Tuesday, December 4, 2007


In the second and third decades of the twentieth century, a new kind of artistic movement swept Europe and America. Its very name, "Dada"--two identical syllables without the obligatory "-ism"--distinguished it from the long line of avant-gardes which have determined the history of the arts in the last 200 years. Its proponents came from all parts of Europe and the United States at a time when their native countries were battling one another in the deadliest war ever known. They did not restrict themselves to being painters, writers, dancers, or musicians; most of them were involved in several art forms and in breaking down the boundaries which kept the arts distinct from one another. Indeed, the Dadaists were not content to make art. They wanted to affect all aspects of Western civilization, to take part in the revolutionary changes which were the inevitable result of the chaos of the First World War. They were not interested in writing books and painting pictures which a public would admire in an uninvolved manner; rather, they aimed to provoke the public into reacting to their activities: to the Dadaists, a violently negative reaction was better that a passive acceptance.

The artist and writers of Dadaism did not aim to create eternal works of art and literature; they wanted to open the way to a new art and a new society by undermining and exposing what they saw as the stale cultural conventions of a decayed European civilization which had led the world into the conflagration of the Great War of 1914-18. The record of their effort is of immeasurable interest; but by the very nature of their program, the Dadaists left the documentation of their movement to the mercy of the winds of chance. The record of an art which values action over stability, the moment of interaction or confrontation between artist and public over the eternity of a published poem or an artwork in a museum, is in danger of disappearing forever. The Dadaists did publish books which can be found in libraries, create paintings and sculptures which are displayed in the major museums of two continents. But the real spirit of Dada was in events: cabaret performances, demonstrations, declarations, confrontations, the distributions of leaflets and of small magazines and newspapers which appeared for one or two issues, and actions which today we would call guerrilla theater.

By 1923 Dada was, for all practical purposes, dead as a movement. Most of its participants, however, continued to be active, artistically and otherwise, for the better part of the next 50 years. They took an astounding variety of social and artistic directions, from religious conversion (Hugo Ball) to direct action on behalf of political movements of the left and the right (John Heartfield, Wieland Herzfelde, Franz Jung, Julius Evola). Richard Huelsenbeck became a New York psychiatrist, George Grosz an American landscape artist. Some went on to found new artistic movements (most notably the Paris Dadaists turned French Surrealists); others, like Hausmann and Schwitters, working in relative isolation, took independent, often eccentric artistic directions. But almost all of them were strongly shaped by the movement in which they participated between 1915 and 1923.

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/dada/archive.html (source for above quoted material)

for more information of Dada see:



1 comment:

Dr. Flux said...

This is a great link to a copy of Duchamp's Essay "The Richard Mutt Case" (on the readymade Fountain) in its original form in the publication The Blind Man.