Taking The Plunger: Is Dada Right For You?


'Lucky Dada' by Jay Schwartz“I speak only of myself since I do not wish to convince, I have no right to drag others into my river, I oblige no one to follow me and everybody practices his art in his own way.” – Tristan Tzara “Dada Manifesto 1918”


Thank you for reading this post. I’m not really sure why you did or what your expectations might be, but I sincerely thank you anyway. I feel it’s important to get that out of the way right from the start, before the confusion sets in. I may be a dadaist, but at the very least I’m also a humanist. Trust me, you can bank on that … just don’t bet the farm.

I tend to enter ‘dadaism’ on forms that request an entry for ‘religion’. Someone asked me the other day “what’s all this about dadaism?” I considered for a nanosecond how to respond before replying “oh you know, dadaismos … dada …” I received a curious albeit blank stare in return as I noticed the corners of his mouth begin to twitch ever so slightly. I SMiLEd and turned away, mouthing the words “have a narcissistic day”. My existence was justified.

Meanwhile, the aberrant logic of the times raged on all around me. In fact, it continues to do so to this day. I would tell you to ‘watch the 11 o’clock news’, but I don’t myself anymore and wouldn’t want to unintentionally to mislead you. Of course, it’s funny because I was breastfed on television, but I’ve weaned myself from it … and for the same reasons I don’t smoke; I refuse to be a slave.

And so I became a dadaist … and you can be one too, if you are inclined to take the plunger.

Beach SandalsUpon first embracing a path of dadaism, you might consider the following dilemma; whether or not to capitalize the word ‘Dadaism’. It’s not only a fair question, but also one that speaks volumes of your intentions, your values and certainly your ‘malnurtured’ sense of freedom.

In seeking an answer, you may ask any punctual dada about this point of prescriptive linguistics. However, don’t be surprised that the response you are most likely to receive is “who cares?”, appropriately accompanied with a burst of guffaws.

You see, having an appreciation for being earnest, or even Frank or Prudence, is not essential to being a dadaist. I do believe, however, that it’s important to be an open book. Yet, it makes no difference to what page or chapter your book of life is opened. It only matters that it is open and that you are honest with yourself and with how you see your place in a dehumanizing society.

Wherever you are in temporal space, you must be honest with your knowing that you are ‘there’. To some, this may sound like Buddhism … but it’s a fact that reality is found only in the present, regardless of how hard you may try to deny it. Note: turning the page of your existence requires only a flick or twist of the wrist (see: masturbation).

And, if your going to be a dada then you must embrace the fact that there’s very little point in losing your energy by shaking your fists and howling at the past or future. Only a fool would do so … and dadaists are anything but fools.

Now at the heart of all acts of Dada is direct and indirect action. Even when you imply some moral, political or artistic sentiment, it must be the result of observable and blunt behavior, usually discernible in arts and letters. For example, an act or ‘scene’ may be passive-aggressive in nature, but only if the end justifies the means – and in a public way.

Beware Of ArtistsDadaism is not for the covert minded. There are very few dadas that enjoy the ninja lifestyle. By the same subway token, an anarchist would be equally disarmed by a sincere dadaist. Yes, ninjas and anarchists make very poor dadas … and dadaists have very little use for Kung-Fu and Molotov cocktails.

Dadaism demands creativity and spontaneity. A sense of outrage and absurdity should be set to simmer to yield a thick and zesty broth. Good taste should be thrown out with the baby and the bathwater.

Dadaism is generally thought to be nihilistic, especially by the artsy-fartsy academics who profit from publishing art books. In fact, those concerned with history and all things linear in nature prefer to categorize dadaism as a quaint art-form that fit nicely between futurism and surrealism. I, of course, disagree with all such ‘boulderdashery’. Why do I disagree? Well, the proof is in the pudding (pregnant pause … or perhaps a cigarette break) but it will require more than just a desert spoon to swallow.

Still, if you are concerned with convention, political correctness, and perhaps even civility, you are more likely to feel at home in a mortuary. If, however, you prefer to feel alive and imbued with a sense of outlandish nobility, righteous indignation and banal brevity, then dadaism is for you. Elves (along with ninjas and anarchists) need not apply, however.

One Percent Democracy - Occupy Wall StreetIt should go without saying that you must be at odds with society. If you can’t see the dystopia in utopia, dadaism may not be for you. It’s less a matter of seeing the ugliness in beauty, than seeing the dysfunction in the ‘system’ or establishment. Likewise, it’s more a matter of embracing chaos to bring order to the ‘disorderly ordered’ and the anal-retentive.

As in Buddhism, the Dadaist’s mindset should exude an enlightened disposition. But be warned: being passionate regarding ones convictions only makes one fair game to other dadaists.

In conclusion, here are six steps to help thaw potential dadaists from their social rigor mortis:

Take The PlungerStep One:

Learn to smirk, but not with disdain. You must be consumed with an unbridled and frivolous sense of indignant ribaldry as you point fingers at others.

Step Two:

Learn to speak first and listen later. A soapbox to stand on, though not required on principle, yields good ‘lulz’.

Step Three:

Observe the following contraindications in others when you enter a room with your dada hanging out:

  • the raising of ‘high brows’ …
  • the nervously darting eyes …
  • the forming of beads of sweat on foreheads …
  • the rush of inhaled air through rounded mouth corners … 
  • the spasmodic jerking of limbs raised in defense …
  • the eventual onslaught of bile laced words vomited forth in exasperation …

Step Four:

Always act accordingly as you make it up as you go along. SMiLE. Learning to improvise means developing the skill to unnerve the trained and well-rehearsed. Develop an appreciation for the element of surprise!

Step Five:

Dismiss steps one through four before you reach step five. Then, dismiss step six. Also, foster the use of out of print dictionaries.

Step Six:

Hello??!! There is no step six! Take this to heart.


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