Dada—Foolery, a Game, Draw Attention to, Social Criticism, the Idiotic!

The moral ethic behind and driving Dada may be described as Foolery, as a Game, as a need to Draw Attention to, as a forum for Social Criticism, but mostly the responsibility of artists to point out the absolute Idiotic Lunacy of the time!  Political, Spiritual, Social, and what were once thought to be Wise leaders, led the nations of the Western World to the precipice and convinced them to step or fall into the cataclysm.  A small group of outraged, angry and apoplectic artists responded to the lunacy of the First World War by unleashing their vitriol in a variety of works of creativity.  These creative responses were loud, pulsating streams of energy which were meant to disturb and disrupt the audience.  Some audience members laughed at the presence of foolery but, for the artists behind the masks of indignation, the responses were serious.

What are your thoughts on the Dada Movement and does the sense of betrayal felt in the second decade of the 20th century still resonate today?  Is the Dada aesthetic relevant in 2017?

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

27 Comments

27 thoughts on “Dada—Foolery, a Game, Draw Attention to, Social Criticism, the Idiotic!”

  1. The Dada movement was one that emphasized the radical emotions felt during radical times, such as WWI. Artists like Hannah Hoch in her piece, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Through the First Epoch of the Weimar Beer-Belly Culture (1919), demonstrate the crazy chaotic nature of war. These artists aimed to fight the traditional pro-war mentality and wanted to highlight the reasons why war was destroying humanity. These ideals and this sense of betrayal from the 20th century are definitely still felt today. Following the inauguration of President Trump, many people began to worry about the possibility of a new war. Though the principles of this movement are still alive and well, the aesthetics behind it don’t seem to be as popular. Dada designs aimed to create a turbulent feel that caused viewers to have to discern what was truly being portrayed. Nowadays, people want information quickly; thus, making contemporary design more simplified and straight to the point. Personally, I prefer the Dada style that causes viewers to think more critically about the content. The shocking and rowdy nature of the images really emphasized their motives as a movement. Ironically, the president of the United States makes comments on Twitter that the general public finds absurd and heinous.

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  2. Although at first glance the Dada movement seems a bit foolish, I can see that what the artists were really trying to do was reflect the foolish actions of society, which is what any sharp observer should see. Maybe for the dadaists, the art had to be disturbing to the audience because they wanted the public to be disturbed by something if they weren’t bothered enough by the fact that there was just a world war. I think this attitude certainly resonates today for contemporary artists, because we have a lot to react to; social situations, politics, and religion. Whether the art reacts to and reflects the people in power or their followers, if it makes the viewer a bit uncomfortable, it should cause them to rethink why it makes them uncomfortable. Should you be upset at the artist or should you be upset by what inspired them?

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  3. After experiencing what was the video of Dada, I can say, it weirded me out, annoyed me at times, and made me angry. I’m not sure if there was a sense of betrayal that stands to this day for many people.

    Other than that, as the days pass by, it starts feeling more like inspiration to the 1960s psychedelic era of music; the cartoons, the art style, and it seems to fit with bands like The Beatles (most likely, The Yellow Submarine Movie) and early Pink Floyd.

    From what people have told me, Dada has done its job successfully.

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  4. The Dada movement seemed to put a focus on the radical movement during that war. I know to some it was an odd thing, but I feel that it was used for the good from their perspective. They were using their platform to show how society was struggling. Personally, I find it a bit disturbing, but I feel that was there goal. They wanted people to be disturbed by the works to get their point across. I’m not sure how I feel about it myself, but I can understand why they did it. However, I do feel that they were successful in what they were trying to get across; to show the lunacy in a reflection.

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  5. The Dada movement was crazy and idiotic. Some of the art seemed a bit foolish, yes. However, Dada wasn’t exactly a style—it was a protest. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy protests on the news and a lot involve screaming, physical measures, or disturbing peace. Protesting through art is such a unique way to go. Although it was disturbing to see, it reached a lot of people without harming anyone or creating complete chaos. The sense of betrayal is still very much alive today in my opinion, not just in war, but so many things are happening in the US that shouldn’t be.

