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What is Dadaism?

An absurdist art movement filled with irrationality and randomness.

Dadaism: Art Created from the Absurd

Dadaism is an avant-garde art movement that began during World War I. It sprang from the desire to reject traditional forms of art and literature, which were seen as complicit in the horrors of modern warfare. Dadaists often used random and irrational techniques in their work, such as collage, chance operations, and free association. The result was art that defied interpretation and logic, instead relying on a sense of absurdity and playfulness.

The name 'Dada' comes from a French word meaning 'hobbyhorse', which reflected the movement's playful attitude. Dadaism originated in Zurich, Switzerland, with figures such as Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, and Marcel Janco. It quickly spread to other European cities, including Berlin, Paris, and Barcelona.

Dadaism had a profound impact on the art and culture of the 20th century. It paved the way for other avant-garde movements, such as surrealism and pop art. Dadaism also influenced literature, music, and performance art. Its legacy can still be seen in contemporary art today, which often embraces the absurd and the unpredictable.

Dadaism in Literature: Nonsense and Chaos

With its rejection of traditional forms of art and literature, Dadaism has had a lasting impact on creative expression, inspiring writers to experiment with absurdity, randomness, and fragmentation.

Tristan Tzara's 'How to Make a Dadaist Poem'

This manifesto, written by one of the founders of Dadaism, provides a tongue-in-cheek guide to creating nonsensical poetry, offering suggestions such as 'Take a newspaper. Take some scissors. Cut out the article. Shake gently. Next, take out each cutting one after the other. Copy them onto a bigger paper 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.'

William Burroughs' 'Naked Lunch'

This provocative novel, published in 1959, is a landmark of counterculture literature. Burroughs' writing style is heavily influenced by Dadaism, incorporating elements such as cut-up and collage techniques, strange juxtapositions, and absurdist imagery. 'Naked Lunch' is a challenging and unsettling work that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in literature.