Lautreamont famously defined Surrealism as “the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table.” His formula underscored the essential quality of the surreal: a strange combination of unmatchable things intended to stir one’s imagination and emotions.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the words GOD BLESS AMERICA were featured on road signs of many American businesses, in a spontaneous display of solidarity and compassion. Since business had to go on, the patriotic statement was immediately followed by a completely unrelated pragmatic or commercial proposition. The billboard’s overall message read like lines of a strange Surrealist poem.
These billboards remained in place for several months, through most of the winter of 2001. Remarkably, the strangeness of the effect was perceived by no one but most acute observers.