What Was the Dada Movement?

The Dada movement was a cultural revolution that occurred in the early twentieth century. It revolutionized contemporary art introducing a slew of new techniques, styles, and aesthetics. While Dada began as an anti-war movement, it quickly evolved into an anti-art movement, with elements of surrealism, whimsy, and irrationality. During this time, many well-known artists created work, and others were heavily influenced the Dadaists’ work.

Dada was founded in 1916 in Germany as a collaboration of artists from various countries, including Germany, France, and Switzerland. It was conceived as an anti-war art movement at first, and much of the early work is protest art. The movement chose the name “Dada” putting a piece of paper in a French dictionary and selecting the first word that came up, which happens to be a hobbyhorse or a child’s toy. The movement was also visible in New York, with a focus on Gallery 291.

Surrealism, the artistic movement that followed, was associated with many of the Dada artists. Along with many others, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Klee, Sophie Taeuber, Max Ernst, and Pablo Picasso were all members of the Dada movement. It was a remarkable achievement in many ways because it represented an artistic union between several warring nations.

Dada’s work is highly distinctive, and the techniques and styles used have become so pervasive in modern art that it is rarely given the credit it deserves. The movement’s legacies include collage, borrowing from indigenous cultures, avant-garde film and literature, performance art, confrontational art, and surrealist elements. Many artists of the time created large-scale works that were intended to confront the viewer and often required interaction in some way. Typography, guerrilla theater, minimalism, and advertising techniques were also used the Dadaists.

Many Dada artists believed that European art had become corrupted, and they sought to purify it mocking it. As a result, many works, such as Marcel Duchamp’s famous portrait of the Mona Lisa with a mustache, are extremely playful and teasing. Almost all Dada art elicits a reaction, which was the goal all along. The movement was short-lived, ending in 1923, but it left an indelible mark on modern art, advertising, and society. Surrealism and other modern art movements would not have happened if Dadaism had not existed.