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100 Years On, Why Dada Still Matters

ARTSY EDITORIAL
BY KAREN KEDMEY
MAY 25TH, 2016 12:41 AM

How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying


dada, proclaimed the poet, musician, and theater producer
Hugo Ball in the summer of 1916, as World War I raged on.
How does one become famous? By saying dada...How can
one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms,
everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic,
Europeanized, enervated? By saying dada. In this spirit of
anarchy, a new artistic and literary movement
called Dada burst forth in Zurich 100 years ago.

Left: Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Photography by Alfred Stieglitz, via


Wikimedia Commons; Right: Theo van Doesburg, poster for Dada Matine, 1923.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Dadas centennial is being celebrated across the world this


year. Zurich has planned over 150 events at venues
throughout the city, including the Cabaret Voltairewhich
was founded by Ball and served as the birthplace of the
movement. In New York, MoMA opens Dadaglobe
Reconstructed, an exhibition bringing together works by
more than 40 artists that were originally made for an
unrealized anthology conceived by poet and Dada co-
founder, Tristan Tzara.
So whats all the fuss about?
Dada! What?

Dada was a reactionary movement. It emerged when a group


of Zurich-based artists and poetsincluding Ball, Tzara, Jean
Arp, and Marcel Jancodeclared an all-out artistic assault on
a modern society degraded by nationalist politics, repressive
social values, conformity, and an overemphasis on reason
and logic. They held this society responsible for the brutal
war wreaking havoc across the continent. Their irreverent
attitude typified the art, performances, poetry, manifestoes,
and other activities they engaged in. Tzara described one
Dada performance as an extravaganza of Cubist dance,
costumes, noise, and Tzara himself standing before the
curtain and explaining an aesthetic involving gymnastic
poem, concert of vowels, bruitist poem. Dada is a new
tendency in art, Ball claimed. Until now, nobody knew
anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be
talking about it.

Hugo Ball performing at Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. Image via Wikimedia
Commons.

From Zurich, this tendency spread throughout much of


Western Europe and to New York, where it was led by Marcel
Duchamp and Francis Picabia. The loose international
network of artists aligned with Dada were united not by style,
but rather by a shared ideal of transforming both art and
society through work based around ideas of the irrational,
chance, intuition, absurdity, and humor. Their approach is
reflected in the movements name, a variously defined
nonsense word. As Ball wrote: In French it means hobby
horse. In German it means good-by, Get off my back, Be
seeing you sometime. Dada meant all of this, and nothing
at all.

Dada! Who?

Duchamp, the movements most famous artist, advocated for


a philosophy of total freedom in art-making that proved
enormously influential for 20th-century artistsand that
continues to guide artists today. Among his most radical
works was Fountain, consisting of a urinal tipped onto its
back, signed, R. Mutt, and dated 1917. Duchamp would call
these types of found objects readymades, turning them into
art simply by altering their context. I was interested in ideas
not merely in visual products, he once said of his
convention-shattering approach, which prefigured
the conceptual art movement.

Hannah Hch
Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural
Epoch in Germany, 1919
Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

By incorporating the stuff of everyday life into their art


decades before Andy Warhol and the Pop artiststhe
Dadaists embraced and critiqued the signs and symbols of
modernity. Everything had broken down in any case and new
things had to be made out of the fragments, Hannover-
based Dada artist Kurt Schwitters once said. Schwitters
created abstract and semi-abstract compositions out of
collaged trash. Berlin-based artist Hannah Hch, who made
collages and photomontages, utilized images and texts from
newspapers and magazines, arranging them into such
scathing critiques of the Weimar government as Cut with the
Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly
Cultural Epoch of Germany (191920). Hchs work reflected
the activist political edge of Dada in Berlin, which climaxed
with the International Dada Fair of 1920, featuring an effigy of
a German officer with the head of a pig.

Dada! Why?

