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Dada

DADA.

Presided over by the poet and essayist Tristan Tzara (18961963), who served as its principal spokesman, dada was the first truly international avant-garde movement. Although the term dada was invented in Zurich, the movement's origins were by no means limited to Switzerland. The dada spirit existed previously in several other countries, where it expressed itself in outrageous avant-garde activity. Dada's chief concern was the achievement of total liberty: social, moral, and intellectual. Its members questioned, through their art, poetry, and performance, the basic postulates of rationalism and humanism as few had done before.

The period 19121914 witnessed the emergence of two of the movement's influential figures in Paris: Francis Picabia (18791953) and Marcel Duchamp (18871968). After World War I erupted, the two men moved to New York, where they proved to be important catalysts. The first dada journal had already appeared in print a few months earlier. Entitled 291, it was edited by a group centered around Alfred Stieglitz (18641946) and his review Camera Work. Another contingent met at Walter Conrad Arensberg's apartment at 33 West 67th Street. The two groups welcomed the French artists, who were soon joined by friends and family, and emulated their latest experiments.

Emerging independently in 1916, the Zurich dadaists published an eclectic journal entitled Cabaret Voltaire. Named after the artistic cabaret founded by Hugo Ball, which was notorious for its outrageous productions, the journal was replaced by Dada in 1917. Ball himself was soon eclipsed by the flamboyant Tzara, who became the movement's chief theorist and publicist. Consisting of Romanian expatriates and former German Expressionists, the Zurich group included several accomplished poets and artists but specialized in theatrical performances. A third dada faction was situated in Barcelona during the war. Revolving about the Dalmau Gallery, it included several French expatriates in addition to Catalan artists and writers such as Joan Miró and Josep Maria Junoy. The Barcelona movement gained momentum in 1917 with the arrival of Francis Picabia, who founded the iconoclastic journal 391.

After the War

Following the end of World War I, the dada movement underwent a significant transformation. While the original three groups continued to exist, the balance of power shifted from countries situated at the war's edge to Germany and France. Beginning in 1919, the German branch was composed of three separate factions. Dominated by Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann, Berlin dada was preoccupied with a series of political issues. In addition to satirizing politics in their art, its members sought to create a new social order. Centered around Jean Arp (also known as Hans Arp) and Max Ernst on the one hand and Kurt Schwitters on the other, Cologne dada and Hanover dada were more concerned with aesthetic issues. Despite the three groups' relatively brief lives, they were a potent force for social and artistic change. In Paris, the dada movement coalesced around four future surrealists: André Breton, Louis Aragon, Paul Eluard, and Philippe Soupault. Other participants included Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, and Tristan Tzara, who arrived in 1920. In spite of dada's impressive vitality, the international movement ceased to exist a few years later. Some members, such as Picabia and Schwitters, continued to incarnate the dada spirit in their work, but most became surrealists or developed new interests.

Despite its geographical distribution and diversity, the dada movement was amazingly cohesive. Although there was no central committee to regulate what transpired, there was widespread agreement about dada's methods and goals. Interestingly, André Breton's efforts to organize such a committee in 1922 spelled the death of Paris dada. Paradoxically, as Tristan Tzara explained to the Spanish critic Guillermo de Torre, dada's surprising unity stemmed from its lack of direction. Despite the absence of rules and regulations, the dadaists were united in their opposition to any form of authority. Dada was not an artistic credo, in any case, but a common set of values. Its adherents shared an adventurous lifestyle and a rebellious joie de vivre.

Reconstructing Reality

Outraged at the carnage of World War I, which they attributed to the stupidity of bourgeois politicians, the dadaists strove to wipe the slate clean so that they could begin all over. Reducing aesthetic expression to its fundamental elementssound and typography in poetry; sound, gesture, and action in theater; color and line in artthey experimented with new, uncorrupted genres. Besides reconstructing reality to more accurately reflect modern experience, they adopted an anti-art stance that revolutionized artistic expression. Adopting as their motto Tzara's declaration "Thought is made in your mouth," they strove to liberate language in particular.

Like their artist colleagues, the dada poets wished to stimulate thought and to achieve new states of consciousness by exploring their medium. While the dadaists valued scandal above all else, they also prized spontaneity. Both tenets derived from the fanatical devotion to freedom that characterized the dada adventure. Just as the dadaists were interested in the activity of the mind, so their preoccupation with spontaneity and the gratuitous reflected their fascination with prelogical experience and thought. In attempting to grasp our being in its primitive coherence (or incoherence), they strove to discover absolute psychological reality. In particular, the dadaists believed that the playful dimension of art offered a path to liberation. Although their poetry was necessarily verbal, it communicated on a primal level by means of images, emotions, and rhythms. Combining discursive and nondiscursive strategies, the dadaists discovered that words could be used to convey information situated outside the linguistic arena.

