The Godfather of DADA
I recently read that the Dada art movement was an “irreverent, rowdy revolution.”
For more than forty years, funk music legend George Clinton and his fraternal twins, Parliament-Funkadelic, or PFUNK, have served up an Dadaist stew that obliterated ideas not only about music, but about the meaning of art. I’m not the only person who’s had near death experiences dancing to PFUNK mashups of psychedelic rock, jazz, r&b, and gospel. However, the grooves sometimes overshadowed a serious subtext, and song titles like Cosmic Slop belied the intelligence behind Clinton's lyrics: He had much to say about societal problems and politics. The good news is that he reveled in contradiction so it didn't seem to matter much whether we got it. The absurdity of it all was the point (listen to Chocolate City and you’ll see what I mean.) PFUNK once referred to themselves as “dealers of uncut funk, funk that’s The Bomb.” Music was their language but they were so much more. Nowhere was this most evident than onstage during the 70’s. No one, except for fellow shapeshifter David Bowie, matched their theatricality. Adorned in 6-inch silver platforms and a long blond wig, Clinton directed his circus of glamazons, extraterrestrial clowns, and pseudo sheiks into a vortex of anarchy, where sartorial choices ran the gamut of diapers and massive fur sombreros. Let’s not forget the Mothership, a fake flying saucer lowered from the rafters carrying a race of Black “aliens.” It was performance art disguised as an intergalactic side show. Logic was not their mantra and everything was everything. Clinton wrote a scatological manifesto that will forever influence those looking to write one of their own. He broke all the rules. That's what artists do. They break shit in order to reframe our inner solar systems, shift our realities. They pry our middle finger upward toward the sky. PFUNK was Dada. The art world should recognize George Clinton as an artist who deserves a significant place within the pantheon of those like Duchamp and Ray. He should be celebrated as a Dada revolutionary. They just need to free their minds and their asses will follow.