The Dadaist Movement | Art Introduction

Published: Sunday 08 April, 2018

Dada, a simple but mysterious reduplication word. Literally, we can't find any message from the word. There is no consensus on the origin of the word dada. Hugo Ball, a German poet, said in his diary Die Flucht aus der Zeit that he put forward the concept of dada himself; but the other German poet Richard Huelsenbeck said that he found "dada" when he and Ball looked through the dictionary together. Another widely spread story is that in 1916, the Romania poet Tristan Tzara inserted a paper knife into the German Dictionary, where the blade of the knife entered was the word "dada". The word might have been chosen for no meaning at all, while it did become synonymous with Dadaism, which contains arbitrary and fantastic ideas.


Zurich Switzerland

In 1914, the first World War broke out and swept across countries, and at this time the neutral Swiss was more like a safe haven providing opportunities for exotic artists to keep themselves away from persecution.


These artists had experienced both the baptism of war and the rapid innovation in the Mechanical Age. They are at a loss in the double effects of tragedy and new things, and intrinsically doubted about the concept of their inherent world. In fact, they need a spiritual refuge to vent their depressive moods constrained day after day.


In February 1916, the opening of Cabaret Voltaire marked the birth of Dada. The German poet and theorist Hugo Ball and his girlfriend Amy Hennings opened the cabaret with the same name as the French Enlightenment flag bearer Voltaire. The pub has a small stage, a piano, and a table chair for about 50 people.


Whenever the night falls, there is a turn to put a variety of shows, such as street ballads, black dances, and poetry recitations, which show "modern emotions" (People were happy but also became uneasy about the imminent disaster. The unity and continuity of the traditional order was lost). There was almost no break between the performances. The viewers often mocked the actors’ plays, and the actors counteracted with loud noises.


Dadaists were against everything, of course, including themselves. After 1917, the Dada group in Zurich has gradually moved the main venues to the luxury buildings on the other side of the Lima River. Dadaists, like the revisionists, sold expensive party tickets and prepare a list of guests in advance to attract the "enlightened audience" with a good educational background, which was the bourgeoisie they strongly opposed a year ago.


In spite of this, Dadaists attempted to find a new order of things that can restore the balance between heaven and hell, and indeed had produced many works that affect later generations. For example, Tristan Chala wrote a sentence in the 1918 Dada Declaration: "Objectively, a piece of art never presents a sense of beauty for anyone." Today, we can see the consequences of this sentence when entering any art gallery in the world. The traditional "beauty" is no longer the burden and responsibility of the artists. Dadaists’use and evolution of finished products are also a basic means of contemporary art.


Next article: Art Introduction: What Is Pop Art?