Lecture aims:• To give you an insightinto the reasonsmotivating anti-artattitudes, irrationality andthe assault on culture andcommunication integral toDada and Surrealism• Introduce the key artistsand ideas of Dada andSurrealism
The Dadaist response to the horrors of war was a profound disillusionment with the patriotism, religion, moderneducation, and technology that brought about and justified the war.
Dada:• a rebellion against the insanity of war and genocide, armsproduction, nationalist policy, and petty bourgeois narrow-mindedness• used shock, provocation, and irrationality as a weapon against theEstablishment• asked the question: what kinds of culture would condone theindustrialized murder of WW1• mocked the ‘seriousness’ and sanctity of traditional art• believed that traditional art had been purged and that this newmovement was gong to start culture from scratch• sought to liberate art from authority and institutions, definitions andphilosophies• vehemently opposed conformity, banality, and logic• encompassed literature, music, drama, photography, and other mediums• was a sweeping force that disturbed not only the art world but also theworld at large
The term‘Dada’ issimply areminder ofhowarbitraryverballanguage is.
Dada CentresThere were sixmain cities in whichDada existedthroughout its1914-1924 lifetime Francis Picabia Tableau Rastadada, 1920
“What we are celebrating is at once abuffoonery and a requiem mass…”“The Dadaist fights against the death-throes and death-drunkeness of histime. Averse to every cleverreticence, he cultivates the curiosityof one who experiences delight evenin the most questionable forms ofinsubordination. He knows that thisworld of systems has gone to pieces,and that the age which demandedcash has organised a bargain sale ofgodless philosophies. Whereconscience begins for the market-booth owners, mild laughter and mildkindness begins for the Dadaist.” Hugo Ball (1916) Dada Fragments
The absurd and the grotesque, the illogical and the paradoxical “We had lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished. We would begin again after the tabula rasa. At the Cabaret Voltaire we began by shocking the bourgeois, demolishing his idea of art, attacking common sense, public opinion, education, institutions, muse ums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order” (Foster and Kuenzli 12)
“Dada means nothing”“There is no ultimate Truth. Thedialectic is an amusing mechanismwhich guides us […] to the opinionswe had in the first place. Doesanyone think that by a minuterefinement of logic he haddemonstrated the truth andestablished the correctness ofthese opinions? Logic imprisonedby the senses is an organicdisease.”“I detest greasy objectivity, andharmony, the science that findseverything in order […] I amagainst systems, the mostacceptable system…Is to havenone”
New York Duchamp was looking for a way out of art. The Bicycle Wheel, bottle-rack, and the urinal were all valedictions to accepted mores of aesthetics, styles, and taste. “What is an art?” “What makes art?’ “Who is an artist?” Duchamp answered these questions – not as a theoretician, but as a means of tongue-in-cheek demonstration.
Duchamp had notphysically created theobjects, nor had healtered them much, buthe claimed authorshipand the art became theideas behind the ‘ready-made.’Using art as aconceptual critique washighly innovative andradical to the early 20thcentury art world.
“…the choice of these ‘readymades’ was never dictated by aesthetic delectation. The choice was based on a reaction of the visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste…in fact a complete anethesia.” Marcel DuchampRroseSélavy (Marcel Duchamp). 1921.Photograph by Man Ray.
