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The Dada And Punk Movements

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Published: Thu, 04 May 2017

In this essay I will be looking at two design movements from very different decades and discussing the relationship between them. The two movements which I will be analysing are the Dada and Punk movements, which have roughly 60 years between them. Firstly I will look at both movements separately and then begin to analyse how they have such a strong link through different areas in design. I will be using examples to support the key points I am going to make and visually analysing these examples in great detail. A broad range of research will also help to widen the range of examples of the design work from these periods and help me to discuss in depth the relationship between them.

The Dada Movement began in 1915 just after the start of the First World War and peaked between 1916 and 1922. The movement concentrated on rebelling against the unnecessary carnage caused by the war. The Dadaists responses were to shock people in various ways with their provocative behaviour through theatre, public speeches and art. I will be comparing this movement with the Punk movement which began in 1975 and peaked for almost a decade. This movement began as a result of a number of events which happened in the seventies such as an economic disaster and the youth cultures problems with the government. There was an increase in teenage pregnancy, a rising divorce rate and mass unemployment which then caused people to rebel against traditional values. Even though both these movements began as a rebellion against society and their work started off as anti art and anti fashion a larger culture combined together to create quite the opposite. Both movements used out of the ordinary tactics to get attention from the public in many ways. During the Dada movement artists began to use unusual techniques which hadn’t been used in this way before such as, collage, photomontage and ready-mades. Dada art went against the stereotypical and the Dadaists wanted to make a statement that they believed art could be made from anything and everything. These new techniques developed due to the fact that the Dadaists had little money during the war, therefore little resources to produce art. This meant they had to use the very few resources that were available to them. Many decades after, Punk used the same techniques, using anything they could find to produce a new type of art and fashion, using things such as recycled rubbish, cardboard and cut up newspaper articles to express their freedom. Art from both these movement was seen as anti art and asks the question ‘What is art?’

Raoul Hausmann was a key figure during the Dada movement. He is an example of many artists who began to use the photomontage technique during this time. In ‘Dada Siegt’ (Dada Victorious) from 1920 we can see Hausmann is trying to show his anger over the happenings during the war. In this piece Hausmann has taken many images from newspapers, magazine and other books from that time. This method of design would have angered the authorities whose images were being cut up and reassembled to be used against them. ‘Art is not an end in itself but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in’ Ball (1918). Artists were trying to show; by using real photographs and newspaper headlines how the authorities were involved with the unnecessary war. At the very top of the work we can see a world map, which has Dada printed largely across it. This is trying to show that the world would be improved if everyone disagreed with the happenings and the disaster caused by the war. Only the top half of the world is shown as this is where the Dada culture was present. Next to this, ‘Dada Siegt’ is written which means Dada Victorious. In the photograph of the city street Dada labels can be seen on the houses and on the other side 391 which is the name of a Dada journal. Another part of this piece which caught my attention was the man at the bottom of the piece. He appears to be saying ‘Fieneren Naturkrafte’ which translates to finer forces of nature. This again shows that the artist believed the forces of war were unnecessary. This collage is an example of how headlines and images from the media can be rearranged and put into a very different context. In this case the headlines have been used against the authorities.

During the punk movement many of the posters were very similar to those that were designed during the Dada movement. They took the collage and photomontage techniques and used them again shock the public and go against the traditional view of art. It again questioned ‘What is art?’ Punks didn’t want to create new things they decided to recycle, manipulate and use what was already available to them. Dada artists used this same attitude during the war when very little resources were available to them. Punks used torn out letters and imagery recycled from newspapers, typewriter text and their own handwriting. Photocopying was one of the main techniques during the movement as it created an intense brutal effect which would not have been considered traditionally attractive. Like the Dada artists Punk artists used techniques which weren’t consider as traditional art. Hollis (2001) states ‘Dada had been against Art; Punk was anti-Design’. Both movements began as a rebellion to what was considered normal but they turned it into own style of art and design.

Fig 2. ‘Sniffin’ Glue Cover Issue 8′ 1976 by Mark Perry

Sniffin’ Glue was a punk magazine designed by Mark Perry in 1976 and a collage style design was used on its front covers. Fig 2 is a cover from the 8th issue which like the Fig 1 discussed previously contains image and type found in newspapers and magazines. The image of the Queen has been defaced which is a famous piece of punk art work by Jamie Reid. Combined with the image of the Queen are images of band members from the Sex Pistols who empowered the Punk scene. The caption at the bottom of the image reads ‘No Future’, a slogan seen a lot on posters throughout the movement. It was a ‘rallying cry against a bleak and meaningless life in conformist merry ‘ol England’, Vallen (2001). The use of a photocopier is apparent in this image which was a big part of the Punk movement’s distinctive attitude and style. Sniffin’ Glue went with the DIY ethic that also appeared in Dada art work. The magazine was put together using found materials, photocopied images, hand written and drawn graphics. Perry (2002) spoke about designing the magazine covers in 1976, ‘The whole of that first issue was what I could do at that time with what I had in my bedroom. I had a children’s typewriter plus a felt-tip pen’. This design included aspects which were not considered attractive but punk changed what was once considered ugly.

