AskDefine | Define Dadaism

Dictionary Definition

dadaism n : a nihilistic art movement (especially in painting) that flourished in Europe early in the 20th century; based on irrationality and negation of the accepted laws of beauty [syn: dada]

Extensive Definition

Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in neutral Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1920. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature (poetry, art manifestoes, art theory), theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti war politic through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals. Passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture filled their publications. The movement influenced later styles, Avant-garde and Downtown music movements, and groups including Surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme, Pop Art and Fluxus.

Overview

Dada was an informal international movement, with participants in Europe and North America. The beginnings of Dada correspond to the outbreak of World War I. For many participants, the movement was a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war, and against the cultural and intellectual conformity — in art and more broadly in society — that corresponded to the war. Many Dadaists believed that the 'reason' and 'logic' of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war. They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality. For example, George Grosz later recalled that his Dadaist art was intended as a protest "against this world of mutual destruction".
According to its proponents, Dada was not art — it was "anti-art" in the sense that Dadaists protested against the contemporary academic and cultured values of art. For everything that art stood for, Dada was to represent the opposite. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend. Through their rejection of traditional culture and aesthetics the Dadaists hoped to destroy traditional culture and aesthetics.
A reviewer from the American Art News stated at the time that "The Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man." Art historians have described Dada as being, in large part, "in reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide."
Years later, Dada artists described the movement as "a phenomenon bursting forth in the midst of the postwar economic and moral crisis, a savior, a monster, which would lay waste to everything in its path. [It was] a systematic work of destruction and demoralization...In the end it became nothing but an act of sacrilege."

New York

Like Zürich, New York was a refuge for writers and artists from World War I. Soon after arriving from France in 1915, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia met American artist Man Ray. By 1916 the three of them became the center of radical anti-art activities in the United States. American Beatrice Wood, who had been studying in France, soon joined them. Much of their activity centered in Alfred Stieglitz's gallery, 291, and the home of Walter and Louise Arensberg.
The New Yorkers, though not particularly organized, called their activities Dada, but they did not issue manifestos. They issued challenges to art and culture through publications such as The Blind Man, Rongwrong, and New York Dada in which they criticized the traditionalist basis for museum art. New York Dada lacked the disillusionment of European Dada and was instead driven by a sense of irony and humor. In his book Adventures in the arts: informal chapters on painters, vaudeville and poets Marsden Hartley included an essay on "The Importance of Being 'Dada'".
During this time Duchamp began exhibiting "readymades" (found objects) such as a bottle rack, and got involved with the Society of Independent Artists. In 1917 he submitted the now famous Fountain, a urinal signed R. Mutt, to the Society of Independent Artists show only to have the piece rejected. First an object of scorn within the arts community, the Fountain has since become almost canonized by some. The committee presiding over Britain's prestigious Turner Prize in 2004, for example, called it "the most influential work of modern art." In an attempt to "pay homage to the spirit of Dada" a performance artist named Pierre Pinoncelli made a crack in The Fountain with a hammer in January 2006; he also urinated on it in 1993.
Picabia's travels tied New York, Zürich and Paris groups together during the Dadaist period. For seven years he also published the Dada periodical 391 in Barcelona, New York City, Zürich, and Paris from 1917 through 1924.
By 1921, most of the original players moved to Paris where Dada experienced its last major incarnation (see Neo-Dada for later activity).

Paris

The French avant-garde kept abreast of Dada activities in Zürich with regular communications from Tristan Tzara (whose pseudonym means "sad in country," a name chosen to protest the treatment of Jews in his native Romania), who exchanged letters, poems, and magazines with Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Max Jacob, and other French writers, critics and artists.
Paris had arguably been the classical music capital of the world since the advent of musical Impressionism in the late 19th century. One of its practitioners, Erik Satie, collaborated with Picasso and Cocteau in a mad, scandalous ballet called Parade. First performed by the Ballet Russes in 1917, it succeeded in creating a scandal but in a different way than Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps had done almost 5 years earlier. This was a ballet that was clearly parodying itself, something traditional ballet patrons would obviously have serious issues with.
Dada in Paris surged in 1920 when many of the originators converged there. Inspired by Tzara, Paris Dada soon issued manifestos, organized demonstrations, staged performances and produced a number of journals (the final two editions of Dada, Le Cannibale, and Littérature featured Dada in several editions.)
The first introduction of Dada artwork to the Parisian public was at the Salon des Indépendants in 1921. Jean Crotti exhibited works associated with Dada including a work entitled, Explicatif bearing the word Tabu.

