Amoeblog


Tristan Tzara

Posted by Whitmore, April 19, 2008 08:16pm | Post a Comment
I often seem to be a bit late in writing about historical events on the anniversary of said occurrence; I blame time itself for not allowing me a few minutes to catch my breath, so here I am, several days late, again, celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite characters of the 20th century.

On April 16th, 1896 Samuel Rosenstock (a.k.a. the once and future Tristan Tzara) was born in Moinesti, Bacau Province in Romania. Most famous as the author of the Dada Manifesto and co-founder in 1916 of the original anti-art and literary movement, Dadaism, along with Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Hans Arp and Richard Huelsenbeck, Tzara is often credited with discovering the name Dada. One version of the story has him hanging out at the acting Dada headquarters, the Cabaret Voltaire, in Zurich,Switzerland, and randomly selecting a name by stabbing a French-German dictionary with a knife, picking the word impaled by the blade’s point. Dada is a French child's colloquialism for hobby-horse. If it isn’t true, at least it’s good myth. Besides the knife play and original manifesto, Tzara, as leading agitator, also wrote many of the earliest Dada documents including La Première Aventure céleste de Monsieur Antipyrine (The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine, 1916) and Vingt-cinq poemes (Twenty-Five Poems, 1918). Some of his later works include his masterpiece L’Homme Approximatif (The Approximate Man, 1931), Parler Seul (Speaking Alone, 1950), and La Face Intérieure (The Inner Face, 1953).

[Last year for Tristan Tzara’s 111th birthday I decided to place 111 pink post-its, each numbered sequentially, on randomly chosen objects- buildings, cars, envelopes, people - anything and everything that got in my way as I carved out my day; I believed it to be a perfectly useless and wanky endeavor to pursue. This year for his 112th birthday I thought I’d celebrate by lying about what I actually did last year. Next year I plan on observing his 113th birthday (and prime number) in Zurich by partying at the remnants of the Cabaret Voltaire, and re-live what I did there 20 years ago; relieve myself on the wall outside, just around the corner from the front entrance, on the side street under the Commemorative Memorial plaque. Of course, I suspect, I’ll re-invent, once again, events in Zurich.]

The original Anti-art artists, the Dadaists, always the provocateurs of their time, launched
one coup after another against the norms of the day. Their iconoclastic impulses torched the sensibilities of the art hierarchy. Their attack on aesthetics collided with audiences and critics and the innocent public at large. Taboo performance art, obscenity crammed prattling poetry, sexual deviancy, religious defilement, corruption of innocence, anti-patriotism might just be the crème brûlée dessert to a meaty confit du canard (confit du connard!?!) table d'hôte of “the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man" (American Art News dated April 2, 1921).  And in return the Dadaists became one of the essential artistic components to the 20th century.

By either hook or by crook, Dada designed, consumed, and sufficiently destroyed the entire repertoire of art criticism psychobabble years before someone spoke the words “post-modern” or “signifier” or “complicity between scientism which underpins the sadism of incessant deconstruction, heightened by the intensity of the pleasure-seeking moment.”

Thank you Tristan Tzara, and all the loons in Zurich. Perhaps Dada never revolutionized 20th century society as profoun
dly as they had wished, but they left an indelible mark on art, literature, film and how and where we stand in a museum today. Happy belated birthday Samuel Rosenstock!

Relevant Tags

Avant Garde (21), History (52), Emmy Hennings (1), Hugo Ball (2), Hans Arp (2), Tristan Tzara (5), Outsider Art (21), Cabaret Voltaire (2), Surrealism (6), Switzerland (1), France (20), Art (88), Dada (10)