Critical Revaluation

At first glance, many dada works seem impervious to critical analysis. For one thing, they contain an irrational streak that was intensified by the war and by the accompanying decay of social values. For another, their aesthetic strategies exploit the calculated misuse of convention. Employing the techniques of subversion, distortion, and disruption, dada compositions are fervently antilogical. Rejecting bourgeois values in life and in art, the dadaists considered logic to be a correlative of traditional authority. Like the latter, it was reviled for confining and debasing mankind. Because the dadaists deliberately cultivated scandalous behavior, their readers and viewers tended to react to them with hostility. Like the hapless members of the audience, contemporary critics assumed that the dada movement was a hoax. Dada was a purely destructive phenomenon, they declared, whose sole virtue was to have prepared the way for surrealism.

By contrast, the 1960s witnessed an enthusiastic neo-dadaist revival that permeated art, literature, music, and the theater. Inspired by the Cabaret Voltaire and similar ventures, performance artists invented a new postmodern genre: the happening. The latest in a long series of dada derivatives, including the Theater of the Absurd and abstract expressionism, the neo-dada movement shows no signs of abating. While current audiences have grown used to pop, op, and kinetic art, they continue to be scandalized by sound poets like Henri Chopin, visual poets like Fabio Doctorovich, junkyard sculptors like Robert Rauschenberg, aleatory composers like John Cage, and experimental choreographers like Alwin Nikolais. With the rediscovery of dada in a sympathetic light, the movement's positive aspects have become more apparent. The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first have witnessed a steadily increasing interest in dada and a series of benchmark studies by scholars such as Mary Ann Caws, J. H. Matthews, Michel Sanouillet, and Henri Béhar. Although the movement is as resistant to logical analysis as ever, it has acquired a certain respectability that threatens, ironically, to undermine its basic premises.

See also Arts ; Avant-Garde ; Language, Linguistics, and Literacy ; Poetry and Poetics ; Theater and Performance .

bibliography

Caws, Mary Ann. The Poetry of Dada and Surrealism: Aragon, Breton, Tzara, Éluard and Desnos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.

Dachy, Marc. The Dada Movement, 19151923. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.

Foster, Stephen, and Rudolf Kuenzli, eds. Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt. Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1978. Incisive and wide-ranging study.

Gale, Matthew. Dada and Surrealism. London: Phaidon, 1997. Primarily devoted to art.

Matthews, J. H. Theatre in Dada and Surrealism. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1974.

Motherwell, Robert, ed. The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1989. A valuable collection of essays, manifestos, and illustrations.

Richter, Hans. Dada: Art and Anti-Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1965. A classic study by a former participant.

Willard Bohn

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Dada

Dada (dä´dä) or Dadaism (dä´däĬzəm), international nihilistic movement among European artists and writers that lasted from 1916 to 1922. Born of the widespread disillusionment engendered by World War I, it originated in Zürich with the poetry of the Romanian Tristan Tzara. Dada attacked conventional standards of aesthetics and behavior and stressed absurdity and the role of the unpredictable in artistic creation. In Berlin, Dada had political overtones, exemplified by the caricatures of George Grosz and Otto Dix. The French movement was more literary in emphasis; it centered around Tzara, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and Man Ray. The latter three carried the spirit of Dada to New York City. Typical were the elegant collages devised by Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Max Ernst from refuse and scraps of paper, and Duchamp's celebrated Mona Lisa adorned with a mustache and a goatee. Dada principles were eventually modified to become the basis of surrealism in 1924. The literary manifestations of Dada were mostly nonsense poems—meaningless random combinations of words—which were read in public.

See R. Short, Dada and Surrealism (1980); S. C. Foster, ed., Dada-Dimensions (1985); H. Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1985); R. Motherwell, ed., The Dada Painters and Poets (1951, 2d ed. 1989).

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Dada

Dada (Dadaism) Movement in literature and the visual arts, started in Zürich (1915). Contributors included Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray. The group, repelled by war and bored with cubism, promulgated complete nihilism, espoused satire and ridiculed civilization. Dadaists participated in deliberately irreverent art events designed to shock a complacent public. They stressed the absurd, and the importance of the unconcious. In the early 1920s, conflicts of interest led to the demise of Dadaism. See also surrealism

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Dada

Dada an early 20th-century international movement in art, literature, music, and film, repudiating and mocking artistic and social conventions and emphasizing the illogical and absurd. Dada was launched in Zurich in 1916 by Tristan Tzara and others, soon merging with a similar group in New York. It favoured montage, collage, and the ready-made, which all emphasize the anti-rational and the arbitrariness of creative form. The name is French, literally ‘hobby-horse’, the title of a review which appeared in Zurich in 1916.

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Dada

Da·da / ˈdädä/ • n. an early-20th-century arts movement, repudiating and mocking conventions and emphasizing the illogical and absurd. DERIVATIVES: Da·da·ism / -ˌizəm/ n. Da·da·ist / -ist/ n. & adj. Da·da·is·tic / ˌdädäˈistik/ adj.

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dada

da·da / ˈdada; -də/ • n. inf. one's father.

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Dada

Dada •Dada • radar • zamindar • Pindar •chowkidar • havildar • Godard •doodah •purdah, sirdar

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