Art Culture

Dada or Dadon’t? An Exploration of Dadaism

By Ciéra Cree & Adam Clarke - Artists are breaking conventions more than ever before, so it’s no wonder that alternative art forms such as ‘Dada’ have risen in popularity in recent years. Prizing itself on its nonsense and irrationality...

By Ciéra Cree & Adam Clarke

Artists are breaking conventions more than ever before, so it’s no wonder that alternative art forms such as ‘Dada’ have risen in popularity in recent years. Prizing itself on its nonsense and irrationality, the art movement that’s said to have risen from the ashes of the First World War is as sporadic in its appearance as it is in its methods.

Extending across various artistic mediums, this form of self-expression seems to have no boundaries. So I’m here today to see whether I can derive any sense or logic from this eccentric art form, and I want to try to form my own artistic opinion of the movement overall by creating my own example of a ‘Dada’ art piece.

This piece was created using words and images cut out of an old newspaper. These words you see were picked out of a bag at random, hence it’s nonsensical appearance. I, alongside Adam Clarke – an art student, and the person who first introduced me to ‘Dada’ – are going to attempt to analyse the piece and provide a general overview of what we think about the art form as a whole.

Exploration

Upon initial introduction to ‘Dada’, what did you think of the movement?

C: To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it. It just seemed confusing, chaotic and generally all over the place. I could see how as an art form it may appeal to some people though since there are no rules, meaning anyone can participate. At the time I was first shown it I wasn’t aware that it was something which extended past visuals and into the world of writing. Before researching deeper into its poetic elements, I really wasn’t sure what to expect as words jumbled on a page with no sense to me didn’t seem appealing.

A: Upon first introductions it seemed an understandable concept, to create art based solely on authority in the field, much like some fields of modern artistry. However, I felt as if it should be kept just like that; a concept and experiment. To find it had such a torrential response by the public shocked me as I believe all art should be respected, despite how void of talent it may seem at first. It did not seem to be a genre that applied to me or one that I’d want to pursue.

What can you interpret from this piece?

C: It almost felt wrong in a way when I was putting this piece together. As a person who writes frequently, I’m so used to placing words in an order which is designed to flow well, which is the complete opposite to how this was. Upon looking closer at this piece I feel it could possibly be negotiated as one stressing the fast-paced nature of society and consumerism within it. Words such as ‘tomorrow’, ‘today’, ‘what’ and ‘news’ communicate this desire people seem to hold where they want to instantaneously know the goings-on of the likes of celebrities all the time. ‘Want’, ‘more’ and ‘catastrophic’ could be further communicating this in the way that people are greedy and always wanting more and more, in terms of materialistic possessions as well as media information. This greed people hold could possibly be linked back to animalistic traits, illustrated by the dog covered by articles of news.

A: At first glance, the simple collage is consistent with the movement but is nothing personally noteworthy style-wise. The segments used however do show a world where headlines are full of pessimism and greed-based profit. Also, the only section that mentions ‘family’ being upside down is paramount to our society, however, only the artist would know whether it was designed to be that way or followed Dadaist logic and sheer luck.

As a premise, it seems admirable to me but only for the selection of words used. I feel it would have had an equal or more impactful effect in the style of one of many other movements.

data-or-dadont-image

Have your feelings changed towards the movement?

C: Yes, I feel they definitely have. After further research and involvement in the movement I’ve come to realise that although what’s created may not necessarily be made with any intention, each and every person looking at a piece can draw some form of interpretation from it. It may not be “rational” per se, but it’s multidimensional, defying the rules of what society deems are the right ways to self-express.

However, it’s not a style I’m particularly fond of in regards to poetry. As a lover of metaphors, I do enjoy the interpretation aspects and the visuals can look quirky and abstract, but as a whole, I prefer poetry with a more structured relatable feel to it.

A: Well first I didn’t hold it in such a light, it was just another movement in a style I wasn’t keen on. However, more research done into the originator’s direction and then Dadaist pieces of my own made me quickly feel as if what artistic talent I possess is being wasted on it. I felt as if any shred of creativity, that wasn’t held in contempt of the art scene, drew my pieces and my method out of Dada territory and into something more surreal.

To invent Dada art is to forget and to go against years of practice and knowledge, and to me, it feels disingenuous for artists to abandon talent many wish they had and deliberately create a piece with zero deeper meaning or skills needed. I can’t lie, some of the pieces look attractive in their minimalism and contrast. However, say you’re given an option; two artists create their own art in their own styles. The first is a self-taught artist who has been painting for years and, even though they aren’t as good as they one day could be, they have put much effort into their piece. The second is a Dadaist who has exclusively created pieces in line with the movement for years. His piece resembles that which you showed me earlier, much like the rest of his work. To me, there’s no denying that they are both artists in their own right but it would feel wrong to what I understand about art to not hold the first to a slightly higher standard than the latter.

Art is something you can’t do if you don’t enjoy it so I can’t exclude Dada artists and poets from the mantle that I hold other successful artists and wordsmiths. However, their creations will not be in my mind when I look for inspiration and reassurance on my path to becoming a better artist.

Conclusion

I’m glad to have taken the time to research this as it has really shown how there is no linear method to writing or art. Although I’m not sure whether the likes of Dada poetry is particularly poetic, from this experience I can still take away many handy things as a writer such as:

  • Learning that I can afford to play with language a bit. In terms of development, the randomness may be useful for creating unique descriptions and metaphors
  • Gaining interest in and learning that such movements exist! I hadn’t heard of Dada before and initially, I wasn’t keen on the idea at all but upon researching further I began to admire the freedom it holds as well as how people created artwork from tragedy. This can be related to how in writing people often create pieces based on feelings. I often write from feeling but from this, in terms of development I think it may be beneficial to have a go at writing something based on opinion for a change

Overall, I’ve learnt that there really isn’t a limit when it comes to self-expression and creativity. This has opened my eyes to alternative art forms and encouraged me to experiment with my own work.

Why don’t you give it a go?

Featured photo by Ciéra Cree

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