Tzara's Manifesta Dada 1918

poempainter's picture

I just performed spoken word, last Downtown (Los Angeles) Artwalk, on the Hippodrome--a mural painted historic bus that is now the "shuttle" that runs 15 minute loops through Gallery Row and beyond for the patrons of the walk. Since I perform with my pet python, the curators of the bus suggested I come up with something WW1, to honor the freak-show snakes that were displayed on Main Street at that time. I immediately thought of the Dada movement, and set out to do a piece on this. I managed to find a translation of Tzara's Manifeso online, and preceded to painstakingly edit it down to about half, trying hard to preserve the essence of the piece. Many great lines were lost, but they were all great, so I decided to keep the ones that were most easily understood, and edit out the ones that deserve more pondering to understand. It is a beautiful historical work and I hope you decide to check out all or some of the edited version that follows, and please let me know if you'd like the link to the full version I found!

Watch for the video version on Youtube (I'm currently seeking someone who can transfer analogue to digital; with the packed and rude audience on the crowded bouncing bus, it is so DADA that I actually LOVE it:)

Here's my Hippodrome performance.

As I’m sure we all know, World War I took place primarily in Europe from 1914 to 1918. Over 40 million casualties resulted, including approximately 20 million military and civilian deaths. This war was so devastating, it also became known as “The War to End All Wars.”

During the war, a cultural movement, Dada or Dadaism, began in neutral Zürich, Switzerland, and spread, or should I say, continued to sprout up globally. It peaked from 1916 to 1920.

The movement concentrated its anti war politic through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art, through anti-art cultural works. It primarily involved visual arts, literature (poetry, art manifestos, art theory), theatre, and graphic design.

Some say it was named by a group artists gathered at a restaurant in Zürich in 1916. They stabbed a French-German dictionary with a paper knife, and picked the name that the point landed upon. Dada in French is a child's word for hobby-horse. Others argue that it got its name from Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto, 1918.

So I decided to edit a translated version and present it, to see what we could learn from it.

By Tristan Tzara.
From "Dada Manifesto" [1918], translated from the French by Robert Motherwell and edited/translated further by Nance Broderzen.

*There is a literature that does not reach the voracious masses.
Urgently written by each author, for himself,
every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness,
or the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles--
On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell,
on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups.
Behind them a crippled world of literary quacks with a mania for improvement.

I say unto you: there is no beginning and we do not tremble, we are not sentimental.
We are a furious Wind, tearing the dirty linen of clouds and prayers,
preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire, decomposition.*
We will put an end to mourning and replace tears by sirens screeching from one continent to another,
I destroy the drawers of the brain and of social organization:
spread demoralization wherever I go and cast my hand from heaven to hell, my eyes from hell to heaven,
restore the fecund wheel of a universal circus of objective forces, to the imagination of every individual.
Everything one looks at is false.

If I cry out:
Ideal, ideal, ideal,
Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge,
Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom,
I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and
all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so many books,
only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boom boom,
and that the writer is entitled to his boom boom:
the authority of the mystic wand formulated as the bouquet of a phantom orchestra made up of silent fiddle bows greased with philtres made of chicken manure.

To this element philosophers always like to add: the power of observation.
But actually this magnificent quality of the mind is the proof of its impotence.
We observe, we regard from one or more points of view, then choose among the millions that exist.
Science disgusts me-- as soon as it becomes a speculative system, it loses its character.
I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order.
Carry on, my children, humanity . . . Science says we are the servants of nature:
everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in.
Carry on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins . . .

I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none.
To complete oneself,
to perfect oneself in one's own littleness,
to fill the vessel with one's individuality,
to have the courage to fight for and against thought,
the sudden burst of an infernal propeller into economic lilies....
a protest with the fists of its whole being engaged in destructive action:

*Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create:
Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets:
Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory:
Dada; abolition of archaeology:
Dada; abolition of prophets:
Dada; abolition of the future:
Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in spontaneity:
Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record;
to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment:
whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic;
to divest one's church of every useless cumbersome accessory;
to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall,
or coddle them -with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn't matter in the least-
with the same intensity in the thicket of one's soul-
pure of insects for blood
well-born, and gilded with bodies of archangels.

Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites
and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies:

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I don't have to tell you that for the general public and for you, the refined public, a Dadaist is the equivalent of a leper.
But that is only a manner of speaking. When these same people get close to us,
they treat us with that remnant of elegance that comes from their old habit of belief in progress.
At ten yards distance, hatred begins again.
If you ask me why, I won't be able to tell you.

I know that you have come here today to hear explanations.
Well, don't expect to hear any explanations about Dada.
You explain to me why you exist.
You haven't the faintest idea.
You will say: I exist to make my children happy. But in your hearts you know that isn't so.
You will say: I exist to guard my country, against barbarian invasions. That's a fine reason.
You will say: I exist because God wills. That's a fairy tale for children.
You will never be able to tell me why you exist but you will always be ready to maintain a serious attitude about life.
You will never understand that life is a pun,
for you will never be alone enough to reject hatred, judgments, all these things that require such an effort,
in favor of a calm level state of mind that makes everything equal and without importance.

