Friday Dada: How do you know?

Short of someone placing the word DADA somewhere in their work, how do you know it is a dadaist piece?

Today, I will go over some over the key characteristics of Dada.

  • DADA loves a pun! The punnier, the better. Whether a visual pun or a verbal one, it matters not, so long as it is punny. A prime example of this turned up this past week in a featured piece from Catherine Mehrl Bennett in my Tuesday Trash Bubbles Post. On the back of her bubble was this little gem :

MAKE ART NOT CENTS

Here is an excerpt of what Catherine responded to one reader who misunderstood the intention of the artistamp: “The statement, “Make Art/ Not Cents” is more ambiguous than it appears at first glance. Also you need to look at it in the context of mailart, for which this stamp is intended for use. The poetic intent is the phonetic sound of Cents = Sense, and is a Dada statement in that regard. The “mailart” intent involves two levels: One is the context of artistamp design based on official postage which always has a specific VALUE element, and this artistamp is thus given NO value. Two is the context of mailart, which has an unspoken rule of NOT being intended for sale in the official art market.”

  • At it’s core, DADA is nonsensical. The original poets and artists of the new Dada age were trying to escape the real world. Their world had been rocked by war and fascism. They were attempting to create a lighter, more creative atmosphere, one that embraced rather than destroyed. And yet, Dada was negative and destructive in nature. It took things like words, tore them apart and reassembled them. Surely, you recall our previous talks about Tristan Tzara and his cut-up poems. Tristan Tzara, the Romanian poet was the driving force behind literary DADA and editor of the periodical, DADA beginning in 1917 with its first issue. Below are pictures of the covers for the first three issues.

Visual Dada was much the same as literary Dada insofar as nonsense and cutups. Early on, one of the leading visual Dada artists was Marcel Duchamp whose work was indicative of the tearing down of a thing only to reassemble it in another manner. (Remember his cubist-style paintings?) He freely admits that he passed through several movements of art before finding his niche. You really need to watch the following BBC interview of Duchamp from 1968.

See and hear for yourself why Marcel stayed on the fringe… and don’t forget to notice the Ready Made sitting to his left in the film! Yep, it’s his Egouttoir, or Bottle Dryer. I’m not certain if it’s the original from 1914 or a later version, of which there were several.

If you want to check out the Great Glass (Large Glass) that they discuss, this is the best link I’ve found: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/54149.html#

  • Cést la vie! This french phrase means such is life, generally speaking. Here in the US, it translates loosely to Shit Happens. Pure Dadaists embraced Chance. By that, I mean that they accepted that things happen and if a thing happened to their art, or during their performance piece, it was meant to happen and it was embraced as part of a thing. This happens all the time in mail art. The postal cancellation, the elements, a footprint, a broken machine that burns marks upon the surface of mail. I hear so many folks say, “I’m so sorry the postal service allowed that to happen to this…” great thing you sent, or received. Few understand the organic concept of embracing the marks as part of the piece.

Well, boys and girls, that’s my DADA talk for today. Go, watch, read and learn! Come back and tell me something cool!

Happy Trash to you, until we meet again!

 

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