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Dada: Art and Anti-Art “I am neither for nor against and I do not explain because I hate common sense.” Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto, 1918”

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Presentation on theme: "Dada: Art and Anti-Art “I am neither for nor against and I do not explain because I hate common sense.” Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto, 1918”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Dada: Art and Anti-Art “I am neither for nor against and I do not explain because I hate common sense.” Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto, 1918”

2 Dada, Defined  “a movement of the mind” (GR-D, 124)  “the art of sacrilege” (RD, 130)  “the organized struggle against logic” (Tzara, 134)  a response to World War I : “Dada took the offensive and attacked the social system in its entirety, for it regarded this system as inextricably bound up with human stupidity, the stupidity which culminated in the destruction of man by man, and in the destruction of his material and spiritual possessions” (Tzara, 135)

3 Dada’s Goals  “The activity of Dada was a permanent revolt of the individual against art, against morality, against society…It aimed at the liberation of the individual from dogmas, formulas, and laws, at the affirmation of the individual on the plane of the spiritual; it may even be said the the movement liberated the individual from the mind itself, placing the genius in the same rank as the idiot.” (G R-D, 125)

4 Destruction and/or Creation  “The real question was the destruction of values…Man is unable to destroy without constructing something other than what he is destroying. Consequently, though Dada had the will and the need to destroy every form of art subject to dogma, it felt a parallel need of expressing itself. It was necessary to replace submission to reality by the creation of a _superior reality_; to pursue the work of God without taking it seriously.” (G R-D, 125)

5 Affirmation and/as Negation  “To liberate man seemed to them more desirable than to know how one ought to write…It was not enough to kill art, which is always like itself, even when one intended to compromise everything in order to avoid becoming attached. Perpetual freedom from attachments and the destruction of their own idols when they began to be cumbersome…They were haunted by the usefulness of life itself. To revolt against life! But there is only one wonderful remedy: suicide.” (G R-D, 126)

6 Agonism  Dada’s against itself: “Either Dada would have to become crystallized into an activity perpetually the same, through creation of a Dadaist art, a Dadaist form of expression—or else, the better to negate, it would have to negate Dada: the better to destroy, it would have to destroy itself.

7 Anti-Art  Cubist Collage as Anti-Art? Leger’s “Machine Aesthetic as Anti-Art?  Futurism: “The Variety Theater destroys the Solemn, the Sacred, the Serious in Art with a Capital A. It cooperates in the Futurist destruction of immortal masterworks, plagiarizing them, parodying them, making them looking common place…” (F.T. Marinetti, 13)


9 Anti-Art  “The young men who came to believe in the necessity of revolt were primarily poets and writers, in league with several painters. Consequently, the media of art bore the brunt of their attack. Language and form fell beneath their blows like so many houses of cards…Nothing is made out of nothing; in other words, replacing the cubism, futurism, and simultaneism that had nourished them, they smashed [those] forms… G R-B, 125

10 Dada vs. Cubism  “Dada was opposed to Cubism on the ground that Cubism tended, in its finished work, to express an immutable and static beauty, while everything in Dada stresses its occasional, circumstantial nature, the real aim of art being integration with the present-day world. With Dada the work serves only as an identification. Poetry is defined as a reality which is not valid aside from its future.” (Tzara, 136)

11 Dada vs. Futurism  “One must destroy syntax and scatter one’s nouns at random…Detroy the ‘I’ in literature; that is, all psychology.” (F.T. Marinetti, “Technical Manifesto”  “Is Poetry necessary? I know that those who write most violently against it unconsciously desire to endow it with a comfortable perfection, and are working on this project right now; -they call this hygienic future. The contemplate the annihilation (always immanent) of art. At this point they desire more artistic art. Hygiene becomes purity oGodoGod” (Tzara, 144)

12 Marcel Duchamp and the Ready- Made  New York Dada (1915-1920): Alfred Stieglitz, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arthur Cravan, Duchamp  “He has found a sublime compromise which obviates the need for self-destruction.” (Richter 167).  Irony vs. Arthur Cravan

13 Readymades  “The readymade was a logical consequence of Duchamp’s rejection of art and of his suspicion that life was without meaning.” Richter, 163  “With Picabia the words “Art is Dead” seem always to be followed by a faint echo: “Long live Art.” With Duchamp the echo is silent. And that is not all: this silence renders meaningless any further inquiry into art. Art has been ‘thought to a conclusion’; in other words eliminated. Nothing, nihil, is all that is left.” Richter, 16

14 Duchamp, “Fountain,” 1915

15 Questions for Group  Produce a reading, as a group, of Duchamp’s “Fountain.” What kind of a statement about art is this? Is this as radical as Richter suggests? (“This silence renders meaningless any further inquiry into art.”)  How might Walter Benjamin respond to “Fountain”?  If you wanted to destroy art by making “anti-art,” how would you do this? What understandings of the work of art would “anti-art” have to attack?

16 Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913

17 Duchamp, Snow Shovel

18 Duchamp, Bottle-Rack 1915

19 Duchamp, “Fountain,” 1915

20 Duchamp, “L.H.O.O.Q.,” 1919

21 Sherrie Levine, “Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp, A.P.),” 1991, bronze

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