Art of the 20th Century




A Revolution in the Arts





Art Styles in 20th century Art Map





The Great Avant-garde Movements


 





Surrealism



 



 

 


Surrealism  (The Dream of Revolution)


INTRODUCTION


BEFORE SURREALISM THERE WAS...


THE EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE


THE SURREALIST REVOLUTION


THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF SURREALISM


POSTSCRIPT: LEGACIES

 

 

  *
see also:

Surrealism - 1924

EXPLORATION: Surrealist Art

Max Ernst
"A Week of Kindness" (A surrealistic novel in collage)

EXPLORATION:
Rene Magritte "Thought rendered visible"

EXPLORATION:
Salvador Dali

*
 

 


Chatter Two

 

 



THE EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE



Sophie Taeuber

Morton Livingston Schamberg
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Johannes Baader
Johannes Baargeld
 

 

Europeans at the turn of the century were witness to an incredible outpouring of ideas with regard to art and theory. Most of the Surrealists were active members of one or several artistic movements before and, at times, during their association with Surrealism. Most were well informed of the variety of concepts and beliefs swirling about them. From this state of flux, Surrealism precipitated its aesthetic and many of its techniques.

 

Cubism and Picasso
 

Cubism is often considered antithetical to Surrealism. The broken planes of early Cubism are related to an analytical tradition that concerns itself with a visual and systematic breakdown of the object and its restructuring. It is part of the broad current of structural concerns Surrealists rejected as irrelevant. But for Breton "that ridiculous word 'cubism' can never conceal from me the enormous significance of that sudden flash of inspiration" that occurred in Picasso between 1909 and 1910.

In Picasso Breton saw an individual so protean he broke rules and was liberated from categories and labels through his restless sense of internal vision, seeing then bringing into existence things none but poets had envisioned. It was the path and the broad accomplishment that interested Breton. In building this case Breton felt that he was also building the case for Surrealism to avoid and operate outside of systems.

Cubism set the pace for much of what is considered modern art in the early 1900s. But most of those footsteps were not applauded by the Surrealists since they were seen as servile and not as creative. Precisely where the line was to be drawn was problematic since Breton, among others, used as his requirement for art criticism an inner psychic vibration that one simply could sense. He dismissed many artists, well-known Cubists among them, for "propagating utterly superficial values." In many ways, Breton sounds surprisingly like an Expressionist because both movements placed primary importance on the interior state.
 

 


Pablo Picasso
 Woman Playing the Mandolin
1909

The crisp edges and analytic attitude of early Cubism seems opposed to the Surrealist dream world, but Cubism was admired as a movement that heralded the crisis of the object, and
Picasso was Breton's favorite artist.
 






Paul Klee
Untitled


German Expressionism
 

Paul Klee, the Swiss-born artist, was a member of the German Expressionist movement. He never joined the Surrealists but was well known to and showed with them. Breton placed him on his short list in 1924 as one of the few he could call "Surrealist," and as late as 1941 Breton recounted that Surrealism owed a debt to Klee's use of "automatism." Automatism—the free flow of associations—was advanced by Breton as the single most important key to the definition of Surrealism, a path to the inner psyche. Klee had been employing automatism since about 1914, when he would close his eyes, turn his mind inward, and automatically doodle on a pad to initiate an image.

Beyond specific influences, Expressionism was a seminal art movement which argued that the source of art was inward. However, the Expressionists referred more to inner "feelings" and these differed from the inner "psychic" sources desired by the Surrealists. The two movements shared an insistence on art deriving from some internal compulsion but the Surrealists argued more for a pathological condition beyond control, rather than an expression of will or spirit. Any artist who lost their compulsion, according to Surrealist stricture, lost their path.

 

 


Paul Klee
Moribundus

 

 

 


Italian Futurism (1909-16)
 

Futurism, founded by the poet Marinetti in Italy in 1909, was the most aggressive of the pre-war avant-garde art movements. The Futurists sought art forms that would embody the energy and dynamism of the new century, propelling Italy out of its classical past and into the future of machinery, speed, and violence. Andre Breton often referred to Futurism in the same breadth as Cubism, as one of the two movements that effectively challenged the past concepts of the "object," placing it in "crisis." The message was simply that Surrealism in the 1920s would take on the next step in the process initiated by Cubism and Futurism.

The
Futurist painters married bright colors to the planes of Cubism and set them in newly dynamic relationships, using movement and light to destroy the static quality of the material world. In its sculptural form, Umberto Boccioni's bronze Unique Forms of Continuity in Space was a literal attempt to first dissolve then extend material form through "lines of force" and into a fusion with the world around it.

Whether these lines of force were painted or sculpted, composed of words or of music, they were to be set free with the velocities of modern life to merge art, spectator, and life into a new complex whole. The Futurist lines of force were not simply a representation of stop-action or cinematic parallels, although photography and the new medium of film were of important influence, as they would come to be for Surrealism. They were also intended to give form to what is sensed rather than merely seen— the future unfolding of the object simultaneously with this time, the real as a mixture of the seen, the remembered, and the sensed. The desire to communicate on a more fundamental level in a new understanding of the real made both the Futurist and the Surrealists self-proclaimed "primitives of a new and completely transformed sensibility."

The wide range of parallels included the aggressive and the bombastic quality of their declarations and manifestoes. Both movements were founded through passionate beliefs in poetic sensibilities, the prime importance of individual creativity, and an almost absolute sense of personal freedom and liberation. Marinetti developed the concept of "words set free" (parole in liberta), the next step after free verse, to free words from the constraints of syntax and create a more instinctual level of communication. This included poems composed anarchistically, distributed across the page in a variety of type fonts, sizes, and densities. Their pell-mell barrage on the senses was deliberate, part of the principles of "simultaneity" and "brutism."

Professed, if not practicing, anarchists, the Futurist believed in violence and the brutalities of raw energy to disrupt and divert life from Italy's "cult" of the past into a new society. Central was the fusion of art to life, leading then, as it still does today, to the use of public performance and moments. Short performances that were non-narrative, often surprising, and always disruptive and shocking were developed. Sharp, explosive sounds such as a gunshot were accompanied with bursts of light, screams, and sudden, unexplained events, which included overselling tickets and physical disruptions in the audience. The audience was to be "brutalized" by input and shocked out of normalcy, precisely what Marinetti was attempting to initiate with poetry.

