Performance Art

2 Dada

The direct inheritors of the futurist aesthetic of performance were the dadaists. The cabaret performances that were organized by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings in neutral Zurich during the height of World War I used simultaneity as both a critique of the confusion of war and a model of the many independent, but coexistent, voices of the different nations drawn into the conflict.[2] Ball developed Marinetti’s sound poetry and added outrageous costumes. His sound poem was sung to a sacerdotal lamentation, in words that turned their back on a language devastated and made impossible by journalism and political propaganda: gadji beri bimba / glandridi lauli lonni cadori / gadjama bim beri glassala / gladridi glassala tuffim i zimbrabim …[3]

When Dada spread to Berlin it became overtly political. Here performers like Gerhard Preiss (also known as Music-dada) performed the Dada trott, George Grosz dressed as Dada death, and the amazing and fascinating figure Yefim Golyshev performed an Antisymphony with kitchen utensils, a grand piano, and a young girl. His work Cough Manoeuvre followed, described aptly with the subtitle CHAOPLASMA for two kettledrums, ten rattles and with the assistance of ten women and a postman. In France, another figure, more well known than Golyshev, is sometimes evoked in relation to music and Dada: Eric Satie. Although never central to the activities of the Paris dadaists, Satie did collaborate with its members (notably with Picabia, in the ballet Relâche in 1924), and was regarded by them as already essentially esprit dada.

Futurism and Dada, in whatever guise, maintain these essential aesthetic characteristics: simultaneity, noise, humor, provocation, and an aspiration to join art and life. These elements become central to the main focus of this article, the art movement known as Fluxus.

Many languages were spoken and sung in the nightclub Cabaret Voltaire, including French, Danish, German, Rumanian, English, and Russian.