How did the Dada Artists Challenge the Contemporary Art?
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Published: Wed, 02 May 2018
This essay will dive into the world of dada by firstly exploring the movement with an in-depth look into the brief history of dada and the foundations of which it was built around, how it changed art
Dada was not just an art movement but as much of an cultural movement, this revolutionary movement originated in Zurich, Switzerland in the early months of 1916 it was one of the shortest lived art movements and only survived less than 10years until 1924
Dadaism did not start off as an art movement it was born of more as a artistic protest that grew as a response to not only the carnage that was world war one but also to the destruction of society that was crumbling around them, as the war spiralled across Europe the majority of the artists who founded dada had witnessed the relentless slaughter of innocent men, women and children as undeniable proof that the nationalist authorities had failed society and was undeniably corrupt. With most of the Dadaists being directly affected by WW1 and fleeing from across Europe themselves to seek refuge in Switzerland as many people did with Switzerland being neutral within the wall it became a safe haven for a huge number of people including many artists and intellects who found sanctuary in Zurich, which was the birthplace of dada included in the refuges that escaped the destruction of the war where a young couple from Munich, Germany named Hugo Ball who was a former theatre director and his girlfriend Emily Hennings a dancer who also wrote her own poems and books not long after arriving they became the parents of dada when they convinced the owner of a nearby café to let them rent a room from him to begin a cabaret club. They named their club “Cabaret Voltaire” (fig .1) after one of France’s greatest entitlement writers Francois- Marie Arount and commonly known as “Voltaire” he was a famous writer, historian, poet and philosopher but was most famous for his wit and his attacks on the roman catholic church with his advocacy of freedom of religion and speech you can see how the young couple related to his values and beliefs and used him as an advocate and inspiration in the laying of the foundations of dada.
Cabaret Voltaire opened its doors February 5th 1916 with Hugo Ball sent out a press release that translated “Cabaret Voltaire under this name a group of young artists and writers has formed with the objective of becoming a centre of artistic entertainment in principle, guest artist will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. Young artists of Zurich whatever their tendencies, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds” and with this release the dada family was formed with a bunch of like-minded misfits who included Marcel Janco, Tristian Tarzara, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans (jean) Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Kurt Schwitters, Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miro ( fig.2) all coming through the doors within the first couple nights of the club opening and they quickly bonded over not just society but art and they woes of the world surrounding them and how many in society did not know or care with the world surrounding them, this small group of people connected over art and the discretion of the world around it and became close friends spending most days and nights together discussing and practising their own politics, views and art. With the Cabaret Voltaire being run by this close group of friends it became a cross between a night club and arts centre while here artist could showcase their work in a whole new experimental environment, often playing around with music, dance, theatre, poetry, readings, photography and all photography and often experimenting with visual art’s. while showcasing their art to the art society of Zurich they could discuss the world around them and the founders became united in their views and their protest the war, society and the establishment.
Performances in the beginning were relatively conventional being true to a variety show but as WW1 grew so did the artist’s anger and wanting for change and realisation, part of the movement was a full-on strike on the art world which they saw as part of the system it was considered likewise accountable and therefore had to be overthrown. Dada questioned the value of all art and whether its existence was simply an indulgence of the middle and upper-class they confronted traditional artistic values with nonsensical and irrational attitudes and with these provoked conservative complacencies with outrageous statements and actions as within a couple of weeks the artists at Cabaret Voltaire were experimenting with shock tactics becoming increasingly unorthodox and rebellious with its art and as soon as the founders became aware that the crowds were drawn to this type of art and valued it they began to run with it they began to showcase their own politics and views and rebelled more and more against art, society and the war. Although the Dadaists were united in their ideals they had no unifying style, an between the short lived period of Dada group it attracted many different type of artists who were not willing to conform to societies standards of art which meant the artists could allow the movement to have so many diverse styles which allowed them to play with their art and grow with new styles and bring to life new art. The Cabaret Voltaire and its members pushed the boundaries that surrounded them in a very short lived time together at the Cabaret Voltaire as it was forced to closed their doors only six months after it opened due to the nightly antics of the huge crowds that were drawn to the club and the relaxed nature of the lease owners not paying rent.
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