Another way in which Punk and Dada are linked is through their use of ready-mades or assisted ready-mades. Marcel Duchamp was an artist during the time of the Dada movement and a piece which he created was L.H.O.O.Q from 1919, which Duchamp referred to as an assisted ready-made. L.H.O.O.Q was a cheap postcard of the famous painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, which Duchamp then drew a moustache and beard onto and added the caption L.H.O.O.Q. When this is pronounced in French it forms the sentence ‘Elle a chaud au cul’ which is translated to ‘She has a hot ass’. This piece could be seen as an attack to the original iconic painting of Mona Lisa and traditional art in general. By adding to this painting Duchamp has encouraged the viewer to consider a new perspective on classic art work. During the Punk movement artist Jamie Reid designed a piece of work which also used the assisted ready-made style. Reid designed many images for the punk band the ‘Sex Pistols’ and became very well known for his ransom note style designs. His ‘single most iconic image of the punk era’ O’Hagen (n.d) was a piece named ‘God Save The Queen’. ‘God Save The Queen’ is very similar to the Marcel Duchamp’s Dada image ‘L.H.O.O.Q’ as they both use iconic imagery and alter it as a way to shock the public. There were two different designs, ransom (fig 4) and swastika (fig 5) which were both equally as controversial. Both pieces include an image of Queen Elizabeth II which is a copy of the original photograph for her silver jubilee celebrations, taken by Cecil Beaton in 1977. Just as Duchamp defaced the image of Mona Lisa, Reid has altered the Queens image in a way that may be considered disrespectful. Fig 4 shows the band’s name and the singles title placed over the Queens’s eyes and mouth in the style of a cut and paste ransom note. Fig 5 shows the Queen with a safety pin through her lips and swastikas over her eyes. The Sex Pistols and Jamie Reid used these images to shock the public just like the artists during the Dada movement. Harrison (2001) stated ‘It was also probably the first and perhaps the last time something was put on the front cover which collectively shocked a nation’. These shock tactics were used in both movements to get their opinions across to the rest of the nation.

Punk and Dada also have a strong relationship between their uses of type in many pieces of work. During the Dada movement artists started to use pieces of lettering they could find from anything lying around, such as, newspapers, journals, magazines and poems. In 1919 Raoul Hausmann and Johannes Baader designed the journal ‘Der Dada’. The unique type style which the Dada artists began to use is shown on the front cover of this journal. Instead of using one font to show information on the front cover of the journal Hausmann has mixed various fonts. This style created its own version of typography which gave individual letters, words and sentences a new sense of freedom that it never possessed previously. This example from the first edition of Der Dada in 1919 contains both large and small letters which are joined in new combination along with various small symbols. Words placed vertically, horizontally and diagonally give a new life to simple letter forms and show a new sense of freedom to the reader. During the punk movement artists also started to use similar ways of working. They used whatever equipment was readily available and inexpensive such as, typewriters, stencils, found type and images and their own hand writing. Using photocopiers was also a big part of the type elements in the punk movement. Like Dada artists, Punks rejected the traditional typographic rules and used their own freedom of expression.

Jamie Reid designed this poster for the Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK tour in 1976. It contains cut and paste type which relate to the use of typography during the Dada movement. It is clear that a photocopier has been used to create the statement black letters which are written using cuttings from newspapers. This style was particularly symbolic in the 1970s as again it was a rebellion against the norm. This example shows the style of typography which was neither fluid nor free flowing. Reid combines various sizes of fonts to advertise the tour which shows the freedom of the Punk movement. We can clearly see that Reid was influenced by the collages of the Dadaists and his use of mixing found type can be related to the Fig 6 discussed previously by Dada artist Hausmann. Both the Dada and Punk artists used this unique way of working to get attention from the public and to shock society. According to Cantlon (n.d) ‘The work of Jamie Reid was clearly influenced by the image and type collages of the Dadaists. These influences on Reid’s typography, with its deliberately erratic and eclectic mixing of fonts, sizes and styles, can be seen in many Dadaist artworks.’

Throughout this essay I have looked at a range of ways in which there is such a strong relationship between the Dada and Punk movements. As there were problems in society during the time of these movements there was a strong rebellion against traditional values. This caused the unique way in which both movements decided to use shock tactics to get their views across to the public and authorities. Both movements were about being independent and free but even against their best attempts to remain this way a larger culture combined with them to create a movement which started to become the norm. Dada and Punk weren’t about creating beautiful pieces of art or using traditional methods, they were about cut and paste and using materials which were not necessarily used to create the typical masterpieces. They were countercultures created from a rejection of dominant values and behaviour of society.


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