Dada is a literary, visual, and performing arts movement that emerged in response to World War I and the imperialist bourgeois culture that fueled and fought the war. Volatile and short-lived, it flourished in Europe and America from about 1916 until roughly 1924. It paved the way to Surrealism and is often lumped together with Surrealism, but in fact, its aesthetic was distinctive, as the Situationists would insist in the 1950s and 1960s.
The majority of art historians agree that the movement was associated with the Cabaret Voltaire, which was founded by poet and cabaret singer Emmy Hennings and cabaret singer Hugo Ball and was located in the Holländische Meierei bar in Zürich. Its denizens included Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Hans Richter. Ball coined the name Dada, the title of the movement’s magazine. As Ball explained it, Dada is ‘yes yes’ in Romanian, ‘rocking horse’ in French, a sign of naivety in German, and the first words out of a baby’s mouth. It simultaneously stands for everything and nothing, which was Dada’s aesthetic in a nutshell.
Dada aimed to produce a form of art that functioned as anti-art, as art that put to the sword the decadent pretensions of pre-war art. Its anti-art was also intended to make a social statement. Its signature look is that of the ‘ready-made’, an ordinary object such as a urinal, re contextualized and transformed into art, and the ‘collage’ or ‘cut up’, ordinary items juxtaposed in forceful and creative ways so as to produce art.
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The movement was as peripatetic as its members. Just as the very word Dada has several meanings, so there are several Dadas. In New York, at almost the same time as the events in the Cabaret Voltaire, expatriate French artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia were making a sensation at the famous ‘Armory Show’ with what Duchamp called anti-retinal art, i.e. art designed to stimulate rather than please the eye. In his account of postmodern art as that which brings forth the unpresentable, Jean-François Lyotard singles out Duchamp as one of the key artistic precursors to the postmodern aesthetic.
There are at least two additional types of Dada that are typically recognized, in addition to New York and Zurich Dada: Paris and Berlin Dada. Paris and Berlin, in contrast to New York and Zurich, were not neutral cities; The war was being fought right in front of them. As a result, Paris Dada and Berlin Dada were less bright than their predecessors. This new outlook is perhaps best exemplified by George Grosz’s Homage to Oskar Panizza, which was written between 1917 and 1918. Berlin Dada additionally created the procedure known as photomontage (the most popular example is without a doubt Man Beam), which impacts cutting-edge expressions still. Duchamp and Picabia, who returned from New York in 1919 and connected with Tzara and a vibrant group of intellectuals and artists like Paul Éluard who were young and determined to defy convention and produce something radically new, were the inspiration for Paris Dada. Dada didn’t really end; rather, it collapsed. The group broke up because it couldn’t handle so many conflicted personalities. Be that as it may, the thoughts and strategies it spearheaded keep on applying an impact today.
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