The Burroughs Version – Part 2

14Feb07

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It seems that Burroughs’ penchant  for “re-contextualization” got the best of him when he wrote:
“At a surrealist rally in the 1920s Tristan Tzara the man from nowhere proposed to create a poem on the spot by pulling words out of a hat. A riot ensued wrecked the theatre. André Breton expelled Tristan Tzara from the movement and grounded the cut-ups on the Freudian Couch… Tristan Tzara said: ‘Poetry is for everyone’. And André Breton called him a cop…”

I understand that Burroughs implies that Breton misused his authority as leader of the Surrealist movement to prevent Tzara from making poetry more accessible to a broader public and therefore from taking its duly place in everyday life.
The events leading to the break-up between Tzara and Breton – the Barrès trial, the “Congrès international pour la Détermination des directives et la Défense de l’Esprit moderne” and eventually the DADA event “Le coeur à barbe” – of course took place before the Surrealist movement was founded. They rather marked the getaway of Breton from Dada, in the course of which he sometimes indeed acted clumsily and even brutish. (For a detailed account read Sanouillet’s “Dada à Paris” or Polizzotti’s Breton-biography)
I don’t know where Burroughs got the Tzara quote from, but it sounds very much like Lautréamont’s: “Poetry should be made by all and not by one.”
A Tzara quote that for me sums up Dada better (and this is not meant in a pejorative way) is: “Dada means nothing.”

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I always felt that Burroughs’ artistic lineage is rather to be found in Surrealism than in Dadaism as their respective experiments (and games) were never merely aleatoric, but always strived for meaning.
Brion Gyson’s first “unedited unchanged cut-ups” aroused Burroughs’ interest exactly, because they were “emerging as quite coherent and meaningful.”
Let me close with Genesis P-Orridge’s remark that “there truly must be an essential missing link between Gysin’s cut-ups and Breton’s  Surrealist ‘fortuitous’ automatism”, i.e. Breton’s concept of “random chance” (though I would prefer to translate it as “objective coincidence”).

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