The Netherlands

In The Netherlands the Dada movement centered mainly around Theo van Doesburg, most well known for establishing the De Stijl movement and magazine of the same name. Van Doesburg mainly focused on poetry, and included poems from many well-known Dada writers in De Stijl such as Hugo Ball, Hans Arp and Kurt Schwitters. Van Doesburg became a friend of Schwitters, and together they organized the so-called Dutch Dada campaign in 1923, where Van Doesburg promoted a leaflet about Dada (entitled What is Dada?), Schwitters read his poems, Vilmos Huszàr demonstrated a mechanical dancing doll and Van Doesburg's wife, Nelly, played avant-garde compositions on piano.
Van Doesburg wrote Dada poetry himself in De Stijl, although under a pseudonym, I.K. Bonset, which was only revealed after his death in 1931. 'Together' with I.K. Bonset, he also published a short-lived Dutch Dada magazine called Mécano.

Georgia

Although Dada itself was unknown in Georgia until at least 1920, from 1917-1921 a group of poets called themselves "41st Degree" (referring both to the latitude of Tbilisi, Georgia and to the temperature of a high fever) organized along Dadaist lines. The most important figure in this group was Iliazd, whose radical typographical designs visually echo the publications of the Dadaists. After his flight to Paris in 1921, he collaborated with Dadaists on publications and events.

Poetry; music and sound

Dada was not confined to the visual and literary arts; its influence reached into sound and music. Kurt Schwitters developed what he called sound poems and composers such as Erwin Schulhoff, Hans Heusser and Albert Savinio wrote Dada music, while members of Les Six collaborated with members of the Dada movement and had their works performed at Dada gatherings. The above mentioned Erik Satie dabbled with Dadaist ideas throughout his career although he is primarily associated with musical Impressionism.
In the very first Dada publication, Hugo Ball describes a "balalaika orchestra playing delightful folk-songs." African music and jazz was common at Dada gatherings, signaling a return to nature and naive primitivism.

Legacy

While broad, the movement was unstable. By 1924 in Paris, Dada was melding into surrealism, and artists had gone on to other ideas and movements, including surrealism, social realism and other forms of modernism. Some theorists argue that Dada was actually the beginning of postmodern art.
By the dawn of World War II, many of the European Dadaists had fled or emigrated to the United States. Some died in death camps under Hitler, who persecuted the kind of "Degenerate art" that Dada represented. The movement became less active as post-World War II optimism led to new movements in art and literature.
Dada is a named influence and reference of various anti-art and political and cultural movements including the Situationists and culture jamming groups like the Cacophony Society.
At the same time that the Zürich Dadaists made noise and spectacle at the Cabaret Voltaire, Vladimir Lenin wrote his revolutionary plans for Russia in a nearby apartment. He was unappreciative of the artistic revolutionary activity near him. Tom Stoppard used this coincidence as a premise for his play Travesties (1974), which includes Tzara, Lenin, and James Joyce as characters.
The Cabaret Voltaire fell into disrepair until it was occupied from January to March, 2002, by a group proclaiming themselves neo-Dadaists, led by Mark Divo. The group included Jan Thieler, Ingo Giezendanner, Aiana Calugar, Lennie Lee and Dan Jones. After their eviction the space became a museum dedicated to the history of Dada. The work of Lennie Lee and Dan Jones remained on the walls of the museum.
Several notable retrospectives have examined the influence of Dada upon art and society. In 1967, a large Dada retrospective was held in Paris, France. In 2006, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a Dada exhibition in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Early practitioners

For a more complete list of Dadaists, see List of Dadaists.

References

  • The Dada Almanac, ed Richard Huelsenbeck [1920], re-edited and translated by Malcolm Green et al, Atlas Press, with texts by Hans Arp, Johannes Baader, Hugo Ball, Paul Citröen, Paul Dermée, Daimonides, Max Goth, John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, Vincente Huidobro, Mario D’Arezzo, Adon Lacroix, Walter Mehring, Francis Picabia, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Alexander Sesqui, Philippe Soupault, Tristan Tzara. ISBN 0 947757 62 7
  • Blago Bung, Blago Bung, Hugo Ball's Tenderenda, Richard Huelsenbeck's Fantastic Prayers, & Walter Serner's Last Loosening - three key texts of Zurich ur-Dada. Translated and introduced by Malcolm Green. Atlas Press, ISBN 0 947757 86 4
  • National Gallery of Art, Dada
  • Richard Huelsenbeck, Memoirs of a Dada Drummer, (University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1991) (paperback)
  • Irene Hoffman, Documents of Dada and Surrealism: Dada and Surrealist Journals in the Mary Reynolds Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Richard Ball, Flight Out Of Time (University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1996)
  • Hans Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 1965)
  • Uwe M. Schneede, George Grosz, His life and work (New York: Universe Books, 1979)
Dadaism in Arabic: دادا
Dadaism in Min Nan: Dada
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