Thursday, July 14, 2016

Happy Birthday Dada

"Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means 'hobby horse.' In German it means 'good-bye,' 'Get off my back,' 'Be seeing you sometime.' In Romanian: 'Yes, indeed, you are right, that's it. But of course, yes, definitely, right.' And so forth. ...

"How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanised, enervated? By saying dada. Dada is the world soul, dada is the pawnshop. Dada is the world's best lily-milk soap." (Excerpts from the Dada Manifesto,  July 14, 1916)

Marcel Duchamp with the best-known work of Dada, L.H.O.O.Q., first made in 1919, photo later. (Photo from Wikipedia).
L.H.O.O.Q., of course, is Mona Lisa with a mustache, which Duchamp called a "Remade Readymade" for obvious reasons.
One hundred years ago today the first Dada Manifesto, excerpted above, defined a new art form or maybe just undermined some old ones. The author of this document, Hugo Ball, lived in Zurich where he met with like-minded creative types at a club called Cabaret Voltaire. The New York Times this week commemorated this event in a group of articles titled: "Dada Was Born 100 Years Ago. So What?"

From one of these NYT short essays:
"The smart, discursive and yappy Zurich-Dada manifestoes were creative expressions of anger in a safe space. They implied that all manifestoes were meaningless. They suggested a mode of criticism with a built-in self-destruct button: 'absurd negation that wants no consequences,' as the cultural critic Greil Marcus put it. 
"They seemed to want to disable the bourgeois practice of business-as-usual in culture; they seemed to carry the implicit knowledge that such business-as-usual leads to war, famine, inequality and corniness. Yet they were above politics. Dada wasn’t claiming a tradition. It wasn’t about study or dancing or spiritualism or aesthetic refinement. It didn’t connect with the past or the future. It was a selfish movement. It didn’t provide for its children." (By Ben Ratliff)

"Why Not Sneeze -- Rrose Selavy" by Marcel Duchamp (1921)
As a big fan of Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Eric Satie, and many of the other early Dadaists, I haven't yet thought of a good way to celebrate this birthday. Maybe I should just say dada. Or "why not sneeze?"

Here are my thoughts (from an earlier post) on "Why Not Sneeze." Duchamp's work "Why Not Sneeze -- Rrose Selavy" consists of a number of sugar cubes made of marble, along with a few other things inside of a cage. The reason Marcel Duchamp so named the work may be because of the marble sugar cubes. (I'm not going to try to explain his alter ego and pun Rrose Selavy here.)

You see, he couldn't use real sugar cubes, because art has to last. So he made them out of marble. Which is cold. And gives you a cold. So why not sneeze? There are lots of other "authoritative" versions of why and what this is about also, which goes along with his method of creating an identity for himself and his work. Why not sneeze -- a joke no one can get -- captures the spirit of Dada. When asked about it in one case, his reason was "pour compliquer les choses."

You can find my favorite post on Marcel Duchamp here: Me, Marcel Duchamp, and L.H.O.O.Q. You can find all posts on my travel blog that discuss or mention him at this link AND all posts on my food blog about him at this link.

I assume it's no coincidence that the Dada Manifesto appeared on Bastille Day. I also wish you a Happy Bastille Day.

No comments: