Friday, October 03, 2003
"Duchamp's urinal blazed the trail. If the Dada movement insisted on slapping the public's face in order to demand alternatives to the affable, to impolitely wake society up to the limits of its current progression, it still continued to operate in that society's forum. Though it wished to transform society, its operators were too bound with that system to give up the privileges that society afforded them. What are its artists doing, in photo after photo, wearing the clothes of the bourgeois they deride so aggressively? Why do they adapt the affectations and symbols—in their tuxedos, stiff collars, and fine dresses—of that system they would seem to detest? Many of the Dada artists come right out of the privileged class, and that's the point: you don't come out. You remain, no matter how fervently you deny it. You're connected and a degree of outrageousness will be accepted as the euphoria of an art parlor game. Which is not to deny the power of the art itself by regarding it as product for patrons who had the taste and foresight to collect it.
"Beuys certainly inherits Dada's rage at the powers that be and he responds with Dada's audacity at not remaining subservient to the restrictions that system would oppress expression with. Dada was an awakening in the form of a movement—artistic, activist/social, but most forcefully, psychological: Its artists refused to adhere to the limits of the expected, or the patronized obligation to entertain and please. Their break was radical in its insistence on offending. It was a people voicing resistance to a social system that would prefer decoration to intellectual fervor. Dada sought to undermine, to question, to reject."
Sometimes I like to pretend I'm still something vaguely resembling an intellectual...
Tonight I walked to DuPont Circle to meet some friends for drinks and dessert. It was the first time I'd made the trek there from my place since I quit the horrid soul-crushing bookstore job, and it was amazing the memories dredged up by the familiar walk. Y'know how certain songs or albums can make you remember exactly, even relive for a moment, what it felt like to be at a certain time in your life? That's what the walk did to me. And it amazed me to come face to face with how dark that period of my life was... The main thing was to realize just how disrespected I felt the whole time I was working there.
To end this unpleasant trip down memory lane, I took a detour down R Street, walking on the northern side. A few blocks later I noticed someone walking toward me, but on the southern side of the street. He had spiky hair with frosted tips. I didn't get the best look at him, but he may have been Asian.
As he approached I noticed he was sobbing. And not softly. They were the bitter, gut-torn sobs of somebody recently, cruelly, and drunkenly spurned. He reached the corner and hugged the stalk of a streetlight and continued his crying.
I looked and felt a twinge of empathy, thinking of the many nights I had been in the same situation. It would have been possibly amusing if his pain had not been so naked. Part of me wanted to say something to comfort him, to ask if he was OK at least, but I kept walking.
A guy went by on a bike in my direction, but on the southern side of the street, right past the bereaved fellow. He went past me as well, but a block later he was locking up his bike. We exchanged a look of pained helplessness and went our separate ways.
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