They developed many important artistic conventions that would later
define much of modern and post-modern art. They were early pioneers
in performance art; they were some of the first to challenge ideas of representation
and ideas of creation and of the artist as having a role in creation.
They did this through things like automatic writing in dada poems, the
collage, found and art so on. Marcel Duchamp built images out of
bicycle wheels and stools, Max Ernst made collages out of newsprint and
ads from men’s magazines and in doing this, and individual artists within
dada changed the course of art and literature in Western Culture forever.
The purpose of this website is to give you, the viewer, some insight into the principles of dada, from chance to challenging convention along with a few of the other key tenants of the movement. Yes, we do realize that there are a few wonderful essays out there on the web about dada which give great homage to it and immortalize it within the context of preservation and art history, but what we are attempting to do is represent dada in a way that is in keeping with dada. Dada was a rebellion against all of the isms, which came before it and had shaped to avant-garde periods for a few hundred years. So to take dada and make it into an ism is to deny its intent and to frame it in a way that it should not be framed. Dada has to be lived not looked at. That is why our page is devoid of many of the extremely academic traditions of representation. Our citations are sloppy, our writing is less than PhD level, our headings are slightly tongue in cheek, and the entire feel of the page is one of exquisite corpse, a strange and slightly off kilter assemblage of elements. So if you are looking to see scholarly work about dada and not to “see” dada, follow this link to the International Dada Archive, sponsored by the University of Iowa. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/dada/index.html
Within our page we have employed ideas of process art in the creation
of our page and have chosen not to represent dada to the viewer of the
page because dada has lost its context. Instead we focused on finding
creative strategies that used the medium of technology to represent dada
in the process of creating the page. In effect meaning the page may
not look or feel extremely dadaistic, but the creation of the page was
dadaistic. We also tried to work on the page only at those times
when we were tired and were in a frame of mind that promoted illogicality.
We also tried to juxtapose some components of the page and place text and artwork in a way that replicates the processes of found art and of chance within the limited realm of hypertext. This is what we consider to be the key creative part of our web project. We wished to create a dada web archive that could be useful in understanding and working within the movement, but we also wished to create within a dada frame of mind so that we could experience dada ourselves. That was a key part of the project, living through the creation to impart a sense of ownership without violating the dada spirit by creating authorship. So in a way, we did indeed make the page, but at the same time, we limited the role of our conscious discrimination in the structure and form of the page. To represent found art and the sort of blind selection process found in the readymade, we saved all of our images weeks ahead of time and gave them file names that we would not recognize in order to preserve some randomness within the piece and to attempt at illogically creating something within a medium that functions solely on the logic of the computer. This technique is much like the technique of creating a dada poem, instead of words on paper in a bad, our images were files on a zip disc.
We also explored the limits of selective chance (see chance section
under principles) in the text, which we used in the piece. We did
not proofread for the sake of saving some subconscious elements that may
have crept their way into the passages, we also did this to preserve a
sense of the irrational and the "magnificent". We explored the limits
of technology by only using spell check within Microsoft Word as a proofreading
tool. Therefore any mistakes found in the passages are purely chance
and are limited by the medium of computer technology and are bound by the
disadvantages of using logic to examine the illogical. Also, when transferring
the papers to online format, the footnotes and documentation are lost,
so to address this problem, we put together a page of bibliographic references,
entitled "bibliorandomness", which is a condensation mechanism (see principle
section, essay one) that combines the logic of the bibliography with the
random nature of its arrangement within the page and the entire idea of
citing the collage is a little odd anyway, and our page is truly a web
collage. Also in this section, we put together our own set of quotes,
some of which may be from real dadaists, and some maybe be of our own design,
or they may all be a sham, just to put a little flavor into the idea of
citing in dada.
The section devoted to artists is also indicative of dada collage. We went to other sites that had great information about other artists and linked our page to their biographies to simulate the sort of cut and paste method of Ernst, Duchamp and the other dada artists. This seemed highly appropriate in that it created a web collage section of our page and it is in true keeping with the dada spirit. Also in this section, we put together a listing of dada phrases, dada artists said some of which and some of which were our own creation, intending for these to further obscure and make the idea of bibliography even more irrelevant in terms of the Internet and in dada.
The only component of dada that we could not find a way to show on the
web was the element of shock value, most of dada was aimed at offended
and shocking the middle class, conservative ideologies of the German's.
Within the context of the web, it is nearly impossible to shock anyone,
so we basically left this component out of our discussion and out of the
We have also chosen a format that will allow the viewer more freedom in examining the page by abandoning a sense of mastery, which is often the feel one gains from a student term paper for a form were we give facts about the people in the movement, talk about the principles of the movement and then allow the viewer to browse images and text based upon a framework laid by the essays, thereby allowing them to gain their own understanding and feel for the page and for dada. Thereby attempting to abandon the role of the writer, which in a way is analogous to the role of the artist. In this abandon of traditional structure, we hope it forms a more flexible sort of environment which can be navigated in ways similar to the ways that the text functions within the context of other web based art projects such as the Grammatron piece Amerika and pieces by other web-based writers such as Joyce of Vassar University.
To address usability within our project, we have divided our artist
biography section approximately and have worked to assure that it is clear
and usable and we have included a link section to other pages that deal
with dada and have listings for the International Dada Archive which lists
thousands of poems and images from the dada movement and is a great resource
for those pieces of art.
We hope that this page turns out to be both useful and interesting for those of you that have found its little place in the electron
web that is the Internet. It was enjoyable producing this piece for you all to use and evaluate. We have included a comment board and a FAQ page so that you can dialogue with us and with each other about dada. Enjoy!