The Dada art movement was intended to question and defy everything that art was perceived as at the time. “Dada is irony.” “Dada is politics.” “Dada will kick you in the behind,” exclaimed its participants.
Appearing fist in Zurich in 1916, and quickly spreading across many other cities, including Berlin, Paris, and New York, Dada was the method of practice and a shared attitude rather than a common style. It’s method of shock tactics to sabotage the viewers expectations of art work was thought to challenge the repressive and conventional work of that era.
During the time that Dada was founded WW1 had just broke out and neutral Switzerland became a place of refuge for many people, including many pacifists and artists. These people were distressed at the political situation and started to question common accepted values, attempting to break patterns of thought. They did this through expression in exhibitions, poetry, and performance in their little club, ‘Cabaret Voltaire’.
Tristan Tzara was primarily the founder of Dadaism. A poet, this Romanian born French artist wrote the first Dada texts including Vingt-cinq poémes (1918; “Twenty-Five Poems”) – and the movement’s manifestos, Sept manifestes Dada (1924; “Seven Dada Manifestos”) He was a regular performer at ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ in Zurich.
After moving to Paris, Tzara joined the staff at literature magazine which eventually marked Dada’s transition into Surrealism. He was involved in major quarrels with Andre Breton, continually having to defend Dada’s principles, which somewhat fuelled the official death of Dadism in 1922.
Max Ernst was a German born French artist who never had any formal art training, but founded the Cologne Dada group together with Arp and Baargeld in 1919. Ernst’s work was mainly collage based to begin with although he went on to participate in one of the most controversial Dada exhibitions, ‘Dada Spring Awakenings’. In this exhibition entry was only accessible through a public toilet and once inside the audience was shown sexually explicit photo montages, a fishtank full of blood with a head floating on top and arm poking out, and Ernst’s contribution which was a large sculpture with an axe beside it and an invitation to smash up anything in the gallery including the centre piece, a young girl in a communion dress reciting obscene verses.
In Max Ernst’s later life he was considered to be a surrealist, although his work itself never changed, remaining emotive and backed by his political thinking.
Marcel Duchamp is by far the most famous artist from the Dada movement. A French artist, Duchamp is probably most remembered for his piece ‘The Fountain’; a signed urinal, and the impact this had on the art world, screaming the question of what is art? Both stretching the boundaries and peoples perceptions of what art is and could be. Duchamp was also influenced by Fauvism and Cubism, as you can see in this piece ‘Nude descending the staircase’. He painted very little after 1915, al;though he continued work on his masterpiece ‘The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even’
George Grosz was a German painter, writer and caracaturist. He joined the Berlin Dada movement in 1918, and is famed for his particularly savage portrayal of life in Berlin in the 1920’s through his caracatures. He found wounded soldiers, business men, and prostitutes great subjects.
Dada was highly influential in Berlin, it’s slogans heavily affected street culture, printed on stickers and distributed throughout the city. “Dada kicks you in the behind and you like it.”; “Come to Dada if you like to be embraced and embarrassed” Here Dada was not just an art movement, it was an attitude or way of thinking and behaving, the Berlin dadaist used these slogans to promote their fair, which the press branded “The Great Monster Dada Show” and expressed their outrage by saying; “These individuals spend their time making pathetic trivia from rags, debris and rubbish.rarely has such a decedant group, so totally void of ability or of serious intention , so audaciously dared to step before the public as the Dadaists have done here.”
Dadaism has many links with other movements including Surrealism,which followed after and evolved directly from the Dada movement, many of it’s followers switching to Surrealism after 1922. Also Avant Garde,Downtown Music Movements, Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art, Fluxus and Punk Rock, all of which are renowned for their desire to change perceptions and question the restrictions placed upon art and music through sometimes shocking freedom of expression to promote change.