Dada Can Be Perceived as ‘Anti –Art’ and ‘Irrationalist’.

Topics: Dada, Surrealism, Anti-art Pages: 11 (3336 words) Published: February 14, 2011
Dada can be perceived as ‘Anti –Art’ and ‘irrationalist’.

The outrageous provocations of the Dada movement have prompted many to define Dada as "anti-art"—a term that the Dadaists themselves used. Dada shock tactics, however, were meant less as a wholesale disavowal of art than as a turning away from conventional understandings of art as illusionistic or transcendental. Art, the Dadaists believed, should not be an escape from daily events, but rather it should make visible the violence, chaos, and hypocrisies of contemporary life. As the Dadaist Hugo Ball wrote, "For us, art is not an end in itself . . . but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in." Beneath the humor and absurdities of Dadaism lies a serious moral underpinning. (Dada cites) (

I intend to evaluate this cite, and aim to discover if dada in fact was anti art and irrationalist, by researching the history, methods and purpose of the dada ‘movement’. This being my intention, I must start with the Cabaret Voltaire.

Soon after the outbreak of the 1st world war, Hugo ball moved to Switzerland and on in February 1916, Hugo Ball founded Cabaret Voltaire. As Zurich was the peaceful dead centre of war, it made it possible for dada to evolve, as it was necessary to have the freedom and the refuge from World War 1 to live by their principles. The opening of Cabaret Voltaire attracted a wide range of intellectual thinkers and artists, who were outraged and disillusioned with the carnage of war and the powers that allowed such monstrosities. When Hugo ball founded the Cabaret Voltaire, the purpose of his venture was an attempt to ‘draw attention across the barriers of war and nationalism, to the few independent spirits who lived by their own ideals (Bigsby, pg.7)’. Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, Tristan Tzara, and Richard Huelsenbeck joined Ball and his companion, the singer Emmy Hennings, as the core participants in Cabaret Voltaire.

‘The cabaret Voltaire fostered a unity which resulted from no act of will, an enthusiasm based on mutual inspiration which started things moving-although no one could tell what direction they would take.’(Richter, pg .28)

These artists and writers had left Germany and Romania for neutral Switzerland, were they were able to launch their offensive against the social, political, and cultural institutions that had given rise to the war. Within the club, they sang, recited poetry, danced and acted out boisterous activities devoid of any inhibitions, causing uproar, even though surrounded with the mass destruction of Europe. The cabaret Voltaire became the birthplace of dada.

As the artist Hans Arp later wrote: 'Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While the guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might.' The founder of Dada … Hugo Ball… started the Cabaret Voltaire, and a magazine which, wrote Ball, 'will bear the name 'Dada'. Dada, Dada, Dada, Dada.' This was the first of many Dada publications… (

The dada movement was a club that all could join with no commitments, and all could have an artistic comment .The name dada was selected by randomly sticking a knife into a dictionary, dada has several interruptions, one being ‘hobby horse’, but whatever the true meaning the group immediately accepted the word, “because it represented that feeling of naïveté, that sense of purity, of natural art, intuitive art.”(Darcy, pg.16)

The dada intended to be perceived as Anti –art, as they had created a new reality, a primitive relation to the reality of the environment. They felt it called into question every aspect, including its art, of the society capable of starting and then prolonging it. Their aim was to destroy traditional values in art...

Bibliography: Art journal, Vol. 52, no.4 ‘Interactions between artists and writers.’(Winter, 1993), pp, 82-84.87
Bigsby, C.W.E
Liukkonen, Pesonen, Petri and Ari. ‘Andre Breton (1896-1966)’.
Shock Vs Awe, Art Monthly, No 300, 2006
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