Saturday, August 21, 2010

A manifesto for space archaeology and its Dada precedents

I have been planning to write a manifesto for a while, but manifestos require more sustained thought that can be mustered in the overworked brain of a university lecturer.  Perhaps on my sabbatical next year.

In the meantime, I have been contemplating the appropriate pithy quote with which to open such a work. (These things are important).  I feel it ought to come from another manifesto.  Manifestos are often not a ripping read, by their very nature, but there are exceptions.  My all-time favourite would have to be Tristan Tzara's Dada manifestos.  As far as I'm concerned, Dada was over far too soon.

So, reading through Tzara's Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries, I came across many that might do.  I offer a few here to see what you think.

To launch a manifesto you have to want:  A.B. & C., and fulminate against 1, 2, & 3, work yourself up and sharpen your wings to conquer and circulate lower and upper case As, Bs & Cs, sign, shout, swear, organise prose into a form that is absolutely and irrefutably obvious, prove its ne plus ultra .......

(I like that about manifestos too, that they have to be launched - just like a rocket, ha! - and then you wait for action and reaction, because manifestos are meant to upset people  ..... )

I always speak about myself because I don't want to convince, and I have no right to drag others in my wake, I'm not compelling anyone to follow me, because everyone makes his art in his own way, if he knows anything about the joy that rises like an arrow up to the astral strata, or that which descends into the mines strewn with the flowers of corpses and fertile spasms.

or this:

Every object,  all objects, feelings and obscurities, every apparition  and the precise shock of parallel lines, are means for the battle of:  DADA; the abolition of memory:  DADA; the abolition of archaeology:  DADA; the abolition of prophets:  DADA; the abolition of the future:  DADA.....

Admittedly, these do not lend themselves obviously to my purpose, but sometimes trying to see the relevance in something you like leads to new connections.  This is certainly what I found when writing a talk (which I really must write into a paper) about archaeology, space and Edwin Abbott's Flatland.  In the last quote, I like the sequence of memory, archaeology, prophecy, future.

Tzara, Tristan  1984 [1963] Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries.  London:  John Calder and New York:  Riverrun Press.  Translated by Barbara Wright.


  1. Hey, Alice - there's a cool sounding panel at Worldcon in Melbourne next month:

    Objects in space: The giant artefact in science fiction

    Science fiction regularly deals with the ‘big dumb object’, the strange alien monolith that is discovered on a distant planet, or which floats ominously into our solar system. What is the appeal of the giant alien object, and why does it inspire it so many science fiction stories and novels?

    Sean Williams, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Stewart, Mark Olson
    Sunday 1700 Room P3

  2. Are you telling me that Alastair Reynolds is going to be in Melbourne? Oh my god! I have to go!