Dada began among artists, writers, and intellectuals who fled to neutral Switzerland during World War I. The movement was a form of protest against the society that allowed the bloodshed to take place. It challenged the perceptions of nationalism, materialism, and rationalism during this “humiliating age”. To know more about this remarkable period, here are the following facts:
1. Like the movement, its name is nonsensical.
- The word was allegedly chosen when Richard Huelsenbeck stabbed a knife into a dictionary. Dada is French for “hobby horse.”
- One of the foundations of Dadaism is anti-rationalism. It deemed everything as meaningless and pushed for non-art created by non-artists. “Dada” appealed to its founders because it sounded absurd and childish.
2. The Dadaists came in two major groups.
- The European Dadaists, especially from Switzerland and Belgium, protested the war and authority. The New York Dadaists were especially against the art establishment.
- Despite difference in focus, both groups defied the mainstream definition of art. They also challenged the creative process and value given to its products.
3. Dada art did not have a single style or medium.
- The only rule of Dada is not to follow any known rules. Still, Dadaist works shared some characteristics: satire and wit, irreverence, and spontaneity.
- Popular media include photomontage, collage, and readymades (manufactured commonplace objects presented as art).
4. Dada was an early form of Shock Art.
- The goal of Dada art was to provoke strong emotional reactions. Its anti-materialistic stance especially aimed to upset the sensibilities of the upper class.
- Marcel Duchamp agitated artists and audiences when he submitted a urinal for exhibition. The piece, known as “The Fountain,” conveyed that art was something to urinate on.
5. The Dada movement ended by design.
- Dada self-destructed after the war and its reasons for existing ceased to be. Dada had lost its shock value and was becoming accepted into the mainstream. Francis Picabia wrote that the movement was not serious and “if certain people take it seriously now, it’s because it is dead!”
- Dada ended in its hometown of Zurich during an event designed to end in a riot. A crowd of over 1000 people was roused and encouraged to destroy the props at the venue. The Dadaists considered the crowd’s participation as a final victory for the movement.
6. Dada inspired other movements despite its anti-art stance.
- Many artists continued along its the bizarre and fantastical qualities to create Surrealism.
- Dada’s spontaneous and “accidental” art process served as the foundation for Abstract Expressionism.
Dada is an absurdist movement that challenged the establishment in art and politics. It created chaos to make sense of the world in the face of anarchy.
To learn more about other great art periods and movements, check out their interesting facts here.