We, in the morass of Iraq, daily toting up fatalities and reeling from internecine strife in the Middle East and bitter divisions in our own country, are living in Dadaist times -- except there are no Dadaists around to express our anger and frustration. Instead, we studiously chronicle the atrocities and then "op-ed" them to death. Our films routinely reproduce the sadism, violence, and terror which are the basic preoccupations of our era; our theatre companies churn out documentaries of the appalling events which disturb our "domestic tranquility"; our media-mavens regularly dispense moral indignation and expose the corruptions of which every day brings us some new and grotesque installment. Our dissent is civilized and law-abiding; our demonstrations orderly and "peaceful," our wrath bitterly suppressed.Via Cursor.
"Milton thou shouldst be living at this hour" is a cry that should be replaced by "Tzara, thou shouldst be living at this hour!" Where is the renegade art that should decry the lunacy of these renegade times? The artists are as silent as the students, the students as comatose as their parents. Dissent has had to "make do" with nuanced perceptions of injustice and gentle knuckle-wrapping of criminal leaders like Bush, Blair, Putin, and Ahmadinejad, thieving lobbyists, corporate embezzlers, and ghoulish, puritanical, smug and well-placed church-going neocons.
What established American artist today would dare to paint a moustache and goatee on the Mona Lisa, smash out George Washington's wooden teeth, or show Thomas Jefferson copulating with Sally Hemings? No, we content ourselves with the satirical barbs of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno and David Letterman; revel in comic aperçus which show that we Americans can "let our hair down" as well as the next man, "kid" our leaders and "send up" our congressmen. All we seem unable to do is counter the transgressions of our faltering democracy or find candidates without Achilles' heels to elect.
Moral disgust is precisely what engendered the spirit of Dada. Bring back Dada say I!
Charles Marowitz on the Nationial Gallery of Art's Dada exhibition:
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