Thursday 15 July 2010

Flying in Argentina

In Tom Stoppard's play Travesties, there is a great exchange:

Tzara: Doing the things by which is meant Art is no longer considered the proper concern of the artist. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays, an artist is somebody who makes art mean the things he does. A man may be an artist by exhibiting his hindquarters. He may be a poet by drawing words out of a hat. In fact some of my best poems have been drawn out of my hat which I afterwards exhibited to general acclaim at the Dada Gallery in Bahnhoffstrasse.

Carr: But that is simply to change the meaning of the word Art.

Tzara: I see I have made myself clear.

Car: Then you are not actually an artist at all?

Tzara: On the contrary. I have just told you I am.

Carr: But that does not make you an artist. [snip] If there is any point in using language at all, it is that a word is taken to stand for a particular fact or idea and not for other facts or ideas. I might claim to be able to fly... Lo, I say, I am flying. But you are not propelling yourself about while suspended in the air, someone may point out. Ah no, I reply, that is no longer considered the proper concern of people who can fly. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays a flyer never leaves the ground and wouldn't know how. I see, says my somewhat baffled interlocutor, so when you say you can fly, you are using the word in a purely private sense. I see I have made myself clear, I say. Then, says the chap in some relief, you cannot actually fly after all. On the contrary, I say, I have just told you I can. Don't you see my dear Tristan you are simply asking me to accept that the word Art means whatever you wish it to mean; but I do not accept it.

They have just pulled the same trick in Argentina.

They may think they have legalised homosexual marriage: in reality they are simply using the word marriage to mean something quite different.

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