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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The All Important Dedication

One of my favourite Dadaist sculptures is "The Gift" by Man Ray. It is simply an old iron with nails welded onto the bottom. It beautifully expresses the fundamental difference between Dadaism and Surrealism. Whereas Surrealists deal with the juxtaposition of independent objects, Dadaists deal with their synthesis. Instead of presenting two discrete items, nails and an iron, Man Ray welds them together and wields something far more alien and disturbing. The result gives the appearance of a torture device, most likely because we cannot see an iron without imagining it being put to use.

This instinct within us, furthermore, highlights another element of Dada: to draw out our personal experience into the present. We instinctively apply our knowledge and imaginations to everything we encounter. We can look at an unlit bulb and see its potential; but when faced with items we wouldn't expect together (think Arthur Rimbaud's umbrella and sewing machine on a dissecting table), we force ourselves to reconcile them, creating a "story" backed by our reason. Dadaists exploit this impulse, creating freakish and ghoulish images which consistently defy explanation.

Finally "The Gift" presents the humour and pain coexistent in life. By welding the parts together, Man Ray has made a new, useless object. It can neither iron clothes nor hold boards together. It must find its meaning elsewhere. Humorously and Humorlessly we find ourselves in the present, separated from but connected to the predicaments of past generations. Meaning may be out there, but it's our journey to find it.

I am drawn to Dada and the Surreal, to composers such as Ives and Berio, and ultimately to Unitarianism because I see these juxtapositions in life as inseparable. The movie my neighbour is watching, the sound of my typewriter as I punch this out, participate within my mind; they may act of their own accord, but ultimately I see them as one aural experience, united and unique.

This blog will serve as that unifying element: the string which may bind two sticks together, either to build a bridge, or simply to write a story.

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