Random Acts of Beauty: The Story of Dada
Excerpt from my documentary-in-progress... The assassination of Austria's Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914, plunges Europe into war. The United States and Switzerland remained neutral, but because of it's proximity, Switzerland became the destination of choice for those wishing to escape the conflict. In early 1916, just a few weeks before the battle of Verdun, the Cabaret Voltaire opens, just a block and a half away from where V.I. Lenin is spending his exile. It is founded by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings; entertainers who attract a small cadre of like-minded exiles. They embark on a campaign of ever more outrageous acts, which gain traction amongst the public. Soon, they chose a name for themselves, and the rest is history.
Dada Manifesto 1918
Even though Dada came into being in 1916, the Dada Manifesto of 1918, by Tristan Tzara was the seminal tool that put Dada on the map. It was published right after the end of WWI; therefore it could be distributed all over Europe. It was right on the money in terms of defining that moment in time and it became the instrument by which most people became aware of the movement.
Andre Codresceau reads an excerpt from the Dada Manifesto 1918, followed by the scholars William Camfield and Marc Dachy, who discuss its impact on the Avant Garde
Theo Van Doesburg & the Holland Tour
This segment concentrates on Theo Van Doesburg the Constructivist artist, architect and founder of De Stijl, who was also a Dadaist and who published under the pseudonym of "I.K. Bonset." After the Constructivist Congress of Weimar (which he organized), he teamed up with Kurt Schwitters and others for a rollicking tour of Holland in 1923.
Picabia: Art & the Machine
Before Dada, the machine was considered a subject unworthy of artistic consideration for several reasons. Francis Picabia turned all that on it's head when he started making machine drawings and giving them enigmatic titles, thus altering our perception of the image.
This segment is about Francis Picabia's interest in machines as an art source, dating back to just before world war I.
The Armory Show of 1913
The 1913 Armory show in New York introduced Americans to European modern art, and boy was it a shocker! In terms of Dada, the Armory Show introduces us to two artists who figure prominently in the Dada Movement; Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia.
Chance & Randomness
One of the key "discoveries" of the dadaists was the use of "chance" in the creative process, something unheard of until then. It started with Jean Arp ripping up paper in frustration and letting them flutter to the ground; amazingly, he liked what he saw. This was a great inspiration for Tristan Tzara also, who was inspired to write, "How to make a Dadaist Poem."
The Dadaists soon embraced chance and randomness as part of the creative process as equal to if not superior to thought. Today, 100 years later, we take this attitude for granted; but for then, it was revolutionary!