Awesome Czech new wave film (1966). Absurdist, dadaist, a comestibles carousal and an ode to 'being bad'. Directed by Věra Chytilová.
I recently read an article on artnet about Dada. I had always thought of Dadaism as the wonderful Tzara and the Ball/Hemmings cabaret fanfare, an interesting moment in history, based on an unrepeatable, unsustainable philosophy, a calling on nihilism. It was something that came into existence to challenge the whole, to simultaneously say no and yes to everything, to hover and rage, to be static and surging, to call on everything and call on nothing. Complete negation, or is it? In Berlin I found a book by Francois Jullien, professor at Université Paris Diderot, on chinese philosophy, called In Praise of Blandness. It speaks of the difference between the Western and Eastern conception of the bland, for us an absence of flavour. In Daoist and Confucianist ideas, the "dan" is the infinite ability of all things, it is the centre, the undifferentiated. It is flavourless because it is infinite and unfixed; unable be characterised or systematised. We would perhaps classify this as "nothing" or complete negation, but the opposite is true; it is complete becoming. Perhaps Dada was an instance of this - not nihilism but complete becoming. The idea of this little movement was to be suggestible to everything, to be completely spontaneous in the face of mechanisation, to not be "nothing", but to live in undifferentiated freedom to become. As a matter of point, Tzara said Dada was finished as soon as it "is", in the sense that once classified, once "known" and understood, the it no longer exists except as an historical fact.
And what of Arendt?
"Evil is never "radical",… it is only extreme, and… it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension… It is "thought-defying"… because thought tried to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its "banality"." (1964)
Is the bland the same as the banal? Can these two ideas ever co-exist, or must they be relegated to differing modes of thought, one of "becoming" and the other of negation, the "without".
I have just, on the recommendation of a Nihon Otaku, started reading "Heidegger's Hidden Sources; East Asian Influences on his Work". It shows Heidegger's debt to Daoist and Zen Buddhist philosophies; especially in his conception of Nothing, which comes as radically different to the Western understandings before it. Being, nothing, emptiness. Oh the joy. Actually, I am only up to the first chapter, but I am convinced. I wonder if Jullien has read this?
Bland comes from the latin blandus "soft, smooth". First from late Middle English in the sense "gentle in manner"
Banal has Germanic origin, relates to the contemporary English ban and the French ban "a proclamation or call to arms", originally referring to feudal service and having the sense of being compulsory for all.
Donald Kuspit's A Critical History of 20th Century Art, here. The article focuses on the connection between spiritualism and nihilism and argues they are not quite so far away as we often think.