Neo Dada

In order to perform an action and make room for an event, we cannot rely on the immaterial. The immaterial may be made present but it is not present. To make present is not the same as to represent, since that which is represented is actually absent.

Representing is about replacement while making present is about allusion.

An oft-repeated quote by Yves Klein is: “with the void, full powers” (“avec le vide, les pleins pouvoirs”). Void is the spatial and existential condition for the immaterial to be made present. Again, it is important to reflect upon the way in which Klein invokes or alludes to the void because he actually performs a certain kind of action and makes room for an event.

To tag Klein as a “Neo Dadaist” is problematic. He was a co-founder of Neo-Realism (Nouveau Réalisme), theoretically articulated by Pierre Restany. At first sight, Dada and realism do not seem synonymous but let us look closer. New-Realism is about devoiding or deconditioning the gaze and making it ready to perceive something that has not happened yet; or to trace something past. Examples of this are the rain recordings performed by Klein while driving a car at 70mph and letting it rain on the canvas.

The Neo-Realist program plays on new linguistic values, and this is where we find a relation to Neo Dada. If Dada, as its babble-like name suggests, is about playful or seemingly naïf approaches to speech, Neo Dada takes on that to relate perception to intervention. What I am trying to suggest is that an artistic project such as Neo Dada is performative in at least two ways: 1) its drive to intervene upon reality; 2) the non-representative style that many mistake by arty eccentricity. Just look at Yves.

This is another important feature of subversive movements such as Dada and surrealism. One can hardly say that the concentration it takes to be in tune with reality allows for eccentricity, at least in the etymological sense. Concentration in a speaking body is the quality of lying at one’s own center, i.e. meditatio in Latin, while eccentricity refers to a position outside the center. Meditatio in turn allows for actualitas, the Latin word for the present reality.

An important -and still governing- distinction taken on by key German philosophers Hegel and Heidegger was introduced by 13th century Dominican Meister Eckhart, who translated actualitas as Wirklichkeit (reality). The difference between Wirklchkeit and Realität is arguably the one we deal with in performance art when we identify some given objects as parts of reality that may be treated as causes. When I identify such an object from a “middle position” (say: meditation or non-eccentricity), I adhere to the kind of intelligence that guides me towards desire. Is it intution? Is it something else?

Performance is ultimately born out of the wish to complete or go further in a necessary direction; and Neo Dada found its own way of making room for that wish in extremely concise and effective ways.

Klein's hands selecting a sky frame.
Klein’s hands selecting a sky frame.