What is Dada ?
“The true dadas are against DADA,” Tristan Tzara wrote in the “Dada Manifesto.” “In principle I am against manifestos, as I am against principles.” Dada was a big no, a radical negation of art and reason, the partisan of a resolute Nothing. I am with GAP, global art project, a group of international artists working in various media; a group for people who don't belong to groups or identify with any particular philosophy who operate individually but take the risk of gathering in collaborative settings, then retreating, informed by the experience and in turn creating some sort of imprint both externally and upon the external environment; working inside and outside of traditional cultural systems. Fluidity, growth, openness, risk might be the credo of GAP which changes in personnel and modes of presentation through workshops, organic exhibitions, exchanges of ordinary frags ( raw materials ) and openness to what actually happens as opposed to what might be planned. If this in anyway connects us to the spirit of Dada, then so be it.
HAF : Carl Heyward, when did your involvement with the Dada movement begin ?
I have been aware of principals of the Dada art movement since my youth when I struggled to make sense of abstract art, eschewing art history, which led to the discovery of Surrealism which was a no-brainer because it resonated with my dreams prior to any intellectual or academic introduction to the Freudian party line. I have always been a hunter, someone who walks miles till I a get lost in any city, seeking visual stimulation that gives rise to musing about the orgins of things, the fascination with the ordinary, the familiar slightly out of context; was called a scavenger when I was a kid collecting rusted nails, distressed bits of paper, random notes, etc. When I discovered Duchamp, Bearden, Cornell and Man Ray, all those who celebrated and elevated the ordinary right up to Warhol and his media-savvy recapitulation of the daily news, so to speak, I felt "at home" or at least an affinity with these artists outside of the context of their direct or extrapolated affinity or connection with the Dada movement.
HAF : How did GAP's participation in SFIAF come about ?
The curators Matt McKinley and Hanna Regev became aware of GAP activity and recognized a kinship in our practice and invited us to participate in a festival that is usually performance heavy meaning dance. The Dada connection, while not necessarily conscious is certainly contained in our efforts and we seemed a good fit though not affiliated with most of the neo-DADA " purists".
HAF : What significance does the dunce cap have with your installation ?
The GAP installation at SF International Arts Festival and our segment DADA HERE AND NOW needed a simple symbol with universal identification that reflected literal usage by the original Dadaists but also something that triggered a connection with contemporary ( even nostalgic or archaic ) identification of seeking, being wrong, being ostracized, being excluded both literally and philosophically; images of Hugo Ball and the head wear at Dada soirees came to mind. What better Alfred E Newman image of our awe and anxiety, uncertainty and cowardice than the funnel of knowledge, the old fashioned dunce cap ?Additionally our Akiko Suzuki ( Osaka, Japan) has been tasked with the creation of a 40 foot quilt using frags from most of our 20 or so international " members" for inclusion in the festival, a ceremonial contemporary update of the traditional western quilt but with bite. The dunce caps as well as the quilt allow an inclusion of our nationals in the GAP collaborative practice and is consistent of , if not elevating the mundane, at least calling attention to the potential beauty and utility of the ordinary, something I think the Dadaists would appreciate.
HAF : This is a multiple question presented by SFIAF curators: Can art successfully challenge a fixed mindset? Is dialogue generated by provocative art possible and can it lead to change, co- existence, tolerance, and cooperation? Can art inspired by Dadaism be important or relevant today, or is it something that was of its time ?
Any mode, any sincere insistent form of communication can change a mindset...give comfort to the uncomfortable, to paraphrase an old saw. If it is not the function of art to change minds and hearts it certainly has the mission to confront those who engender harmful, limiting, rigid notions of what art or the simple experience of life should be about; of what it might contain. Donald Trump ain't changing his mind, but those threatened by him might attain a sense of solidarity by certain signs and symbols, noises in the veiled fascist dark. And like these re-emerging scary monsters we too are heartened by the sight and exertions of fellow travelers.
