/The DADA movement is alive/

Dada was many things, but it was essentially an anti-war movement in Europe and New York from 1915 to 1923. It was an artistic revolt and protest against traditional beliefs of a pro-war society.

As Hugo Ball expressed it, “For us, art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”

In 1916, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Taeuber, and Hans Richter, along with others, discussed art and put on performances in the Cabaret Voltaire expressing their disgust with the war and the interests that inspired it.

By the end of World War I, Dada was very popular in the German cities Berlin, Cologne and Hanover, expressing the view of many Germans at the time that the war was folly. The artists included: Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Otto Dix, and George Grosz (Dix and Grosz later became part of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement).

The New York art movement arose almost independently. The movement was centered at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, “291,” and at the studio of the Walter Arensbergs. Its leaders were: Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Francis Picabia. The New York counterpart tended to be more whimsical and less about the violence that was happening overseas.

Picabia founded a Dada periodical called “391” in Barcelona and introduced the Dada movement to Paris in 1919. Most notable among the French Dada pamphlets and reviews was ‘Littérature’ (published 1919-24), which contained writings by André Breton, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, and Paul Éluard. The Paris Dada movement later evolved into Surrealism by 1924.

DADA, Modern Art and Conceptual Art.

One of Sigmund Freud’s great insights was his recognition of how we unconsciously use jokes to express harsh truths we’re too inhibited to confront head-on. It is also a key to the enigma of Dada, one of the most misunderstood yet influential of all modern art movements.

Subversive, inclusive, and uneven, Dada never fit neatly into the well-worn narrative of modern art’s orderly evolution that has long been advanced by MoMA. Yet, without Dada’s precedent it is hard to imagine many later breakthroughs in 20th-century art—some in MoMA’s own collection. Robert Rauschenberg’s ever-startling “Combines” of the fifties and sixties came straight out of Dada, with the same bizarre but somehow beautiful juxtapositions of found objects and blithe disregard for traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture. Andy Warhol’s brilliant appropriations from the celebrity-industrial complex went far beyond Dada’s prescient fascination with advertising and mass media. Present-day art provocateurs such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Bruce Nauman, Cindy Sherman, and Kiki Smith continue to draw from the Dada playbook.

The French artist Marcel Duchamp paved the way for the conceptualists, providing them with examples of prototypically conceptual works — the readymades, for instance. The most famous of Duchamp’s readymades was Fountain (1917),  a standard urinal-basin signed by the artist with the pseudonym “R.Mutt”.

Conceptual art also reacted against the commodification* of art; it attempted a subversion of the gallery or museum as the location and determiner of art, and the art market as the owner and distributor of art.

*Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and not least people into commodities or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is “any thing intended for exchange,” or any object of economic value.

DADA still in the art scenario, and will be here, because humans still have to oppose to wars, and in art we will keep using irony, humor, poetry, video, photos, collages, performances, multimedia and all new and old possible ways to talk about what is vital for every human being.


Exhibition: Comforting & Disturbing at Zurich University of the Arts,

Friday, 20th May, 2016, 6 – 9 pm



About artduartes

Rolando Duartes Rensoli, painter, graphic designer, ceramist, video producer and teacher. He studied Art History at the University of Havana, Cuba and graphic designer at the National Design Institute. Later he did postgraduate studies in Ergonomics and Architecture. At the National Theater of Havana, Duartes worked as design specialist for 17 years. He received the Winners Award of the 2nd International Postage Stamp Design Contest Japan in1991. From 2002 -2010 he taught Art and Design, Self- expression and Video-Editing at "The International People's College" in Denmark. His work can be found in public and private art collections in Denmark, Germany, United States, Spain, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Colombia, Philippines, France, Switzerland and Cuba and has been seen in numerous exhibitions in Europe. Rolando Duartes currently lives and works in Switzerland.
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