Tristan Tzara

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Tristan Tzara (Samuel Rosenstock/Rosenstein) (16 April 189625 December 1963) was a French-Romanian poet and essayist. He was one of the founders of the Dada movement, known best for his manifestos. He was a collaborater with Marcel Janco.


Quotes of Tristan Tzara[edit]

1910s[edit]

'Dada manifesto', 1918[edit]

'Dada manifesto', Tristan Tzara, 1918 - transl. from the French: Robert Motherwell, in Dada Painters and Poets, by Robert Motherwell, New York, pp. 78-81; reprinted by permission of George Wittenborn, Inc., Publishers, 10l8 Madison Avenue, New York 21, N.Y.
  • There is a literature that does not reach the voracious mass. It is the work of creators.. .Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell, on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups. Behind them a crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement.


  • Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry.. .I destroy the drawers of the brain and of social organization: spread demoralization wherever I go and cast my hand from heaven to hell, my eyes from hell to heaven, restore the fecund wheel of a universal circus to objective forces and the imagination of every individual.


  • Some people think they can explain rationally, by thought, what they think. But that is extremely relative.. .There is no ultimate Truth. The dialectic is an amusing mechanism which guides us / in a banal kind of way / to the opinions we had in the first place. Does anyone think that, by a minute refinement of logic, he has demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease


  • Experience is also a product of chance and individual faculties.. .I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order. Carry on, my children, humanity.. .Science says we are the servants of nature: everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in. Carry on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins.. .I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none.


  • Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now.. .Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: Dada; abolition of prophets: Dada; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity:* Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere.. .Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE.


1920s[edit]

  • To make a Dadaist Poem (1920)

    Take a newspaper.
    Take some scissors.
    Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
    Cut out the article.
    Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
    Shake gently.
    Next take out each cutting one after the other.
    Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
    The poem will resemble you.
    And there you are—an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
    • Tzara's poem from 1920; as quoted in Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, ed. Pericles Lewis (Cambridge UP, 2007), p. 107 - online: [1]


  • If I shout:
    Ideal, Ideal, Ideal
    Knowledge, Knowledge, Knowledge,
    Boomboom, Boomboom, Boomboom
    I have recorded fairly accurately Progress, Law, Morals, and all the other magnificent qualities that various very intelligent people have discussed in so many books.
    • As quoted in The Dada Almanac: Berlin 1920, (1983) ed. Richard Huelsenbeck, transl. Malcolm Green, p.127


  • A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretensions is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis. It may be pleasant, and good-natured, it's always right, it's strong, vigorous and logical.
    Apropos of logic, I consider myself very likeable.
    • In: 'Dada Manifesto On Feeble Love And Bitter Love', Intro of part II, by Tristan Tzara, 12th December 1920


  • Dada belongs to everybody.
    • As quoted in Dada Art and Anti-art, Hand Richter, Thames & Hudson, London & New York, 2004
    • Tzara's reaction when in 1921 w:Picabia, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp jokingly asked to grant them permission to use the name 'Dada' as their own name for Dada in New York.


'Lecture on Dada', 1922[edit]

'Lecture on Dada', Tristan Tzara, 1922', - transl. from the French: Robert Motherwell, in The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology (1981), by Robert Motherwell, New York, pp. 246-51; reprinted by permission of George Wittenborn, Inc., Publishers, 10l8 Madison Avenue, New York 21, N.Y.
  • I know that you have come here today to hear explanations. Well, don't expect to hear any explanations about Dada. You explain to me why you exist. You haven't the faintest idea. You will say: I exist to make my children happy. But in your hearts you know that isn't so. You will say: I exist to guard my country, against barbarian invasions. That's a fine reason. You will say: I exist because God wills. That's a fairy tale for children.


  • Dada is not at all modern. It is more in the nature of a return to an almost Buddhist religion of indifference. Dada covers things with an artificial gentleness, a snow of butterflies released from the head of a prestidigitator. Dada is immobility and does not comprehend the passions.


