The Null Device
The Smithsonian Magazine has a good article on the history of the Dada movement:
When Dadaists did choose to represent the human form, it was often mutilated or made to look manufactured or mechanical. The multitude of severely crippled veterans and the growth of a prosthetics industry, says curator Leah Dickerman, "struck contemporaries as creating a race of half-mechanical men." Berlin artist Raoul Hausmann fabricated a Dada icon out of a wig-maker's dummy and various oddments--a crocodile-skin wallet, a ruler, the mechanism of a pocket watch--and titled it Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Age).
Duchamp traced the roots of Dada's farcical spirit back to the fifth-century b.c. Greek satirical playwright Aristophanes, says the Pompidou Center's Le Bon. A more immediate source, however, was the absurdist French playwright Alfred Jarry, whose 1895 farce Ubu Roi (King Ubu) introduced "'Pataphysics"--"the science of imaginary solutions." It was the kind of science that Dada applauded. Erik Satie, an avant-garde composer who collaborated with Picasso on stage productions and took part in Dada soirees, claimed that his sound collages--an orchestral suite with passages for piano and siren, for example--were"dominated by scientific thought."
In Cologne, in 1920, German artist Max Ernst and a band of local dadas, excluded from a museum exhibition, organized their own--"Dada Early Spring"--in the courtyard of a pub. Out past the men's room, a girl wearing a "communion dress recited lewd poetry, thus assaulting both the sanctity of high art and of religion," art historian Sabine Kriebel notes in the current exhibition's catalog. In the courtyard, "viewers were encouraged to destroy an Ernst sculpture, to which he had attached a hatchet." The Cologne police shut down the show, charging the artists with obscenity for a display of nudity. But the charge was dropped when the obscenity turned out to be a print of a 1504 engraving by Albrecht Dürer titled Adam and Eve, which Ernst had incorporated into one of his sculptures.
Born the same year as Duchamp--1887--Schwitters had trained as a traditional painter and spent the war years as a mechanical draftsman in a local ironworks. At the war's end, however, he discovered the Dadaist movement, though he rejected the name Dada and came up with his own, Merz, a word that he cut out of an advertising poster for Hanover's Kommerz-und Privatbank (a commercial bank) and glued into a collage. As the National Gallery's Dickerman points out, the word invoked not only money but also the German word for pain, Schmerz, and the French word for excrement, merde. "A little money, a little pain, a little shit." she says, "are the essence of Schwitters' art."
(via Boing Boing)
Police in Durham have raided a BSDM sex cult after hearing that a woman was being held against her will.
The 29-year-old woman is said to have voluntarily attended the sect after finding out about it over the internet.
She later contacted a friend in United States, who then contacted the police, saying she wanted to leave but couldn't as she had burnt her passport and return ticket.The Kaotians are apparently a group who keep to a master-slave lifestyle based on John Norman's Gor books, a series of BDSM-themed sword-and-sorcery novels published in the 1970s, fallen out of print (allegedly because of feminist groups putting pressure on the publishers), and now eagerly collected by an underground of gimp-masked acolytes across the world, many of whom see them as an ideal for living; in a sense, they've become a sort of Atlas Shrugged for the BDSM set.
I wonder how long, with this publicity, the Gor books are going to stay out of print. I imagine that, in today's post-political-correctness age, when everybody is free to hold whatever opinions they have, the more abrasive and "politically incorrect" the better, something like a kitschy-sounding pulp novel series with BDSM overtones would seem more like a hipster trash-culture collectible, to be filed quasi-ironically alongside one's Russ Meyer DVDs, 1970s European lesbian-vampire movies and copy of Wisconsin Death Trip, than a threat to womens' liberation. (In fact, it could perhaps even be argued that Gor would fit in with the regressive, neo-Hobbesian muscular-nihilist values of our times.) All some entrepreneurial soul would have to do is license the copyrights from the John Norman estate and run off a run, bound in fetishy leather and priced at a premium, and they'd effectively have a licence to print money.
More recently, I saw an unidentified tabloid's take on the story. It's interesting to note that they stressed that Norman was a university lecturer and philosopher, as if to suggest that the pernicious influence of academic/intellectual culture was somehow to blame for such grievious lapses of decency.
(via Boing Boing)