Dada is: COLLAGE

The Dadaists found the purest form and expression of their philosophy in collage. Combining their experiments with photography, textual cut-ups and chance compositions, a vibrant and amorphous new language of images emerged – articulating chaos and snapshotting the broad and complex interconnectivity within the contemporary visual world.

Kurt Schwitters approached the Dadaists and asked to join their ranks, describing himself as the man who nails his paintings together, and it is his collages or “Merz” that have enjoyed the most popular longevity. But in fact, the majority of the prominent Dadaists made collages or photomontages at some point in their practice and each can be clearly identified by the character of the work.

Schwitters’ assemblages, for example, consist of cubist combinations of maps and tickets, sweet papers and magazines, brought together in meaningless and yet harmonious and sometimes sentimental arrangements which invite the viewer to inject their own narratives into the art, whereas Hannah Hoch’s montages more blatantly exploit the products of mass media to create brutally fragmented and yet sharply focused satires of the time.

The collisions between political imagery, nonsense text and abstract visual forms caused great sparks to erupt from Dadaism. Whether a collage elicited the luminous soul of the artist, deconstructed the machines of war or spontaneously conceived new realities free from cerebral intention and drenched in liberty, the fundamental manipulation of familiar and logical symbols into totems of anti-art was revolutionary and appalled the art establishment.

A similar movement has emerged again, however, in the digital landscape of our contemporary chaos, freed from scissors and glue and granted infinite versatility. Equally nihilistic and politically dissatisfied people have manipulated the aesthetic of the internet into something which is fundamentally Dada. The culture of memes, shitposts and existential inanity is surely the intellectual continuation of what the Dadaists were expounding.

Compare the self-referential works of Hausmann or the photographic satire of Hoch or the vibrancy of Arp to the ever scrolling parade of frustrated millennial nonsense on Tumblr or Instagram and one can plainly see that Dada is alive and well.