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Dada

Dada

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore Dada.

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Tutorial

An overview of the Dada art movement.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about Dada. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the influences on the development of Dada, and identify examples of Dada artwork. Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

The first key term is "Dada," a 20th-century European avant-garde movement characterized by performances and anti-war themes Collage-- a French word meaning "a pasting." It is artwork created by using the technique of layering unrelated scraps or fragments into a composition. Assemblage-- the technique of making art using three- and two-dimensional objects in one composition.

Readymade-- to assemble unaltered found objects into a composition. Photomontage-- a technique used to create a composite photograph by cutting and pasting photographs to create one seamless photographic print. And the big idea for today is that Dada began in Zurich, Switzerland, which was a neutral country during World War I, among a group of artists and poets who were living there in order to protest the war and/or avoid being drafted.

And the artwork that we're looking at today takes place between 1917 and 1919. We'll be travelling to Zurich, Switzerland, where the Dada movement developed or began in 1916. So Dada wasn't so much an artistic style than it was an artistic philosophy. There was an overarching theme that was very much anti-war. Artists used collage, assemblage art, photomontage, and readymade to create shocking and provocative material they grabbed people's attention, with the hope in most cases of creating awareness of their position.

Now the bourgeoisie was a particular target of Dada artists, who protested against bourgeoisie ideals and felt that they were so apathetic that they would rather fight a war amongst themselves than change their ways. So to summarize Dada in a nutshell is anti-war, protests against bourgeoisie ideals, includes nonsensical readings and performances, and creates shocking, absurd material. It's also important to point out that there were many authors and poets within the Dada movement.

And speaking of poets, in fact, the Dada movement's impetus is often credited to the poet Hugo Ball. Now after moving to neutral Switzerland, he established the cabaret called the Cabaret Voltaire. Many other artists who fled to Switzerland in opposition of the war and to avoid being drafted congregated at the Cabaret Voltaire.

Hugo Ball's reading of a poem of his called "Karawane" sparked the Dada movement. It was a performance reading in which he dressed up in a sweet cardboard outfit, complete with lobster-like hands, a witch doctor's hat, and cape. Now the poem itself was essentially nonsensical babble, which may have inspired the name "Dada," which is "baby talk" in German. Now Dada questioned the idea of art itself in response to the reality of the war and the moral and ethical questions it raised.

Now perhaps in response to the unimaginable death toll and what was considered the utter waste of human life in the trenches, Dada artists, like Jean Arp, explore the aesthetic of garbage-- little bits of paper and discarded items-- and randomness using the techniques of collage and assemblage art. Now Arp's Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance is an example of this aesthetic exploration. For artists like Arp, who helped found the Dada movement, randomness was a way of removing the personalisation and control over art that had existed up until this time and possibly influenced later artists like Jackson Pollock, who explored similar themes.

Dada eventually spread to Berlin, Germany, where artists like Hannah Hoch, George Grosz, and John Heartfield used photomontage and other techniques to create works of art that function as political satire. Now Hannah Hoch is one of the first important feminists to emerge in 20th-century art and one of the pioneers of the photomontage art form. Hoch's artwork, pictured here, is an example of political satire and also wins the award for the longest title to a work of art we've covered in all of our art history lessons to this point. It's quite long.

Hoch uses images and text from the press and other sources to create a work of art that critiques the Weimar Republic, which was in charge of Germany at the time and eventually replaced by the fascist regime of the National Socialists, or Nazis. Her imagery depicts masculinized images of women slicing through figures of the Weimar Republic.

Marcel Duchamp created one the most controversial examples of modern art with his Fountain piece, an example of readymade art and, yes, a urinal. Now the first question you may be asking yourself is how is this art? And it's an important question and one that Duchamp was asking himself, or more specifically, what is the essence of artwork?

Now you've probably seen Duchamp's work before, and not just in the public restroom. His painting of the Mona Lisa with a mustache has become quite iconic. But it's important to look beyond the obvious and ask yourself, what is he trying to say?

Now there are many interpretations. Connecting it to the art of the time, it's been suggested that Duchamp was making a commentary on the use of readymade or bypassing traditional craft employed by modern artists. He's exploring the threshold that marks the shift between a simple object and art by using an extreme and debased example.

Now what's quite funny to me is that he submitted the work of art to the Society of Independent Arts, quite sure that it would be rejected. And it was. Now it's the first example of conceptual art in which the idea behind the work of art is more important than the aesthetic itself.

That brings us to the end of our lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we've met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the influences on the development of Dada, and identify examples of Dada artwork?

And Once again, the big idea for today is that Dada began in Zurich, Switzerland, which was a neutral country during World War I, among a group of artists and poets who were living there in order to protest the war and/or avoid being drafted.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. See you next time.

Citations

Hugo Ball, Karawane, Public Domain,(use image of poem not video) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hugo_ball_karawane.png "Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance
fair use according to wikipaintings: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/jean-arp/untitled" Hoch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimer Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, Public Domain, : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hoch-Cut_With_the_Kitchen_Knife.jpg Fountaine; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg; Image of Ball Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hugo_Ball_Cabaret_Voltaire.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Dada

    A 20th-century European avant-garde art movement characterized by performances and anti-war themes.

  • Collage

    A French word meaning "a pasting", it is artwork created by using the technique of layering unrelated scraps or fragments into a composition.

  • Assemblage

    The technique of making art using three and two-dimensional objects in one composition.

  • Readymade

    To assemble unaltered found objects into a composition.

  • Photomontage

    A technique used to create a composite photograph by cutting and pasting photographs to create on seamless photographic print.