Dada's Contribution to Contemporary Art

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Dada and its impact on Contemporary Art

According to the Oxford Dictionary of art, Dada was “A movement in European art (with manifestations also in New York), c.1915–c.1922, characterized by a spirit of rebellious revolt against traditional values. It arose from a mood of cynicism engendered by the First World War, to which some artists reacted with, cynicism, sarcasm and nihilism.”

Gathering in Hugo Balls’ Cabaret Voltaire for spontaneous readings, performances and exhibitions, a group of early avant-gardes mainly of German and French origin, formed the organization known as Dada. (Justin Wolf’s Dada)

Numerous explanations were given for the group’s name, Dada, which in French means Hobby Horse. The most popular explanation, being from Richard Huelsenbeck, who said that he plunged a knife randomly into a German- French dictionary. Tristan Tzara also claimed to have invented the name Dada in his Dada Manifesto. (Justin Wolf’s Dada)

Opposed to the norms of bourgeois society, Dada used outrageous tactics to attack the established traditions of art, a barrage of demonstrations and manifestos, as well as exhibitions of bizarre art designed to shock and disgust both the authorities and the general public they blamed for the war. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

This research paper supports my belief that Dada had a far reaching effect on art of the 21st century so much so that contemporary art as we know it could not have come into existence without Dada.

Dada Zurich was the catalyst for many other centres of the nihilistic movement. Tristan Tzara was the major force behind the Zurich Dada where he and Francis Picabia produced 8 issues of Dada magazines in both French and German between the years 1917 to 1921. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

Upon the end of the war Switzerland's importance as a neutral refuge reduced, resulting in Richard Huelsenbeck, leaving for Berlin while Picabia went to Paris, and when Tzara followed him in 1920 thus ending the Zurich phase of Dada. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

Richard Huelsenbeck was the founding member of Dada Berlin which included members

such as; Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, Helmut Herzfelde and Hanna

Hoch. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

Dada Berlin was known to be satirical and highly political with targets more and precisely defined than any other Dada movement. Dada Berlin utilized periodicals, including Club Dada and Der Dada, which employed the use of photomontage and typography.

The Cologne Dada group was formed in 1918 by Jean Arp and Max Ernst and was known to be less political and more focused on being anti-aesthetic. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

Max Ernst was known for his satirical collage techniques using popular printed material, depicting the weirdly erotic. (Dada - The Anti-War Art Movement)

In May 1920 Dada Cologne hosted one of the first Dada exhibitions. Held in the

courtyard of a public house accessed through a men's bathroom the exhibition was soon closed down by the authorities due to suspected pornographic content but later reopened.


Dada Hannover was formed in 1919 after Kurt Schwitters applied to join the Berlin

dadaists but was refused because of his unpolitical attitude. Schwitters possessed a unique dedication to Dada ideas, leading to the production of artwork constructed using urban refuse and found objects (objets trouvés). This had a major influence on later movements like Junk Art, Assemblage and Arte Povera. (Dada Anti-Art Movement)

Not limited to Europe, the Dada movement also had a New York Centre. Formed by Marcel Duchamp, renowned for reproducing the Mona Lisa with a beard and moustache and signing a urinal proclaiming it to be a fountain, along with Man Ray, a well sought after fashion and portrait photographer, renowned for his photograph Le Violin d`Ingres. (Justin Wolf’s Dada)

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