Lecture: Dada (Listen and Read)

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Lecture: Dada
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Okay! Everyone, flip open your notes and review the artists that we were talking about before class ended last week.
We started our introduction into the Dada movement;
can anyone tell me where it started?
Yes, Jimmy?
No, but I see you're on the right track.
Switzerland, actually, in 1916.
The artists of Zurich, Switzerland decided they didn't really like the traditional point of view at the time,
on reason, beauty, and the western standard of progress.
It was the 18th century, with the First World War in high gear.
A lot of artists saw the chaos around them, the random nonsensical violence and decisions that were being made.
Towns being bombed, wiped off the map,
people suddenly being thrown from their homes as the enemy soldiers marched through them -
it was a time of uncertainty in many people's lives, with the normal safety and security they used to have crumbling around them.
So the artists of Zurich decided that, if that's the way the world was,
then their art should reflect that.
They believed people should approach their art with a mindset of completely rejecting the normal idea of what art was meant to be.
Balance, proportion, beauty...
anything you thought as indicators of “great art” should be thrown to the wind.
So, to a Dadaist, classical artwork encompassed thinking that was stale.
For example, the sculpture we examined at the end of class last week.
You couldn't exactly call it beautiful, right?
A stool with a bike on top,
it rather defeats the purpose of both objects, don't you think?
Chaotic, purposeless, a bit ugly; that's the point,
and it has Dada written all over it.
Randomness was another idea that the Dada style embraced.
Life was random, they said, so why shouldn't art be random as well?
Logic, order, they wanted nothing of it.
Check out this slide.
See how it looks essentially like a bunch of colored squares of construction paper thrown at a canvas?
Yeah, that's exactly what happened.
No pre-planned composition, no forethought to where they wanted the eye to be drawn to, or...
what empty space would occur.
Just take a bunch of squares, lay down some glue, and throw it.
That element of random chance was essential to keep in mind,
as the World War and the devastation around them was what really drove this entire movement.
A bomb could strike, a fire could start,
and you could lose everything at any moment.
Everything in the world was up to chance.
Also, the way Dadaists presented their art was an extension of the art style.
Now, what I meant by this is that while normal artwork is presented in museums, or displayed on the street,
Dada work was shown in a more diverse and unconventional fashion.
They turned out more like plays or performances.
Shows, perhaps, would be a good name.
The first shows started in a place called the Cabaret Voltaire,
a performance area whose selling point was the rejection of classical art from a western viewpoint.
It had no operas or plays. It just mixed everything like without a purpose.
To give an example,
it throwed in an instrumental performance right behind a display of paintings,
which was set up after the viewers had watched a man in a robot costume
flailing about for a few minutes.
The Cabaret Voltaire's performances also had something that was relatively unheard of at the time:
Audience participation.
Think about a play you've seen, or an instrumental performance.
Likely, all of the action was self-contained,
happening only on the stage and involving only the people within the story.
It's like a little world that you can view, with a story that builds and completes itself.
The Cabaret Voltaire, on the other hand, thrived with audience participation.
Audience members were practically invited onstage, to dance with the others, or...
to touch the artwork, singing or dancing to the music.
The Dadaists practically eliminated the barrier between the audience and the performers.
So! Each night would have a new feel to it,
a new audience and a new set of performances.
With all the interaction and jumping back and forth between 'viewer' and 'performer',
things got a bit chaotic.
Poetry, paintings, dance, and music all happening across the same stage,
occasionally at the same time.
The Dadaists tried to make their art reflect that chaotic view of reality.
It didn't make sense, there was no order to it,
but wasn't that the point?
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