Art, Culture

What Is Dadaism?

In recent times, it has been observed that art has the ability to survive and remain relevant over a very long period of time. The process of man’s evolution cannot be traced back without pieces of evidence of art surfacing at one point or the other.

Dadaism is also like this  – Be it animate or inanimate, art has the ability to discuss and bring into perspective, the condition of a particular subject or object.

It is a way in which a person’s ideas, thoughts, perceptions, and abilities, gain wings, and find expression. It has no hard and fast rule and can be expressed in any form, whether it be Writing, sculpture, painting, music, or even dance.

Dadaism Art Work

Dadaism Art Work

There is an ocean of creative ideas within every man, and art is a perfect way to bring these ideas to the full exhibition, the skills, and creativity that we each possess. Art can stem from any source, no matter how seemingly inconsequential it might be.

The clear blue color of the sky on a clear Tuesday can be the source of inspiration art for a poem titled- “A blue Tuesday” which doesn’t necessarily have to talk about the color of the sky but about the events that occurred on that Tuesday. It is still art because it is an expression of the poet’s feelings about that day.

Basically, the aim of every work of art is to communicate a message. There is a message and by extension, an emotion to every piece of art. A poem about death can be tragic, a painting can be said to have a calming effect and a piece of sculpture can bring back a lot of memories.

Yet, no matter how beautiful the art or the emotions it carries is, the message it passes across is its main agenda. Message first, aesthetics next.

Art covers a wide range of areas and forms of expression such as Writing, painting, sculpting, and many others. Dadaism is a form under this broad family called Art.

Dadaism coined from “Dada” a French word, meaning “hobby-horse” in 1916 by Tristan Tzara, a Roman writer during an art meeting held in Zurich, took off as a way of protesting and standing against the absurd and odd nature of Modernity.

It began as a movement officially in the 1910s. Through this movement, Dada artists, skillfully ridiculed the unreasonable nature of the modern world. Owing to its controversial nature, it was regarded as a form of art that protests and questions the accepted societal standards and norms.

The beginning of Dadaism can be traced back to World War 1 between 1914-1918. As the case is with any war, World War 1 claimed many lives and left millions scarred.

Dadaist Art

Dadaist Women Artists

Dickerman summarised the effect of the first world war on Europe, by saying-

” World War I produced a collapse of confidence in the rhetoric—if not the principles—of the culture of rationality that had prevailed in Europe since the Enlightenment.”

Confusion set at the moment there was a loss of reality. European artists who were displaced during the war and learned people who were affected by World war 1 came together and brought about the start of Dadaism because they couldn’t seem to figure out the reason for the war. To them, it was baseless and without meaning.



Dadaism is an art movement. It began as a result of the incidents that occurred during the war. It was pioneered by a group of artists who had the same ideas around the same period. It seeks to oppose the surge of the capitalist tradition.

Dadaism as a movement recognized art in the possibility of being degraded. The pioneers agreed that the art which existed at the start of Dadaism was degrading and they decided to start creating a new art form that stood out among preceding art forms.

Regardless of the fact that Dadaism is art, it offers a great opposition to the concept of art itself and a Dada artwork at first glance might seem a bit odd and even weird. Its odd nature is where it’s strength lies. 

Dadaists –  Dada Artists, protest vigorously against the nature of the modern art world, using the odd nature of Dada Art as a major tool. The modern world to Dadaists is odd and in the same vein, Dada art is a combination of varying degrees of absurdities, aimed at tackling and portraying the ridiculous nature of the modern world.



A great example of a Dada Artwork that portrays the deviation of Dadaism from the usual art form is “Gift”, a piece of art created by Man Ray and gifted to Erik Satie.

Art usually isn’t rushed and in normal situations can be time-consuming. Taking hours, and painstaking efforts to give it a degree of aesthetic quality that makes it desirable. This wasn’t the case with Man Ray’s ‘gift’. He put finishing touches to his work by simply some tacks to it with glue.

He finished the piece of art in record-breaking time compared to the usual time spent by artists on creating an artwork. Putting any combination of things together can be given a tag, but can it really be recognized as art? 

Man Ray’s work faced this question and many more but its unusual and odd nature is the exact reason it is a piece of Dada Art.

There are 3 basic ideas of Dadaism- Negation, Spontaneity, and Oddity


Olga Rozanova In the Street detail-1915-Slobodskoy-Museum-Exhibition-Center


  • NEGATION –  This concept seeks to negate the generally accepted standard. It sees everything not in the light of being good or bad, but as being irrelevant and has no distinct line between good or bad.
  • SPONTANEITY– It is of the view that art can only be relevant if it is spontaneous. In dadaism, spontaneity and meaning are inseparable. It is of the opinion that there must be a good relationship between an artist and his work. 
  • It says that the concept of beauty is the artist’s private affair, so I’m this case beauty isn’t in the eyes of the beholder but that of the creator. It is creativity.
  • ODDITY– This is the concept that most perfectly explains the concept of Dadaism. The odd nature of Dada art was used as a medium of attack against those perceived to be in support of World War 1. It is a major tool used by Dadaists to express sarcasm and ridicule an idea.

Dada artists are known for their love and frequent use of already available objects. They are skilled at manipulating already available objects and presenting them as art. Dadaism birthed the Surrealism art movement.

There are a number of artists whose contribution to the Dadaism Movement have kept their names on the pages of history. They include:

  • Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) recognized for his cheap reproduction of the Mona Lisa.
  • Hugo Ball ( 1886-1947)
  • Emmy Jennings ( 1885- 1948) known for readymades, “itinerant poet” and “Cabernet chanteuse”.
  • Tristan Tzara ( 1896-1963) recognized poet and painter.

The concept of Dadaism would be incomplete without the mention of works like LHOOQ by Marcel, involving the reproduction of the Mona Lisa.

The Spirit of our Time by Raoul Hausmann, THROUGH THE LAST WEIMAR BEER BELLY CULTURAL EPOCH OF GERMANY (1919) created by a German named Hannah Hoch. 

Dadaism gave rise to a new concept in modern art known as Neo- Dadaism. Neo- Dadaism, shares strong similarities, ideas, and intentions with the Dadaism movement and aims at creating a relationship between art and daily activities. It is based strongly on the works of Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters. 

Dadaism has remained relevant and recognized over time. Its relevance still applies in the world of art and can be seen on the internet, in the form of memes. 

Dadaism has traces in Music, literature, and fashion that make it stay alive despite its odd and unreasonable nature.


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