Nothing is more delightful than to confuse and upset people.
People one doesn't like.
What's the use of giving them explanations that are merely food for curiosity?
The truth is that people love nothing but themselves and their little possessions, their income, their dog.
This state of affairs derives from a false conception of property.
If one is poor in spirit, one possesses a sure and indomitable intelligence, a savage logic, a point of view that can not be shaken.
Try to be empty
Then you will be able to understand many things.

You are not more intelligent than we, and we are not more intelligent than you.
Intelligence is an organization like any other,
the organization of society,
the organization of a bank,
the organization of chit-chat at a society tea.
It serves to create order and clarity where there is none.
It serves to create a state hierarchy.
To set up classifications for rational work.
To separate questions of a material order from those of a cerebral order, but to take the former very seriously.
Intelligence is the triumph of sound education and pragmatism.
Fortunately life is something else and its pleasures are innumerable.
They are not paid for in the coin of liquid intelligence.

What are the Beautiful, the Good, Art, Freedom?
Words that have a different meaning for every individual.
Words with the pretension of creating agreement among all.
Words which have not the moral value and objective force that people have grown accustomed to finding in them.
Their meaning changes from one individual, one epoch, one country to the next.
Men are different. It is diversity that makes life interesting.
There is no common basis in men’s minds.

What good did the theories of the philosophers do us?
Did they help us to take a single step forward or backward?
What is forward, what is backward?
Did they alter our forms of contentment?
We are.
We argue, we dispute, we get excited. The rest is sauce.
Sometimes pleasant, sometimes mixed with a limitless boredom, a swamp dotted with tufts of dying shrubs.

We have had enough of the intelligent movements that have stretched beyond measure our credulity in the benefits of science.
What we want now is spontaneity.
Not because it is better or more beautiful than anything else.
But because everything that flows freely from ourselves, without the intervention of speculative ideas, represents us.
Life is far more interesting than Art.

Dada knows the correct measure that should be given to art:
Dada introduces it into daily life. And vice versa.
In art, Dada reduces everything to an initial simplicity, growing always more relative.
It mingles its caprices with the chaotic wind of creation and the barbaric dances of savage tribes.
The absurd has no terrors for me, for from a more exalted point of view everything in life seems absurd to me.
The Beautiful and the True in art do not exist;
what interests me is the intensity of a personality transposed directly, clearly into the work;
the man and his vitality;
the angle from which he regards the elements and
in what manner he knows how to gather sensation, emotion, into a lacework of words and sentiments.

You will often hear that Dada is a state of mind.
You may be gay, sad, afflicted, joyous, melancholy or Dada.
Without being literary, you can be romantic,
you can be dreamy, weary, eccentric, a businessman, skinny, transfigured, vain, amiable or Dada.
This will happen later on in the course of history when Dada has become a precise, habitual word,
when popular repetition has given it the character of a word organic with its necessary content.

The beginnings of Dada were not the beginnings of an art, but of a disgust.
Disgust with the magnificence of philosophers who for 3ooo years have been explaining everything to us (what for? ),
disgust with the pretensions of these artists-God's-representatives-on-earth,
disgust with passion and with real pathological wickedness where it was not worth the bother;
disgust with a false form of domination and restriction *en masse*, that accentuates rather than appeases man's instinct of domination,
disgust with all the catalogued categories, with the false prophets who are nothing but a front for the interests of money, pride, disease,
disgust with the lieutenants of a mercantile art made to order according to a few infantile laws,
disgust with the divorce of good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly (for why is it more estimable to be red rather than green, to the left rather than the right, to be large or small?).

As Dada marches it continuously destroys.
From all these disgusts, may I add, it draws no conclusion, no pride, no benefit.
It has even stopped combating anything, in the realization that it's no use, that all this doesn't matter.

What interests a Dadaist is his own mode of life. But here we approach the great secret.
Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing,
it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet,
not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies, but very simply at street corners,
like dogs and grasshoppers.

Like everything in life, Dada is useless.
Dada is without pretension, as life should be.
Perhaps you will understand me better when I tell you that
Dada is a virgin microbe
that penetrates with the insistence of air into all the spaces that reason has not been able to fill with words or conventions.




timothyseanmcshane's picture

Nada Mas...

U.S. out of EVERYWHERE... Save the Planet... Impeach Bu
sh/Cheney... Rock on witch 'yer bad self... tim rules...
I couldn't help relating to getting on the bus with your pet python because when I was young, aside from practicing the piano, which I was not obsessed with at the time, I was obsessed with herpetology and I always had a couple of ten gallon aquariums filled with who-knows-what--- mostly snakes that I had caught myself on snake-hunting expeditions in rural parts of the San Ramon and Diablo Valleys of Northern California (East Bay/ San Francisco Bay Area). I'm a pretty twisted individual that knows LA, knows Pythons, and doesn't really feel that there is anything out of the ordinary about getting on the bus with one so I thought that I'd share that with you! Slater...

U.S. out of EVERYWHERE... Save the Planet... Impeach Bush/Cheney... Rock on witch 'yer bad self... tim rules...