This was the perfect avant-garde product, picked up by the Dadaists, then by the Surrealists. Shocking the middle class became and often remained the byword of the new. It had political meaning, however, among the class-oriented Europeans throughout the early twentieth century.

 


Futurist Manifestos

 

The Italian Futurists claimed an anarchistic attitude toward the modern world that fueled the ideas in Dada, and eventually affected Surrealism. Boccioni's striding figure throws out "lines of force" to merge form and art with its environment.
 


Umberto Boccioni
Unique Form of Continuity in Space
1913

 

 

 


International Dada
 

The Dada movement was the birthing field for Surrealism. The name was essentially meaningless and the lack of meaning was a major strategy. Randomness was one of their purposive values; by definition it cannot be predicted, thus only the act is codified. The Dada movement refined many of the basic ideas, established the early membership, and eventually became the opposing force to the Surrealists. Francis Picabia, a member of both groups, wrote in 1925 that Breton's surrealism was simply Dada disguised as an advertising balloon for the firm Breton & Co.

Dada was energetic activity organized as a spontaneous gesture against the insanity of a worldwide war. Dada advertised itself as without value but manifested outrage because values had been violated. If rationality brought humanity to the level of world war, argued the Dadaists implicitly, then the true name of reason was insanity. And they would demonstrate the true nature of life: in the leveling of art and life, the reliance on the energies of creativity hurled like a chair into the face of conformity, and the overall program of random yet purposeful destruction, Dada resembled the program of the Futurists and motivated the Surrealists.
 


Dada Handbill
 

Here the ur-DADAs (Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Jean Arp, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck and others) experimented frenziedly, at first scandalizing audiences and eventually gaining worldwide momentum as an artistic force. By the mid-1920s, DADA retreated into relative obscurity because, as the DADAists themselves proclaimed, “DADA is nothing.” But the form never died and has been resurrected and riffed on by Todd Rundgren, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Julian Beck, Jerome Rothenberg, Janet Coleman and David Dozer, Ira Cohen, Valery Oisteanu, Rebecca Krell, and many others.
Photo by Mike Sullivan

 

 

 

Dada

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

(French: “hobby-horse”), nihilistic movement in the arts that flourished primarily in Zurich, New York City, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, and Hannover, Ger. in the early 20th century. Several explanations have been given by various members of the movement as to how it received its name. According to the most widely accepted account, the name was adopted at Hugo Ball's Cabaret (Café) Voltaire, in Zurich, during one of the meetings held in 1916 by a group of young artists and war resisters that included Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Emmy Hennings; when a paper knife inserted into a French–German dictionary pointed to the word dada, this word was seized upon by the group as appropriate for their anti-aesthetic creations and protest activities, which were engendered by disgust for bourgeois values and despair over World War I. A precursor of what was to be called the Dada movement, and ultimately its leading member, was Marcel Duchamp, who in 1913 created his first ready-made (now lost), the “Bicycle Wheel,” consisting of a wheel mounted on the seat of a stool.

The movement in the United States was centred at “291,” the New York City gallery of Alfred Stieglitz, and the studio of the Walter Arensbergs, both wealthy patrons of the arts. There Dada-like activities, arising independently but paralleling those in Zurich, were engaged in by such artists as Man Ray, Morton Schamberg, and Francis Picabia. Both through their art and through such publications as The Blind Man, Rongwrong, and New York Dada the artists attempted to demolish current aesthetic standards. Travelling between the United States and Europe,  Picabia became a link betweenthe Dada groups in New York City, Zurich, and Paris; his Dadaperiodical, 291, was published in Barcelona, New York City, Zürich, and Paris from 1917 through 1924.
 

Morton Livingston Schamberg
(USA, 1881–1918)
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
(German, 1874–1927)
God
1917


In 1917 Hulsenbeck, one of the founders of the Zurich group, transmitted the Dada movement to Berlin, where it took on a more political character. Among the German artists involved were Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Hoch, George Grosz, Johannes Baader, Hulsenbeck, Otto Schmalhausen, and Wieland Herzfelde and his brother John Heartfield (formerly Helmut Herzfelde, but Anglicized as a protest against German patriotism). One of the chief means of expression used by these artists was the photomontage, which consists of fragments of pasted photographs combined with printed messages; the technique was most effectively employed by Heartfield, particularly in his later, anti-Nazi works (e.g., “Kaiser Adolph”). Like the groups in New York City and Zurich, the Berlin artists staged public meetings, shocking and enraging the audience with their antics. They, too, issued Dada publications: Club Dada, Der Dada, Jedermann sein eigner Fussball (“Everyman His Own Football”), and Dada Almanach. The First International Dada Fair was held in Berlin in June 1920.
 


Johannes Baader
(German, 1875-1955)
The Author of the Book "Fourteen Letters of Christ" in His Home.


Johannes Baader
(German, 1875-1955)

Der Oberdada

 


Dada activities were also carried on in other German cities. In Cologne in 1919 and 1920, the chief participants were Max Ernst and Johannes Baargeld. Also affiliated with Dada was Kurt Schwitters of Hannover, who gave the name Merz to his collages, constructions, and literary productions. Although Schwitters used Dadaistic material—bits of rubbish—to create his works, he achieved a refined, aesthetic effect that was uncharacteristic of Dada antiart.
 


Johannes Baargeld
(German,1892–1927)

Das menschliche Auge und ein Fisch,
letzterer versteinert

1920


Johannes Baargeld
(German,1892–1927)

Typical Vertical Mess as Depiction of the
Dada Baargeld
1920

 

 


Johannes Baargeld
(German,1892–1927)
Ordinäre Klitterung: Kubischer Transvestit vor einem vermeintlichen Scheideweg
 


Johannes Baargeld, Max Ernst

(German,1892–1927)
The Red King
1920


In Paris Dada took on a literary emphasis under one of its founders, the poet Tristan Tzara. Most notable among the numerous Dada pamphlets and reviews was Littérature (published 1919–24), which contained writings by André Breton, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, Paul Éluard, and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. After 1922, however, Dada began to lose its force, and the energies of its participants turned toward Surrealism (q.v.).

