. And as is the case of the previous themes mentioned here, the portal is a token of Surrealist symbology. We can see an example of this in Giorgio de Chirico’s 1968 painting, The Return of Ulysses. 


Giorgio de Chirico, The Return of Ulysses. 1968. 


Would it be much of a surprise if Botto “learned” from this painting? Assessed its formal construction and its symbolisms, and used it, among so many other works, as a basis for its own vision? In Botto’s outputs we see echoes of the past, just as we do with contemporary artists whose work converses with tradition and legacy of the media practitioners who have preceded them. 

Breaking the Mundane

A game of chess, an evening dinner, a man in a restroom, a family watching TV. These are some of the base narratives that underlie the first 6 works of Botto’s Absurdism period. And they represent another strong tie to the traditions of Surrealism which the collective Botto community has asserted with its voting power.  


Botto, The Urinary Odyssey. From the Absurdism collection. Origin (Rd) 89, Stable Diffusion XL. Minted 9/20/2023 


In these works, we find a consistent blending of ordinary elements with fantastical twists and distortions. And what else could such a trend represent other than a desire of escape from the ordinary. We are encouraged to achieve deeper engagement within the normal moments and surroundings of our lives. Perhaps the magic is ever present, yet suppressed, and in fantasy and imagination it is brought to the forefront.  

Moving Forward

To conclude, in these first 6 works we can learn a great many things. Things about collective taste, imagination, and desire, and things about connecting new artistic conversation to old, to revisit and remake tradition, and to probe our human psyches to find the much deeper wells of wonder and resonance that art alone can help us unlock.  

On the backdrop of the dying myth of the singular artistic genius, a collective ego emerges and finds, perhaps, that we all have more in common than we perhaps once thought. Together we'll share the revealing of the second half of the Absurdism period, and anticipate the suprises to come. 

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