Monday, February 8, 2016

100 years of Dada and Cabaret Voltaire

By Source, Fair use,

Last Friday marked a landmark anniversary in art.

One hundred years ago, Cabaret Voltaire opened in Zurich, Switzerland. This gathering place for artists would eventually give birth to the Dada movement, an avant-garde movement formed as a response to many things, among them war and capitalism. The article at the link describes Switzerland of that time as "a birdcage surrounded by roaring lions." War raged all around Europe and in but a few short decades it would again. Many artists saw the logic and cold rationality of capitalism as what led people to war. As such, they rejected logic and coherence.

This led to an art movement founded on new, chaotic juxtapositions, of a rejection of logic and a deliberate breaking of all present conventions and traditions of aesthetics. It could be seen, as critics would later call it, "anti-art." Hugo Ball, one of the movement's progenitors, said, "For us, art is not an end in itself ... but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in."

Dada prized nonsense. Found materials would become the movement's raw fuel and the commonplace could become art as exemplified by the two pieces I've included in this post. For further examples of Dada, I'd suggest seeking out the work of the movement's other luminaries, such as Ball, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray.

While the movement itself might have been short lived, its influence was far reaching. Dada gave rise to Surrealism, without which we would not have the exquisite work of David Lynch.  We would not have the photomontage. The literary, poetic side of Dada gave us the cut-up technique, which would later be sagaciously acquired and implemented by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Really, anything that seeks art and creativity for creativity's sake, giving no pause or worry to "what's this supposed to be?", owes a debt to Dada. In simpler terms, Dada freed us, freed us to do...whatever.

Given its political origins, it's probably not a stretch to say we would not have punk without Dada.

So here's to those folks who opened Cabaret Voltaire 100 years ago. Your progeny lives on.

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