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Styles & Periods

Created in a café in Zurich in 1916, Dadaism was named randomly from a dictionary, and means “yes yes,” “hobbyhorse,” and “quack quack” in various languages. Dadaism was created in protest to bourgeois culture and its perceived role in the events leading up to World War I. Random, haphazard manners of art-making were recommended by Dadaists, as well as combining various artistic traditions. Writing, painting, photography and sculptural elements appeared in assembled collages. The artists working in a Dadaist manner were expressing their shocked, nihilist views of the society, and sought to undermine traditional ideas of beauty. In Dadaism, objects considered to have little visual value were placed together in monumental compositions. The group aspect was important, and like Futurism, manifestos were drawn up and signed by many, and performances were staged. Dadaism spanned the continents of Europe and North America. Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and Max Ernst worked in Germany. In France, the writer André Breton came to play a major role in Dadaism, and Man Ray, Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp formed the initial group of artists working in America. Perhaps one of the most remarkable accomplishments of Dadaism was the evolution of the readymade, instigated by Marcel Duchamp. Readymades were articles from mass-production selected by the artist, taken from their natural environments, and displayed as art. Perhaps the most famous readymade is Duchamp's Fountain, a white porcelain urinal, signed "R. MUTT", that was submitted for exhibition in 1917. Readymades raised fundamental questions about the nature of art, questions that are still being debated to this day. While Dadaism was short-lived, it was one of the most ground-breaking periods in the 20th century, and led into the highly influential Surrealism.

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