by Victoria de Quadros, United World College Maastricht
July 12th, 2018
Dadaism is not only an art movement. Dadaism is not only a response to war and its impact. Dadaism is a perspective and I’m going to talk about why it’s relevant (and to some extent necessary).
To give some context, Dadaism emerged in Zürich in the early years of post-WWI as a response to nationalism and the whole of society at the time and it brought back many diverging feelings and questions about art as a means of expression regarding its context of production. In other, more simplistic terms, it served as a big “f*** you” to those who called themselves “true artists” and the mentality surrounding what art was at the time. They refused the traditional form of carefully composed, technique-fueled pieces and critiques. They gave over control, they didn’t seek explanations and answers but rather chose to just generate questions and provoke everyone they could in one way or another. “Dada is anti-Dada”. Their motto summarizes the whole idea that Dada has no restrictions, no direction, no goal to achieve or point to prove. Dada will criticize but not hold an opinion of its own, it will just be.
It would be counter-intuitive of me to talk about notable pieces and artist of Dada because Dada is not confined to a name or a collage or a sculpture. You can look those up yourself and make up your own mind, there is no right and wrong, there is no real reason to begin with, for that matter.
My point here is to talk about how Dada is more than just a couple of nonsensical poems and bizarre sculptures. As I said before, Dada is a perspective and a good one at that. I truly believe that the driving force of Dada should be applied to our everyday lives, especially in moments of stress such as these that are to come.
So, here’s my point: why should we confine ourselves to a name or the products of what we do? Why can’t we move beyond that and increase the scale of our perspective? Why do we care so much about structure and composition and control? For a school that generates debates over defying the norm and promoting a critical view on The Combine that navigates us in society, drives our motives and tells us what is a successful and fulfilling life and what is not, we are surly induced into stress and anxiety (and I will go as far as to say severely depressing mentalities that are translated into and mistaken as jokes) because of expectations imposed by ourselves that actually root from within the community, from peer-to-peer conversations, to university information sessions to the IB and of course, and probably most predominant, our parents’.
I don’t have a clear answer on how to push these expectations off our shoulders. To make a classical reference, we kind of do feel like Atlas, with the whole world on our back, and it would be selfish of us to just let go, live our own lives and fulfil our own untainted and purest of desires. Dadaism is a gateway towards that path, the realization that there doesn’t always have to be a complex motive and plan of action or a positive reception. You can do things just for the sake of doing them rather than because it adds to your long list of achievements. In the end, you’re alive. You have the whole world around you and all it has to offer. Let chance take a turn, don’t overthink it. Things can be easy if you strip them of their illusions. To symbolize this, I’d recommend following the instructions (that is, if you truly want to, of course) of Tristan Tzara:
TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM
Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Next, take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are—an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
Now it’s up to you. I don’t have a point to prove, this is not a manifesto of my cause. To be honest, I don’t have a real motive of sharing this with anyone besides from the fact that I simply chose to.
All I want to know is this: Vini, does your opinion about this wonderful, ground-breaking, mind-bending, petty, revolutionary, satirical, pointless movement still stand?
The Flying Dutchman team consists of UWC students aiming to reflect the news relevant to the people engaged with the UWC movement.