Dadaism characteristics definition context works artists


Avant-garde artistic movement that was born in Zurich in 1916. In this article we will provide you the characteristics of  Dadaism.

Dada or Dadaism was an avant – garde artistic movement that was born in Zurich in 1916 .

Its founders were Tristán Tzara , Hugo Ball , Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp , who met at the Cabaret Voltaire nightclub, with the aim of carrying out actions that would show their rejection of the artistic institution and expressions of European art , both the current one in that time as the historical one.

The term dada, with which they were named, carries no meaning. The choice of the name is as random as the other activities they carried out.

Simultaneously with the Zurich group, another Dadaist nucleus was formed in New York City; and after the war, the movement spread to other cities such as Cologne, Hannover, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Geneva.

Dadaism is considered one of the “negative” avant-gardes because while other avant-garde movements considered “positive” criticized reality but tried to build something new, Dada tried to escape from the reality that it considered decadent and corrupt .

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Characteristics of Dadaism

The main characteristics of Dadaism are the following:

  • They viewed the movement as a “state of mind” rather than as a determined artistic proposal. Activities meaningless, ironizaban and ridiculed the manifestations of art in force .
  • They gave up traditional artistic techniques . They incorporated the use of industrialized, everyday, random or absurd materials.
  • Marcel Duchamp, a French artist, introduced the concept of ready made , any object that becomes a work of art when named by the artist. This statement shifts the value of the work of art from the object itself to the action of the artist.
  • They sought to shock viewers and provoke an emotional or intellectual reaction.
  • They denied the concept of a work of art. Not only did they not seek it, but they refused to produce perishable objects that were contemplated in museums .
  • They considered art to be an exercise in freedom . For them, it was not an artist who mastered a certain technique, but someone who was capable of exercising freedom.
  • They rejected the boundaries between artistic disciplines. A Dada object or action cannot be classified as painting, sculpture, poetry, etc. since the Dadaists considered that the works were the result of a casual act of exercise of freedom.
  • They expressed their ideas in a series of manifestos written by Tristán Tzara beginning in 1916. In these documents, the artist made a strong criticism of the society, science and art of the time, and communicated the subjective, anti-logical and anti-rational spirit of the movement. It also expressed its internal contradictions as part of the freedom held by the Dadaists.
  • It had a lot of influence on later movements , for example in surrealism , as well as in the way of understanding art.

Historical context of Dadaism

Dadaism emerged in the context of the First World War among deserting artists, political exiles, and expatriates living in Switzerland .

These artists conceived the society of the time as hypocritical and self-destructive . They argued that the rationalism prevailing in Europe from previous centuries had only led to ruin, manifested concretely in the First World War. As a consequence, they wanted to free art from its rational ties.

Before the Cabaret Voltaire was founded, some artists, such as M. Duchamp, had deliberately made absurd or ironic works. However, these were individual manifestations. Dada brought together this critical , anti-artistic and anti – literary spirit in a movement that opposed all social and artistic rules.

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Most important works of Dadaism

Much of the Dadaist works no longer exist because the artists gave more importance to the gesture of production (action) than to the work. Some have been reconstructed as documentation of the time, although any attempt to preserve and incorporate Dadaist works into a museum would go against the spirit of the movement.

Among the best known are:

  • The phonetic poem Karawane, by Hugo Ball.
  • La mariée mise a nu par ses celibataires même (Grand Verre) or (The bride undressed by her bachelors), by Marcel Duchamp.
  • The Merzbau installation , by Kurt Schwitters.
  • Hanna Höch’s photomontages.
  • Photographic experiences, like raygrams, of Man Ray.

Dada artists

The most recognized artists of Dadaism were the following:

  • Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) .
  • Tristán Tzara (1896-1963) .
  • Hans Arp (1887-1966) .
  • Hanna Höch (1889-1978) .
  • Man Ray (1890-1976) .
  • Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) .
  • Francis Picabia (1879-1953) .
  • Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974) .

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