The Gas Heart
Let us destroy let us be good let us create a new force of gravity
NO = YES Dada means nothing… and I hate good sense
Tristan Tzara “Zurich Chronicle”
Tristan Tzara’s 1921 Dada classic The Gas Heart (Le Coeur a Gaz), was not merely a revolt against art and the conventions of the theater, it was a resistance against the language and structures that supported the bankrupt culture and society in post-war Europe. Dada was born, in part, as a reaction to the brutality and irrationality of World War I. Technology had broken down the traditional rationale about how to conduct and win a war, with catastrophic effects felt not only in warfare but also in social life, music, physics, politics and even in fashion. In addition, Jung and Freud’s theories about the unconscious motivations of human beings had cast doubt on the received wisdom of the enlightenment concept of human rationality. With youthful rejection of tradition, Dada was anti-rational, anti-formal limitations of art and indeed anti-art. [https://www.dramainthehood.net/2013/08/the-gas-heart/]
Today, conservative, wealthy, and white America is engaged in a war against its own, a war against the working classes and poor, a war against blacks, the disabled, the LGBTQ+ communities, a war against immigrants, a war against all outsiders and interlopers who would dare question and expose the white power structure as a fraud. The indifference and vanity of the leisure class belies a decaying class structure that requires a more and more militarized police state to keep outsiders from storming the ramparts and impinging upon their utopian paradise. The purveyors of this rot and dreck race faster and faster to distance themselves from a new reality and to accumulate more and more for themselves, even as the poor suffer, more and more, and have less and less.
While Tzara’s gas heart “walks slowly around, circulating widely”, Eye, Ear, Mouth, Nose, Neck, and Eyebrow, constituting a body—both physical and politic—move against each other and against their oppressive masters. In 1921 Paris, their “masks” created an anonymity, from which the actors hurled provocations, grievances, and insults against the class and political systems of post-war Europe. Today, with the rot and decay of the American experiment on full display, and the failures of our political, economic, and social systems to adequately address the pandemic and the systemic inequalities and abject racism upon which our society and culture are based, physical bodies and the body politic have taken to the streets. Our government, to the dismay of its citizens, is not protecting our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. It is, on the contrary, preserving the rights of the powerful to take life, suppress liberty, and impose suffering on its people.
Where do we go from here? Tzara stated that The Gas Heart is “the only and greatest three-act hoax of the century.” It is, however, the government and its enablers who are the hoax, and it is our responsibility to point out absurdity, to hasten the current powers’ demise, and to create systems that serve all Americans.
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Here’s where you come in… Do you TikTok? We do!
Create a TikTok video with one of our excerpts from The Gas Heart and you may just end up in the first act of this Dada classic! Look for nonopera on TikTok and create your own video response using the original sound in one of our Gas Heart clips. Then friend nonopera and share the clip from TikTok via email to non [at] nonopera [dot] org. Please include your name for attribution. Sharing your video with us means you agree to letting us use your video in NON:op’s production of The Gas Heart. That’s all there is to it!