Monday, May 18, 2009

If If You

I’ll say that it’s a book about two guys playing chess in a smoky café in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland. Only the two guys are Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dada, a radical art movement, and V. I. Lenin, the architect of the Russian Revolution. Oh, and it’s the most important chess game ever played, because the world’s never going to be the same when these guys get up from the table.

I would like to give young people solid intellectual, historical support for saying “screw you,” which is what they do anyway, even unsupported by serious scholarship.

I’d like to remind older people, too, that refusing war and thinking radically new thoughts are vastly preferable to institutionalizing the little we think we know.

Dada has never received its full due in critical literature because it’s still alive. Dada is pure dynamite, it mocks attempts to grasp it, and it is perennially rediscovered and in use by the discontented young. Dada’s most recent period of new glory was punk and postpunk cultures, but it flourished also in kitsch, camp, pop art, and street theater.

We are all tourists in this posthuman world that we don’t yet know very much about. Humans used their skills in the past to conquer and live with nature, an option no longer available to us. We have, for better or worse, become the custodians of nature, the grown-ups who must care for an infantilized and domesticated nature. If we don’t, we go down with it.

-Andrei Codrescu