What Is Dada Art?

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Dada art was a movement that took place during the First World War, when artists in New York, Zurich and Munich questioned the very meaning of art by displaying crude or simple objects as fine art. Explore the world of Dadaism with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Modern Art History
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm professor Betty Brown and I want to talk with you about Dada. Surely the most fun art movement of the 20th century. Founded by a bunch of artists who were working independently in New York, Zurich and Munich and all deeply troubled by the world war that was ravaging the early 20th century. World War I was the first great war and many artists protested with peace movements, many artists were actually killed during the war. Artists like Tristan Tzara in Europe and Marcel Duchamp in the United States, he was French but he was living in New York at the time, questioned the very meaning of art. How could art matter in a time when thousands of people were being savagely killed in World War I. How could art change the world? What could artists to address the profoundly troubling issues of the early 20th century. So Marcel Duchamp did things like he went to a hardware store and he walked through looking at everything and he picked out a urinal. Now for us in the early 21st century, seeing a urinal is no great shakes, who cares, but remember he did this when Victorian sensibility was very dominant. So just the fact he picked a urinal was shocking. He picks a urinal and he declares it an artwork and submits it to an art exhibit signing it R. Mutt, that is the letter R, period, Mutt and dating it as if a dog had done it or perhaps Mutt from Mutt and Jeff, his favorite cartoon strip. Marcel Duchamp did this to challenge the western cultural values that had led to World War I and he wanted to challenge the very foundation of thinking in that society. Dada was art as anti-art. Art that contributed to the culture by challenging the culture.

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