Through its experimentation with events, chance, installations, mobiles, collages, phonetic poems, and film, and more generally through attempts to disorientate and disrupt the expected medium and matter of art, it showed how the real was simply an interest-based hegemonic representation. It was designed to “bring home to the bourgeois the unreality of his world and the emptiness of all his endeavours, even including his profitable nationalism.”
Dadaist’s key figures, such as Duchamp and Picabia, explored the paradoxes and modes of representation against the backdrop of the chaos provided by the war. Indeed, although it was a reaction to the chaos induced by the First World War, it also often reveled in it, reflecting the fractured nature of the contemporary context where exhilarating opportunities coexisted with catastrophe. It was concerned with artistic innovation that would reflect social and political radicalism.
Dadaism was defined by its attempt to challenge and reformulate, to unsettle and innovate. Dada’s weapons of choice in their war with the establishment were confrontation and provocation. They attacked traditional artistic values with irrational attitudes and provoked conservative complacency with outrageous statements and actions. They also launched a full scale assault on the art world which they saw as part of the system.
Raoul Hausmann’s ‘ABCD’ is a typical Dada collage which he described as a ‘poster poem’. It is a visual counterpart to the Dada ‘sound-poems’ that were heard at the ‘Cabaret Voltaire’. In 1916 Hugo Ball proclaimed, “I created a new species of verse, ‘verse without words’, or sound poems….”. However, it would be more generous to attribute their inspiration to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti of the Italian Futurists and Hausmann acknowledges this debt by including the letters ‘VOCE’, the Italian word for voice.
The Dadaists of the early twentieth century aspired toward “anti-art” as a response to what were seen as stifling conventions and formalism that they felt inhibited an embrace of change, development, and new technologies. Dadaists opposed convention, attempted to develop radically new approaches, accepted the political nature of art, and resisted the acceptance of war and violence.
Literature and art is to serve its function in helping ‘to remake the ideas and to educate the working people in the spirit of socialism’. Stalin and the Party, having brought about a second, more far reaching revolution in art, which worked more as a tool of propaganda than a source of socialist ideas for the common mass, hence drifting from the portrayal of a real society towards a Utopian society, as written by Tim Button in “Dadaism: Restrictivism as Militant Quietism.” On similar lines, after prolonged disagreements between Dadaist members over their artistic direction, the cohesive movement fell apart in 1922. While the movement collapsed after a short six years, many Dada artists went on to produce groundbreaking works and influence other movements.