Dada had far-reaching effects on the art of the 20th century. Its nihilistic, anti rationalistic critiques of society and its unrestrained attacks on all formal artistic conventions found no immediate inheritors, but its preoccupation with the bizarre, the irrational, and the fantastic bore fruit in the Surrealist movement. Dada artists' techniques of creation involving accident and chance were later employed by the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists. Conceptual art also is rooted in Dada, for it was Duchamp who first asserted that the mental activity (“intellectual expression”) of the artist was of greater significance than the object created.
 

   


Der Dada
Edited by Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield,
and
George Grosz.
No. 3 (April 1920), cover


Der Dada

Was ist Dada?

 

 


Zurich Dada (1916-19)
 

In Zurich the major vehicle for the Dadaists was their evening performances. Their anarchistic form derived from Futurist models and a typical evening found boisterous students packed into the Cabaret Voltaire ready to sing or snarl along, depending on the performance. These moments often consisted of Futurist techniques, although less scripted, with traditional songs and dances intermixed with free forms. Simultaneity, free words, and brutism—or "noise-music"—were practiced, as when different individuals recited either poems in different languages or nonsense syllables from different corners of the room at the same time, often accompanied by or simply creating noise for its own sake. Some would beat out the rhythms of "Negro" music on drums while Hugo Ball played the piano and his wife Emmy Hennings sang and, with others, danced on stage in Dada costumes.

As Jean Arp remarked, the Dadaists beat furiously on drums of a different measure while the drums of war beat their own staccato in the background. The use of "primitive" rhythms to remind Western culture of its current condition was new but the application of African culture to modernism had been practiced by Cubists and Expressionists for years. Like them, the Dadaists too were modern primitives. In locations other than Zurich, they began to identify their primitivism more with the beat of the machine rather than a simple romantic escapism into a distant or simpler culture. Primitivism was utilized to move artists to think about rather than simply borrow forms. This was a project the Surrealists would continue.
 

   


Hugo Ball
Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916


Emmy Hennings
1916

Hugo Ball

(1886 - 1927)
Writer, actor, and dramatist, a harsh social critic, and an early critical biographer of German novelist Hermann Hesse (Hermann Hesse, sein Leben und sein Werk, 1927; “Hermann Hesse, His Life and His Work”).
Ball studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg (1906–07) and went to Berlin (1910) to become an actor. He was a founder of the Dadaist movement in art.
A staunch pacifist, Ball left Germany during World War I and moved to neutral Switzerland (1916). His more important works include Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz (1919; “Critique of German Intelligence”) and Die Flucht aus der Zeit (1927; “The Flight from Time”).

Emmy Hennings

Emmy Hennings (1885 – 1948) was a performer and poet. She was also the wife of celebrated Dadaist Hugo Ball. Despite her own achievements, it is difficult to come by information about Hennings that is not directly related to her relationship with Hugo Ball. She was a performer at the Cabaret Simplizissimus in Munich, when she met Ball in 1913. At the time, Hennings was already a published poet, whose works had appeared in left-wing publications called Pan and Die Aktion. In 1913 she also published a short poetry collection called Ether Poems, or Ather Gedichte in German. Later, Hennings was a collaborator to the magazine Revolutions, which was founded by Ball and Hans Leybold. Hennings and Ball moved to Zurich in 1915, where they took part of the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire, which marked the beginning of the Dada movement. Hennings was a regular performer at the Cabaret Voltaire. Her performances included a role in Das Leben des Menschen (the Life of a Man), in which she appeared with Ball. This the German premiere of the play by Leonid Andreev. Hennings also performed in a piece written by Ball, called Krippenspeil. After the Cabaret Voltaire ended, Hennings and Ball toured, performing mostly in hotels. Hennings sang, did puppetry, and danced to music composed by Ball. She also recited her own poetry.
 

_________________

Cabaret Voltaire
was the name of a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland. It was founded by Hugo Ball, with his companion Emmy Hennings on February 5, 1916 as a cabaret for artistic and political purposes. Other founding members were Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara and Jean Arp. Events at the cabaret proved pivotal in the founding of the anarchic art movement known as Dada.
Switzerland was a neutral country during World War I and among the many refugees coming to Zurich were artists from all over Europe. Ball and Hennings approached Ephraim Jan, patron of the Hollandische Meierei at Spiegelgasse 1, which had already hosted Zurich's first literary Cabaret, the Pantagruel in 1915. Jan permitted them to use the back room for events. The press release which accompanied the opening of the nightclub reads:

Cabaret Voltaire. Under this name a group of young artists and writers has been formed whose aim is to create a centre for artistic entertainment. The idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds. -Zurich, February 2, 1916

The cabaret featured spoken word, dance and music. The soirees were often raucous events with artists experimenting with new forms of performance, such as sound poetry and simultaneous poetry. Mirroring the maelstrom of World War I raging around it, the art it exhibited was often chaotic and brutal. On at least one occasion, the audience attacked the Cabaret's stage. Though the Cabaret was to be the birthplace of the Dadaist movement, it featured artists from every sector of the avant-garde, including Futurism's Marinetti. The Cabaret exhibited radically experimental artists, many of whom went on to change the face of their artistic disciplines; featured artists included Kandinsky, Paul Klee, de Chirico and Max Ernst. On July 28, 1916, Ball read out the Dada Manifesto. In June, Ball had also published a journal with the same name. It featured work from artists such as the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and had a cover designed by Arp.

Whilst the Dada movement was just beginning, by 1917 the excitement generated by the Cabaret Voltaire had fizzled out and the artists moved on to other places in Zurich such as the Galerie Dada at Bahnhofstrasse 19, then later Paris and Berlin.
____________________
 

Hugo Ball

Dada Manifesto

(Read at the first public by Dada soiree, Zurich, July 14, 1916.)
 

Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means "hobby horse". In German it means "good-bye", "Get off my back", "Be seeing you sometime". In Romanian: "Yes, indeed, you are right, that's it. But of course, yes, definitely, right". And so forth.

