Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

05 March 2011

A Little Interwar Bitchiness for Saturday

Some delightful selections from Michel Sanouillet's Dada à Paris:

In 1919, [André] Breton and his friends felt no admiration for [Jean Cocteau], who was swiftly making his way up in the world ("Cocteau is taking shape," [Louis] Aragon noted ironically), and made no attempt to hide their aversion. "My opinion, completely disinterested, I swear," writes Breton to [Tristan] Tzara on December 26, 1919, "is that he is the most hateful person of our time. Again, he has done nothing to me and I assure you that hatred is not my strong point.

Because it is too busy adjusting its lorgnette, the Nouvelle Revue Française never watches the show. --Erik Satie

Our main reproach to Dada is that it is too timid. Once the rules have been broken, why so little? Not a single Dada dares commit suicide, dares kill a spectator. One watches plays, one listens to music. --Jean Cocteau

All the painters who appear in our museums are failures at painting; the only people ever talked about are failures; the world is divided into two categories of people: failures and the unknown. -- Francis Picabia

Tristan Tzara visited Zürich in the summer of 1921 and penned the following: "From this provincial hole," he wrote [Francis] Picabia, "Paris takes on wonderful proportions. Paris with you, your activities, the hours we spent together. It is to you and your friendship that I owe that stay, which was one of the most pleasant of my life. [Hans] Arp is still the very likable and vivacious boy. He's all alone here and terribly bored. He'd really like to see you and wants to come to Paris or New York. ... What a stupid country! Zürich is in the hands of a few old women. I can't imagine how I could have spent years here."

A couple of phrases by way of noting Francis Picabia's complete and utter genius:
"A priori, which is to say with eyes shut, Dada places before action and above everything: Doubt. DADA doubts everything. Dada is an armadillo. Everything is Dada. Beware of Dada. / ... true Dadas are against DADA. / [...] / Dada works with all its strength for the more universal establishment of the idiot. But consciously. And itself tends to become one more and more." This manifesto ends with the word "howl" repeated two hundred times.

A last bit of anti-art (?) from Picabia: "One says of a man that he has taste when it is that of others."