" 80 years ago the Dada art movement mysteriously disappeared, in 5 minutes, It will return in full force! Part documentary,
part instructional video, 100% chaotic journey into the spirit of Dada!"
by Gabriel Barcia-colombo see more at http://www.gabebc.com
DADA For Beginners:
About These Videos
EXCERPTS FROM DADA TEXTS:
Science disgusts me as soon as it becomes a speculative system, loses its character of utility-that is so useless but is at
least individual. I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order. Carry on, my children,
humanity . . . Science says we are the servants of nature: everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in. Carry
on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins . . . I am against systems, the most acceptable system is
on principle to have none.
Arp saw Dada above all as a new artistic attitude. His participation in the Dada demonstration and blagues in
the Cabaret Voltaire suggests that this new attitude also had for him a social, or, more precisely, an antisocial, antipolitical
Disgusted by the slaughter of the World War in 1914, we dedicated ourselves to the fine arts in Zurich. While
in the distance the thunder of the cannons rumbled, we sang, painted, glued, wrote with all our strength. We were looking
for an elemental art which would heal people of the madness of the times and a new order which would restore the balance between
heaven and hell.
Elsewhere he wrote:
Madness and murder were competing with each other as Dada was born
of primeval sources in Zurich in 1916. The people who were not directly involved in the horrible insanity of the World War
acted as though they didn’t understand what was taking place all around them. They stared into space with glassy eyes
like lost lambs. Dada sought to wake them up from their pitiful impotence. Dada abhorred resignation.
in Zurich Dada is characterised rather precisely by the fact that he painted, glued, and wrote "with all the strength of his
heart" in this political and social situation instead of becoming politically involved, as later did, in particular, the Berlin
Dadas. He opposed the "insanity" of the times with the "senselessness" of art. He searched for and found an "elemental" art
and tried to establish a "new order", a concept that for him meant first and foremost a new aesthetic order.
calls "elemental" art here he later called "concrete" or at times also "abstract" art. "Abstract art (which Hans Arp unswervingly
advocates)," Ball noted on 13 April 1916, in his diary, which provides insight into Arp’s artistic views and aims:
speaks out against the bombast of the gods of painting (the expressionists). He says Marc’s bulls are too fat; Baumann’s
and Meidner’s cosmogonies and mad fixed stars remind him of the stars of Bölsche and Carus. He would like to see things
more ordered and less capricious, less brimming with colour and poetry. He recommends plane geometry rather than painted versions
of the Creation and the Apocalypse. When he advocates the primitive, he means the first abstract sketch that is aware of complexities
but avoids them. Sentiment must go, and so must analysis when it occurs only on the canvas itself. A love of the circle and
the cube, of sharply intersected lines. He is in favour of the use of unequivocal (preferably printed) colours (bright paper
and fabric); and he is especially in favour of the inclusion of mechanical exactness. I think he likes Kant and Prussia because
(in the exercise yard and logic) they are in favour of the geometrical division of spaces. In any case, he likes the Middle
Ages mostly for their heraldry, which is fantastic and yet precise and exists in its entirety, right to the last really prominent
contour. If I understand him correctly, he is not concerned so much with richness as with simplification. Art must not scorn
the things that it can take from Americanism and assimilate into its principles; otherwise it will be left behind in sentimental
romanticism. Creation for him means separating himself from the vague and the nebulous. He wants to purify imagination and
to concentrate on opening up not so much its store of images but what those images are made of. He assumes here that the images
of the imagination are already composites. The artist who works from his freewheeling imagination is deluding himself about
originality. He is using a material that is already formed and so is undertaking only to elaborate on it."
work in particular had a decisive influence on Arp’s artistic development after 1915. "She is led in her first abstract
compositions to the greatest degree of simplification" by her search "for new solutions to the problems in art", by "her spiritual
purity and her love of craftsmanship." Arp and Taeuber subsequently worked together a lot on horizontal and vertical images,
glued works, on many other projects:
Working together or alone, we embroidered, wove, painted, glued geometric and
static pictures. Impersonal, austere structures were created out of planes and colours. No blotches, tears, no fibres, no
inexactitudes were to spoil the clarity of our work. We even threw away the scissors with which we had first cut out our paper
images because they too clearly revealed the personal involvement of the hand. After that we used a paper cutting machine.