An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement. Very easy to understand. Quite terribly simple. To make of it an artistic tendency must mean that one is anticipating complications. Dada psychology, dada Germany cum indigestion and fog paroxysm, dada literature, dada bourgeoisie, and yourselves, honoured poets, who are always writing with words but never writing the word itself, who are always writing around the actual point. Dada world war without end, dada revolution without beginning, dada, you friends and also-poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists. Dada Tzara, dada Huelsenbeck, dada m'dada, dada m'dada dada mhm, dada dera dada, dada Hue, dada Tza.

How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanised, enervated? By saying dada. Dada is the world soul, dada is the pawnshop. Dada is the world's best lily-milk soap. Dada Mr Rubiner, dada Mr Korrodi. Dada Mr Anastasius Lilienstein. In plain language: the hospitality of the Swiss is something to be profoundly appreciated. And in questions of aesthetics the key is quality.

I shall be reading poems that are meant to dispense with conventional language, no less, and to have done with it. Dada Johann Fuchsgang Goethe. Dada Stendhal. Dada Dalai Lama, Buddha, Bible, and Nietzsche. Dada m'dada. Dada mhm dada da. It's a question of connections, and of loosening them up a bit to start with. I don't want words that other people have invented. All the words are other people's inventions. I want my own stuff, my own rhythm, and vowels and consonants too, matching the rhythm and all my own. If this pulsation is seven yards long, I want words for it that are seven yards long. Mr Schulz's words are only two and a half centimetres long.

It will serve to show how articulated language comes into being. I let the vowels fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat miaows . . . Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh. One shouldn't let too many words out. A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language, as if put there by stockbrokers' hands, hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins. Dada is the heart of words.

Each thing has its word, but the word has become a thing by itself. Why shouldn't I find it? Why can't a tree be called Pluplusch, and Pluplubasch when it has been raining? The word, the word, the word outside your domain, your stuffiness, this laughable impotence, your stupendous smugness, outside all the parrotry of your self-evident limitedness. The word, gentlemen, is a public concern of the first importance.
 

 


Dada. No. 4-5: Anthologie Dada


Dada. No. 7: Dadaphone

 

 






Tristan Tzara


Tzara
 

The Rumanian poet Tristan Tzara (1896-1963) was the major link between Futurism and Dadaism, openly appropriating their techniques of aggression, provocation, simultaneity, and brutism in his manifestoes and poetry.

He also shared the desire for language to operate on some fundamental level. As angry as they were, the Dadaists were not simply out to destroy. They were also driven by the need to communicate. As poets, they gave weight to a concept of poetic space, a place called into existence by creativity; this space was pre-verbal, or, as Ball characterized it, alchemical. But it was not a privileged site of the mind; everyone could be a Dadaist. We are all, or can be, according to their precepts, "artists." For modern art the consequences of this shift in attitude were enormous.

In 1911 the Futurists had been the first to exhibit the drawings and paintings of untrained working-class citizens and children alongside their own— demonstrating that "everyone's soul" was equal in the artistic sense. The Expressionists in Germany published children's drawings a year later in their journal. Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Klee openly praised the intuitive domain of children, where mystery flourished prior to the later onslaught of adult reason. Tzara, as poet, argued that anyone could be a poet by cutting up printed sentences, then tossing and selecting the words at random from a bag. Scissors and chance were the great equalizers, transplanting the "authority" of the author/artist to everyone.

When Tzara moved in 1920 to Paris, where his writings were well known, he made the Paris Dada movement official, with a group of poets—Breton, Paul Fluard, Philippe Soupault—who would break with him to form Surrealism.
 


Der Dada


Der Dada

 


Tristan Tzara


Dadaism

From "Dada Manifesto" [1918] and "Lecture on Dada" [1922], translated from the French by Robert Motherwell, Dada Painters and Poets, by Robert Motherwell, New York, pp. 78- 9, 81, 246-51; reprinted by pernlission of George Wittenborn, Inc., Publishers, 10l8 Madison Avenue, New York 21, N.Y.

There is a literature that does not reach the voracious mass. It is the work of creators, issued from a real necessity in the author, produced for himself. It expresses the knowledge of a supreme egoism, in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell, on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups. Behind them a crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement.

I say unto you: there is no beginning and we do not tremble, we are not sentimental. We are a furious Wind, tearing the dirty linen of clouds and prayers, preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire, decomposition. We will put an end to mourning and replace tears by sirens screeching from one continent to another. Pavilions of intense joy and widowers with the sadness of poison. Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry.

I destroy the drawers of the brain and of social organization: spread demoralization wherever I go and cast my hand from heaven to hell, my eyes from hell to heaven, restore the fecund wheel of a universal circus to objective forces and the imagination of every individual.

Philosophy is the question: from which side shall we look at life, God, the idea or other phenomena. Everything one looks at is false. I do not consider the relative result more important than the choice between cake and cherries after dinner. The system of quickly looking at the other side of a thing in order to impose your opinion indirectly is called dialectics, in other words, haggling over the spirit of fried potatoes while dancing method around it. If I cry out:

Ideal, ideal, ideal,
-Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge,
-Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom,

I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so manv books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom: the satisfaction of pathological curiosity; a private bell for inexplicable needs; a bath; pecuniary difficulties; a stomach with repercussions in life; the authority of the mystic wand formulated as the bouquet of a phantom orchestra made up of silent fiddle bows greased with philtres made of chicken manure. With the blue eye-glasses of an angel they have excavated the inner life for a dime's worth of unanimous gratitude. If all of them are right and if all pills are Pink Pills, let us try for once not to be right. Some people think they can explain rationally, by thought, what they think. But that is extremely relative. Psychoanalysis is a dangerous disease, it puts to sleep the anti-objective impulses of men and systematizes the bourgeoisie. There is no ultimate Truth. The dialectic is an amusing mechanism which guides us / in a banal kind of way / to the opinions we had in the first place. Does anyone think that, by a minute refinement of logic, he has demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease. To this element philosophers always like to add: the power of observation. But actually this magnificent quality of the mind is the proof of its impotence. We observe, we regard from one or more points of view, we choose them among the millions that exist. Experience is also a product of chance and individual faculties. Science disgusts me as soon as it becomes a speculative system, loses its character of utility-that is so useless but is at least individual. I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order. Carry on, my children, humanity . . . Science says we are the servants of nature: everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in. Carry on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins . . . I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none. To complete oneself, to perfect oneself in one's own littleness, to fill the vessel with one's individuality, to have the courage to fight for and against thought, the mystery of bread, the sudden burst of an infernal propeller into economic lilies.... Every product of disgust capable of becoming a negation of the family is Dada; a protest with the fists of its whole being engaged in destructive action: Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: Dada; abolition of prophets: Dada; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity: Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic; to divest one's church of every useless cumbersome accessory; to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall, or coddle them -with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn't matter in the least-with the same intensity in the thicket of one's soul-pure of insects for blood well-born, and gilded with bodies of archangels. Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE

