Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dada, Situationists and Surrealism

The Fountain - Duchamp ready made
Dada (1916-1924) was not a style but a state of mind, an anti-art group that grew out of WWI, they believed that the war had been contrived for materialistic reasons in a society based on greed.  They wanted to destroy the notions of good taste and achieve liberation from rationality and materialism.  They produced transient and temporary art, ready mades (such as the urinal above by Duchamp - literally taking the piss out of the establishment), performance art, poetry and raised the core question - what is art?

Duchamps alter-ego Rose Selavy
It is interesting to note that this milestone of art was submitted anonymously by Duchamp under the name of R Mutt.  He also had a feminine alter ego, Rose, pictured above.  The use of these must have given him more freedom in expressing his radical art, an anonyminity that protected him, such as is coveted by Street Artists today.

Surrealists (1920- 1930's) acknowledged the spontaneous creation lauded by Dadaism but removed themselves from their ironic anti-art position.  They embraced new ideas from Sigmund Freud such as the importance of dreams and the subconcious.  Automatism - thought uninterrupted by rational control - was key to the surrealists who believed that rational thought was at fault for the worlds problems and change could only come about through the subconcious mind.

Picture by Dali - The temptations of St Anthony

Situationists grew out of Dadaism and Surrealism, they wanted to break down the barriers between art, politics and other forms of social oppression.  Encouraging people to adorn the streets with statements such as 'Free the Passions' and 'Never Work', their sloganeering was closely linked to the Paris student riots in 1968.  They inspired people to rework metro posters (an early version of subvertising) challenging the ideas of ownership and creativity, believing if you wanted to put art on the streets you should do it, if you disagreed with an advert you should rework it, action here and now to transform everyday life.

Lewisohn, Cedar: Street Art (2008) Tate publishing, London
Peiter, Sebastian: Guerilla Art (2009) Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London
Untitled II The Beautiful Renaissance (2009) Pro-Actif Communications, Durham

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