Dadaism and the Art of Anti-Art

By: SARAH FRIETAS

Haussmann, Raoul. The Art Critic. 1919,1920. 
Taken From Tate.org

Art.

Art seems to be everywhere within our lives, even if you don’t realize it at first; from the clothes we wear, to music we may listen to, or media we consume. Art is ever present in life and stretches across a multitude of cultures and time periods. As long as we’ve had the means to, we’ve created art. It is an integral part of the human experience.

Beyond a means of expression or way to conceptualize the world around us, art has been important as a means of protest and still is today. Throughout time we’ve seen art as means of rebelling against societal and cultural norms; just as art is integral to cultures, it is also integral to satirizing and criticizing those same cultures.

Dadaism is a type of anti-art– a type of art which goes against the currently accepted notions of art. It was one of the first examples of anti-art, but definitely not the last.

Created in the 1910s, and originating in Zurich, Switzerland, Dada gained its popularity internationally with many artists who liked the message surrounding it. From New York to Berlin you could find dedicated Dadaists who practiced the art form. 

The Dada movement had a strong disliking to capitalism; far-left politics and values we’re inseparable from the art. Dada was heavily anti-war and anti-nationalist, which only makes sense. Dada was created during WWI, so it only makes sense that war would have much to do with its inception and messaging. 

Dada was used by artists as a form of protest to the destruction around them and the capitalist society they say as causing it. Dada believed the reason for the war was because of the logic used in capitalist society so they decided to get rid of that logic with their art.

Dada is inherently nonsensical, with collages of objects they shouldn’t reasonably go together or sculptures and paintings that just don’t seem to make sense. It has no rationale behind it. It has no point and that is it’s point, to question what art is and to rebel against society’s standards of art. 

Dada at the time it was created was considered a blight by many, a reviewer for American Art News at the time even said, “Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man.” It disgusted critics and drew outrage from though who consume art as if they drew personal offense (they likely did). Dadaists had their exhibits closed and their books banned; some Dadaists were even thrown in jail.

At first.

Over time Dada lost the provocative nature it once had, losing its spark. As such it eventually phased itself out due to irrelevance. 

Dada certainly doesn’t have the same following it once had, nor the same impact, and it likely never would have the same impact due to times and sensibilities changing. While some likely still take inspiration from, or may even define themselves as Dadaists, it has more or less become defunct as an art movement.

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