Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ta-da! It's Dada...

The internet is not just for porn, after all. I just discovered a poem by Tristan Tzara, one of the early dadaists. I couldn't resist the title: Proclamation without Pretension

I am trying to research the origins of Visual Theatre: having decided that it probably started in Zurich, 1916, I am flicking through the excitable manifestos of the period. Admittedly, I want Visual Theatre to begin with Dada - it's a neat date to begin research (I'd already discovered that a proper historical analysis would have me starting in pre-history, or reading up on primate gesture systems), links theatre into the currents of visual art and, given the whole dada revolutionary spiel, suggests that visual theatre is part of a reaction against the staid and conformist. 

Never being one to waste some good text, I thought I'd share Tzara's Proclamation and add a few comments... the poem is in bold, my comments in italics.

Art is going to sleep for a new world to be born
"ART"-parrot word-replaced by DADA,
PLESIOSAURUS, or handkerchief

It's a nice start for the boy from Romania. Three lines in and I am already confused. I'm assuming that he is linking the idea of "art" to the status quo of the "old world" and insisting that art needs a bit of a kip to let a new world do its thing.  

The talent THAT CAN BE LEARNED makes the
poet a druggist TODAY the criticism
of balances no longer challenges with resemblances

Yes, I think I got that: the poet is a druggist, someone who either blisses out his clients with sedatives, or patches them up. I have a good friend who is a pharmacist, and I am sure that he won't be insulted if I say that he is not a medical doctor... the poet does not cure, only alleviates. 

I am deliberately ignoring that slap at "criticism" although I might misquote it later as a slogan for my own attack on existing attitudes to criticism. 
Hypertrophic painters hyperaes-
theticized and hypnotized by the hyacinths
of the hypocritical-looking muezzins

Look, I gave you the wikipedia link for the first word... I am quite enjoying Tzara's style. I do alliteration like that sometimes - usually when I am hoping that a theatre company will quote me on their posters. 

I think he is saying that painters have gotten all fat and have been praised too much by the critics ("the hypocritical-looking muezzins"). If he is, this is more interesting than I thought. Tzara is making explicit the problems of a society where artists allow critics to define their work. 


You are on your own there.

Hypodrome of immortal guarantees: there is
no such thing as importance there is no transparence
or appearance

I'm guessing he means hippodrome, the place where they had chariot races. Reading this is like peeling an orange - I'm throwing half of it away to get to some juicy bits. How about "there is no such thing as importance"? All is transient, the grandeur of art is just a passing moment: the nihilism arrives on time. 

BLIND MEN take the stage

Yes, I felt like that after watching an episode of Jools Holland. Maybe, when Raydale Dower staged his Piano Drop at Tramway (a slow motion video of a piano being smashed), he was thinking of this line... and maybe he could restage it under the title 'What Billy Joel ought to do next...'

Is Tzara asking for more blues-men? Or does he mean blind men is a symbolic sense. I hate it when artists do that, use disability as a smart-arse metaphor. As it goes. Tzara, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama were the best part of 'The Gospel of Colonus' so I'd suggest that getting blind men on stage isn't all that revolutionary.
THE SYRINGE is only for my understanding. I write because it is
natural exactly the way I piss the way I'm sick

Is he shooting up? There is a slight hallucinatory tinge to his writing... Burroughs would get into this kind of disorientation of meaning and juddering of grammar, and he liked his smack. 

Actually, I think he is making an excuse for himself. All the other artists are bad, because they are unnatural, but Tzara has to write. That doesn't make it okay...

Classic style slogan.

Art is a PRETENSION warmed by the
TIMIDITY of the urinary basin, the hysteria born

Ah ha! I wonder whether he did this before or after Duchamp put his pissoir in the gallery? If before, Duchamp's cheeky found object is a commentary on this poem's opinion of art. If after... well, that's less interesting. 

We are in search of
the force that is direct pure sober
UNIQUE we are in search of NOTHING
we affirm the VITALITY of every IN-

Say it, brother. And that makes sense, pretty much.
the anti-philosophy of spontaneous acrobatics
Might need to think about that... unless he literally means that he likes people just doing acrobatics for no good reason. But - who doesn't?

At this moment I hate the man who whispers
before the intermission-eau de cologne-
sour theatre. THE JOYOUS WIND

Hang on, that just sounds like me moaning about the guy eating popcorn when I was in the cinema.

If each man says the opposite it is because he is

Get ready for the action of the geyser of our blood
-submarine formation of transchromatic aero-
planes, cellular metals numbered in
the flight of images

above the rules of the
and its control


It is not for the sawed-off imps
who still worship their navel

And for my next trick, I am going to compare this to the lyrics of a Slipknot album. 

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