HAF : Europe was apparently in a different place in regards to awareness and proactive fortitude. The US on the other hand produced racially charged "birth of a nation" D.W Griffith. Racial disparity was present during the onset of Dada and still is present in this country. What is your assessment on how the Dada movement would handle racism ?
Europe is as racist as any corner of the US, it is naive to think otherwise. Birth of a Nation flourished in a global atmosphere of fascination with Black culture as threat, novelty and fantasy, a misplaced ill informed pat on the back is no different than a kick in the ass if it's intention is in error. Europe demonstrates on a daily basis that it is just as intolerant and fearful for it's racial power status quo. Human beings fear other human beings and it is only a matter of degree that these fears are manifest and find expression in law, mob and riot or attitude or institutionalization of these fears via custom, law, tacit agreement or internal policy.
BUT WHAT CHA' GONNA DO ?
Our job is to remain free and make effort to recognize and secure the freedoms of others. To incorporate and respect difference. Simple as that . Across the board, it is sort of a mixed-media construction be it racism, sexism or religious intolerance, it's a bad idea, stop doing it...these are the noises I am making in everyday gestures, my thinking, my practice, in my life in GAP; through a realization that life is temporary and impact can be made in modest ways, through generosity of mind and spirit, by making mistakes, by being clear of intentions, by preparing and participating in the collaborative future.
Carl Heyward GLOBAL ART PROJECT founder
San Francisco , California March 2016
Anna Geyer, Antonio Cortez
Carl Heyward + Global Art Project [GAP]:
Maria T. Allocco, Mario Catalona, John Crabtree, Vered Gersztenkorn,
Violet Skipp Haffner, Jenny Hynes, Annie Lindberg, Monica Lisi,
Massimo Nota, Laura Oh, Glen Rogers, Alvaro Sanchez,
Robert Reed, Ron Shelton, Akiko Suzuki, Ron Weijers,
Heather Wilcoxon, Masani Landfair, Macha Melanie,
John Held Jr.
Mary Corey March
Edna Mira Raia
Nathalie Brilliant (lead)
Maria Dawn, Barry Despenza, Hanna Beck, Amy Munz, Aaron Freedman, Christine Lee
Ros Salters Acosta with Maria T. Allocco
Weidong Yang and Daiane Lopez Da Silva [Kinetech]
SF INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
FT MASON GALLERY
308 COWELL THEATER ATRIUM
Honoring the centennial of the birth of Dada, this exhibition offers contemporary responses by local, national and international artists to enduring questions first posited by their Dada predecessors. In 1916 a group of pacifist artists from across Europe, reacting to the political unrest of that time, convened in Zurich and proceeded to jolt the art world through a multi-disciplinary questioning of established norms and academic traditions. Firmly embracing both the newest technology of the day and the element of chance in the creative process the movement included visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestos, theory, theater and graphic design all underscored by anti-war politics. Building upon this conceptual groundwork, the visual and performance artists participating the 2016 SF International Arts Festival blend chance, technology, collaboration and audience interaction to add to the legacy and influence of Dada.
The original Dadaists sought to create ‘anti-art’ that shocked, ridiculed and challenged the status quo in response to the politics that fueled World War I. They created absurd, colorful, fun art that broke all the rules simply by having no rules. Philosophically, the Dadaist response, both then and now, to the absurdities they perceive is to be mindful of the irrational and utilize the absurd as a guiding force that embraces chance procedures, playfulness, found objects, irony, and whimsical expression while also taking the opportunity to examine context, question purpose, and measure personal values against a perceived societal mean through the use of cutting edge contemporary tools to dialogue with their audience.
These are the challenges put forth to contemporary practitioners of Dada:
Can art successfully challenge a fixed mindset? Is a dialogue generated by provocative art possible and can it lead to change, co-existence, tolerance, and cooperation? Can art inspired by Dadaism be important or relevant today, or is it something that was of its time ?
