Tristan Tzara, founding member of the Zurich Dada movement, wrote in his 1918 Dada Manifesto that he was against systems, logic, and conforming to traditions; he instead implored everyone to dance to their own boom-boom. I had just started my new journey of studying art history, and I hung onto every word as I read Tzara’s explanation of Dada: “Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment…Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE” (1918 Manifesto).
I was hooked. Dada seemed to speak beyond its wisdom of protesting the atrocities of World War I and asked humanity for all times and epochs to find truth in individual thoughts, not blindly follow traditional practices and customs. It was an art movement that was more than just the art produced, or in a paradoxical twist, the anti-art not created. I wrote my thesis on these paradoxes, of traditional art practices being cast aside to make room for new ideas but, in the most illogical fashion, using older models from modern art to inform their work, because there should be no system, no boundaries and limits and everything was fair game.
It was from these ideas that Surrealism was born. While the artists no longer needed the harsh anti-art aesthetics of Dada and moved towards the more artistic dreamscapes of Surrealism, they didn’t lose the essence of Dada: the importance of the new, the individual, and the limitless boundaries when it came to searching for inspiration. Following the war, Tzara and fellow Dadaists transitioned to the new art movement, finding inspiration from their own limitless subconscious. Surrealists, motivated by the emerging Freudian theories about repressed ideas and thoughts, looked to cultivate these nascent ideas into innovative creations and unique juxtapositions.
When I first heard the Spirit and Place theme DREAM, I could not stop thinking about the oneiric art of the Surrealists and the automatic practices utilized to discover buried views. I wanted to create an evening for people to search their individual thoughts, look deep into their subconscious and uncover what new ideas might be lurking below the surface. What if we all did this for Indianapolis? What if this was more than just an art movement, but a way of life? How could our community benefit from seeing things from new points of views and juxtaposing what may seem to be dissimilar thoughts? This all inspired my plans as I brought my ideas to Spirit and Place for a Surrealist night.
And while I am currently working with Spirit and Place, Big Car, and Indy Reads to plan the best Surrealist night this city has seen, it is Tristan Tzara that haunts my thoughts. More than the Surrealist ideas, I am motivated to dance to my own boom-boom and I have an innate desire to have others do the same. The Dada spirit that was initially sparked in grad school is alive and well while planning this event. My boom-boom is unapologetically art. This night for me is a way to have others explore these art movements to understand the importance of these ideas and images and to create connections between our own community and art of the past. My boom-boom is explaining to others how art is a reflection of humanity: it’s not only a mirror that demonstrates and displays our current culture and politics, but it is a roadmap. Through images and visual representations, artists offer us ideas that lead towards progress, change, and transformation.
Spirit and Place has given me the opportunity to cast aside conformity to how to plan a community program and bring my individual passion to the forefront. I have the platform to share Art. Yes, capital letter for emphasis. I am able to share with others how art can inform our ideas for community, culture, LIFE. And if that isn’t other people’s boom-boom, in a twist, I hope the art can inspire others to have the freedom to find their own individual passion, thoughts, and dreams. Break traditional boundaries, conform to no system, and use contradiction to keep finding new ways of doing things.
And just dance to your own personal boom-boom. No matter what.
Thank you, Tzara.
Susan Davis, a proud Butler University graduate, earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and received her M.A. in Art History from Indiana University. As the Adult Program Specialist for the Indianapolis Public Library, Susan plans and implements literary, cultural, and community-building programs and exhibits. Susan is active in the local arts scene as a board member for Primary Colours and assists in organizing gallery shows and local art events. In her spare time, Susan enjoys playing outdoor sports, reading, and cheering for the Butler Bulldogs.