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  6. I feel as though the Dada movement and aesthetic is still present today, people create work that is meant to make you uncomfortable in an attempt to make you think about the material being portrayed, or the topic of the work. People don’t like addressing taboo topics, and like seeing them even less, so if the point of this movement was to protest something, and represent a lack of logic, it did it’s job of making people question what they were seeing. I feel as though it is important for people who struggle to understand certain topics to face them head on, even if it is in a medium they don’t quite grasp.

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  7. Dadaism actually reminds me of another movement that I am more familiar with but I feel is based on similar principles of protest and nonconformity. This movement is punk rock. The loud, fast, and energetic sound of punk rock music challenged social norms and the conventions of earlier music just like Dadaism broke the rules of “art” by adopting an “anti-art” stance. I think that the concept of betrayal is evident in both narratives because the punk rock movement favored anarchy over the forms of government that they felt were corrupt and dangerous. I think that in both cases, the art and music that arose from these anti-establishment groups was meant to shock and disturb the audience. Although I feel Dada art is hard to connect to because it happened in a totally different time to a society that is quite different from today’s, realizing the context of Dadaism and actively seeking comparisons does make me appreciate the movement more. I think that any art that makes the viewer feel disturbed or uncomfortable is successful because it encourages the asking of questions and consequently the seeking of answers. This is why Dadaism, in all its absurdity, and the things we learned from it are still relevant today Because we should still embrace art that challenges the norm in order to begin a search for real solutions that address real world issues.

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  8. The Dada movement was admirable, not just in terms of experimentation with the use of unconventional art materials, but of how provocatively some artist re-imagined what art and art making could be. It gave us some insight to the degradation of social structures, corrupt and repressive social values and politics that emerged after the first world war. I think the Dada aesthetic is definitely relevant to the art we see today especially in terms of experimentation and the political and social topics covered. It’s refreshing to see artists using their platform to bring awareness to certain things while also utilizing their freedom of speech.

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  9. The aesthetics seen in throughout the Dada Movement have left their mark in my opinion. Using disruptive and foolish imagery to prove a point has reverberated into the present day! It’s definitely noticeable in 2017. I feel like it has evolved into satires, memes on social media, a darker sense of humor, the chaos within politics, and plenty of other things. It is only when things shake us to our innermost core do we finally understand or experience great change. War is a terrible thing. Patriotism isn’t a bad thing, but the way we have glorified war and violence is something to think about. With rising tensions from North Korea, it feels inevitable. I like the works produced within the movement. Its a more peaceful and impactful approach to common protests.

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  10. Dada is a very interesting and absurd movement, yet so powerful. I feel like you have to feel and understand the sense of betrayal from leaders in order to fully understand the Dada movement. It reminds me of a quote from the movie Beetlejuice, where Lydia says “Live people ignore the strange and unusual, I myself am strange and unusual.” This thought can be applied to the Dada movement. I feel like you will not understand any of it, that it might be more annoying then anything if you do not feel the same outrage as these artists. I love that these artists were able to insult the people in power without those people even really realizing it. Today, our insults are so clear and obvious. Back then it was great because you could insult a world leader and people would just laugh at your foolishness without fully understanding your point. However, your point did not escape the people that felt the same as you!
    I would have to say that YES, absolutely yes that the sense of betrayal felt in the second decade of the 20th century still resonates today. Look at current divide with the country, world leaders making us look like fools and creating policies that honestly, truly SUCK! You said it clearly in the question that “what were once thought to be Wise leaders, led the nations of the Western World to the precipice and convinced them to step or fall into the cataclysm.” That is how I feel we are today so Dada resonates with me and many others in this country. I would also say that yes, the Dada aesthetic is relevant today in 2017, however, I think it is only relevant to people who understand it. Very similar to how it was at the peak of Dadaism.

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  11. The Dada movement was a movement out of the ordinary, and while it may be chaotic, there was a purpose. Dada was about breaking the rules, rejecting all logic, and most importantly, it was more of a protest from what it means of creating art. What I admire about the Dada movement is that it refused to be silent and by all means, produced creations without caring if it was disturbing, nonsense, loud, or the complete opposite of what art in general is suppose to make people feel. Restriction did not seem to be the option and I admire that it was a movement where artists were not confined to create or be a certain way. Personally, I feel like there are some aspects of the Dada movement that still resonates well today. Knowing how the world operates, there will always something that is not in order or meant a certain way and many people will express that anger and frustration in a way where they should not feel restricted towards. In order to be under a certain way, there would always be freedom to oppose and express that.

