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Before and after: more on Dada

As everything around us changes so rapidly, time seems to be falling into “before and after” categories, much the way it did after 9/11. Projects and ideas that seemed important before now are pushed to the side, irrelevant. I try to keep working on my augmented reality project, but can’t muster the passion that I had before.

What seems important now is staying connected: to family and friends, to community, to my students. I am working hard to make online learning engaging and relevant for them, but it is hard to know what will be relevant as we move forward.

The project I have been working on has been inspired by the Dada movement, and is about finding a creative way forward after the death of a loved one. It is also a project that has been evolving and revealing itself to me slowly. So for now, I am letting it sit for a bit, because it may have even more to reveal in the coming weeks of isolation and concern for what is happening in the world. When I go back to it, it may be with a different vision.

As we face this pandemic, it is hard to not feel outrage at the lack of leadership from the federal government, specifically the White House. It is hard to listen to lies, propaganda, the self-centeredness of a leader who puts himself first always, and those around him who are too weak to tell the truth.

Continuing to read about the Dada movement, one begins to understand their sickness at watching the world brought to destruction, their motivation to create a new artistic language and vision to move forward. For those artists, time must have also been divided into “before and after” and there was no going back. They needed to find a creative way forward, to move away from the culture that brought about the war.

Will we redefine our culture in the aftermath of the pandemic? Will we demand change and truth? Or once safe, will complacency creep in? In his article, Jones laments the co-opting of Dada into the mainstream art market, another commodity for the wealthy to invest in. In reviewing a MoMa Dada exhibition, Hurley writes, “It is hard to tell whether Dada was never in fact as shocking as it made itself out to be, or whether the far more extreme art and further breakdown of culture that has followed has numbed our ability to perceive it.”

What will we as artists create in 2020 that will shout out, that will demand, that will move the world forward in a new direction?



Jones, J. A century of Dada: from anti-war artists to mainstream con artists, The Guardian, 5 May 2016

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Hurley, C., No Nonsense About Dada, World Socialist Website, 18 September, 2006

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