___________________
 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I don't have to tell you that for the general public and for you, the refined public, a Dadaist is the equivalent of a leper. But that is only a manner of speaking. When these same people get close to us, they treat us with that remnant of elegance that comes from their old habit of belief in progress. At ten yards distance, hatred begins again. If you ask me why, I won't be able to tell you.

Another characteristic of Dada is the continuous breaking off of our friends. They are always breaking off and resigning. The first to tender his resignation from the Dada movement  was myself.  Everybody knows that Dada is nothing. I broke away from Dada and from myself as soon as I understood the implications of  nothing.

If I continue to do something, it is because it amuses me, or rather because I have a need for activity which I use up and satisfy wherever I can. Basically, the true Dadas have always been separate from Dada. Those who acted as if Dada were important enough to resign from with a big noise have been motivated by a desire for personal publicity, proving that counterfeiters have always wriggled like unclean worms in and out of the purest and most radiant religions.

I know that you have come here today to hear explanations. Well, don't expect to hear any explanations about Dada. You explain to me why you exist. You haven't the faintest idea. You will say: I exist to make my children happy. But in your hearts you know that isn't so. You will say: I exist to guard my country, against barbarian invasions. That's a fine reason. You will say: I exist because God wills. That's a fairy tale for children. You will never be able to tell me why you exist but you will always be ready to maintain a serious attitude about life. You will never understand that life is a pun, for you will never be alone enough to reject hatred, judgments, all these things that require such an effort, in favor of a calm level state of mind that makes everything equal and without importance. Dada is not at all modern. It is more in the nature of a return to an almost Buddhist religion of indifference. Dada covers things with an artificial gentleness, a snow of butterflies released from the head of a prestidigitator. Dada is immobility and does not comprehend the passions. You will call this a paradox, since Dada is manifested only in violent acts. Yes, the reactions of individuals contaminated by  destruction  are rather violent, but when these reactions are exhausted, annihilated by the Satanic insistence of a continuous and progressive "What for?" what remains, what dominates is indifference. But with the same note of conviction I might maintain the contrary.

I admit that my friends do not approve this point of view. But the  Nothing  can be uttered only as the reflection of an individual. And that is why it will be valid for everyone, since everyone is important only for the individual who is expressing himself.--I am speaking of myself. Even that is too much for me. How can I be expected to speak of all men at once, and satisfy them too?

Nothing is more delightful than to confuse and upset people. People one doesn't like. What's the use of giving them explanations that are merely food for curiosity? The truth is that people love nothing but themselves and their little possessions, their income, their dog. This state of affairs derives from a false conception of property. If one is poor in spirit, one possesses a sure and indomitable intelligence, a savage logic, a point of view that can not be shaken. Try to be empty and fill your brain cells with a petty happiness. Always destroy what you have in you. On random walks. Then you will be able to understand many things. You are not more intelligent than we, and we are not more intelligent than you.

Intelligence is an organization like any other, the organization of society, the organization of a bank, the organization of chit-chat. At a society tea. It serves to create order and clarity where there is none. It serves to create a state hierarchy. To set up classifications for rational work. To separate questions of a material order from those of a cerebral order, but to take the former very seriously. Intelligence is the triumph of sound education and pragmatism. Fortunately life is something else and its pleasures are innumerable. They are not paid for in the coin of liquid intelligence.

These observations of everyday conditions have led us to a realization which constitutes our minimum basis of agreement, aside from the sympathy which binds us and which is inexplicable. It would not have been possible for us to found our agreement on principles. For everything is relative. What are the Beautiful, the Good, Art, Freedom? Words that have a different meaning for every individual. Words with the pretension of creating agreement among all, and that is why they are written with capital letters. Words which have not the moral value and objective force that people have grown accustomed to finding in them. Their meaning changes from one individual, one epoch, one country to the next. Men are different. It is diversity that makes life interesting. There is no common basis in mens minds. The unconscious is inexhaustible and uncontrollable. Its force surpasses us. It is as mysterious as the last particle of a brain cell. Even if we knew it, we could not reconstruct it.

What good did the theories of the philosophers do us? Did they help us to take a single step forward or backward? What is forward, what is backward? Did they alter our forms of contentment? We are. We argue, we dispute, we get excited. The rest is sauce. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes mixed with a limitless boredom, a swamp dotted with tufts of dying shrubs.

We have had enough of the intelligent movements that have stretched beyond measure our credulity in the benefits of science. What we want now is spontaneity. Not because it is better or more beautiful than anything else. But because everything that issues freely from ourselves, without the intervention of speculative ideas, represents us. We must intensify this quantity of life that readily spends itself in every quarter. Art is not the most precious manifestation of life. Art has not the celestial and universal value that people like to attribute to it. Life is far more interesting. Dada knows the correct measure that should be given to art: with subtle, perfidious methods, Dada introduces it into daily life. And vice versa. In art, Dada reduces everything to an initial simplicity, growing always more relative. It mingles its caprices with the chaotic wind of creation and the barbaric dances of savage tribes. It wants logic reduced to a personal minimum, while literature in its view should be primarily intended for the individual who makes it. Words have a weight of their own and lend themselves to abstract construction. The absurd has no terrors for me, for from a more exalted point of view everything in life seems absurd to me. Only the elasticity of our conventions creates a bond between disparate acts. The Beautiful and the True in art do not exist; what interests me is the intensity of a personality transposed directly, clearly into the work; the man and his vitality; the angle from which he regards the elements and in what manner he knows how to gather sensation, emotion, into a lacework of words and sentiments.

