Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, December 13, 2021

Who Was Tristan Tzara?

Tristan Tzara

By early 1917, everything wicked the radicals and avant-garde claimed was hidden in the old values of art, life, and morals was seemingly revealed in the trenches. Artists, worldwide, felt a need to express their revulsion. A German playwright named Hugo Ball had opened the perfect platform for them, a combined café, theater, and art exhibition space in Zürich, Switzerland. The Cabaret Voltaire, as he called  it, became the birthplace of a movement of art and anti-art for painters, poets, and performing artists. Ball wrote in his diary on 15 May, the group was starting a magazine with an unusual name: DADA, The DADA Movement became the Great War's gift to art.

By 1917 one of Cabaret Voltaire's leading performers was  a Romanian poet who called himself Tristan Tzara.  Born Samuel Rosenstock, he came from a Romanian family with Jewish roots. A highly original thinker by nature, his early years were marked by feelings of boredom with the small, agricultural town in which he lived. In 1915 he went to Zurich, a hotbed of revolutionary ideas, to study philosophy. His freethinking, anti-bourgeois principles led to painful clashes with his family that eventually led his father to cut him off. As he later wrote, "I was dead for him." Tzara published numerous "Manifestos" and articles attempting to describe the intentions of the new art form. 

The beginnings of DADA were not the beginnings of an art, but of a disgust. . . It is the work of creators, issued from a real necessity in the author, produced for himself. It expresses the knowledge of a supreme egoism, in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. 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 and literary quacks with a mania for improvement.

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 to objective forces and the imagination of every individual.

Everyone dances to his own personal boomboom. . . Does anyone think that, by a minute refinement of logic, he has demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease. . . DADA: 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: abolition of memory: . . Nothing is more delightful than to confuse and upset people. . . As DADA marches it continuously destroys. 

This Is DADA

In 1920  he relocated to Paris and became active in the Surrealist movement, contributing to the definition of surrealist activities and ideology. He was also an active communist sympathizer and was a member of the Resistance during the German occupation of Paris. Tzara remained a spokesman for Dada, and in 1950 delivered a series of nine radio addresses to his Parisian audience discussing the topic of "the avant-garde revues in the origin of the new poetry." In 1962 Tzara traveled for the first time to Africa. He died in Paris the next year.

Sources: Over the Top, December 1917;

No comments:

Post a Comment