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Dada

1916 - 1924

Is it possible to be anti-everything? The Dadaists would shout Yes! then light you on fire. Dadaist art is funny, ugly, and aggressively subversive. You’ve seen Dada even if you didn’t know it. Mona Lisa with a moustache? Dada. A toilet on pedestal? Yep. But the movement went further — In the early 20th century, Dadaists caused riots and called it art, bought homegoods from hardware stores and called it art, and threw together collages by chance and called it art. The Dadaists hoped to destroy the traditional values of art — but why?

In 1916, the world was in the brutal throes of World War 1. Bloodshed and death spanned Europe in one of history’s most lethal and pointless conflicts, and in the center of the milieu was Zurich. Switzerland famously remained neutral during The Great War, and in that relative stability a handful of artists asked how art could possibly still matter in a world on fire. Dada began here, when the German artist and writer Hugo Ball created the Cabaret Voltaire, a collaborative art venue in the back room of a dirty bar. Artists, poets, and playwrights flocked to the new space, and in July of 2016, Ball stood up before the group and read a manifesto, declaring a new movement with an international name:

In French it means "hobby horse." In German it means "good-bye," ... In Romanian: "Yes, indeed, you are right" … An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement.

The word was Dada, and it would become a rallying cry. Anti-war, and anti-art. The world that spawned WWI had also created traditional art, so the Dadaists called for the destruction of both. Romanian artist Marcel Janco summed it up, saying "We had lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished...public opinion, education, institutions, museums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order...We would begin again after the tabula rasa (clean slate).”

In 1917 Hugo Ball moved to Bern, Switzerland, leaving the Zurich Dadaists in the hands of the poet Tristan Tzara, who wrote a second Dada Manifesto and began evangelizing the movement via letters and manifestos to artists in France, Italy and Germany. At the climax of WWI, Dadaism caught fire in Berlin, where Hannah Höch and Raoul Hausmann created collages from dismembered magazine clippings and held frenzied lectures and performances. In Paris, Dada’s political heat captured the imagination of André Breton, who would later found his own movement, Surrealism.

New York became another hotbed for Dadaist chaos, through the collaborations of French artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, German Poet and performance artist Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and the American photographer and painter Man Ray. With it’s geographic distance from the horrors of WWI, New York Dada was more light-hearted and absurd than it’s european counterpart, with Duchamp dressing in drag, Freytag-Loringhoven submitting urinals to art shows, and Man Ray glueing thumb tacks to everything.

In the wake of WWI, as the world slowly began to recover some sense of hope, Dada began to evolve. After ripping down centuries of expectations around the value and production of art, many Dadaists began to explore new styles and ideas, spawning Surrealism, Fluxus, and much of contemporary performance art. Dada had accomplished its goal, creating a clean slate from which to begin again.

theartstory.orgtate.org.ukmoma.orgsmithsonianmag.com
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Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

A living collage

1874-1927

Marcel Duchamp

Giving art a cheerful middle finger

1887-1968

Hannah Höch

Dissecting the 'new woman' through collage

1889-1978

Man Ray

Humor, sex, and a new camera

1890-1976
Emma

Emma

André Breton,1900
Enduring Ornament

Enduring Ornament

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,1913
Bicycle Wheel

Bicycle Wheel

Marcel Duchamp,1913
Bottle Rack

Bottle Rack

Marcel Duchamp,1914
In Advance of the Broken Arm

In Advance of the Broken Arm

Marcel Duchamp,1915
Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals

Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals

Marcel Duchamp,1913-1915

Just a word, and the word a movement.

1st Dada Manifesto

Hugo Ball1916
"God"

"God"

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,1917
To Be Looked At

To Be Looked At

Marcel Duchamp,1918

We are like a raging wind that rips up the clothes of clouds and prayers, we are preparing the great spectacle of disaster, conflagration and decomposition.

Dada Manifesto

Tristan Tzara1918
50 cc of Paris Air

50 cc of Paris Air

Marcel Duchamp,1919
L.H.O.O.Q.

L.H.O.O.Q.

Marcel Duchamp,1919
The Riddle of Isidore Ducasse

The Riddle of Isidore Ducasse

Man Ray,1920
Kiki de Montparnasse

Kiki de Montparnasse

Man Ray,1920
Claude McKay and Baroness von Freytag

Claude McKay and Baroness von Freytag

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,1920
Self-portrait as a dancer

Self-portrait as a dancer

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,1920
Gift

Gift

Man Ray,1921
Portrait Of Rose Sélavy

Portrait Of Rose Sélavy

Man Ray,1921
Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?

Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?

Marcel Duchamp,1921
Study for Man and Machine

Study for Man and Machine

Hannah Höch,1921
The Kiss

The Kiss

Man Ray,1922
The Denaturalized Material, Destruction 2

The Denaturalized Material, Destruction 2

Theo van Doesburg,1923
Ingres's Violin

Ingres's Violin

Man Ray,1924
Rayograph - 1925

Rayograph - 1925

Man Ray,1925
Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics)

Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics)

Marcel Duchamp,1925
Watched

Watched

Hannah Höch,1925
Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Man Ray,1926
Decanter

Decanter

Man Ray,1926
Emak Bakia

Emak Bakia

Man Ray,1926
Black and White

Black and White

Man Ray,1926
From Above

From Above

Hannah Höch,1926-1927
Figure

Figure

André Breton,1928
Woman with Long Hair

Woman with Long Hair

Man Ray,1929
Untitled, from an Ethnographic Museum

Untitled, from an Ethnographic Museum

Hannah Höch,1929
Untitled, from an Ethnographic Museum

Untitled, from an Ethnographic Museum

Hannah Höch,1929
Prayer

Prayer

Man Ray,1930
Portrait of André Breton

Portrait of André Breton

Man Ray,1930
Untitled

Untitled

Hannah Höch,1930
Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum

Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum

Hannah Höch,1930
German Girl

German Girl

Hannah Höch,1930
Atelier Composition

Atelier Composition

Man Ray,1933
Observatory Time - The Lovers

Observatory Time - The Lovers

Man Ray,1932-1934
Space Writing (Self Portrait)

Space Writing (Self Portrait)

Man Ray,1935
Untitled - 1936

Untitled - 1936

Man Ray,1936
I Saluted at Six Paces Commandant Lefebvre des Noëttes

I Saluted at Six Paces Commandant Lefebvre des Noëttes

André Breton,1942
Aurelien

Aurelien

Man Ray,1944

The great trouble with art ... is that there is no spirit of revolt

The Great Trouble with Art

Marcel Duchamp,1946
Dream Ride

Dream Ride

Hannah Höch,1947
Indestructible Object

Indestructible Object

Man Ray,1923-1958
Little Sun

Little Sun

Hannah Höch,1969
Angst

Angst

Hannah Höch,1970