Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Is it art?

Dada, or something like it, is alive and kicking in Montreal.

Earlier this week I attended a cabaret hommage to Codex Seraphinianus and its creator, Luigi Serafini. The show was sponsored by the Université de Foulosophie.

According to Douglas Hofstadter, the Codex to many people seems "to glorify entropy, chaos, and incomprehensibility," and this was clearly the spirit that embodied the Rialto theatre Monday night.

Some of it was music. Some of it was comedy. A lot of it was weird. Some of it may have been poetry or philosophy, or parody and social commentary. I'm not too sure. There was nudity. There were aliens. And it got political ("Tuons Harper!" they chanted).

By chance I was seated just across the aisle from Luigi. He was inscrutable. Amused, honoured, insulted, bored? No idea.

About the show
My favourite bit involved the two men in black with the shiny, featureless face masks, who used a child's doll dressed in white frills to demonstrate the phases of the sun. Or something like that. It was mostly nonverbal, and those bits that were spoken were distorted, with just enough real words seeping through to hint at a meaning.

Some highlights:

Chorale Bruitist Joker, a noise music choir. The piece was alien and cacophonous, but clearly also "composed" and musical. Audio samples on the website.

Natalie Cora, who plays a kora, an instrument that looks straight out of Serafini's world.

Soizick Hébert, whose hair looks to have been constructed using the Codex's geometry, was absolutely hilarious.

Daniel Heikalo, bearded and capped, performed a piece for recorder and voice, coming off as a kind of medieval Jethro Tull. The video here includes percussion, and relative to what I witnessed it's rather low key, but this clip hints at some of the weird and wild.

About the Codex
The Codex Seraphinianus: How Mysterious Is a Mysterious Text If the Author Is Still Alive (and Emailing)? — Justin Taylor tells you why the Codex so captivating.

Another Green World: The Codex Seraphinianus — John Coulthart tells you what Douglas Hofstadter and Alberto Manguel make of the Codex.

The Worlds of Luigi Serafini — Jordan Hurder explains the differences between editions.

Orbis Pictus — Italo Calvino's introduction to the Codex in its Italian and French editions.

Clearly, I'll be needing to acquire my own copy.

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