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Dada

Updated on September 29, 2015
KSMcClintock profile image

Kevin was born in Stevenage New Town, UK in the summer of 1959, and graduated from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in 1980.

"Dada"

Here are some definitions of Dada: art movement, daddy, hobby-horse, nothing.

Take your pick - there certainly isn't any hard and fast definition but once you have seen it there is no mistaking it, so here are some examples:

Dada Salad

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Bicycle Wheel -Animated GIFHugo Ball"Mechanical Head (Spirit of Our Age)" by Raoul Hausmann. The sculpture is made from a hairdresser's dummy, parts of a pocket watch, pieces of a camera, tape measure and other objects.Berlin Dada Fair. Albert Gleizes remarked, “Never has a group gone to such lengths to reach the public and bring it nothing.”
Bicycle Wheel -Animated GIF
Bicycle Wheel -Animated GIF | Source
Hugo Ball
Hugo Ball
"Mechanical Head (Spirit of Our Age)" by Raoul Hausmann. The sculpture is made from a hairdresser's dummy, parts of a pocket watch, pieces of a camera, tape measure and other objects.
"Mechanical Head (Spirit of Our Age)" by Raoul Hausmann. The sculpture is made from a hairdresser's dummy, parts of a pocket watch, pieces of a camera, tape measure and other objects.
Berlin Dada Fair. Albert Gleizes remarked, “Never has a group gone to such lengths to reach the public and bring it nothing.”
Berlin Dada Fair. Albert Gleizes remarked, “Never has a group gone to such lengths to reach the public and bring it nothing.”

What Remains of Dada?

As one Dadist claimed: "All Art is shit. Dada is shit. But we shit in different colours." Whatever you may think of the pieces exhibited in MOMA or Tate Modern, they are we must assume, more or less the same as when they were constructed however tatty or knocked-together they may look (there is one near exception*).

A lot has been lost of course, or destroyed. Much was so spontaneous and ephemeral it is present only in the recorded recollections of those who were witness (or indeed participated).

As a consequence, the following guide is presented in three parts: Hardware, Software & Goneware.

1. Hardware

Where the original did not survive, was lost or perhaps borrowed, another a replica might soon take its place. Dada was easily reproducible, especially when constructed from cheap and readily available materials.

Duchamp's ready-mades are a case in point - witness Bicycle Wheel and Fountain.

Collages were easily produced or reproduced and even damaged work was incorporated into the oeuvre or repaired (Duchamp again).

Damaged Good

Famously, Duchamp's Large Glass (Unfinished) was badly damaged when being transported. Duchamps remarked "Completed." He nevertheless repaired it in later years.

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Marcel Duchamp

Duchamps has provided us with perhaps the most durable and memorable Dadaist artworks, perhaps because many of them were already sturdy and intact when 'incoporated' into the artwork. This Donneés or Readymades ranged from handles to urinals, often requiring little more attention than a signature or title.

Others were highly elaborated constructions created over many years, often springing or borrowing from previous creations, themselves often only simulcra - witness the chocolate grinder and its gradual incorporation into The Large Glass.

Conversely, Étant donnés, worked at in secret when it was assumed he had abandoned art for chess, is more-or-less based on a carefully developed trompe d'oeil .

But even this enigmatic work with its sinister, collaborative atmosphere is itself subverted when we look at Duchamps own plans for and images of its construction.

Duchamps rarely let an idea go to waste, replicating and producing work that invited inspection, but seemed to give little away.


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Original 'Fountain'ReplicaBicycle Wheel 19131951
Original 'Fountain'
Original 'Fountain'
Replica
Replica
Bicycle Wheel 1913
Bicycle Wheel 1913
1951
1951

Étant donnés 1. la chute d’eau, 2. le gaz d’éclairage

Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas is now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and offers through two small holes in a heavy wooden door a glimpse of Duchamps' enigma.

Like a peeping Tom the viewer, unsure as to what he is about to see collaborates with the artist in indulging in this nefarious-seeming yet innocent activity.

And what do we see? A naked woman with her pudenda exposed, lying in pastoral setting holding a gas lamp aloft.

And what else do we see? Well if we were to take a trip round the back of this installation we would see a rather ramshackle affair, a rather flimsy (but nevertheless wonderfully effective) 'smoke and mirrors' contraption that belies the secretive and carefully presented surface it presents to the gallery visitor.

Étant donnés:- Behind The Scenes

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Door with peepholesWhat the Butler Saw!Dummy dameBonsai forestBehind the scenes
Door with peepholes
Door with peepholes
What the Butler Saw!
What the Butler Saw!
Dummy dame
Dummy dame
Bonsai forest
Bonsai forest
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

2. Software

Much of Dada was language and letters - concretised in newspaper cuttings turned into short, punchy slogans more often than not promoting Dada!

Simultaneously collages were being created for more or less the first tiime.

Equally, lines of print were cut-up to make new 'random' poems.


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Collage

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3. Goneware

Much of Dada was supremely ephemeral, off-the-cuff and on the spot. Whether these fleeting expressions of the Dadist mind were strange sounds or voices, shouted insults or improvised poems, all we have is the recorded memories of those who took part.

One marvellous example features

The One Hundreth Birthday of Gottfried Keller

Contemporary Dada

These two sites give examples of cut-up poems as well as other Dadaist diversions.

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CockHorseDadaTristanTzaraRoundaboutAppreciationSociety
CockHorseDada
CockHorseDada
TristanTzaraRoundaboutAppreciationSociety
TristanTzaraRoundaboutAppreciationSociety

Einstein Kut-up

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Einstein rushing to First Berlin Dada Fair
Einstein rushing to First Berlin Dada Fair
Einstein rushing to First Berlin Dada Fair

HubaDada

As I worked my way through this Hub using a rudimentary template to guide me, a number of electronic images presented themselves to me. I gave them some Dadaist treatment more or less on the spur of the moment.

What's It All About?

Dada's 'meaning' is down to the individual. But it is clear that Dada wasn't out to serve the refined palettes of early twentieth-century art lovers.

It is entertaining, disconcerting intriguing and often strangely beautiful, whether the artist liked it or not.

World Dada

show route and directions
A markerLe Magazine Littéraire 74 Avenue du Maine 75014 Paris France -
74 Avenue du Maine, 75014 Paris-14E-Arrondissement, France
get directions

Littérature was a literary magazine edited by André Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon.

B markerCabaret Voltaire Spiegelgasse 1 8001 Zürich Switzerland -
Cabaret Voltaire, Spiegelgasse 1, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
get directions

C markerClub Dada,Berlin -
Berlin, Germany
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In Berlin, Club Dada ran from 1918 to 1923, and included attendees such as artists Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Hannah Hoch, and Raoul Hausmann.

D markerMerzGroup, Hanover, Germany -
Hanover, Germany
get directions

E markerKoln -
Cologne, Germany
get directions

F markerNew York -
New York, NY, USA
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G markerTristan Tzara Roundabout, Stevenage -
Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK
get directions

Local HQ

Dada Sum Directions!

Dada: Nice but Nuts, or just Nasty?

See results

we destroyed

we insulted,

we provoked

and we laughed

3 Dada ABCs

Dada. Art and Anti Art by Hans Richter

Dada: Art and Anti-Art (World of Art)
Dada: Art and Anti-Art (World of Art)

Dada. Art and Anti Art by Hans Richter

 

Have The Thousandth Word!

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