The artists, performers, musicians, videographers, and other creative types participating in this exhibition collectively present the imaginative results of being challenged to move beyond the Duchampian idea of ‘retinal art’ and focus on the possibilities within the creative process to introduce or re-imagine philosophies of free thought and creative output as vehicles for intellectual expansion, questioning contemporary notions of what constitutes art Here and Now.
173x960cm 68”x 32ft
Conceved by GAP founder and curator Carl Heyward
executed in Osaka, Japan by GAP founding member Akiko Suzuki
created from hundreds "frags". collage elements of paper, fabric and found objects collected from the international membership of GAP, an international collaborative collective
ANT / RAGE / REASON :
Dada and neo-Dada persists as both comfort blanket and enigma; trailblazer of grounded focus on the idiosyncrasies and institutionalized exclusions, then appropriation, of gestures in the art world by a powerful closed system of selection, presentation and promotion that emphasizes the relationship between topical expression, self-historicalzation, the marriage of the high and the low, pure mischief and poignant attention to the importance the presence of the mundane, the necessity and significance of the ordinary and the beauty ugliness, a Warhol legacy.
Dada is a rant.
The conditions that gave rise to Dada 100 years ago have shifted in specifics but much of the tension and relevance that the movement embodied persists as a reaction to the rise of Donald Trump and neo-fascist rumblings in the USA, of intolerance, racism and pure hate with antecedents in the Christian Right, Sarah Palin, Ross Perot, the Neo-Nazi Party, the fabled Silent Majority (which ain't so silent anymore) the KKK and the backlash against symbolic and real advances such as Gay rights, the rise of Obama and all that implies, the feminist movement and civil rights, all of which stand vulnerable to the erosion that the aforementioned embody and champion. Globally, many of the issues are similar such as the concerns about migrant workers, worker exploitation, environmental suicide, rape, ethnic cleansing, the advance of right wing conservative exertions, crumbling economic systems, anti-Islamic hysteria, and on and on. All building to levels of discomfort that are hard to fathom or ignore, though we do the best we can and have the tools to do so for as long as possible.
Fear, exclusion, ignorance, entitlement and distance fuel this dissension, a juggling of the connected, the haves and have nots, the disenfranchised whether seeking entree into the academic-cultural arena or sitting homeless, disconnected and oblivious all seeking recognition and autonomy; expression, tolerance, inclusion and a modicum of respect.
These are scary times where the value of making art, for instance, seems simultaneously futile and necessary; that grasping the means of communication in the cyber age stands central to clarifying the disinformation which flourishes in secrecy (Wiki Leaks) as a method of control and misdirection; where we are pitted against each other in every sense in every media-government utterance in a fire hose mentality directing our anger, angst or disillusion to the hot-box topic of the moment funneling our attention then into product placement and slap-happy self-congratulatory dodged-bullet celebration till the focus is shifted to the next invented "crisis": war, the Mexican Wall, immigration, racial intolerance, police forces run amok, drugs with a dash of the Kardashians thrown in just in case you weren't paying attention.
PAY ATTENTION :
William S. Burroughs, Marshall McLuhan, the Beatles, Monty Python, David Byrne, John Cage, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jasper Johns, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Allan Kaprow and Yoko Ono, rap artists, punk rockers, stand up comedians and many others did and grasped, through careful observation and pure audacity, the importance of the ordinary as something to celebrate and put in equal context of the "larger issues" and further broke from the systems of control as did the original Dada a century ago.
Add the neo-dadaists like Picasso Gaglione, Ginny Lloyd, Buster Cleveland, Brhuno Waam Mru Debendentti, and Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, all premier satirists, performance artists and mail artists and we get a fuller view of the relevance of the sometimes seemingly uncatergorizable influence of the Dada art movement.
Mass media, collage, mixed-media, collaborative arts., assemblage, mail art, Fluxus, Cobra and performance, even careful use of social media, dial-a -poem ( John Giorno) all have roots in the Dada art movement whose antecedents began in a Cabaret environment as if at the end of the world; a fatalism tinged with desperation and gallows humor, not so different from today.