The artwork in this lesson is from the years of 1917 and 1919 in Zurich, Switzerland. Switzerland is where the Dada movement developed or began in 1916.
Below is a timeline highlighting the period of time covered:
One of the interesting things about Dada is that it was not so much an artistic style, as it was an artistic philosophy. There was an overarching theme that was very much anti-war in this form of artwork. Artists used collage, assemblage art, photomontage, and readymade to create shocking and provocative material they grabbed the attention of their audience.
One of the goals of artists that engaged in Dada was to essentially create an awareness of their position. 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.
It is also important to point out that there were many authors and poets within the Dada movement. In fact, the Dada movement's impetus is often credited to the poet Hugo Ball. After moving to neutral Switzerland, Ball established the cabaret called the Cabaret Voltaire. Many other artists 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", below, sparked the Dada movement:
It was a performance reading in which he dressed up in a cardboard outfit, complete with lobster-like hands, a witch doctor's hat, and cape. The poem itself was essentially nonsensical babble, which may have inspired the name "Dada," which is "baby talk" in German. Dada questioned the idea of art itself in response to the reality of the war and the moral and ethical questions it raised.
In response to the unimaginable death toll and what was considered the utter waste of human life in the trenches, Dada artists, such as Jean Arp, explored the aesthetic of garbage. This was done with little bits of paper and discarded items using collage and assemblage art.
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 personalization 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.
This next image of Hooch's artwork is an example of political satire:
This piece 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. In this piece, 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, of all things, a urinal:
You might have 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?
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 possibly, he was 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.
Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR IAN MCCONNELL.
A 20th-century European avant-garde art movement characterized by performances and anti-war themes.
A French word meaning "a pasting", it is artwork created by using the technique of layering unrelated scraps or fragments into a composition.
The technique of making art using three and two-dimensional objects in one composition.
To assemble unaltered found objects into a composition.
A technique used to create a composite photograph by cutting and pasting photographs to create on seamless photographic print.