Dada

DEFINITION

A word meaning "hobby horse" in French, and "yes, yes" in Slavic, it is linked to poet, Tristan Tzara, who reportedly stabbed a penknife in a dictionary in a random place, and it landed on the nonsense word "Dada". The term was applied to an international movement among intellectuals in the fine arts, drama, and literature, and grew from a gathering in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 at a club called Cabaret Voltaire. The movement traveled to other major centers including New York City, Berlin, Cologne, Hanover and Paris. Viewed historically, Dada was short lived, and by 1924, was essentially over, but it remains an effective reminder of revolt against World War I and the resulting expressions of cynicism. The loss of more than ten-million persons in that war and the fact that modern technology could cause such havoc led to the bitterness reflected by the Dada artists. Dadaists used improvised, sarcastic expressions of intuition and irrationality to send the message that only that which was absurd could have meaning in a world supposedly rational and yet was so destructive. Among Dada artists were Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, and Max Ernst. Some of them appropriated ready-made, traditionally unacceptable items for art work such as found objects. Duchamp, expressing Dadaism, did a painting of Mona Lisa with a mustache. Dada was a forerunner of Surrealism, Collage, Performance Art and Found Art. Sources: Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques"; Kimberley Reynolds and Richard Seddon, "Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms"; Julia M Ehresmann, "The Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms"; Robert Atkins, "Artspeak"; Alan Riding, "The New York Times", October 12, 2005.

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