Thursday, April 17, 2008


You’ve seen a Dadaist work of art, though when you saw it someone was probably poking fun at the silly bicycle wheel posing as art (Bicycle Wheel, by Marcel Duchamp). The joke’s on us, though. The Dadaists meant to turn our world upside, to make it seem crazy and absurd. They meant for us to rethink the items that surround us so that we might rethink our world.
Dadaism began in Zurich, Switzerland and spread to France, Germany, Spain, and the U.S. The movement began around 1916 and continued until about 1920.

The artists known as Dadaists thought that World War I was a terrible thing. They thought it was ridiculous for people all over the world to spend years killing each other. Because the war shaped the world in which these artists lived, this distaste for WWI became a distaste for the state of the world.

The Dadaists protested through their art the war and the current culture. Raoul Hausmann’s The Mechanical Head shows a man who cannot think for himself but accepts everything he is told. He has a wooden head with tight lips and eyes that show no expression. The mechanical man will never argue or share an opinion of his own. Look for yourself:
According to the Dadaists, once the culture had been stripped down it could be rebuilt. So the Dadaists made chaos out of the WWI culture by, for instance, calling a urinal a fountain and putting it on display (shown below, by Marcel Duchamp). The Dadaists took common objects and created art with those objects, thus bringing out the often ignored beauty of the everyday world. Marcel Duchamp also poked fun at the masters by “reworking” the Mona Lisa.
Dadaism paved the way for other art movements such as Surrealism which I’ll post about next week. The movements that follow Dadaism were charged with the responsibility of rebuilding what the Dadaists had stripped away.

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