For many years, the area of art had standard guidelines that had to be followed so that something can be considered “art”. After sometime, the avant-garde concept of “art for art’s sake” started making some noise. Nevertheless, this movement now called ‘Dada’ is looking to defy the concept of “art’s sake” in itself. It puts into question everything we know today about art; this is why it is often called the first anti-artistic movement.
When trying to appreciate dada art, it is important to consider the context in which the art-piece is being looked at. I imagine myself picturing Duchamp’s sculpture “Fountain” (1917) in a totally different context. Would this still be considered art? But more importantly, would this create the same emotional impact? I am firstly inclined to answer that I would not perceive a toilet as being artistic or awe-inspiring in any way, but ultimately when appreciating “Fountain” that is what I am looking at. Then… What is art? What is dada? And lastly, what is its ultimate purpose?
Although no real empiric answer can be provided to these questions, I am going to try and answer with my own axiomatic perception of things. By looking at the dada manifesto, the first thing I noticed was that the very own manifesto is dadaistic in itself. This is paradoxically interesting because, even though the author’s point does not always come across, that is the whole point of it. It is looking to defy all aspects of human rationalism. “A concept that had promised much but only delivered the senseless destruction seen in the conflict” according to Sam Phillips. So, is dada something that appears in consequence of the Great War or is it just an attempt to free the human mind from cultural locks? Well, with all of this, I think that I can finally try and answer the question:
For me dada happened when life for many started losing its purpose. It surges due to the hardships that humanity was experiencing at the time because of the “Great War”. It is a movement that is looking to defy, challenge, and put to question the idea of Western Rationalism, and art itself. Does it make sense? Maybe not, but that is the whole point of it. It is not suppose to make sense, and it is not suppose to be normal. But in the end it is beautiful and full of emotion, because as Victor Frankl once said: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”