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  12. I feel as if DaDa serves its purpose in its movement to grab attention and bring awareness to the tragedies of WWI. Watching some of the works and representations of DaDa in 2017 still brings some sort of discomfort and absurdity. It definitely takes creativity to come up with such an idea where indirectly you are making a statement about the war to the government and the people. Although I feel as if not everyone was able to understand the meaning behind it, that was the point; to make you think about what is going in or has happened. Now in the present time I do think many artist make statments as such where it will make the viewer uncomfortable or at odds with the piece but it brought its point across in relaying a message. I can say the main difference between todays artwork and the DaDa movement is how quickly the message is brought across.

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  13. I feel like the Dada movement was misunderstood most of the time. When you first see it, you think to yourself “what in the world is that?” but in my opinion, getting responses like that is also good because any feedback is better than no feedback at all. Dada’s craziness is a whole new take on things and the way they go about it. I admire Dada for having no regard for restrictions when it comes to art. I think we should all take a thing or two from the movement.

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  14. I feel that the Dada Movement was extremely odd and obnoxious, but that was the point. At first, I did not fully understand the meaning of the work. However, putting it in the context of outrage towards the political, spiritual, and social situation at the time gives it a strong message. They wanted attention and they wanted other people to feel their outrage. I do believe that the sense of betrayal that was felt in the second decade of the 20th century is still resonating today. We are back in a time of outrage towards the political, spiritual, and social situation of today. I feel that the Dada aesthetic is relevant to 2017 because at this time people cannot be silent towards the injustice of political, spiritual, and social issues.

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  15. Art from the Dada movement was representative of the state of the world at the time. Dada art was seen as unconventional, ludicrous, and disturbing. Dada art was a response to WWI and its horrors. Dadaists created art that allowed for people to feel the disturbing nature of the war. I think that Dadaists used their platform as artists as a way to protest against the war and all the absurdities going on at the time. The effects of the movement are still relevant in our time today. Many artists use art as a way to shed light or protest issues that are currently occurring.

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  16. The concept of Dada has always been an emotion conditioned in people in response to oppression or even simply boredom, however in the context of the first World War, there was a prominent source of oppression that influenced cultures, thus is why it became a hallmark style of the period. The emotional response to betrayal and oppression is amplified with the level of cultural lack of acceptance to deviance, similar to a child who is told not to do something and purposefully does so in spite.
    That being said, Dada is always a part of human practice in some form and degree. In today’s cultural climate, we can see Dada in pride based social groups that can be embodied in topics such as sexuality, gender identity, race, and even political views. People feel the need to express themselves outside of the social norm in order to draw attention and potentially evoke action. Perhaps an important difference between present society and that during the early 20th century is that the liberation of free thinking is not as ostracized with physical punishment, but rather counter-arguments.

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  17. The Dada Movement was very loud and obnoxious, which is exactly why it was able to get it’s message across. It got people’s attention and got them to actually think about issues going on in the world. In that way, Dada was actually a very smart tool to bring attention to how ridiculous the social issues at the time were. It was a reflection of those exact issues, but in the form of art. That’s probably why people didn’t like it. I think the Dada aesthetic is still relevant today. In a way, comedians are like Dadaists because they bring attention to social issues by making fun of it. Honestly, sometimes seeing memes or comedians is how I learn about issues going on today so it’s still very effective.

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  18. I think the Dada movement was a natural evolution of the art world at the time. Beginning with the Vienna Secessionist movement bucking the system of the day and re-defining what was considered art. It’s only natural that artist of the time would be cynical, a sense of betrayal will do that to a person. Society evolves in ebbs and flows. You have periods of prosperity, and periods of hardship. Periods of peace, and periods of war. The zeitgeist of the time is a direct representation of those societal strengths or weaknesses. I think the Dada aesthetic is incredibly relevant today. With so much uncertainty and tension in the world, a little cynical foolishness is needed.

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  19. I would describe the Dada movement as being chaotic. It’s all over the place with little sense of structure. That chaos however, I’m sure was a way for the Dada artists to show audiences how chaotic and foolish the Great War was. The war brought devastation and destruction. Artists in the Dada movement wanted to disturb people the way war should. They wanted to present viewers with these issues that were taking place around them. Sure Dada is annoying, but that was the point. As for today I think the Dada aesthetic is still somewhat relevant. We constantly poke fun at serious topics. The internet definitely helps with this.

