RIWT Task 1
April 4, 2013
On the Relationship of Dada to Surrealism and Their Shared Ideals
Dada and Surrealism are both artistic movements of the last century that introduced new concepts and ideals to the art world. While they differ in basic thematic concepts, working beliefs and styles; the periods of Dada and Surrealism are inextricably linked. Not only was it Dada which gave rise to Surrealism but the two; while approaching and conceiving them differently; deal heavily with the ideas of expounding on a concept of reality and the value of the person. It is this connection which generally tends to have many scholars consider them parts of the same movement.
The Dada movement started during WWI in Switzerland and intended to shock with unconventionally created and exhibited pieces that protested accepted ideals about what constituted as art (Dickens & Marlow, 2007, p. 89). Dada artists not only worked to challenge what “art” was but also challenged accepted ideas about society and reality. Generally accepted as becoming a movement in 1916 and lasting to around 1923, Dada’s founders include such poets and artists as Tristan Tzara and Hans Arp who had grown tired of the geo-political aspects of the war and society around them and wished to express a rejection of all of the familiar concepts and accepted beliefs by recreating the absurdity that they saw around them in works of art (Ross, 2003, p. 21). With the intent of Dada as being non-idealistic; it becomes difficult to define the ideals of the movement itself but can be surmised in the fact that even the very name of the movement had no true definition or meaning. While Dada means various things in various languages, this word was selected as a non-word, meaning nothing and not looking to lend itself to any defining characteristics.
The intent of Dada is best summarized by quoting Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto, here as recorded in the Gualdoni’s Art of the Twentieth Century (2008):
I am writing a manifesto and there’s nothing I want, and yet I’m saying certain things, and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am against principles.” “I’m writing this manifesto to show that you can perform contrary actions at the same, in one single, fresh breath; I am against action; as for continual contradiction, and affirmation too, I am neither for nor against them, and I won’t explain myself because I hate common sense. DADA does not mean anything. (p. 164)
It is the developments of the Dada movement in performance art, conceptual art and post-modernism which drove artists to look for a way to encapsulate the new concepts and ideals associated with Dada and define the movement. It was Sigmund Freud who put forth an ideology that could be used to construct a unifying concept and establish boundaries for the movement. It is this unification that started the Surrealist movement building on the new concepts of Dada.
The Surrealist movement grew from Dada in Paris in the late 1920’s and is generally accepted to be fathered by Andre Breton who also penned the Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924 as recorded here from Gualdoni’s Art of the Twentieth Century (2008):
Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express-verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner-the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern. (p. 287)
He and other artists of the time considered Dada’s take on reality and wanted to portray something more than “just” reality. From that idea the French word for above, “sur” was coined to name the movement surreal or, “more than real”. During this movement artists continued to implement installations, create collages and began employing not ways to abstract reality but ways to connect to what they considered a higher plain of reality such as meditation and automatic writing.