Monday, 29 February 2016

Dada Under the Octagon

I didn't know much about Dada until I attended part of a Dada celebration - it's been 100 years since the movement first began.

When my friend Jenny mentioned she was reading poetry for the local celebrations of this event, I had to rack my brains as to what knowledge I had of this movement.
The image that immediately came to mind was of a melting watch or a clock, but that turned out to be Dali I was thinking of and his painting, 'The Persistence Of Memory' (aptly enough as it turned out, considering I was searching my own memory).

I now know a little more, so here are my random thoughts in no particular order (which is possibly very Dada).

Dada is French for hobby horse; or maybe means rocking horse.

The movement (Dadaism) itself started in Switzerland during the First World War.

It is against war and anything that smacks of dictatorship or sense of entitlement.

It is an avant garde movement associated with radical leftist thinkers.

It is associated with Cubism and surrealism.

Dada intersects with art / literary, politics and culture.

There are no rules in the Dada movement; rules and reason are anathema to the Dada movement.

The Dada centenary exhibition and performance space was held in a cool (literally and figuratively) underground building that stretches underneath part of the Octagon in Dunedin.

New Zealand poet, Jenny Powell


Down in the depths of the underground space, we couldn't hear the skirl of pipes from the Octagon, so it was fittingly surreal to come up into the sunshine and be greeted with another world within worlds.


Dear Reader,

After my short exposure to a little Dadaism, I sat in the Octagon with a handle of Pilsner and chatted with friends about how frustrating life can be for some people, and how underground movements, like Dadaism, are a good antidote to the confident heavies weighing in and causing wars (which can come in many forms; large and small) and generally raining on your parade. (The Lucys v the Charlie Browns).
Movements such as Dada are the quiet revolutions.
For me, this attitude is partly reflected in what (the rather stern, despite his curly hair) Schopenhauer says on the subject of reading: 'A pre-condition for reading good books is not reading bad ones, for life is too short'.
In his writings Schopenhauer also mentions the Latin saying: 'Dies diem docet'; 'One day teaches another day'.
I like that. 
I don't know that I would like Schopenhauer if I met him in person, but he does make you think. I'll give him that.



Roderick Robinson said...

Not reading bad books means accepting someone else's opinion on what constitutes a bad book. Knowing what to omit is not quite as important as what to include, but bad books can provide pointers. Think how horrible it would be to wake up one morning and discover you'd written a Dan Brown novel. A fat bank balance, yes. But having to move to Chatham Island to avoid the neighbours. Hmmm.

Avus said...

All I knew about Dadaism (before I read your entertaining piece, Kay) was that Barry Humphries (Dame Edna Everidge in another reincarnation) was a practitioner in his early days.
I liked the Lucy v. Charlie Brown simile - just about summed it up!

Roderick Robinson said...

Is the forbidding of rules a rule in itself?

Kay Cooke said...

Avus - Thank you. I didn't know that about Baz!
Roderick - Most probably. It's all French to me (or Swiss?).

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