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Dada 1916 in Theory

Practices of Critical Resistance

Dafydd Jones

Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)

Dada formed in 1916, embedded in a world of rational appearances that belied a raging confusion – in the middle of the First World War, in the neutral centre of a warring continent, fundamentally at the heart of Western art. This book sets out new coordinates in revision of a formation that Western art history routinely exhausts through its characterisation as a ‘revolutionary movement’ of anarchic cultural dissent, and does so in order to contest the perpetuated assumptions about Dada that underlie the popular myth. Dada is difficult and the response to it is not easy, and what emerge from the theoretical readings developed here are profoundly rational bases to the Dada non-sense that pitted itself against its civilised age, critically and implicitly to propose that Dada courses as vitally today as it did in 1916.

The Zurich Dada formation initiated deliberate and strategic cultural engagements that struggled then, as they do now, to cohere in any sense as a ‘movement’, extreme in their ranges as diametrically hostile oppositionalities. Dada may be given art historically as identifiable along a trajectory of sustained ruptures and seizures, but it confounds all attempts at defined or definitive readings. This book duly offers not a history of Dada in Zurich but theoretical engagements of the emergencies and now the residue of the years 1916–19 – from ‘lautgedichte’ to laughter, masks to manifestos, chance to chiasmata – rounding to the ‘permanent’ Dada by which the formation ultimately breaks the containment and deep peace of art historical chronology.

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