An interview with Andrei Codrescu
I caught up with Andrei Codrescu in May, at his book signing at the Avid Reader Tower Theater location. He graciously accepted my request for an interview, but we could not arrange a time and place for our human bodies to share space and time. Instead, our cyberselves electronically mutated into this spectacular interview which we are now having with you. Save time now and order the book, and while you are waiting for it, get some coffee, sit down and join us. We can pass around my flask.
Jesse: First, for our readers who haven’t read your book or who are unfamiliar with the concepts the book discusses, can you tell us in a few sentences what is ‘Posthuman Dadaism’ and how it differs from the perhaps more universally known concept of Dadaism?”*
Andrei: It is impossible, first of all, for your readers not to have read my book! They’ve read it even if they think they haven’t, so they ought to read it to confirm this. Posthuman Dada is what you and I are doing — connecting tentacularly via the internet– and what we will all be doing in the future when our smooth bodies will shoot tentacles in every direction, sucking and
feeding whatever we touch. Oh, and we will be immortal. There is no difference between us posthuman dadas and the 1916 dadas, except that they were our daddies, there was a huge obscene war going on (an obscene war that continues to our day), and they were in danger of arrest and death their whole lives. In these last three regards we should catch up with them soon enough. The “historical” Dada is an invention of historians: Dada was never anything except a means of interspecies, human to divine and vice versa communication.
Jesse: Your book cover has a pole, one screw, a chessboard, a rattlesnake, a cordless drill with a Venus figure in the foreground of the center of an iris. Can you elaborate on the connections between these items and how they relate to the book?
Andrei: A Pole walks into a bar with a chessboard under his arm. The bartender is standing on tippy-toes on the bar with a cordless drill to make a hole to put in a screw from which to hang up a picture of Pope John XXIII. A rattlesnake is licking beer dripping from the top in order to screw up his courage to act like a biblical snake. Venus is peering out of the iris that leads to the kitchen, saying, “Wouldn’t you rather screw a real woman?”
Jesse: The answer is obvious. Actually, which is a better metaphor for being posthuman: Ted Williams or the BP oil disaster? Why?
Andrei: They are both reasons to get posthuman fast: Ted Williams because he’s almost superhuman, and the BP spill because it means that we better wean ourselves quick from the oil tit or we’ll go the way of the critters the oil’s made out of in the first place. Neither of them is a metaphor: they are both Kick-in-the-Pants-Catalyzers.
Jesse: You live near New Orleans; can you speak to the posthuman concept of nature being contained and the chaotic disaster that is happening in the Gulf?
Andrei: When we forgot — I’m not sure how, but sometimes during various “enlightenments”– that earth is our living body, and that we are merely a species of microbes crawling on it, we cemented this forgetting by putting everything nonhuman in parenthesis behind a steel door (of stupidity) and spelling Human with a capital, sometimes with an exclamation point after it: Human! The dogs laughed, the cats fainted, the trees could barely keep from giggling, the seas roiled in amusement, and earth herself managed an amused smile. Recently, the earth quit smiling and started frowning. Dada suggests that we do the same, and strip the capital H down immediately, remove the parenthesis and the steel door, and use the exclamation point as a stake to impale ourselves on.
Jesse: Early in your book you say, “If you have any doubt as to whether you are posthuman or merely human, take a look at the following parts of your body: the city, the house, the car, the iPhone, the laptop, the iPod, the pillbox, the nonflesh surround….” I found myself fitting the bill as an (immigrant) posthuman, but it raised questions about young people who are
posthuman born. How will they ever understand nature or liberty without adhering to a falsely packaged construct?
Andrei: Posthuman-born is like second-generation American: you still like somosas and fish balls, but feel at home at MacDonald’s, too. Posthumanity is a creative state, as well as a corporate one. Young posthumans will have to hack their own way out of that spaghetti. Nature and liberty are not static states, nor is the (frowning) earth: there are dynamics and apparati that move us about in new configurations. The job is to keep on your toes, stay alert, and dissolve the stitches (wires). Collaboration, cohabitation, and consternation are the three words for today. Tomorrow we’ll study concordance, collage, and coprophilia.
Jesse: Much of your book recaptures history. Why is it important to save history from faulty packaging? How is that the function of the poet?
Andrei: History is all lies, a box of narrative tricks, and a great resource for collagists and re-cyclists: pick what you need, make something new out of it, and laugh when it’s an object. It’s the stories of history that set off hordes in mindless directions: art that works by using documents for collage-material humanizes us.
Jesse: You mention one of my heroes, Mina Loy, and the cultural powerhouse Ezra Pound. What could happen if Mina Loy was canonized and read to the extent that Pound is?
Andrei: American poetry would be interesting and funny not didactic and pompous. There is less of a problem between Loy and Pound though, as there is between Pound-Loy and Eliot-Frost.
Jesse: Andrei, you allege that hippies really invented the internet. Can you speak to that?*
Andrei: LSD let us see the web, and since hippies were LSD, hippies saw the internet. The smartest hippies, or their children who went to MIT and SoCal, actualized the technology. The LSD web is still the universal web, of which the techno-web (the internet) is but a pale copy, but we’ll get there because we are there already (to quote the era).
Jesse: One of my favorite lines from the book is a Tzara’s aphorism, “Dada is a virgin microbe!” Can you expand this aphorism?*
Andrei: Expanding an aphorism is not like expanding a penis. It’s the opposite actually: expanding an aphorism is like shrinking a hardon. Nonetheless, I refer you to William Burroughs’ “language is a virus” for expansion purposes. By “virgin” Tzara may have meant “potent,” as in “new,” a microbe we don’t know and can’t defend against. Viruses come from outer space: Tzara may have meant “virus,” but said “microbe” to stay closer to the idea of a
devastating disease. This “virgin microbe” was going to (and did) ravage Western culture. In so doing, it rejuvenated libido and creative amusement.
Jesse: Our readers will surely want to buy their own copy of “The Post Human Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess.” It is available at Princeton Press, Amazon or at your local bookstore.