Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dada (pt. 1)

Back in Europe, art techniques turned increasingly abstract and surreal.  With the onset of World War I the Western world plunged itself into the nadir of 20th century Modernism.  The world was an increasingly different place.  The radio, the airplane, the Theory of Relativity, Model T Fords, motion pictures, and the helicopter appear during the early 1900s, among other things, and the public conception of the world we live in is changing around this time.  Science, culture, and geopolitics were all evolving rapidly, and artists also questioned the functions and role of art in this new, Modern world.  While some painters wanted to return to uncomplicated realism, such as the Ashcan School, others wanted to push art further—in fact, to its utmost limits.
Near the beginning of the war, a group of artists assembled (it is debated when the movement actually started and where it was first launched; but its epicenter largely coalesced around Zurich).  Friends, colleagues, fellow artists—these men mutually agreed to rebel against the constructs of art up to this point in out-and-out rebellion against their generation and the past cultures before them.  They believed that European culture had lost all meaning and purpose, ravaged by the Modern "waste land" of the early 20th century.  So, art needed to be deconstructed, pushed to its limits, and, in a way, put to death.  To title their new movement, these artists selected a word at random from the dictionary.  Their name needed to make no sense because they believed that their world had lost all of its sense and meaning.  The story goes that somebody dropped a dictionary, and they chose the first word that they saw; it was Dada.  Thereafter all members of the group called themselves Dadaists.  (It's a funny word, and don't feel bad if you don't know how to pronounce it—it's supposed to be silly.)
Dada art constitutes an artistic movement that ridiculed contemporary culture and traditional art forms.  Social satire, intellectual criticism, and sometimes total farce, Dada intentionally pushed the envelope of art in a blatantly provocative way.  Although this in-your-face tone established the greater part of the movement's itinerary towards mere criticism and satire, these were at the same time actual artists who took their work seriously—just, they took it seriously through being ridiculous…if that makes sense.

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