By 1924, Dada had wound down. Though it was a short-lived


movement, its legacy is outsized. Its emphasis on the
unconscious and the uncanny fed into Surrealism, which
followed on Dadas heels. But its impact extends well into the
21st century. In their subversiveness and experimentation,
the Dadaists were forging modes of working and forms of art
that would either anticipate or directly influence the shape of
much art to come.

Rendering for Maurizio Cattelan, America. Maurizio Cattelan. Courtesy of the
artist and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Take, for example, Lorraine OGradys creation of the fictional


persona Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (198083), a tempestuous 1950s beauty
queen who would appear at gallery openings in a gown made of white gloves
and, with Dada-esque boldness and blasphemy, shout poems of protest
against the art worlds endemic racism and sexism. Or, more
recently, Maurizio Cattelans solid-gold toilet, slated to be installed for
use in one of the Guggenheim Museums bathrooms. Considered to be
among Duchamps contemporary heirs, Cattelan evokes the elder
artists Fountain with his gaudy commode and suggests that, in the case of
this particular work, Picabia may have been on to something when he wrote:
Art is a pharmaceutical product for idiots.

Karen Kedmey -> https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-100-years-


on-why-dada-still-matters, accesat: 09.03.2017.
https://www.artsy.net/show/museum-of-modern-art-dadaglobe-reconstructed,

Dadaglobe Reconstructed
THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Jun 12th Sep 18th 2016
New York, 11 West 53rd StreetMap
Francis Picabia

Tableau Rastadada, 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Nic. Aluf

Portrait of Sophie Taeuber with her Dada Head, 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Max Ernst

The Chinese Nightingale (Die chinesische Nachtigall), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Man Ray

Woman (La Femme), 1918-1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Unknown Artist

Portrait of Tristan Tzara, 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Johannes Baader

The Author of the Book Fourteen Letters of Christ in His Home (Der Verfasser
des Buches Vierzehn Briefe Christi in seinem Heim), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Johannes Theodor Baargeld

Typical Vertical Mess as Depiction of Dada Baargeld (Typische Vertikalklitterung


als Darstellung des Dada Baargeld), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Max Ernst

The Punching Ball or the Immortality of Buonarroti (The Punching Ball ou


limmortalit de Buonarroti), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Unknown Artist

Photograph of Hannah Hchs Dada Puppets, 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Johannes Theodor Baargeld

The Human Eye and a Fish, The Latter Petrified (Das menschliche Auge und ein
Fisch, letzterer versteinert), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Max ErnstJohannes Theodor Baargeld

Manifesto W 5: Cover, 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Aldo Fiozzi

His Excellency Walks (Sua Eccellenza Passeggia), 1920

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Unknown Artist

Portrait of I.K. Bonset: I Am Against Everything and Everyone (Je suis contre tout
et tous), 1921

"Dadaglobe Reconstructed" at Museum of Modern Art, New York


Press Release
Dadaglobe Reconstructed reunites over 100 works created for
Dadaglobe, Tristan Tzaras planned but unrealized magnum
opus, originally slated for publication in 1921. An ambitious
anthology that aimed to document Dadas international
activities, Dadaglobe was not merely a vehicle for existing
works, but served as a catalyst for the production of new
ones. Tzara invited some 50 artists from 10 countries to
submit artworks in four categories: photographic self-
portraits, photographs of artworks, original drawings, and
layouts for book pages. The exhibition brings together these
photographs, drawings, photomontages, and collages, along
with a selection of related archival material, to reconstruct
this volume. Though never published, due to financial and
organizational difficulties, Tzaras project addresses concerns
about arts reproducibility that continue to be relevant today.

The exhibition is organized by Kunsthaus Zurich in


collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, with
the special participation of the Bibliotheque litteraire Jacques
Doucet.

Organized at MoMA by Adrian Sudhalter, Guest Curator, and


Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of
Drawings and Prints.

The presentation at MoMA is supported by the Swiss Arts


Council Pro Helvetia.