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The Dada Movement in Art and Cultural History

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: April 24, 2006
Latest Update: April 24, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Dada as Arts Politically and Socially Opposed
to Some of the Consequences of Our Culture and
Our Preference for the Rational and ItsKnowingness

Dada was an art movement after World War I that rejected the culture of modernity and enlightenment that had so deceived us as to lead right into war. Artists, musicians, writers in the movement rejected the rationalization of the enlightenment, and were aggressively confrontative about their horror at what the enlightenment had led to.

There have been several articles and exhibits on the East Coast recently that deal with art and engagement, with artists protesting where our society and culture are going. For example, Ericson and Ziegler's Interventionist [Engaged] Art at M.I.T. By Ken Johnso. NYT. Backup.

From MOMA's photo of a Dada work by Jean Arp.
Jean Arp (Hans Arp) (French, born Alsace. 1886-1966. Lived in Switzerland 1959-66.)
Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. (1916-17)

Consider one of the most-argued social issues today: creationism or intelligent design and evolution. Here is a Frendh articst, in 1916 - 1917, challenging the whole idea of the continual development of civilization as he and his fellow artists contemplate the disaster of World War I. All their emphasis on science and rationalisation and enlightenment have led them into a world war! They are disillusioned and aggressively angry. Painters, like Jean Arp, depict these emotions by challenging the very idea of traditional art. Paintings might as well be randomly torn and placed squares on an otherwise blank canvas, if all the beauty of traditional art leads only to war and inhumanity.

It is said that almost all of modern art was born in the Dadaist movement. Where was it said? In one of the dozens of articles I read this week. Probably Paul Trachtman's Dada, in the May 2006 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine. Backup.


Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Dada seem so applicable today?

    Consider how many things aren't working out the way we expected them to, globally, not just here in the U.S. This might lead artists once again to challenge the traditional and remind us all that the people have a voice, a voice that should be heard, and, of course, seen.


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