Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Dada" is often a baby's first word!

While I can't seem to find anything on the web to back me up on this, I'd like to pretend that the Dadaists took the name of their movement from one of the first syllables babies can easily pronounce (okay, Kiran, you're an exception--we couldn't all start with bird!). I was combing through some entries in David Cote's blog (Histriomastix) last night and found this fun comment on the work of Richard Foreman:
Sounds pretentious and headache-inducing, maybe? Not at all. It’s simply a yearly pilgrimage into the antic, forbidding cranium of Richard Foreman and I seriously, frivolously enjoy it. (I would like to see the work presented in a matinee performance for kids. See how they react to it. As I recall, there’s nothing inappropriate for children.)

Read the full entry here.
Perhaps, in developing the concept for this piece, we've been so singularly focused on identifying the grotesque with childhood glee (Shockheaded Peter, Roald Dahl et al) that we're neglecting the hypnotic delight kids get from surrealism, dadaism, and pretty much any other -ism that splinters signs from their usual signifiers (sidenote: one of the audience members for Kill Me Like You Mean It mentioned he was regretted not bringing his 7 year-old son "who would have had a blast with all that repetition."). I think kids would really dig Foreman in much the same way they dig Dr. Seuss (and, I suppose, "Teletubbies").

And, in chatting with Kiran over the past few days (especially after watching the gorgeous 1926 silhouette stop-action animation The Adventures of Prince Achmed), I realize we've missed another possible element of kid-vice: "wonder. " Now, Kiran is reluctant to use "wonder" as a shorthand because it is too passive to describe a child's very active appreciation of "beauty" (a term that I am, in turn, bothered by because it is so culturally-mediated that it becomes reductive when trying to evaluate the complex web of associations that cause "wonder"). Kiran thinks the way around "wonder" and "beauty" is to talk about "immersion" and "atmosphere," and I like this framework because the appeal of The Little Princess, Shockheaded Peter, Slava's Snowshow, Disney World (total theatre for tots?), and even Richard Foreman can all be analyzed using these same two constructs.

All right. That's it for now. I'm probably not going to post again until Tuesday, but, in the meantime, make yourselves at homes in the "Comments" section.


David said...

just a note of trivia, but the name of the dada movement happens to come from, in the most popular annecdotal explanation, the word for hobby-horse. The story being that some of the artists flipped through a dictionary and chose a word at random to emphasize the non-interpretability of the work, and its meaningless nature as a response to a world so recently filled with senseless killing. The appropriateness of the word they chose may be intentional or not.

3 Girls and Us said...

Just for fun, thought you'd like to see our baby's first words dictionary which has a whole load of babies' first words and their 'real' meanings!