TZARA Tristan
 French writer, born in 1896 in Rumania. Tristan Tzara used the word 'Dada' for the first time on February 8th, 1916, at the Maieray café in Zürich, as he would later use the term 'Abstract Art' in one of his lectures at the Kunsthaus in the same city. Coming to Switzerland from Rumania to study mathematics, Tzara met, in 1916, the German poet Hugo Ball, his countryman the painter Marcel Janco, and Hans Arp. With other writers he frequented Maieray's, which later became the Cobarat Vokaire (*). The establisment was situated in the Spiegelgasse, where, at number 17, lived Lenin, who became Tzara's friend. They were soon exchanging both ideas and chessmen. The first event of the group at the Cabaret Voltaire was a concert of Negro music. Poems were recited by Janco, Hülsenbeck and Tzara, who had organized the meeting. In 1917, works of Picasso, Janco, Arp, Delaunay, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Macke, Prampohni, Chirico and others were exhibited there. The review Dada appeared in the same year. The first two issues printed compositions by these artists as well as poems, but the general tendency of the magazine did not yet reflect Dadaism properly so called. It was not until the third issue ( 1918) that the first Dadaist manifesto appeared, signed by Tzara. Needless to say, these events created a scandal in Zürich, but after certain modifications official circles in the city were soon co-operating with the Dadaist trend. However, the war that was going on did not fail to upset the generous feelings of Tzara and his friends. A certain despair invaded their minds and provoked the 'Dadaist disgust', for which there was no remedy other than an anarchistic revolt, destructive of all social, moral, religious, philosophical, literary and artistic entities. Accordingly, in the Dadaist manifesto of 1918 Tzara attacked the plastic arts, opposing them in all their forms, whether traditional or contemporary like Cubism, Futurism or Expressionism. With a vigour coloured by flashes of his imagination and poetic gift, he wrote: 'We have had enough of Cubist and Futurist academies, the laboratories of formal ideas. Is in made to earn money or to soothe the nice bourgeois? . . . Cubism was born of a simple way of looking at the object: Cézanne painted a cup twenty centimetres below his eyes; the Cubists look at it from above; others complicate appearance by making a perpendicular section and arranging the cup beside it. The Futurist sees the same cup in motion, a succession of objects one next to another, and maliciously adds a few lines of force. This does not prevent the canvas from being a good or a bad painting calculated for the investment of intellectual capital. The new painter protests: he no longer paints (symbolist and illusionist reproduction), but creates directly in stone, wood, iron, tin, and rocks, mobile organisms that can be turned in all directions by the limpid wind of momentary sensation. Every pictoral or plastic work is useless . . . Art has not the importance that we, troopers of the spirit, have been singing for centuries.' He concluded, 'There is great destructive, negative work to be done: to sweep, to clean'. At the call of this manifesto, the works of the supporters of Dadaism developed in the direction suggested -- toward the radical destruction of all conformity, all conventions and routines that generally inspire art, whose very name Tzara wanted to suppress: 'art, a parrot word replaced by Dada, plesiosaurus or handketchief'. Soon the group gained the support of Marcel Duchamp and Picabia, who came to Zürich from New York ( 1918). The vigorous campaign that they had conducted in America consisted fundamentally in tansgression of the innumerable rules of art by destroying the barriers which, in their opinion, led it to every decadence. At Tzara's side they added to their artistic preoccupations the moral disquiet of Dadaism. In 1919, they accompanied him to Paris, where he was enthussiastically welcomed. The Littérature group was then founded by Aragon, Breton and Soupault, whom he joined. Violent and challenging manifestations were orgnised, notably at the Palais des Fêtes in 1920; in the fever of revolutionary action, agreement within the group was unanimous. However, in 1921, the wholesale destruction advocated by Tzara disturbed some of the Dadaists. Dissension, appeared, and during the Congress of Paris ( 1922) an open cleavage occurred between Breton, its organizer, and Tzara, supported by Eluard, Arp, Man Ray, Ribermont-Dessaignes and others. The Littérature group, with which Tzara broke, violently attacked Dada, whose intent was to preserve the spirit of freedom that animated it and which opposed the first efforts of Surrealism: for Dada, Surrealism was merely a new school coming after the others, based upon scientific reasons that were valueless in its eyes. It was not until much later that Tzara collaborated on La Révolutions Surréaliste and then Le Surréalisme au Service de la Révolution. His contribution to what must be in spite of everything called art -- and at heart the poet he is has always been sensitive to all forms of plastic expression of value, and has shown a very enlightened interest in them -- this contribution has consisted in radically opposing the outdated and often ridiculous notions that so dangerously imperilled literature and painting, but in attacking them at their very sources, that is to say their intellectual, moral and political foundations.
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