what is dada and surrealism
Max Ernst, Celebes (1921)
3. “Surrealist.” Sept 23, 2009.
Duchamp’s rigorous intellectualism was hermetic but because of the theory of the “talking cure” based on hearing clues and reading codes, Surrealism expected audience participation. Duchamp himself had no aesthetic intentions, even when he “assisted” or “rectified” his Readymades, but the Surrealists returned to the aestheticism of art, making desirous and desiring works to be looked at and into. Although inherently conservative, Surrealism dominated the Parisian art scene until the next war broke out, scattering the already dated movement to distant shores where, like Dada, Surrealism would find a different and new destiny. As André Breton said, “Surrealism existed before me, and I firmly believe it will survive me.”
Surrealism, on the other hand, emerged in a decade of peace and prosperity. The wounds left behind by the War were either ignored—as in the neglect of the surviving veterans—or celebrated—as in the erections of many memorials. Surrealism is essentially a cerebral retreat of survivors who do not want to look back. The Surrealist poets, writers, and visual artists stage an psychological retreat from reality, either past or present, and seek what the late poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, called “sur-reality,” or a realism outside and beyond perceived reality. The regressive nature of Surrealism could be understood as healing and reconstructive, replacing an aggressive and public voice with a private exploration into the recesses of the unconscious. Dada was inherently reality-based and overtly political. Surrealism, on the other hand, shifted away from an oppositional stance towards a more theoretical position.
The roots of Dada lay in pre-war avant-garde. The term anti-art, a precursor to Dada, was coined by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 to characterize works which challenge accepted definitions of art. Cubism and the development of collage and abstract art would inform the movement’s detachment from the constraints of reality and convention. The work of French poets, Italian Futurists and the German Expressionists would influence Dada’s rejection of the tight correlation between words and meaning.
SURREALISM, noun, masc. Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express either verbally or in writing the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.
Illusion and Dreamscape
Dada and Surrealism rank among the most significant movements of our time. They challenged tradition, introducing materials and visual strategies that would change the vocabulary of art and creating an enduring legacy that has transformed art history.
The connection between Surrealism and the Israel Museum began as a “chance encounter” more than fifty years ago, and it has since evolved into a deep and lasting relationship. Thanks in great part to generous gifts from donors and artists alike, the Museum has been able to form a spectacular holding of Dada and Surrealist material, comprising everything from paintings, readymades, and photographs to works in the wide variety of new and innovative mediums employed by these groundbreaking movements.
The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestos, art theory, theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works.
After the cabaret closed down, Dada activities moved on to a new gallery, and Hugo Ball left for Bern. Tzara began a relentless campaign to spread Dada ideas. He bombarded French and Italian artists and writers with letters, and soon emerged as the Dada leader and master strategist. The Cabaret Voltaire re-opened, and is still in the same place at the Spiegelgasse 1 in the Niederdorf.