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 a great deal 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, best illustrated in his satirical masterpiece Chocolate City, or CC, a song whose thesis imposes a more "authentic" perspective onto Washington D.C., a not so ridiculous rendering of who is actually in control of the government and the city. So go on ahead, George urges. Dream! Reach!! Empowerment is close at hand. Fiction is really the truth.
PFUNK once referred to themselves as “dealers of uncut funk, funk that’s The Bomb.” But in my opinion the bomb, the ultimate, was onstage, their live shows, especially during the 70's. No one, except for fellow shapeshifter David Bowie, matched Clinton's radical theatricality and outrageousness. PFUNK decimated all conceptions of how black performers dressed and behaved. No more choreographed routines and matching tailored suits a la Temptations. As debauched ringmaster, 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, a dimension where sartorial choices ran the gamut of diapers and massive fur sombreros. Deranged was the new norm just because. Have fun for fuck's sake! And let’s not forget the Mothership, a faux flying saucer lowered from the rafters carrying a race of Black “aliens” cloned by Dr. Funkenstein, another Clinton alter ego who symbolized that alien or not, be who you are: All subversives welcome. Everything is everything and logic be damned.
Clinton has graced us with a scatalogical (see Urban Dictionary) manifesto that will forever influence those looking to write one of their own. He broke all the rules. That's what artists do. They pry our middle finger upward toward the sky. They break shit in order to reframe our inner solar systems, shift our realities. PFUNK is art. PFUNK is Dada. The art world should recognize George Clinton as an artist who deserves a significant place within the pantheon of Duchamp and Ray. He should be acknowledged as a Dada revolutionary. They just need to free their minds and their asses will follow.