Art of the 20th Century
A Revolution in the Arts
in 20th century Art Map
The Great Avant-garde Movements
Surrealism - 1924
"A Week of Kindness"
(A surrealistic novel in
"Thought rendered visible"
THE EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE
Morton Livingston Schamberg
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
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
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
"that ridiculous word 'cubism' can never conceal from me the enormous
significance of that sudden flash of inspiration" that occurred in
between 1909 and 1910.
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
In building this case
felt that he was also building the case for Surrealism to avoid and
operate outside of systems.
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
among others, used as his requirement for art criticism an inner psychic
vibration that one simply could sense. He dismissed many artists,
among them, for "propagating utterly superficial values." In many ways,
sounds surprisingly like an
because both movements placed primary importance on the interior state.
Woman Playing the Mandolin
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
Breton's favorite artist.
the Swiss-born artist, was a member of the German
movement. He never joined the Surrealists but was well known to and showed
placed him on his short list in 1924 as one of the few he could call
"Surrealist," and as late as 1941
recounted that Surrealism owed a debt to
use of "automatism." Automatism—the free flow of associations—was
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,
was a seminal art movement which argued that the source of art was inward.
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.
founded by the poet Marinetti in Italy in 1909, was the most aggressive of
the pre-war avant-garde art movements. The
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.
often referred to
in the same breadth as
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
painters married bright colors to the planes of
and set them in newly dynamic relationships, using movement and light to
destroy the static quality of the material world. In its sculptural form,
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
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
and the Surrealists self-proclaimed "primitives of a new and completely
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,
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.
claimed an anarchistic attitude toward the modern world that fueled the
Dada, and eventually
striding figure throws out "lines of force" to merge form and art with
Unique Form of Continuity in Space
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
movement refined many of the basic ideas, established the early
membership, and eventually became the opposing force to the Surrealists.
Picabia, a member of both groups, wrote in 1925 that
surrealism was simply
disguised as an advertising balloon for the firm
was energetic activity organized as a spontaneous gesture against the
insanity of a worldwide war.
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
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
resembled the program of the
and motivated the Surrealists.
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.
by Mike Sullivan
(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
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
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
Man Ray, Morton Schamberg, and
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
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
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
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
Author of the Book "Fourteen Letters of Christ" in His Home.
Dada activities were also carried on in other German cities. In Cologne in
1919 and 1920, the chief participants were
and Johannes Baargeld. Also affiliated with Dada was
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.
Das menschliche Auge und ein Fisch,
Typical Vertical Mess as Depiction of the
Ordinäre Klitterung: Kubischer Transvestit vor einem
Johannes Baargeld, Max Ernst
The Red King
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
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
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.
In Zurich the major vehicle for the
was their evening performances. Their anarchistic form derived from
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
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
for years. Like them, the
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.
Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916
(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
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 (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.
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:
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,
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.
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.
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
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
The Rumanian poet Tristan Tzara
(1896-1963) was the major link between
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
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
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
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
in Germany published children's drawings a year later in their journal.
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
movement official, with a group of poets—Breton,
Paul Fluard, Philippe Soupault—who would break with him to form
From "Dada Manifesto" 
and "Lecture on Dada" , 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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
Dada is without pretension, as life
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
(Portrait of Hans Arp)
Arp and Taeuber
There was no such thing as
art, nor did it ever develop beyond an attitude. Ball replaced the cabaret
in 1917 with the
Gallery and showed
Among the few to develop Dada principles in relation to the visual arts in
Hans Arp (after 1939 signed "Jean
Arp") and the Russian designer and dancer
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
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
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
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
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,
work not only challenged past understandings of an object but moved the
object into the less defined, more provocative realm of the poetic
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
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
Arp (Hans Arp)
Taeuber's wooden Dada-heads grew out of
her abstract drawings and tapestries, which have
primordial shapes that metamorphose from human to animal
to containers like a biological system
of advancing forms,
one evolving from another.
one of the founders of
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
Was ist Dada?
