A. To explain the historical conditions that inspired Dada artists
B. To discuss examples of Dada paintings and sculptures
C. To describe how Dada was presented theatrically
D. To show the influence of Dada on today's performing artists
NARRATOR:Listen to part of a lecture in an art history class.
MALE PROFESSOR:Alright, so last week, we started talking about the painters and sculptors who were part of the art movement called Dada.But I don't want you to think the ideas we introduced last time were limited to painting, sculpture, that sorta thing.So today, I want to move beyond the visual arts and talk a bit about Dada in the performing arts, in theater.But let's start by reviewing what Dada is, OK?
As you'll recall, Dada began in Switzerland, in the city of Zurich,in 1916.The artists who started it were reacting against traditional notions of uh—of beauty, of reason, of progress, which had been the standards of Western thought since the eighteenth century.They looked around and ...well, I mean, the First World War was raging, so they didn't see much beauty, reason, or progress in the world.Instead, they saw a world that was chaotic, random...a world that didn't make sense.And if that's the way the world was...well, they wanted their art to reflect that.
So let's-let's review a couple of key ideas that were the backbone of Dada art.First, the Dadaists wanted to completely reject the Classical idea of art.Classical ideas like proportion, balance, all the things you think about when you think about great art."Great art" involved the reason, the logic, the beauty that the Dadaists wanted to overthrow.So, uh, well, y'know, to—to a Dadaist, Classical artwork was a reflection of outdated thinking.That's why Dadaists created sculptures like the ones we saw last week.Remember the stool with the bicycle wheel mounted on top?I wouldn't exactly call that beautiful, would you? But of course it wasn't meant to be. That was the point.
OK, so another key Dada idea we talked about was the embracing of randomness, right?Uh, if life is random, said the Dadaists, why would we make art that has order and logic?And so we have that collage we looked at where the artist took different, y'know, cut-out squares of colored paper, threw them onto the canvas, and wherever they landed, that was the composition of the work.
Another favorite of the Dadaists was something called chance poetry.A chance poet would pull words out of a hat, and that would be, well, that would make up the—the poem.And this idea of chance and randomness was a key element of Dadaism because the whole world seemed so random to them.
So now let's take a look at how Dadaist ideas were presented to audiences in highly unconventional... well, I’m not even sure how to categorize these theatrical events.I suppose you'd just have to call them shows.These shows started in Zurich, in a place called the Cabaret Voltaire.
The rejection of Classical Western art—well, you see this in the nature of what took place at the Cabaret Voltaire.They didn't put on plays or operas there.What they did was throw out all conventions; they mixed everything and anything together.They would... it might start with somebody reading a poem, then somebody else playing an instrument, followed by a display of paintings, followed by somebody else chanting, followed by somebody else banging on a big drum, and someone dressed in a robot costume, uh, jumping up and down.So it’s not like a play … there’s no real plot development here, like you’d find in a traditional theatrical performance.
The performers at the Cabaret Voltaire would also get the audience involved, which was extremely unusual.Think about a traditional play…the action’s self-contained.The actors act as if there's no one watching, right? It's like a world unto itself.Well, at the Cabaret Voltaire, audience members could get up on stage and dance or chant, or shout and sing from their seats.And every night would be different because there would be a different audience and a different set of acts and displays.
So all this could get pretty chaotic: No barriers between the performers and the audience.And no barriers between kinds of art, either.Think about it. Poetry, paintings, music, dance...all on the same stage, and often at the same time!This is what the Dadaists had in mindwhen they set out to make art that reflected their own idea of reality. It didn't make sense.But why should it?
All right. So last week we started talking about the painters and sculptors who were part of the art movement called Dada. But I don’t want you to think the ideas we introduced last time were limited to painting, sculpture, that sort of thing. So today I want to move beyond the visual arts and talk a bit about Dada in the performing arts, in theater.