Dada

George Grosz’s Explosion. Image taken from the MoMa website

I have always had a soft spot for the Dadaist movement. I was a big fan of the Surrealists during High School, until I realized that the best artists had either left the movement, had been kicked out of it, or did not even acknowledge being a part of it (an exception can be made with the amazing Magritte, who stayed loyal).

My love for Dada, on the other hand, has been constant; it is hard not to be a fan of that lunatic anti-art movement. They did start a bad tradition though, as nowadays any mediocre artist is fervently looking to shock in order to sell some garbage for a lot of money (and the only thing that is shocking these days is the price paid for those artworks). When the Dadaists were producing their anti-art at the beginning of the 20th century, it was fresh and really shocking.

There is a real anecdote told by Hans Richter, who was part of the Dada movement. It perfectly reflects the spirit of the Dadaists even among themselves. The anecdote involves two Dadaists: one was George Grosz from the Dada movement at Berlin (characterized by being a more political Dadaism) and the other one was Kurt Schwitters* from Hannover.

One day Schwitters decided he wannted to meet George Grosz. George Grosz was decidedly surly; the hatred in his pictures often overflowed into his private life. But Schwitters was not one to be put off. He wanted to meet Grosz, so Mehring took him up to Grosz’s flat. Schwitters rang the bell and Grosz opened the door.

“Good morning, Herr Grosz. My name is Schwitters.”

“I am not Grosz,” answered the other and slammed the door. There was nothing to be done.

Half way down the stairs, Schwitters stopped suddenly and said, “Just a moment.”

Up the stairs he went, and once more rang Grosz’s bell. Grosz, enraged by this continual jangling, opened the door, but before he could say a word, Schwitters said “I am not Schwitters, either.” And went downstairs again. Finis. They never met again.

(From Dada: Art and Anti-Art, by Hans Richter)

I am not a huge fan of the art made by Schwitters, but I find this phrase of him to be pretty cool, like a hallucinated version of “God does not play dice” by Einstein:

There is no such thing as chance. A door may happen to fall shut, but this is not by chance. It is a conscious experience of the door, the door, the door.

And how I’ll never know just why or understand / She said I’ve lost control again.

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