“It’s too idiotic to be schizophrenic.” – Carl Jung on Dada.
The Dada movement arose out of the reaction of artists, designers and performers to the horror of World War 1. Their perception was that the same mentality that so values aesthetics and beauty in art also paradoxically has a bloody-minded logic that leads to war and destruction; the bourgeois mentality of colonialism, elitism and materialism. As such, the Dada art was considered by many of its’ exponents as “Anti–art”.
The name Dada itself was said to have been selected at random by inserting a knife into a book; the word that the knife tip touched was “dada” meaning hobbyhorse or baby talk.
The form of Dada is often random, nonsensical, jarring and simplistic. The graphic styles included collage, photomontage, mismatched colour, typography and imagery… the purpose of which was to confound reason and offend aesthetic and artistic sensibility.
“For us, art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.” –Hugo Ball.
Dada first reached fame from Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub established in neutral Switzerland (Zurich) in 1916. It featured the work of performers, artists, poets and designers with the aim of fighting the status quo by way of abstraction.
“We had lost confidence in our culture…. at the Cabaret Voltaire we began by shocking common sense, public opinion, education, institutions, museums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order.” – Marcel Janco
The Dada movement took root in many other centres of the world; New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Georgia all had showings, performances and gatherings of Dadaists. The movement lasted until the early 1920’s but its legacy can by found in many subsequent art movements and graphic styles. Pop Art, Surrealism, Abstract Art and Postmodernism all nod their head at Dada in some small (and not so small) ways. Likewise, the cut and paste techniques and styles so prevalent in much modern graphic design is most definitely Dadaist… indeed Punk could be considered today’s Dada.