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  20. At first, I didn’t understand the work and thought to myself, “what is that?” , but the Dada movement in my opinion was very chaotic and absurd. It was meant to make a point during those times of war. It was meant to be a form of protest. The artists got their point across by making people uncomfortable. The Dada aesthetic is still relevant today because of all kinds of artists use their art to protest issues that are currently occurring.

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  21. In class a quote from Richard Helsenbeck was brought up that “Dada is the revolt of the individual against banality; it is the distress cry of creative people against stupidity and destruction…” For the Dada movement to have emerged it must have been a difficult time because of how radical and absurd it was. It was basically a cry for attention and for change to be made. As said in the beginning paragraph wise leaders were leading the Western World into a cataclysm and something had to be done. While others were thinking this was a foolery, these artists were trying to capture other attention and were serious about these works. It was basically a huge protest, but more effective in attracting attention. I believe that the Dada aesthetic is still relevant and will be relevant moving forward. The Political, spiritual, social, and leaders of this world are still leading everyone to a “cataclysm” and I feel that half of the time they don’t even bother listening to the people and focusing on themselves. Artists do have a loud “voice” in a sense because visual imagery is a powerful tool. Controversial art gets a lot of attention and with the internet taking over; artists have a further reach than back then.

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  22. Dada’s non-traditional representation of art was a response to how many artists felt about the war, art, and the world in general. Art can display the attitudes of the people in ways words cannot and that’s exactly what the Dada artists did. They created the opposite of what we knew as art, to grab the attention of the people, and protest the war. They made us question what qualities make worthy art.

    I think there was a sense of betrayal during the second decade of the 20th century. A betrayal that leaders of the world were using technological advances, the machine, and automation for war. Today, art represents the attitudes of the artists on current affairs, politics, and war much like Dada art did in the past. While not exactly as extravagant as Dada art was at its’ inception, I believe contemporary artwork still contains the aesthetics of Dadaism. A sort of renewed or evolved form of Dadaism.

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  23. Yes, yes, yes, fucking who elected Donald J. Crump, yes, yes, yes. Our culture is blinded by our own selfish screens, glued to the inside of our sown shut eyelids, illuminated by the shining star that is really just a glare off a polished ass. My only fear is that absurdism as gone so mainstream it may be impossible to break through. Perhaps the singularity already happened and symbiotic androids were all we needed to destroy humanity.

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  24. I think dadaism still aesthetic relevant in 2017, because once it is art, it is art. Even though now, over time, the social conflict is solved, the people in the period really wanted to solve the conflict, so it still has the sense of betrayal. Because that is when and why the art piece, not only art, is made for and what is supposed to do- to rebellion. Just because the problem is resolved now, the feeling and essence does not disappear. For those social movement related piece, we need to think about the why they started and what they were meant to do.

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  25. Modern art can be seen as forms of protest, exposure and voice. It is certainly valid and necessary if artists have a responsibility of awareness, commentary and expression. It is a due diligence in today’s cultural, societal and political landscape, but unlike Dada, a directness is of utmost importance. How can today’s art be the hammer’s strike upon the public’s head? How can artists, like Dada, break the circle of the so called art world and bring the voice to the general population, and be heard?

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  26. I think dada was a movement that needed to happen. The movement was another change in art that had visual potential and enough chaos to draw the eye. This art was very expressive and experimental and happened during an era where artist need to have a voice . Readability wasn’t dominate yet, but that’s what makes this art great, the hidden forms of expression that make you think for a second. I don’t think this art does resonate that much today, except for creative art pieces to attract the eye. Most people want their information with in seconds and they do not want to think to much about it, but there are some cases I can see this style to be very intriguing. As a designer this style could make for a really nice patterning or background aesthetic to an advertisement or brand identity.

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  27. I find Dada to be extremely effective in what it is intended to do to a particular audience. I understand this movement was started to protest the direction that society was headed in but I’m not a supporter of their their original motives. I think the Dada aesthetic still resonates today in some areas but I feel these kind of ideas have gradually declined.

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