Dada tries to find out what words mean before using them, from the point of view not of grammar but of representation. Objects and colors pass through the same filter. It is not the new technique that interests us, but the spirit. Why do you want us to be preoccupied with a pictorial, moral, poetic, literary, political or social renewal? We are well aware that these renewals of means are merely the successive cloaks of the various epochs of history, uninteresting questions of fashion and facade. We are well aware that people in the costumes of the Renaissance were pretty much the same as the people of today, and that Chouang-Dsi was just as Dada as we are. You are mistaken if you take Dada for a modern school, or even for a reaction against the schools of today. Several of my statements have struck you as old and natural, what better proof that you were a Dadaist without knowing it, perhaps even before the birth of Dada.

You will often hear that Dada is a state of mind. You may be gay, sad, afflicted, joyous, melancholy or Dada. Without being literary, you can be romantic, you can be dreamy, weary, eccentric, a businessman, skinny, transfigured, vain, amiable or Dada. This will happen later on in the course of history when Dada has become a precise, habitual word, when popular repetition has given it the character of a word organic with its necessary content. Today no one thinks of the literature of the Romantic school in representing a lake, a landscape, a character. Slowly but surely, a Dada character is forming.

Dada is here, there and a little everywhere, such as it is, with its faults, with its personal differences and distinctions which it accepts and views with indifference. We are often told that we are incoherent, but into this word people try to put an insult that it is rather hard for me to fathom. Everything is incoherent. The gentleman who decides to take a bath but goes to the movies instead. The one who wants to be quiet but says things that haven't even entered his head. Another who has a precise idea on some subject but succeeds only in expressing the opposite in words which for him are a poor translation. There is no logic. Only relative necessities discovered  a posteriori , valid not in any exact sense but only as explanations. The acts of life have no beginning or end. Everything happens in a completely idiotic way. That is why everything is alike. Simplicity is called Dada.

Any attempt to conciliate an inexplicable momentary state with logic strikes me as a boring kind of game. The convention of the spoken language is ample and adequate for us, but for our solitude, for our intimate games and our literature we no longer need it.

The beginnings of Dada were not the beginnings of an art, but of a disgust. Disgust with the magnificence of philosophers who for 3000 years have been explaining everything to us (what for? ), disgust with the pretensions of these artists-God's-representatives-on-earth, disgust with passion and with real pathological wickedness where it was not worth the bother; disgust with a false form of domination and restriction  en masse , that accentuates rather than appeases man's instinct of domination, disgust with all the catalogued categories, with the false prophets who are nothing but a front for the interests of money, pride, disease, disgust with the lieutenants of a mercantile art made to order according to a few infantile laws, disgust with the divorce of good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly (for why is it more estimable to be red rather than green, to the left rather than the right, to be large or small?). Disgust finally with the Jesuitical dialectic which can explain everything and fill people's minds with oblique and obtuse ideas without any physiological basis or ethnic roots, all this by means of blinding artifice and ignoble charlatans promises.

As Dada marches it continuously destroys, not in extension but in itself. From all these disgusts, may I add, it draws no conclusion, no pride, no benefit. It has even stopped combating anything, in the realization that it's no use, that all this doesn't matter. What interests a Dadaist is his own mode of life. But here we approach the great secret.

Dada is a state of mind. That is why it transforms itself according to races and events. Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet, not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies, but very simply at street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers.

Like everything in life, Dada is useless.

Dada is without pretension, as life should be.

Perhaps you will understand me better when I tell you that Dada is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all the spaces that reason has not been able to fill with words or conventions.

 

 


Dada siegt, Plakat, Dada-Koln
 


Sophie Taeuber
Dada-Kopf
(Portrait of Hans Arp)
1918


Arp and Taeuber
 

There was no such thing as Dadaist art, nor did it ever develop beyond an attitude. Ball replaced the cabaret in 1917 with the Dada Gallery and showed Futurists, Cubists, and Expressionists. Among the few to develop Dada principles in relation to the visual arts in Zurich were Hans Arp (after 1939 signed "Jean Arp") and the Russian designer and dancer Sophie Taeuber. Both in Zurich by 1915, they worked in an unusual, collaborative effort which they felt was another way to defeat the egotism inherent in artistic creation. In earlier rectilinear forms, influenced by a study of Cubism, and in 1916, using curvilinear forms, they continued to withdraw any mark of individuality to move toward an art considered more "infinite and eternal." They created "paper pictures" arranged according to laws of chance—a kind of Cubism without creator—first from linear, torn sheets, then as collages of abstract, curvilinear forms, to include textiles, wooden containers of interfitting forms, curved woodcut reliefs, and Taeuber's marionettes and "Dada-heads."

They declared these organic looking drawings and collages "Realities in themselves, without meaning or cerebral intention. We . . . allowed the elementary and spontaneous to react . . . like nature, [were] ordered according to the laws of chance." These organic abstractions, or as Arp referred to them, organic "concretions," provided him, if not
Taeuber, a basis for development for the rest of his life, and can be seen in his 1935 Human Concretion, one of many such works carried out during his "Surrealist" period but clearly embodying Dadaist principles. Sculpture as a process of growth equivalent to nature established a biological metaphor for art and had a profound influence on sculpture in the twentieth century. For the Surrealists, Arp's work not only challenged past understandings of an object but moved the object into the less defined, more provocative realm of the poetic imagination.

Taeuber's marionettes and "Dada-heads" carried out the all-important merger between the mechanical and the natural. These seem interchangeable in form with her abstract drawings and tapestries, which have simple, primordial shapes that metamorphose from human to animal to containers. The combination of the biological and mechanical has a long, highly charged life within the Dadaist and Futurist admiration for the machine.
 


Jean Hans Arp mit Nabelmonokel, 1926
Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp
 


Sophie Taeuber mit Dada-Kopf, 1918
Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Photo Nic Aluf

 

 


Jean Arp (Hans Arp)
Forest
1917

Taeuber's wooden Dada-heads grew out of her abstract drawings and tapestries, which have simple,
primordial shapes that metamorphose from human to animal to containers like a biological system
of advancing forms, one evolving from another.

 


Jean Arp
Human Concretion
19
35


Arp, one of the founders of Dada, was the greatest formulator of chance as an active principle in the world. His later work within Surrealism conveyed a sense of organic growth, as if by chance formation, without picturing anything in the world.
 

