Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving

Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving
Isabel del Rio

Dadaism, rebel intellectuals and artists.

It’s interesting to see the movement of social groups through time and it’s interesting to understand how society influences art.

First World War (1914-1918) had terrible effects in the consciences of those who were its witnesses.

Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving: Duchamp. Fountaine

Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving: Duchamp. Fountaine

Millions of maimed and killed men and women are data to understand quickly how people of 1916 could feel about a world able to bomb (for the first time in history) cities full of defenseless children and to exploit complete continents to do better business.

The bourgeoisie was discredited because it was the ruled class. It was left back the old bourgeoisie entrepreneurial and full of freedom, which fought against nobility and its privileges. Now, the bourgeoisie was responsible of an appalling war and enemy of intellectuals and artists forever.

In Zurich, a neutral city, some of them looked for refuge: Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Täuber, Hans Richter… Everyday, they met at the Cabaret Voltaire to discuss art and put on performances expressing their disgust with the war and the interests that inspired it.

Thus, Marcel Janco claimed: “We had lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished. We would begin again after the tabula rasa. At the Cabaret Voltaire we began by shocking common sense, public opinion, education, institutions, museums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order.”

In 1917, it began the publication of the art and literature review Dada. This and the work to spread Dada ideas around Europe of Hugo Ball and especially of Tristan Tzara, made the movement settled soon in Berlin, Cologne, and Paris.

Provocative, ironic and sarcastic, Dadaism rejected all of the principles, ways of life, and artistic expressions of the bourgeois society. The admiration that 30 years before had felt August Rodin by medieval bourgeoisie (“The Bourgeois of Calais”) was now far.

Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving. Man Ray

Dadaism, a way of thinking and behaving. Man Ray

If the neutral Zurich had been a refuge for intellectuals and artists, same happened with New York City. Here, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and Man Ray met in 1915 and by 1916 the three of them became the center of provocative anti-art activities in the United States. Soon Beatrice Wood, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Arthur Cravan joined them. Much of their activity centered at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, and at the home of Walter and Louise Arensberg.

During this time Marcel Duchamp began exhibiting “readymades” (everyday objects found or purchased and declared art). In 1917, he submitted the now famous “Fountain”, a urinal signed R. Mutt, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition. Today, it’s the icon of Dadaism.

Anyway, Dadaism was not a restrictive movement and most Dada artists were also influenced by other movements. For example, George Grösz by Expressionism; Salvador Dali or Man Ray by Surrealism; and Jasper Johns (a neo Dada) by Pop art.

Other countries:

-Although Dadaism was unknown in Georgia until 1920. Iliazd, used radical typographical designs visually echo the publications of the Dadaists.

-In Yugoslavia there was great Dada activity between 1920 and 1922 run mainly by Dragan Aleksic.

-Dadaism in Italy was based in Mantova (Julius Evola). They published a magazine and held an exhibit in Rome, featuring paintings, Tristan Tzara quotes, and original epigrams such as “True Dada is against Dada”.

-A prominent Dada group was in Tokyo: MAVO. Founded in 1923 by Tomoyoshi Murayama and Masamu Yanase.

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Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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