We tried humbly to get as close as possible to ‚pure reality‘. What we practised was the art of tranquillity.
We turned away from the outer world of rapid-paced lives to our inner being, to inner reality, to pure reality. [...] our
work aimed at simplifying, transforming, beautifying. [...]
I continued the development of glued works by structuring
them spontaneously, automatically. I called this working 'according to the law of chance.' The 'law of chance', which incorporates
all laws and is as inscrutable to us as is the abyss from which all life comes, can only be experienced by surrendering completely
to the unconscious. I claimed that, whoever follows this law, will create pure life.
A final quotation will conclude
this excursus on Arp’s statements about his development as an artist during the Zurich period and will at the same time
make clear how he evaluated this period himself.
"The years during which we worked exclusively on paper and cloth pictures,
embroidery work, with new materials and in which we avoided oil painting had a cleansing effect on us; they were like intellectual
exercises to help us finally understand painting in its original pure state."
For Arp thus, the "tortuous period" came
to an end in his Dada years in Zurich; in this period he concluded his attempts to free himself from the "inculcated, traditional
forms of art" and achieved a new understanding of the fine arts, encountered the problems that were to reappear again and
again in his work for the rest of his life.
Arp’s attempts to " overcome the inculcated, traditional forms of
art" should be understood not only as opposition to "academic painting" that depicts " illusion instead of life and nature";
it can also be seen as a fundamental attempt to free himself from an inculcated, conventional notion of art, from traditional
conceptions of art all together. This is characteristic of Arp’s work in both the fine arts and in literature. Before
I turn to his literary development then, I will summarise my findings thus far.
What Arp wanted was an elemental, or,
as he later called it, a concrete art. To be able to produce it, he gave up traditional approaches to representation, gave
up traditional oil painting. He created images out of materials that until then were scarcely considered customary, such as
paper, cloth, wood, instead of paint. He employed unusual techniques or invented new ones: gluing, tearing, cutting up. He
rejected the traditional contents of images by simplifying drawings of twigs, roots, grasses, or stones into "dynamic ovals"
or by creating geometric constellations from the very start out of planes and colours. The artistic aim of this work, which
he repeatedly stressed in retrospective commentary, was purity, impersonality, simplicity. The work of art was no longer to
have any relationship with a depictable external reality and its objects. He discovered in these experiments the "law of chance".
particular, using words to achieve captivating effects, "doing away with sentences for the sake of the individual word," and
then doing away with the word as well were to become an essential language experience of the Dadas. All of this had, of course,
been anticipated again by Italian futurism.
...Ball records in his diary Die Flucht aus der Zeit:
We have now
driven the plasticity of the word to the point where it can scarcely be equaled. [...] We tried to give the isolated vocables
the fullness of an oath, the glow of a star. And curiously enough, the magically inspired vocables conceived and gave birth
to a new sentence that was not limited and confined by any conventional meaning. Touching lightly on a hundred ideas at the
same time without naming them, this sentence made it possible to hear the innately playful, but hidden, irrational character
of the listener; it awakened and strengthened the lowest strata of memory. Our experiments touched on areas of philosophy
and of life that our environment – so rational and precocious – scarcely let us dream of. (21)
not go quite so far in his justification of his literary work during his actual Dada years in Zurich, that is, after 1916:
slogans, sentences, which were selected from daily newspapers and especially from advertisements in them, formed the basis
of my poems in 1917. I often selected words and sentences from newspapers with my eyes closed by marking them with a pencil.
I called these poems "arpades". It was the beautiful "period of Dada" in which we hated and ridiculed with all our hearts
the enchasing of our work, the confused looks of wrestlers of the intellect, the titans. I interwove the words and sentences
selected from the newspapers with freely improvised words and sentences of my own. Life is a mysterious breath of air, and
the result of it can be nothing more than a mysterious breath of air. I wrote a number of "arpades", which, however, as was
fitting, quickly vanished, disappeared. We wanted to look through things and see the essence of life, and that is why we were
moved at least as much by a sentence from a newspaper as by one written by a great poet.
