Automatism is a term borrowed from physiology that refers to unconscious bodily movements, such as sleeping or dreaming. It describes a technique that seeks to suppress rational thought and instead access the subconscious mind. This approach was popularized by the Surrealists in their effort to unleash the creative force of the unconscious mind and free themselves from cultural ad intellectual constraints.
Automatism can take many different forms, from simple doodling and gestural drawing to more complex methods like free association and automatic writing. The goal is always the same: to tap into the subconscious mind and access the wealth of imagery and ideas that lie beyond conscious awareness.
While automatism is often associated with Surrealism, it is not limited to that movement or any other specific art historical context. Any artist or writer who seeks to access the subconscious mind can make use of automatism.
There are many different ways to practice automatism. One of the simplest is to simply sit down with a pencil and paper and start drawing without consciously thinking about what you are doing. Let your hand move freely across the paper and see what kinds of shapes and patterns emerge.
Another method is known as free association. This involves sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down whatever thoughts come into your head, without censoring or editing them in any way. The goal is to let the mind wander freely and see where it takes you.
Automatic writing is another popular technique. To practice this, you simply sit down with a pen and paper and start writing without consciously thinking about what you are doing. Again, the goal is to let the mind wander freely and see where it takes you.
There are no hard and fast rules for practicing automatism. The important thing is to let go of conscious control and allow the subconscious mind to take over. See what kinds of ideas and images emerge when you do. You may be surprised at what you find.