DADA AND THE CONTINUING ALLURE OF ANTI-ART
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Recognizing the centenary and far-reaching importance of a pivotal modern art movement, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery has partnered with Vanderbilt’s W. T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies to present THE DADA EFFECT: AN ANTI-AESTHETIC AND ITS INFLUENCE. The exhibition opens March 16 with a reception from 5 to 7 pm. Additional programming includes Moveable Dada (This Is Not your Dada’s Dada!) featuring performances of Dada-inspired compositions by Blair School of Music students in the gallery on March 23 at 7:00 pm and a lecture on Dada and the Beat Generation delivered by Professor Robert Barsky, Dada Hitchhikes a Ride of America!, on April 4 at 5:30 pm in Cohen Memorial Hall, room 203. The exhibition will be on view through May 27, 2017. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours from March 16 to April 24 are Monday through Friday 11 am to 4 pm, Weekends 1-5 pm. From April 25 to May 27, hours are Tuesday through Friday 12-4 pm, Saturdays 1-5 pm, closed Sundays and Mondays. Admission and all events are free and open to the public.
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that took form in New York and Europe during World War I (1914–1918). Seeking to break from tradition, artists and writers were encouraged to focus on the creative process itself rather than the end result. As early as 1915, while proto-dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray worked in New York forming their anti-nationalistic, anti-war, and anti-bourgeois philosophy, Zurich Dada was beginning to develop independently.
From its conception in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire, Dada was an international project. Hugo Ball, cofounder of Dada Zurich wrote in the first and only volume of the Cabaret Voltaire that “with the help of our French, Italian, and Russian friends” the goal of the journal and café “is to remind the world that, beyond war and nationality, there are independent men who live with other ideals.” Set against the conventional bourgeois order, these “other ideals” engendered every sort of reimagining of life, art and, in some instances, politics, emphasizing the ephemeral in each.
Both the successes and subsequent influence of Dada can be attributed to its aesthetic and ideological malleability; it did not dictate what art should be, but rather what it should not be. As conceived by Tristan Tzara in his 1918 manifesto, Dada is not another “ism,” such as Naturalism or Symbolism. It firmly rejects any functionality, any idea of progress, or any clear political attachment. It encompasses no particular aesthetic, but rather seeks to break with all tradition and base itself on the unpredictable, on the fruits of chaos, on irony, on playfulness and humor. Though the Cabaret Voltaire was short-lived, it sent inspiration in ripples geographically – to Paris, London, Berlin, New York and Japan – and through time into the twentieth century and the present.
The Dada Effect shows how Dadaist aesthetics and ideology directly influenced modern art and literature in many subsequent movements, including Surrealism,‘Pataphysique, and Neo-Dada.
The exhibition includes:
- Over fifty rare books and journals from the Pascal Pia Collection at Vanderbilt’s W. T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies, including the opportunity to digitally flip through a selection of them
- Over thirty artworks by John Cage, Salvador Dalí, André Masson, Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg, and others from the collection of the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
- Works by Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Yves Tanguy, and Carl Van Vechten on loan from Fisk University Galleries (Nashville, TN), the George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY), Hampshire College Art Gallery (Amherst, MA), the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY (Purchase, NY), and a private collection
- Surrealist film clips by Jean Cocteau and Man Ray
- Recreations of the Cabaret Voltaire stage set and of Elsa Schiaparelli’s Surrealist dresses created by students, faculty, and staff of Vanderbilt’s Department of Theatre
- Original Dada-inspired musical compositions by students from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music
THE DADA EFFECT: AN ANTI-AESTHETIC AND ITS INFLUENCE is curated by Daniel C. Ridge, assistant director of the W. T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies, and organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, with support provided by the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, Leslie Cecil and Creighton Michael (MA’76), the Department of French and Italian, the Department of Theatre, the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, and the Ewers Gift for Fine Art.
For more information on visiting the gallery, see Vanderbilt.edu/gallery. Visitors to special events may park, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95, accessible from 21st avenue south.