Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde

Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde

Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde

Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde

Synopsis

How Dada is to break its cultural accommodation and containment today necessitates thinking the historical instances through revised application of critical and theoretical models. The volume Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde moves precisely by this motive, bringing together writings which insist upon the continuity of the early twentieth-century moment now at the start of the twenty-first. Engaging the complex and contradictory nature of Dada strategies, instanced in the linguistic gaming and performativity of the movement's initial formation, and subsequently isolating the specific from the general with essays focusing on Ball, Tzara, Serner, Hausmann, Dix, Heartfield, Schwitters, Baader, Cravan and the exemplary Duchamp, the political philosophy of the avant-garde is brought to bear upon our own contemporary struggle through critical theory to comprehend the cultural usefulness, relevance, validity and effective (or otherwise) oppositionality of Dada's infamous anti-stance.The volume is presented in sections that progressively point towards the expanding complexity of the contemporary engagement with Dada, as what is often exhaustive historical data is forced to rethink, realign and reconfigure itself in response to the analytical rigour and exercise of later twentieth-century animal anarchic thought, the testing and cultural placement of thoughts upon the virtual, and the eventual implications for the once blissfully unproblematic idea of expression. From the opening, provocative proposition that historically Dada may have been the falsest of all false paths, the volume rounds to dispute such condemnation as demarcation continues not only of Dada's embeddedness in western culture, but more precisely of the location of Dada culture. Ten critical essays - by Cornelius Partsch, John Wall, T. J. Demos, Anna Schaffner, Martin I. Gaughan, Curt Germundson, Stephen C. Foster, Dafydd Jones, Joel Freeman and David Cunningham - are supplemented by the critical bibliography prepared by Timothy Shipe, which documents the past decade of Dada scholarship, and in so doing provides a valuable resource for all those engaged in Dada studies today.

Excerpt

Perhaps the falsest of all false paths was the narrow thoroughfare Spiegelgasse.

Lenin made his distinction clear, on more than one occasion, between “freedom” as symptomatic of bourgeois-anarchist individualism, and the real freedom he believed would be actualised through revolutionary thought breaking out of bourgeois slavery and merging with “the movement of the really advanced and thoroughly revolutionary class” (1967). His distinction drew on Dietzgen's hostility to the materialist theory of knowledge embodied in “free-thinkers” who, together, constituted a reactionary mass in relation to social democracy. For Lenin, what opposed “free thinkers” were “integral people … who do not separate theory from practice” (1962: 340-41), whose system is inscribed in their practice, even, indeed and perhaps surprisingly argued when such a system is an opiate religious one. To believe that we are free in our liberal democratic society is our delusion; it demonstrates our failure to see our structural accommodation and containment, and our failure to admit the painful truth, as Lenin understood it, that there can be “no real and effective 'freedom' in a society based on the power of money” (1967). the admission, if conceded, is at least productive; to recognise Lenin's comparison of a living movement with a mechanism is to make the structure visible – and if nothing else this much subsequently redeems the structuralist's position. Once the structure is visible, we can begin to think our relation to it; if we cease to think that relation, the structure again recedes into invisibility and resumes its unchallenged and effectively uninterrupted repressive exercise.

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