The Nonsensical Art of Dada | Dadaism | LittleArtTalks

A few Dada art pieces includes: Noise concerts,
Mona lisa with a mustache, and reciting gibberish poems while wearing
cardboard tubes. Dada was designed to be misunderstood, it
defied expectations the world had for art and it promoted confusion. It was basically
the representation the exact opposite of everything which art stood for. And they liked it that
way. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada completely ignored them.
If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend and provoke. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense,
irrationality and intuition. In fact, one of the important features of
Dada is the idea of chance. For them, art reflect life, and in life, there’s chance.
And chance is something that you can’t, and maybe shouldn’t, control. They believed
that chance was an outlet for their unconscious minds, so you get pieces and performances
like Tristian Tzara’s, who would cut out single words from a newspaper, toss them in
a paper bag, and then spill the words out into a poem. Perhaps the artists willed themselves into
the playfulness of childhood, while the adult world was busy destroying itself during World
War I. Hans Richter, one of the original Dadaists,
said: “Our provocations… were only a means of
arousing the bourgeoisie to rage, and through rage to a shamefaced self-awareness… Dada
was a storm that broke over the world of art as the war did over the nations.. it was an
artistic revolt against art.” During WWI, many artists left their homes
and fled to neutral Switzerland, and in 1916, the poet Hugo Ball made a deal with a Zurich
bar owner, that he would increase the beer and sausage sales, if he would let Ball transform
his establishment into a literary cafe called the Cabaret Voltaire. Soon, artists both foreign and local would
gather at Cabaret Voltaire, forming the collection of independent, like-minded thinkers, and
this is where Dada begins to form. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some
believe it’s just a nonsensical word. Others believe it’s from Romanian artists Tristan
Tzara’s and Marcel Janco’s frequent use of “da, da,” which in Romanian means “yes, yes”.
Another legend states that they took a French-German Dictionary, stabbed it with a knife, and the
knife just happened to point to ‘dada’, which in French is ‘hobbyhorse’. In their first publication in May 1916, Ball
wrote that Cabaret Voltaire “has a sole purpose to draw attention, across the carriers
of war and nationalism, to the few independent spirits who live for other ideals” Other
ideals, of course, was his jab at the war. The movement encompassed a wide range of practices,
including visual arts, poetry, literature, theater, art manifestoes, art theory, graphic
design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards
in art through anti-art cultural works. Cabaret Voltaire was a gallery, a concert
hall, and a stage for poetry readings. And important figures were, of course Hugo Ball,
Tristan Tzara, Max Ernst, Hans (Jean) Arp and more join even later on, including Marcel
Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Andre Breton, and Man Ray. Like the Futurists, they were interested in
freeing language from conventional syntax and semantics to raw sound though noise music,
and jumbled type – but while the Futurists has a mission and a message, the Dada seemed
to only have one mission, and that was to have no mission at all. And at that moment
in history, in the words of Richter, “it was just this that gave the movement its explosive
power to unfold in all directions.” Marcel Janco recalled, “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.” The movement spread almost simultaneously
to New York, and then to Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Cologne, and Hanover. By the early twenties, it was pretty much
burned out or subsumed into Surrealism or other practices, but its short life was witnessed
across the world through this network of these nomadic and passionate artists. The Dadaists were young, and perhaps naive,
to believe that they could change the world by mocking it, but they knew with certainty
during the war, that that the world needed change. For them, art has grown old and stale with
its rules and values- they wanted to free it from commercialization and the industry
that comes with it. Despite their anti-art pose (“Dada is Anti-Dada” was a favorite
among them”) their art was still art – but rather than
art sitting on the wall or a pedestal, it was art that want to provoke. Their anti-art
antics were a breath of fresh air – clearing out old, stale ideas and paving the way for
new ones. I hope you enjoyed watching this video and
learned something new. If you want to keep learning more art history, please check out
some of my other videos and subscribe for future ones. And, I’ll see you guys next


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