 

 


Der Dada
Was ist Dada?
 

 


Cologne Dada & Max Ernst (1919-22)
 

Arp and Taeuber moved to Cologne in 1919 and helped motivate the Dada movement with Arp's old friend Max Ernst (1891-1976), who developed their element of chance into hallucination. Ernst knew the work of de Chircio and Klee, had studied philosophy and psychiatry, and arrived at a profound disgust of the world of bourgeois values through the horrors of four years of war service. By 1919 he was staging Dada events that used much of the Zurich ideas to openly attack middle-class concepts of art and life. Under Arp's influence, Ernst began producing collages using random combinations from a multitude of established images in newspapers and journals.

Ernst's drawing Stratified rocks, nature's gift of gneiss ice-land moss .. . (1920) pictures the organic shapes that nature offers, much in the abstract manner of Arp, but underneath the image is a printed reproduction the artist has enhanced with ink and opaque watercolor (gouache) to move it into a more extraordinary realm. This was a process Ernst felt would "transform the banal pages of advertisement into dramas which reveal my most secret desires."

Unlike Arp, Ernst often found his images "ready-made" but he "selected" them by some psychological resonance, a chance encounter between himself, his own psyche, and the image. Other collages from this period construct mechanical images from both linear and curvilinear forms, apparently in some relation to the biomechanical forms used by Taeuber.

Ernst's ready acceptance of psychological states and conditions, particularly the dream-work in Freud's psychoanalysis, parallel the interests and development of Breton. The use of ready-made images—already part of a broad, newly emerging practice in Europe—and especially his reliance on chance encounters as the elemental embodiment of his desire made Ernst a Surrealist from the very beginning. Breton had heard of the Cologne "Dadamax" in Paris and staged an exhibition of his work in 1920, an event many take as the beginning of Paris Dada. In 1921 another of the Paris poets, Paul Eluard, traveled to Cologne to have Ernst illustrate a volume of his poetry.
 


Max Ernst
Stratified rocks, nature's gift of gneiss iceland moss 2 kinds of lungwort 2 kinds
of ruptures of the perineum growths of the heart (b) the same thing
 in a well-polished box somewhat more expensive
1920
anatomical engraving altered with gouache and pencil
 

Ernst was acknowledged as a Surrealist before Surrealism, even as he was a Dadaist.
Under the influence of
Arp and his own orientation, Ernst accepted a world that was not separate from art.
 

 

 


Der Dada
Edited by
Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield,
and
George Grosz
No. 3 (April 1920), cover


Der Dada
Edited by
Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield,
and
George Grosz
No. 2 (Berlin, December 1919), cover

 

 






John Heartfield
Goring The Executioner
1933

 

 

Berlin Dada (1918-20)
 

In 1917, Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Zurich where his own interests in politics coincided with Berlin's political circumstances to lead a Dada group toward an openly political art. Although the Dadaists generally rejected political involvement—something that separates them from the later Surrealists—it was not simply war but a wider crisis in European culture that concerned them.

Huelsenbeck published manifestoes and journals, several aimed at the working class, and helped maintain an interest in mass communication. Colleagues like John Heartfield designed covers for commercial magazines and literary books of social conscience. Artists such as Raoul Hausmann and Hanna Hoch were less constrained by the needs for public communication but were guided as well by political and social conscience. An early (1919-20) photomontage by Hoch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany, shows a Futurist derived, Dadaist hodgepodge of images. Its mania celebrates Dada, but its title, images, and compositional details direct it as a feminist and communist attack on the liberal politics of the Weimar Republic formed in Germany after their defeat in World War I.

For the Berlin Dadaists, the use of photographs and the technique of photomontage became primary tools in their work. They were influenced by the Futurists and the Russian avant-garde, whose artists had wedded art to the Russian Revolution, and a faith in technology that held promise for their own communist future. This equation was a powerful vision on behalf of the importance of art—its promise of the dream of revolution—and the path it should take.

 


Hanna Hoch
Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar
Beer Belly Epoch of Germany

1919
 

 
Raoul Hausmann
Dada Siegt
1920

 

     


Daum marries her pedantic automaton "George"

Collage

The introduction of new materials into works of art was initiated by the Cubists. Everyday objects were combined with trompe l'oeil paintings of objects in their collages and papiers colles, used chromatically or metaphorically to give the painting greater reality and spatial autonomy. For his Futurist works Fusion of a Head and a Window and Head + House + Light, Boccioni used hair, part of a window, and even an iron railing. In answer to Giovanni Papini's criticisms in 1914, he stated that it was vital to replace imitation with reality in order to increase expressive potential. The Dadaists experimented endlessly with heterogenous materials, either as an expression or admiration for modern technology, or as a rejection of industrialized society. Ready-mades were banal objects elevated to works of art through their selection by the artist. Schwitters' assemblages were made with discarded items, while Heartfield and Grosz used old photographs and newspapers.
 

 


John Heartfield
Die Arena
1927
 

Photomontage

Technique by which a composite photographic image is formed by combining images from separate photographic sources. The term was coined by Berlin Dadaists c. 1917-18 and was employed by artists such as George Grosz, John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann and Hanna Hoch for images often composed from mass-produced sources such as newspapers and magazines.


 


Merz
Edited by
Kurt Schwitters
No. 2 (Hanover, April 1923)
cover

Merz

Term applied to a flat or relief collage of collected junk. It is associated with Kurt Schwitters, who apparently invented the word when cutting out the word ‘Commerzbank’ from a newspaper for a collage he was making. Merz is also the title of a Dada magazine that he edited from 1923.

 

 

 

 

 


Francis Picabia
llustration on the title page of the journal Dada
 
1919


Francis Picabia
llustration of the journal Dada No. 14
1920

 

 


New York Dada (1913-21)
 

Francis Picabia (1878-1953), a Cuban citizen of French and Spanish descent and a close friend to Marcel Duchamp, was the first Dadaist to arrive in New York to see his work in the 1913 Armory show. This was the first important American exhibition of modern European painting and the "Cubist" works of Picabia and Duchamp had become national scandals. Circa 1912 to 1915, between Paris and the United States and in proportions still unknown, the two artists together developed a different interpretation of "pure painting" from their Parisian colleagues. For them, art was purified by thought rather than developed through abstraction into pure art. Ultimately they would decide that the art of form was a thing of the past.