...Arp added an instructive
preface to a 1957 reprint of his simultaneous texts, Die Geburt des Dada, which included, as well, some poems never published
The Odeon Café in Zurich became Dada’s Mecca and Medina. The numbers of Dadaists became so large that
whoever wanted to have a sensitive exchange of ideas had to find a quieter place. Since Tzara, Serner, and I wanted to compose
automatic poetry cooperatively, we met in the Terrace Café. I wrote about this poetry in my book Unsern täglichen Traum the
following: 'Tzara, Serner, and I wrote a cycle of poems in the Terrace Café, entitled Die Hyperbel vom Krokodilcoiffeur und
dem Spazierstock. This kind of poetry was later christened ‚automatic poetry‘ by the Surrealists. Automatic poetry
is created directly from the intestines or other organs of the poet which have stored suitable reserves. He was to be hindered
neither by Lonjumeau’s postilion nor the hexameter, neither by grammar nor aesthetics, by Buddha nor the sixth commandment.
The poet crows, curses, sighs, stutters, yodels, as he sees fit. His poems resemble nature. The things which people like to
call trivial are as precious to him as noble rhetoric, for in nature a particle is as beautiful and important as a star, and
it is only people who presume to decide what is beautiful or ugly.' (24)
The same year Arp wrote texts by himself that
are "related to automatic poems":
Many poems in die wolkenpumpe are related to automatic poems. They were written down,
like the Surrealistic automatic poems, uninhibitedly without thinking or revision. Dialect constructions, ancient sounds,
vulgar Latin, confusing onomatopoetic words and verbal spasms are particularly noticeable in these poems. The "cloud pumps"
are, however, not only automatic poems, but already anticipate my "papiers déchirés", my "torn pictures", in which "reality"
and "chance" can be developed uninhibitedly. The essence of life and decay is incorporated into the picture by tearing the
paper or drawing. The same intent produced the "cloud pumps" in 1917. I wrote these poems in a script that is difficult to
decipher so that the printer would be forced to use his imagination, and in deciphering my text, participate poetically. This
collective work was very successful. Horny verbal forms and distortions resulted which moved and affected my at that time.
How many medieval copiers of manuscripts, I said to myself, will have contributed some deep thought to their work out of misinterpretation
or inattentiveness! How much immortal beauty is the result of the further development of a falsely interpreted art form! My
attitude is slightly different today.
The feet of morning the feet of noon and the feet of evening walk ceaselessly round
pickled buttocks on the other hand the feet of midnight remain motionless in their echo-woven baskets
the lion is a diamond
on the sofas made of bread
are seated the dressed and the undressed
undressed hold leaden swallows between their toes
the dressed hold leaden nests between their fingers
all hours the undressed get dressed again
and the dressed get undressed
and exchange the leaden swallows
.for the leaden nests
consequently the tail is an umbrella
a mouth opens within another mouth
within this mouth another mouth
and within this mouth another mouth
and so on without end
is a sad perspective
which adds an I-don't-know-what
to another I-don't-know-what
the grasshopper is a column
the pianos with heads and tails
place pianos with heads and tails
their heads and their tails
consequently the tongue is a chair ...
And here is another poem by Hans Arp
which I wish to share with you.
Kaspar Is Dead (Translated by G P Skratz)
god our kaspar is dead & now there's no-one to steal away with the burning flag & snap it every day in the dark
cloud's braided hair.
no-one to crank the coffee-mill in the ancient cask.
no-one to conjure idyllic deer from
the petrified grocery bag.
no-one to sniff ships umbrellas bee-keepers udders of wind spindles of ozone no-one to
filet the pyramids.
o god god god our good old kaspar is dead. lord lord kaspar is dead.
teeth rattle with grief in the belfry when we utter his given name. so i stick to his last, sighing kaspar kaspar kaspar.
have you deserted us. what form has your great soul wandered into now. have you become a star or a chain of water on
a hot whirlwind or a plump breast of black light or a transparent brick on the groaning drum of the rocks of existence...
now the crowns of our heads the soles of our feet wither away & angels smolder on the funeral pyre.
bowling alley thunders behind the sun & there's no-one to wind the compasses & the wheels of wheelbarrows.
to dine with the phosphorescent rat at the barefoot table.
no-one to drive off the wind devil when he tries to seduce the
no-one to teach us monograms in the stars.
his bust will adorn all truly noble firesides but there is no
snuff & comfort for a dead head.