Cologne Dada & Max Ernst
Taeuber moved to
Cologne in 1919 and helped motivate the
Arp's old friend
(1891-1976), who developed their element of chance into hallucination.
knew the work of
de Chircio and
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
events that used much of the Zurich ideas to openly attack middle-class
concepts of art and life. Under
began producing collages using random combinations from a multitude of
established images in newspapers and journals.
drawing Stratified rocks, nature's gift of gneiss
moss .. . (1920) pictures the organic shapes that nature offers, much
in the abstract manner of
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
felt would "transform the banal pages of advertisement into dramas which
reveal my most secret desires."
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
ready acceptance of psychological states and conditions, particularly the
dream-work in Freud's psychoanalysis, parallel the interests and
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
a Surrealist from the very beginning.
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
In 1921 another of the Paris poets, Paul Eluard, traveled to Cologne to
illustrate a volume of his poetry.
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
anatomical engraving altered with gouache and pencil
was acknowledged as a Surrealist before Surrealism, even as he was a
Under the influence
Arp and his own
accepted a world that was not separate from art.
In 1917, Richard Huelsenbeck arrived
from Zurich where his own interests in politics coincided with Berlin's
political circumstances to lead a
group toward an openly political art. Although the
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
Heartfield designed covers for
commercial magazines and literary books of social conscience. Artists such
Raoul Hausmann and
were less constrained by the needs for public communication but were
guided as well by political and social conscience. An early (1919-20)
Hoch, Cut with the Kitchen
Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany,
hodgepodge of images. Its mania celebrates
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
the use of photographs and the technique of photomontage became primary
tools in their work. They were influenced by the
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
Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar
Beer Belly Epoch
Daum marries her pedantic automaton "George"
The introduction of new materials
into works of art was initiated by the
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.
assemblages were made with discarded items, while
used old photographs and newspapers.
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
Hanna Hoch for images often composed from mass-produced
sources such as newspapers and magazines.
No. 2 (Hanover, April 1923)
Term applied to a
flat or relief collage of collected junk. It is associated with
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
llustration on the title page of the journal Dada
llustration of the journal Dada No. 14
New York Dada
Picabia (1878-1953), a Cuban citizen of French and Spanish
descent and a close friend to
Marcel Duchamp, was the first
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
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.
Very Rare Picture on the Earth
The biomechanical model emerging across
Europe was employed by
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
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
loved word play, frequently using anagrams as titles; in this case "udnie"
is likely the anagram for the English slang "nudie."
soon renounced the tradition of large oil paintings and began to make
ironic drawings that rejected both
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
Too anarchistic, subversive, and wealthy
to remain in any one place for long,
had moved to Barcelona by 1916-17, and joined the Zurich
in 1919. He left his biomechanical works with
who transferred their knowledge to
in Cologne. That same year
Picabia moved to Paris, where
joined him and the
Picabia eventually associated himself with the Surrealists
but also kept his own counsel throughout his life, independent of
The same can be said for
Duchamp, who felt
and Surrealism provided useful attempts to reshape the nature of art, but
were ultimately too limiting.
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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
Duchamp's art transforms but also
testifies to what has already occurred.
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
the male as female, called attention in a witty way to the fact that "eros"
was a principle, a way of life.
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.
Photograph by Man Ray
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even
(The Large Glass)
The direct impact of
Duchamp on American art was very limited until the late
1940s to mid-1950s, when painters such as
Jasper Johns, the composer John Cage, and the
choreographer Merce Cunningham emerged. Only
(1890-1977), an American artist from Philadelphia, came under the
immediate influence of
and Surrealism. A collaborator of
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
the sense of surprise is Surrealist. This is an element in most of
Duchamp found in
not only a chess partner but a native American anarchist in spirit.
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
in Paris in 1921 for the fermentation between
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
Picabia in New York
then moved to Paris to participate in the
formulation of Surrealism.
His quiet outrage could rarely be sensed,
Gift embodies it by using humor to thinly disguise something more