Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dada a irrational art movement

In the years before World War I, Europe appeared to be losing its hold on reality. The arts were also coming unglued. Schoenberg's music was atonal, Mal-larmé's poems scrambled syntax and scattered words across the page and Picasso's Cubism made a hash of human anatomy. And even more radical ideas were afoot. Anarchists and nihilists inhabited the political fringe, and a new breed of artist was starting to attack the very concept of art itself. In Paris, after trying his hand at Impressionism and Cubism, Marcel Duchamp rejected all painting because it was made for the eye, not the mind.

''In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn,'' he later wrote, describing the construction he called Bicycle Wheel, a precursor of both kinetic and conceptual art.

Ball recited a poem on the stage of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, a nightspot (named for the 18th-century French philosopher and satirist) that he, and a few expatriate pals had opened as a gathering place for artists and writers. The poem began: ''gadji beri bimba / glandridi lauli lonni cadori....'' It was utter nonsense.

This new, irrational art movement would be named Dada.

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