Dada? A baby’s first words or an art form?

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Fund. Visual Literacy

When it comes time for an infant to start learning to speak there is a fight between the parents for which word should be the child’s first: mama or dada? The first word is a movement into the direction of coherent speech. Dada is one of the two words with another purpose to it though. Dada is a “movement” or “non-movement” in the direction of non-coherent representation of nothing and everything. This movement is not just an art form, but a form of rebellion against the normal, opposite to the normalcy of getting an infant to speak its first words and join a speaking society.

Dadaism made itself first know in 1916 at the beginning of WWI at the opening of  Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland with this group of people: Hugo Ball, Emily Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Marcel and Georges Janco, Jean Arp, and Richard Heulsenbeck. The purpose of this “non-movement” was to rebel against anything the group felt caused the war they saw as senseless. Any kind of -ism out there was mocked and metaphorically humiliated. This picture by Marcel Duchamp is of a urinal labeled as a “Fountain”.

The rules of Dadaism were easy; there were no rules to this “movement”. As long as it sparked repugnance in the public it was acceptable to be labeled a piece of Dadaism. To achieve this was an encouragement to the members of the “non-movement”. Dadaism was a punch toward the ideals of traditionalists. It was a very short lived “non-movement” art form. It self-destructed once it began to become accepted in 1923. Though short lived it was the main basis behind the introduction of Surrealism.

Dadaism sounds ridiculous when you hear the name, which was the purpose when the name was formulated by the founding group. It sounds crazy, but I found when doing my research it was quite an impressive art form. Here are a bunch of examples I found to be interesting.

Untitled (Mask, Portrait of Tzara), 1919

Untitled (Schadograph no. 4), 1919

 Cut with the Kitchen Knife through …, 1919-1920

L.H.O.O.Q., 1919

  1. Dear Karlee,

    I saw a good one about Marcel Duchamp recently. Have you seen this?

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