Outrageous anti-art movement founded in Europe in the early 20th century. Centred around Zurich and Paris, its luminaries included Tristan Tzara and Francis Picabia. Dedicated to incoherence, the dadaists produced some choice quotes, which I must dig up and submit for the Everything Quote Server. The style of typography associated with dada is much imitated, but otherwise this short-lived group has had most influence through its offshoots, notably the Surrealist movement, founded by André Breton.

An anti-art movement reactionary to WWI in that in a world that had ceased to make sense and be beautiful, art had to reflect that by ceasing to make sense and by ceasing to be beautiful.

In addition to the static artworks by Duchamp et al listed below, also check out the strong performance art from the likes of Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara, heavily representative of Zurich Dada at the Cabaret Voltaire. Dada incarnated in different forms as Berlin Dada, Paris Dada, New York Dada and Neo-Dada.

DADA is a virgin microbe
DADA is against the high cost of living
DADA limited company for the exploitation of ideas
DADA has 391 different attitudes and colours according to the sex of the president
It changes -- affirms -- says the opposite at the same time -- no importance -- shouts -- goes fishing.
Dada is the chameleon of rapid and self-interested change.
Dada is against the future. Dada is dead. Dada is absurd.
Long live Dada.
Dada is not a literary school, howl.

-Tristan Tzara

From the "Dada Manifesto" 1918 and "Lecture on Dada" 1922. These works are believed to be in the Public Domain. CST Approved

DADA developed in Germany and Switzerland after the First World War. Many of the first members of the movement had seen trench warfare, and the experience destroyed their faith in Western Civilization. If Western Civilization had led to what they experienced, they thought, it was worthless, and therefore DADA rejected traditional concepts of logic and beauty in favor of absurdity. DADAists tended to be hard leftists. When Hitler came to power, they fled to Switzerland or the United States.

DADA, the art movement means "hobby horse" in French. DADA work inspired members of a group called FLUXUS, (1950's) who created art in the form of games, fantastic products, and performance art. DADA is also a very comfortable brand of running shoe.

It would seem that Dada, in its proliferation, automatically was doomed to failure. Being that its message was "anti-art", its elevation and celebration by the art world seems to automatically subvert its ideals, turning deliberately non-art into things worthy of being bought and sold for zillions of dollars and refuting the claim that art is, in fact, dead. Of course, maybe they were just very clever businessmen... But that sounds more like Pop art to me.

Several have already noted that the Dada movement produced art of absurdity in an attempt to denounce all of society. I thought it might be useful to note some of their works, to get a feel for their wit:

  • L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), Marcel Duchamp. Probably the most famous work of the most famous dadaist. Duchamp simply took a print of the Mona Lisa and drew a mustache and beard on it. Every time you've seen it done since, like in cartoons, it came from this. The name of the work is also important. Pronouncing these letters in French translates roughly to, "She has a hot ass." From mkb: The actual pronunciation is, "elle a chaud au cul".
  • The Fountain (1917), Marcel Duchamp. Simply put, Duchamp took a urinal and turned it on its side. That's it. It was now The Fountain. This is Duchamp's most famous "Ready Made" art, where he would simply take a household item and submit it to an exhibit. Later he would submit a coathanger, a bicycle wheel, etc.
  • For weeks several dadaists (whose names I can't recall, nor find information about on the internet) anounced a major competition to be held in a church (again, I don't remember where). When people came later, they saw only the dadaists sitting on benches, not really doing anything. When asked about the great competition, they replied that it had already started. They were seeing who could become the most bored...
  • Compass (1920), Man Ray. A U-Shaped magnet hooked to the top of a gun. Not much more needs to be said, I think.

Something else I'd like to do is distinguish Dada from other art movements:

Nearly always Dada is lumped in with Surrealism, when they are in fact rather different (although Surrealism did have its roots in Dada). The difference is in intent: While Surrealism celebrated the imagination with its bizarre creations, Dada would use the bizarre as an attempt to mock. Dada work was not meant to be inspiring or thoughtful (or not usually), just stupid and silly.

Also, Modern Art will often make use of a Ready Made. A recent exhibit was nothing more than the trash from a party the night before. But again, the difference between this Ready Made and a Dada piece is intent: Modern Art looks for deeper meaning in ordinary life. Dada merely mocks our art as meaningless.


The wife of the Cretan hero Samon, who helped SCAMANDER take possession of the Troad. After Samon's death in battle Dada entrusted herself to a herald, asking him to accompany her to a nearby city, where she intended to remarry. On the way the herald violated her and, overcome with shame, Dada ran herself through with her dead husband's sword. When the Cretans learnt of this tragic event they stoned the herald to death at the very place where he had carried out his rape; the place became known thereafter as the Field of Shamelessness.


The Dadaists and the Surrealists had opposing views on the degree of influence of the unconscious mind, by how much they recognized "poetic interference" from the conscious world. Hans Arp "clearly established the fact that conscious feedback played a major role in his creative credo"1. The Dadaists did recognize forethought in their works. Jacques Rivière discerned behind "Dada's provocative nonsense a serious intent to apprehend an absolute psychological reality...comprising not so much the mind's incoherence as a primordial coherence anterior to the development of the notion of contradiction" 2. The Dadaists differed from the Surrealists by their acknowledgment of conscious thought and the Surrealist's partially-realized, Freudian-based position of a conscious/unconscious melding in the mind/brain.

1 Sellin, Eric. Reflections on the Aesthetics of Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism: a Prosody Beyond Words (p 84)

2 Brown, Clifford. André Breton: Arbiter of Surrealism (p 52)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.