Understanding Dadaism: The Definition and Historical Background of the Dada Art Movement

Let’s pretend that you’re at an art gallery and you see a banana duct taped to a wall. The art curator approaches you and informs you, “this banana is art”. What you’re looking at (the banana taped to the wall) is Dadaism art.

The dadaism art movement was characterized by its anti-art stance. In other words, Dadaists believed that the traditional rules of art should be rejected, seeking to challenge the viewer’s preconceptions about what art should be.

Basically, they thought that art should be used to express emotions and ideas, not just to look pretty.

Dadaism was an expressive, anti-rational, anti-cultural, avant-garde art movement. (Avant-garde = unusual, experimental, innovative art that pushes boundaries.)

And Dada artists often used everyday objects and materials they found around them in their work, as they believed that art should be accessible to everyone in society, not just the elite.

For example, one of the most famous Dada artists was Marcel Duchamp, who is best known for his work “Fountain” (1917). This work consisted of a urinal turned on its side and was signed “R. Mutt 1917”.

That’s right. A signed urinal was considered “art”. Duchamp even hung a shovel from the ceiling and called it art.

History of Dadaism

A new art movement was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916.

The Dadaists were a group of artists who were fed up with the hypocrisy and corruption that they saw around them. They believed that art should be used to challenge authority and provoke change.

The Dadaists were heavily influenced by the events of World War I. The war had a profound impact on the world, and it left many people feeling disillusioned and angry.

The Dadaists responded to this by creating art that was designed to shock and provoke. They wanted to challenge the status quo and make people think about the world in new ways.

The Dadaists were successful in their mission to challenge authority and provoke change. The movement even spread quickly to other European cities, such as Berlin, Cologne, and New York.

While the movement was short-lived, peaking from 1916 to 1922, its impact was significant, and it continues to influence artists and writers today.

Dadaism & Art Techniques Developed

Dada artists used techniques such as collage, photo-montage, and “readymades”.

Collage: A technique in which various materials are glued or otherwise attached to a surface. Dada artists often used found objects in their collages, such as newspaper clippings or ticket stubs. They also incorporated text into their collages, often using nonsensical or deliberately provocative phrases.

Photo-montage: A technique used by artists to create a new image by cutting and pasting together images from different sources. Dada artists often used found objects and images from the mass media to create their artworks. They believed that by deconstructing and reassembling these images, they could reveal the hidden absurdity of the modern world.

A collage is a work of art made from cut paper, photographs, fabric, and other materials glued or pasted together to create a unified whole. A photo montage is a work of art made from multiple photographs arranged together to create a unified whole. The two techniques are similar, but there are some key differences.

Readymades: A technique in which everyday objects are repurposed as works of art. The most famous example is Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” which is simply a urinal turned on its side. Other examples include placing a bicycle wheel on a stool or attaching a key to a canvas.

Of course, Dadaists had many ways of creating Dada art.

Poetry & Dadaism

Dadaist poetry often reflects the same values as Dada visual art, with its nonsensical, anti-rational language that is deliberately absurd.

Dada poetry was written in response to the horrors of World War I. The Dadaists believed that traditional poetry had failed to capture the true nature of war. So, they sought to create a new kind of poetry that would express the chaos and brutality of war.

These poets often used techniques such as random word association and stream-of-consciousness writing to create their poems.

Random Word Association: To write a Dadaist poem, one would start with a word or phrase, then associate it with another word or phrase, and so on. This process would continue until a poem was created. The result was often nonsensical and humorous, but it also allowed for new ways of thinking about language and meaning.

Stream-of-consciousness: This technique allowed them to write without any restraints or rules, which helped them to push the boundaries of what was considered poetry at the time. Dadaist poets would often start by writing down whatever came into their minds, without censoring anything. This would help them to get in touch with their innermost thoughts and feelings, which they could then use to create their poems.

While some consider Dadaism to be a negative force in the world of poetry, there’s no denying that it has had a significant influence on the genre.

What Is the Main Idea of Dadaism?

Dadaism was a movement against mainstream art and culture at the time. They were anti-art, anti-war, anti-bourgeois, anti-nationalist, anti-establishment, anti-materialism, and so on. They rejected traditional values and embraced the chaos.

They believed that art should be accessible to everyone and not just those who could afford it. The Dadaists were also against the idea of art for art’s sake. They believed that art should be used to challenge the status quo and bring about change.

They wanted to shock people and make them question their assumptions about what art should be. Through their artwork, they hoped to provoke thought and change the way people saw art and the world.

What Are the Characteristics of Dadaism Art?

All Dada art shares one similar thing: a sense of the nonsense.

Dada art is often chaotic, expressive, spontaneous, playful, outrageous, and nonsensical. But beneath the surface, there is usually a deeper meaning or message.

Using a variety of mediums such as painting, sculpture, literature, photography, and collage, they would take everyday items and turn them into something new and unexpected. This was done to show that anything can be art, no matter how mundane it may seem.

Ultimately, Dadaists wanted viewers to question everything they knew about art.

Overview: What Kind of Art Is Dadaism?

Dadaism is an artistic movement that began in the early 20th century.

It was a reaction to the violence of World War I. Dadaists believed that the only way to express the horror of war was through art that was against traditional and popular art forms. They wanted to shock people and make them question everything they thought they knew.

Dadaism is often seen as a precursor to surrealism. Like surrealism, it sought to break down traditional ideas about what art should be.

Not only was the Dadaism art movement influencing the visual arts, it even crossed literary and sound media.

While Dadaism didn’t last long as a movement, its impact on art has been profound. It challenged people to think about art in new ways and opened up possibilities for what art could be.

To learn more about Dadaism, check out the video below:

Dadaism in 8 Minutes: Can Everything Be Art? | Curious Muse