  • Nothing is more delightful than to confuse and upset people. People one doesn't like. What's the use of giving them explanations that are merely food for curiosity? The truth is that people love nothing but themselves and their little possessions, their income, their dog. This state of affairs derives from a false conception of property. If one is poor in spirit, one possesses a sure and indomitable intelligence, a savage logic, a point of view that can not be shaken. Try to be empty and fill your brain cells with a petty happiness. Always destroy what you have in you. On random walks..


  • Men are different. It is diversity that makes life interesting. There is no common basis in mens minds. The unconscious is inexhaustible and uncontrollable. Its force surpasses us. It is as mysterious as the last particle of a brain cell. Even if we knew it, we could not reconstruct it.


  • Art has not the celestial and universal value that people like to attribute to it. Life is far more interesting. Dada knows the correct measure that should be given to art: with subtle, perfidious methods, Dada introduces it into daily life. And vice versa. In art, Dada reduces everything to an initial simplicity, growing always more relative. It mingles its caprices with the chaotic wind of creation and the barbaric dances of savage tribes. It wants logic reduced to a personal minimum.


  • You will often hear that Dada is a state of mind. You may be gay, sad, afflicted, joyous, melancholy or Dada. Without being literary, you can be romantic, you can be dreamy, weary, eccentric, a businessman, skinny, transfigured, vain, amiable or Dada.. .Dada is here, there and a little everywhere, such as it is, with its faults, with its personal differences and distinctions which it accepts and views with indifference.


  • We Dadaists are often told that we are incoherent, but into this word people try to put an insult that it is rather hard for me to fathom. Everything is incoherent... There is no logic... The acts of life have no beginning and no end. Everything happens in a completely idiotic way. That is why everything is alike. Simplicity is called Dada. Any attempt to conciliate an inexplicable momentary state with logic strikes me as a boring kind of game... Like everything in life, Dada is useless... Perhaps you will understand me better when I tell you that Dada is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all of the spaces that reason has not been able to fill with words or conventions.


Quotes about Tristan Tzara[edit]

  • Perhaps we'll be able to do beautiful things, since I have a stellar, insane desire to assassinate beauty.
    • Francis Picabia, in a letter to Tristan Tzara, Summer 1919; as quoted in TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 151


  • Splendid, it has done me enormous good to finally see and read something in Switzerland that isn't bullshit. All of it is very nice, it is really something; your manifesto expresses every philosophy seeking truth, when there is no truth, only convention.
    • Francis Picabia, in a letter to Tristan Tzara, Nov. 1919, (after having received a copy of 'Manifesto Dada 3.', written by Tzara); as quoted in: TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 115


  • Dada was founded in Zurich in the spring of 1916 by Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, w:Marcel Janco and w:Richard Huelsenbeck at the w:Cabaret Voltaire [in Zurich, Switzerland].. .Through Tzara we were also in relation with the Futurist movement and carried on a correspondence with Marinetti. By that time Boccioni had been killed, but all of us knew his thick book, Pittura e scultuptura Futuriste. We regarded Marinetti's position as realistic, and were opposed to it, although we were glad to take over the concept of 'spontaneity', of which he made so much use. Tzara for the first time had poems recited simultaneously on the stage, and these performances were a great success, although the 'poeme simultane' had already been introduced in France by Dereme and others.


  • In May 1922, Dada staged its own funeral. According to Hans Richter, the main part of this took place in Weimar, where the Dadaists attended a festival of the German w:Bauhaus art school, during which Tzara proclaimed the elusive nature of his art: 'Dada is useless, like everything else in life.. .Dada is a virgin microbe which penetrates with the insistence of air into all those spaces that reason has failed to fill with words and conventions.'


  • Tzara would draw slips of paper with words described on them from a hat, and present the resulting combination of words as a poem. [Hans] Arp allowed cut-outs of free or geometric shapes to arrange themselves in a random order, then pasted them on a surface and presented the result as a picture.
    • w:Werner Haftman, (1965), reports of Dada-evenings, in Painting in the Twentieth Century, An Analysis of the Artists and their Work, New York Praeger, 1965, p. 183; as quoted in Aesthetics and the Environment: The Appreciation of Nature, Art and Architecture, by Allen Carlson, Routledge, London & New York, 2005, p 112

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