Francis Picabia
Very Rare Picture on the Earth
1915

The biomechanical model emerging across Europe was employed by Picabia and Duchamp for its humorous and ironic qualities as applied to people, culture, and relations. In Picabia's I See Again in Memory my Dear Udnie (1914) the flat, abstract forms refer mostly to a biological world through their curved forms but they also reference the mechanical world. According to Picabia, the forms and title of the work derived from his memory of a dancer he admired on shipboard, but were modified through his own erotic dreams. Both he and Duchamp loved word play, frequently using anagrams as titles; in this case "udnie" is likely the anagram for the English slang "nudie."

Like Duchamp, Picabia soon renounced the tradition of large oil paintings and began to make ironic drawings that rejected both
Cubism and abstraction. He used invented machines whose title and general biomechanical look were both a celebration and a condemnation of the colonization of the human by the mechanical culture. The subject of his Amorous Parade (1917), made on one his several journeys to New York, is a metaphorical conversion of the biological sex drive into and through machinery.

Too anarchistic, subversive, and wealthy to remain in any one place for long, Picabia had moved to Barcelona by 1916-17, and joined the Zurich Dadaists in 1919. He left his biomechanical works with Arp, who transferred their knowledge to Ernst in Cologne. That same year Picabia moved to Paris, where Duchamp joined him and the Dada poets. Picabia eventually associated himself with the Surrealists but also kept his own counsel throughout his life, independent of Breton. The same can be said for Duchamp, who felt Dadaism and Surrealism provided useful attempts to reshape the nature of art, but were ultimately too limiting.

 


Duchamp
 

When Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) arrived in New York two years after the Armory show he was already notorious. He immediately began work on one of the most famous and problematic works of the twentieth century, The Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Conceived in Paris by 1912 it came at the end of a series of paintings exploring the same theme: a bride, bachelors, and a range of cultural customs circling courtship, sex, and desire implied in witty but privatized commentary. Here, the bride remains above the fray in perpetual separation from the nine frustrated bachelors below. They and their elements of desire are "represented" through fusion of abstract biomorphic and mechanical forms and processes. Originally mounted on glass so the visible world became part of the courtship, it was broken in 1923 during shipment. Duchamp accepted the act of chance and declared the work finished at that point by piecing it together, providing the heavy frame, and allowing the fortuitous cracks to remain visible.

Even more radical was Duchamp's acceptance by 1912 of the artifacts of the world as "ready-made" art, or those to which he made small adjustments and designated "assisted ready-mades." Thus a metal drying rack for bottles purchased in a hardware store was exhibited as is, while a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa was newly hung with a mustache added. Duchamp was a master chess player and used chess as his model for art as strategic play; his moves are often designed to resonate on several levels. The mustache and title—L.H.O.O.Q. is a phonetic anagram for French words which indicate that the Mona Lisa has sexual longing—are a Dada gesture to profane the sacred "high" art of an insane culture. To sexualize the asexual and to convert gender through a mustache, for example, transforms expectations of art and the culture that spawns it on several levels. Similarly The Large Glass not only "transformed" bride and bachelor into machines but acknowledges that modern culture frequently acts in this manner by identifying people and values through machines; i.e., Duchamp's art transforms but also testifies to what has already occurred.

When Duchamp adopted a feminine pseudonym after 1920, he marked himself as he had marked the Mona Lisa. The name, one the artist applied in his work as both author and patron—"Rrose Selavy"—was a phonetic transcription of the phrase "Eros, c'est la vie." Thus Duchamp, the male as female, called attention in a witty way to the fact that "eros" was a principle, a way of life.

Duchamp turned away from art as an object by experimenting with a series of optical discs and constructions that dematerialized not simply the object but the conceptual frame for art "work." Ultimately he rejected the making of art in favor of a life playing chess, a decision that he periodically violated but one which provided a sense of integrity to his speculations. As arcane as his concepts may seem, he has become the most important single artistic influence in the later part of the twentieth century.

 


Rrose Selavy
(Marcel Duchamp)
1921
Photograph by Man Ray


Marcel Duchamp
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even
(The Large Glass)
1915-1923

 

 






Man Ray
Gift

Man Ray
 

The direct impact of Picabia and Duchamp on American art was very limited until the late 1940s to mid-1950s, when painters such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the composer John Cage, and the choreographer Merce Cunningham emerged. Only Man Ray (1890-1977), an American artist from Philadelphia, came under the immediate influence of Dadaism and Surrealism. A collaborator of Duchamp's in New York, Man Ray's "assisted ready-made" Gift is an everyday object, a mass-produced flat iron, moved out of the ordinary world with the addition of a row of carpet tacks. The function and concept of the iron is graphically denied, and is turned into something else entirely, an instrument of surprise as well as refusal. This sense of aggressive refusal is Dada; the sense of surprise is Surrealist. This is an element in most of Man Ray's work. Duchamp found in Man Ray not only a chess partner but a native American anarchist in spirit.

By 1918 Man Ray was using a spray gun and stencils rather than a brush to create "aerographs" of abstract, ethereal shapes. Turning to photography, it became his major interest after he joined Duchamp in Paris in 1921 for the fermentation between
Dadaism and Surrealism. He "accidentally" rediscovered an older cameraless photographic image process by leaving objects on top of sensitized paper and exposing them to light. These "photograms" he renamed "rayographs." Something similar happened with the accidental rediscovery of "solarization," where the momentary overexposure of a negative gives a partial tone reversal in photographic images and creates a dark line at the boundaries of the reversal. Rayographs, solarizations (or "Sabattier effects"), and spray paintings were all negations of conscious technique. All gave fugitive effects that could not be predicted or exactly defined and an image that indicated a mysterious content on the other side of reality.
 

Man Ray, an American, joined Duchamp and Picabia in New York Dada,
then moved to Paris to participate in the formulation of Surrealism.
His quiet outrage could rarely be sensed,
but Gift embodies it by using humor to thinly disguise something more threatening.
 

 


 Rayograph
1922

 

 

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

 
| privacy