Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Dada-Romania Connection

It's interesting how we get an idea in our heads and it becomes so firmly lodged we never consider there is another explanation for a thing. I'm thinking this moment of the Dada movement.
When I was a young art student I was, like many others, greatly attracted to surrealist Salvador Dali's work. His paintings were outrageous, yet so incredibly crafted. And the surreal subject matter stimulated a greater interest in this genre which led to my discovery of others whose original works and whimsical irrationality caught my eye, painters like DeChirico, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguey and Rene Magritte.

Somewhere along the way I learned that many of the surrealists had been influcenced by the Dada movement.

The idea lodged in my skull was that the Dada movement originated with a group of European artists from many disciplines who were anti-art. The selection of the name "Dada" was purportedly arbitrary. The group took a dictionary, opened it randomly and someone pointed with eyes closed at a spot on the page. The word was dada.

Well, this week while researching the Dada movement I discovered that there is more than one story of its origins. According to a variation of this story, the name was selected by stabbing a random page with a knife, which would add a little drama to the moment. But a competing explanation "maintains that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco's frequent use of the words da, da, which, translated into English is equivalent to yeah, yeah, as in a sarcastic or facetious yeah, right. (Da in Romanian strictly translates as yes.)" *

In addition, Dada was not an anti-art movement but rather an anti-war movement. This being Zurich 1916, the heart of WWI, it would make sense that an anti-rational movement of senselessness would emerge. Artists often reflect their culture and the world itself appeared to be overcome by a madness.

What do we see reflected in the arts today? No time to answer that one at length.... just a seed thought for the morrow.


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