Reader's Encyclopedia

dada (or dadaism; from Fr, dada, "hobby horse" )

A literary and artistic movement founded in 1916 in Zurich by Tristan Tzara, with the artist Hans Arp, the poet Hugo Ball, and the medical student Richard Huelsenbeck. The name was chosen by random selection from a dictionary. The movement was devoted to the negation of all traditional values in philosophy and the arts. Its form was a protest against what its leaders felt was the insane destruction of civilized life and thought during World War I. The Dada review proclaimed its intention to replace logic and reason with deliberate madness and to substitute intentionally discordant chaos for established notions of beauty or harmony in the arts. Dadaists mocked conventional behavior through an antirational type of exhibition that was to be the precursor of the happenings nearly half a century later. Dada meetings turned into riots; art exhibits were mocking hoaxes. The former cubist painter Francis Picabia, who had been leading a similar movement in New York with Marcel Duchamp, joined Tzara ' s group in 1918. The following year they joined in Paris with Andre Breton, who, with Louis Aragon, Paul eluard, and Philippe Soupault, founded the ironically titled review Litterature. While Tzara continued his sensational efforts at pure negation, the Germans in the group adapted the revolt to the service of communism. Breton and his group became interested in the subconscious, breaking with Tzara in 1921 and officially founding surrealism in 1924. Dadaism was revived in the 1930s in parts of England and America, and certain aspects of it survive in the theatre of the absurd.

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