BerlinIn Berlin, Dada’s force wasintensely political. Due to theunstable environment ofGermany, whose empire wasunder attack in the war, Dadareached a more militant andabrasive value system thatdirectly supported anarchy, orat least a revolution ofgovernment and socialstructure. John Heartfield DerKreig/War 1933
Berlin In Berlin, Dada took on the aspect of a revolutionary uprising. The members of the group uncompromisingly expected to make an immediate effect on politics. They attacked Church and State in no uncertain terms. The Berlin artists and writers explored the realms of the unconscious and automatism, polemicizing at Freud . John Heartfield The Cross (1933)
They provocatively juxtaposedand rearranged their material incollages and photomontages inorder to undercut thepropaganda spread by the massmedia.RaoulHausmannDada Cino (1920)
“The highest art will be that which in its conscious content presents the thousand fold problems of the day, the art which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its libs after yesterdays crash. The best and most extraordinary artists will be those who every hour snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the frenzied cataract of life…” “The word Dada symbolises the most primitive relation to the reality of the environment; with Dadaism a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a simultaneous muddle of noises, colours andGeorge Grosz spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodifiedThe Engineer Heartfield, 1920 into Dadaist art.” Huelsenbeck, 1918
Hannah HochPretty Maiden ,1920
Cologne • Collage was an important methodology in Dada, preferred for its spontaneity and ability to be quickly assembled • Spontaneity followed a Dada theory based loosely on Freudian principles of ‘free association’ Max Ernst The Postman Cheval (1932, collage)
Max Ernst - At the Rendez-vous of Friends 1922Seated from left to right: René Crevel, MaxErnst, Dostoievsky, ThéodoreFraenkel, Jean Paulhan, BenjaminPéret, Johannes Baargeld, Robert Desnos. Standing: Philippe Soupault, JeanArp, Max Morise, Raphaël, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Giorgio
Hanover“The word Merzdenotes essentially thecombination, forartistic purposes, of allconceivablematerials, and, technically, the principle of theequal distribution ofthe individual materials…. A perambulatorwheel, wire-netting, string andcotton wool are factorshaving equal rightswith paint.” Schwitters Merz 94 Grunflec (1920)
Paris Man Ray Marquise Casati (1922)
Dada to Surrealism Three views of the transition from Dada to Surrealism can be discerned: 1. Surrealism as a constructive solution to Dada nihilism 2. Surrealism as a movement separate from but parallel to Dada from the beginning 3. Surrealism as one of the many embodiments of Dada in Europe -in short, Surrealism as FrenchJewelry designed by DadaSalvador Dali
SurrealismSurrealism was launched inParis in 1924 by French poetAndré Breton with publicationof his Manifesto of Surrealism.Breton was strongly influencedby the theories of SigmundFreud, the founder ofpsychoanalysis.
SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism with whichone proposes to express the real process ofthought, either orally or in writing, or in any othermanner. Thoughts dictation, in the absence of anycontrol exercised by reason, outside any esthetic ormoral concerns.ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests on the belief in thesuperior reality of certain forms of hitherto neglectedassociations, in the omnipotence of dreams, in thedisinterested play of thought. It tends to banish, onceand for all, any other psychic mechanisms and to replacethem in the resolution of the principal problems ofexistence. Andre Breton
Surrealism The Dadaists discovered the unconscious mind and the dream as sources of a new reality and artistic inspiration. Surrealism calculatedly explored the world of dream, chance, and free association, was originally more a literary movement than an artistic one Painters such a Dali and Rene Magritte mirrored the surreal in the real and trawling the depths of subconscious to come up with iconographies as bizarre as they were precise.
Surrealists believed that automatism (automatic writing and drawing) was a better way to tackle societal change than the Dada movements attack on prevailing valuesAndré MassonAutomatic drawing (1896-1987)
Joan Miro A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress(Paintin g Poem) 1938“The information psychoanalysis aims to retrieve from a patient is veryintimate. For this information concerns what is most intimate in his mentallife, everything that, as a socially independent person, he must conceal fromother people, and, beyond that, as a homogenous personality, he will notadmit to himself.”
Andre Masson Battle of Fish (1926)FREUD:“Two of the hypotheses of psychoanalysis are to insult the entire world andhave earned its dislike. One of them offends against intellectual prejudice, theother against an aesthetic and moral one.”“First…Psychoanalysis declares that mental processes are in themselvesunconscious and that all of all mental life it is only certain individual acts andportions that are conscious…In saying this psychoanalysis has from the startfrivolously forfeited the sympathy of ever friend of sober scientific thought.”
FREUD: “Second…Is an assertion that instinctual impulses which can only be described as sexual…Play an extremely large and never hitherto appreciated part in the causation of nervous and mental diseases. It asserts further that these same sexual impulses also make contributions that must not be underestimated to the highest cultural, artistic, and social creations of the human spirit.”Yves TangyyExtinction of Useless Lights(1927)
The Interpretation of Dreamswas central to Surrealism.Automatism was the Surrealistterm for Freuds technique offree association, which he alsoused to reveal the unconsciousmind of his patients. Surrealismhad a huge influence onart, literature and the cinema aswell as on social attitudes andbehaviour.
What are the possibilities for the continuity of dreams and their application to lifes problems? Do dreams explicitly harbor the causes of our preferences and our desires? What form of reason "broader than all others" gives dreams their "natural allure," where everything seems possible, for as long as the dream lasts? How can one conceive the "future resolution" of dreams and reality, apparently so utterly contradictory, in "the surreal?"Rene MagritteThe Reckless Sleeper (1928)