I have always loved studying art history. This week, I have been researching and reading about the Dada movement, and following its trajectory of influence right up to contemporary digital arts. One of my motivations for looking more deeply into Dada is the project I am working on. As I work at creating my AR project, I see the evolving influence of Dada. This didn’t start out intentionally, but it is there, so I want to explore it.
The Dada movement arose in response to the global chaos of World War 1. The world had irrevocably changed, and the Dadaists began to move beyond traditional forms of painting and sculpture, to make art that would provoke and involve the viewer, and encourage a more interactive dialogue. Shipe contends that “Contemporary art as we know it could not have come into existence without Dada.” The Dadaists experimented with forms that were new at the time: collage, using typography in art, performance combined with visual art, sound, film and montage. The media was often mixed, which obviously has a connection to the way artists use materials, tools and technology today.
While Dada pieces can be seen as a bit surreal, random, and anarchic, the Dadaists were also politically and socially aware, seeking to disrupt complacency and make people think. The YouTube video John Heartfield-Zygosis illustrates Heartfield’s satirical and critical look at facism. Heartfield’s photomontages and use of typography foreshadow the use of Photoshop and similar apps in the creation of art. His use of the image as a message could foreshadow the use of political memes in social media. According to the Getty Center, “The impact of Heartfield's images was so great that they helped transform photomontage into a powerful form of mass communication.”
Hope and Ryan follow the influence of Dada up through the conceptual art movement, which in turn has this in common with digital art: “Conceptual artworks critique the materiality of objects of art, along with the visual conventions and assumptions of artistic practices.” (p. 43). With digital art, we have arrived at a point where art no longer has to have materiality. It can be time based, ephemeral, mutable, interactive. And like Dada, it can be used to disrupt, to critique and (yes) to propagandize. It can also be playful, aesthetically compelling, and reflective of the world we live in.
Shipe, T. The International Dada Archive, 2012
Hope, C. and Ryan, J. Digital Arts, 2014, New York, Bloomsbury
Moriundmori - Kunst-Dokus, John Heartfield-Zygosis, 2019
The Getty Center, Agitated Images: John Heartfield & German Photomontage, 1920–1938