Monday, September 08, 2008

On Broadcasting Dada, and Narrow-Mindedness

KBOO broke ground again last week when we cleared the schedule for a special called: 101 Hours of Innumerable Small Events Which May or May Not Be Related to One Another-- A Celebration of Dada and Surrealism. We had ran a three day Dada special six or seven years ago, and while it had impact, this event generated MUCH more feedback.

For the whole of the two business days of the festival (which began Wednesday evening, August 27, and ran through midnight, August 31), our phone rang off of the hook. Primarily people were confused, though many were very upset. There were also those who phoned to praise us, but they were a decided minority, at least at first. KBOO received emails from volunteers, friends and listeners, asking why, in these important political times, we were choosing to run this "puerile, self-indulgent noise". Don't we realize there are elections, and conventions, and wars, and stuff? My god, what have we done with Amy Goodman??? The calls continued throughout the weekend, taken by the various deejays, who explained things in very different ways....

A few members swore they would never support us again, though I know more than a couple of folks who said if we played this experimental stuff more often, they would support us again.... hmmm, tricky balance that. I understand if Dada is not your cup of tea. I understand you turning the dial and not giving it 101 hours to grow on you (though by at least a couple of friends' accounts, it did grow on them by Saturday afternoon). It's the tendency to insult that which we do not understand that dismays me--- I had thought that KBOO listeners may be a bit more open than that. After all, our program charter says that "KBOO's arts, cultural and music programming shall cover a wide spectrum of expression from traditional to experimental, and reflect the diverse cultures we serve. KBOO shall strive for spontaneity and programming excellence, both in content and technique." I guess that this was just too experimental for some folks.... I can almost here it, "We support experimental arts and spontaneity, just don't fuck with Democracy Now!" Or, "Hey you bohemians, you already have programming 3.5 nights a week in the wee pre-dawn hours-- don't get greedy."

There is a troubling lack of understanding, both of our charter and of the Dada arts movement, that clearly shines through in the comments chastising us for airing such material during such a politically important time. Having the festival run the hours it did, meant that we forsook traditional public affairs programming for TWO DAYS! Don't get me wrong--- I love KBOO public affairs, I have listened to KBOO's public affairs since the late '70s, when I was but a tadpole. And I am a political junkie--- I really do love following news and current events, and do so pretty constantly. But please! A little break is good for the soul-- and if this wasn't the time you wanted to take a break, you can inform yourself in any of a number of ways (for two days, love of Pete, just two days), and end up at a coffee shop with friends to actually process some of the information we are endlessly taking in.

The irony that slaps me in the face about this is that Dada is an anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment art movement, born of the disillusionment following WWI. This is what really saddened me when I received emails from liberals and progressives taking the station to task for being so self indulgent when there were important political events to cover. Do they not think art can be political? Is art not an important part of our culture, and does it not inform our politics? In fact, far from being irrelevant as some claimed, I can't think of any more relevant programming to broadcast at this time that no sense makes sense. When life is absurd, only the absurd will do. I am going to guess that most of our disgruntled listeners have no idea of the history behind Dada, and some might not care. For those that do care about the history of this brilliant movement, I want to share an excerpt from the preface of the program schedule for the special:

It's 1918. You're young and living in Berlin. You're a little dazed to have survived the mass-slaughter of World War I. You feel sorrow and anger that so many of your friends and family were killed, mutilated, driven mad by the first mechanized war with weapons of mass slaughter, the first with a new mental damage called "shell shock."

Like your surviving friends, you have only contempt for your "civilization" and its masters whom blame and condemn the structures of your culture: the state, the church, the press, capitalism, the academies, the arts -- you ridicule them all.

Your friends are pacifists, artists, communists, anarchists, all shades of ists; but you have gone beyond them to question reason itself. Because you have no idea why the war was ever fought. For what?

You uneasily recognize the great fearful and violent unconscious of humanity has surfaced catching everyone, including yourself, completely unaware. You see that visions of mass-annihilation have entered the European imagination. You sense even worse atrocities to come.

You gather with friends at clubs and to write and perform satires, poems, manifestos and attacks, writing them in violation of all the rules. You print art and writings on cheap paper for mass distribution. You develop an anti-art, anti-rules, anti-logic, anti-reason, anti-structure approach to artistic creation, calling Dada; scraping away surface consciousness to uncover and probe what lies beneath. A basis for a true art of the people?

You notice as your Dada festivities progress, you all become a little more than just giddy. It begins to develop some purpose, generating explorations of altered states of consciousness through art and sound. Your friends talk of achieving the "marvelous" and "fields of light;" it would sound mystical if you weren't so dead set against religion....

Imagine: The Marvelous!!!"

That's why I think that this Celebration of Dada and Surrealism, at this time-- conventions, and all-- was actually a critically important thing to do.

This special brought together scores of volunteers and guest artists who began collaborating on pieces last spring-- creating original music, recording plays and poetry, producing audio, arranging and creating simulcasts on cable access, and showing rare surrealist short films in the KBOO lobby late one evening. In short, it gave reason to create a community of artists who inspired each other to do excellence, and to reach further. That is a political act, and that is one of the essences that blends into the whole of a great community radio station.

Viva Dada.
Viva Art, Truth & Beauty.
Viva KBOO.

2 comments:

TimeCounts said...

I did not understand much about DADA, going into the festival, even though I had participated in many recordings that were aired. However, by Saturday, I was in an endless state of expectation of what wonderous audio, or video, or...in person performance, I would witness next. It opened my mind, my creative flow, and my heart.

The funny part is that during the week after dada, many things that usually seem "ordinary" were a little bit absurd, random, and more mystical and filled with serendipity.

I love you DADA.

ani said...

Yes! I agree, timecounts; that is the beauty of Dada. The more you listen, the greater that effect (wherein the "ordinary" seems absurd, consciousness / perspective is shifted or perhaps skewed). Thanks for participating in the special.