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‘Multitudada’? Hardt, Negri, and the Dada Manifesto in the 21st Century

“I write this manifesto to show that people can perform contrary actions together while taking one fresh gulp of air”; so wrote Tristan Tzara in his Dada manifesto of 1918. At times, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s 2005 work Multitude reads no better — nor, indeed, no worse — than a Dada manifesto. Exactly what the multitude is remains as elusive as Dada itself. How would we answer the question ‘What is the multitude?’ Could Dada offer us a way to conceptualise, even produce, the multitude?
Whilst we can certainly say that the multitude is not a tomato, Hardt and Negri offer one definition of the multitude “as an internally different, multiple social subject whose constitution and action is based not on identity or unity (or, much less, indifference) but on what it has in common.” Arguably, any conception of Dada and its practitioners must run along similar lines. Indeed, Dada was nothing if not a public ‘art’, nothing if not an international network with at least something in common. Yet at the same time, with its “distrust toward unity,” Dada was able to maintain the difference of the individual artist. “[A]fter all,” as Tzara continues later in his manifesto, “everyone dances to his own personal boomboom.”
There is a sense, then, in Tzara’s manifesto that the singularity is maintained, essential to Hardt and Negri’s conception of the multitude: “The multitude is composed of a set of singularities — and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness, a difference that remains different.” Even though much Dada ‘art’ suggests a broken subject, particularly in the context of the First World War, this paper will investigate whether there is any sense in which Dada could be utilised in our age of permanent war — the War on Terror, the War on Drugs — to creatively produce the social subject, the multitude.
The possibilities for this — if, indeed, they even exist — I will be terming ‘multitudada’. To the question ‘What is multitudada?’ a response could run: dada as a productive and creative force of the multitude; the multitude creatively producing dada. But as with the question ‘What is Dada?’, the better question here is ‘What can multitudada become?’
With this new conception of multitudada — which may itself be “nothing, nothing, nothing” — this nothing if not speculative paper will attempt to address how Dada might be used in our increasingly networked world. If, in the words of Matthew S. Witkovsky, Dada had “a radical purpose: to test the meanings of community and artistic identity in this new age of media and technological warfare,” then this radical purpose is just as pertinent today. With the use of a found spam poem, I will attempt to indicate at least the possibility for ‘multitudada’, of the continuing relevance of Dada in the formation of the social subject.

Conference Location: Brighton, United Kingdom
Conference Starts: August 29, 2013
Conference Ends: September 01, 2013

CFP Submission Deadline: March 03, 2013

For more information, contact: Zac Rowlinson