Dada: An Art Movement Begun on Anti-Capitalist, Anti-War Sentiment
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Dada: An Art Movement Begun on Anti-Capitalist, Anti-War Sentiment

Dada was an art movement begun in the 20's as a protest against WWI.

Dada or Dadaism is a unique art movement that started in Zurich Switzerland in 1916 and spread to the United States, Berlin and Paris. It’s peak years were between 1916-1922 and it stemmed from artists reaction to WWI. In 1924 the movement in Paris started swinging more toward surrealism, socialism and modernism. It’s main protagonists were artists from many venues including visual artists,  poets, musicians, playwrites, and writers. Dadaists were very anti-war, anti-materialism and anti-middle class. They were anarchist and demonstrated and presented their art in a chaotic fashion, very much anti-art. Dada was the very essence of the opposite of everything art represented. It was created to assault and offend the senses. 

It was started by Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Tauber and Hans Richter in 1916. They were all poets, writers and artists that firmly believed that capitalism had led the war effort and drove people into war. They began performing in the Cabaret Voltaire to express their views on the war in Zurich. They published an art review called “Dada 17” that put their ideas out there for the public to see. They also wrote two manifestos, written statements of their views and reasoning, in 1916 and 1917. 

The movement in Germany was much more political and social. The German Dada manifesto was written in 1918. Hannah Hoch and George Grosz expressed communist and Marxist ideals and sympathies. The very first Dada fair was held in Berlin in 1920 and displayed over 200 pieces of Dadaist artworks. Only one piece sold but that hardly mattered as the Dada movement was about anti-capitalism. In Cologne, Germany at an exhibition in 1920 inside a pub patrons walked past urinals while a woman dressed in a communion dress spewed bawdy poetry. This wouldn’t be the last time a urinal would be used in a piece of Dada visual art display. In essence saying piss on the war, piss on capitalism and piss on materialism…and for that matter piss on art. The pub display was closed by the police for obscenity but reopened after the charges were dropped. 

In 1916 in New York Marcel Duchamp, Ray Man and Francis Picabia would become the central figures in the radical United States anti-war movement. It was centralized in Alfred Stiegletz’s art gallery in New York called 291. A Dada festival was held on may 20, 1926 and featured Dada music, African Music and Jazz getting back to the roots of primitiveness. Dadaism was an important art movement in the 20th century and some say that it was the precursor to post-modernism. 

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Comments (4)

Perceptive discussion, thanks.

A very informative piece of history.

Concise and well written, liked and shared

Stumbled too - good job