Do Ya Dada?

In our January newsletter we talked a bit about the fun we’re having with all the new material available in the public domain. To recap, January 1st is a non-holiday called Public Domain Day, in which a whole year’s worth of content suddenly becomes up for grabs. Because of a series of interventions on our copyright system largely undertaken to keep Mickey Mouse out of public domain, we are currently digging for content all the way back in 1924.

But you know what? There’s a lot of cool stuff to work with from 1924, and it seems particularly apropos to spend some time with this content as we enter into our own ‘20’s. We gave you a few suggestions of ‘20’s concepts to revive but our favorite was German Dadaism, French surrealism’s stern older sibling that had its heyday in the 20th century’s late teens and early 20’s.

So, let’s talk about the Dadaist movement in a very practical way and how this could be a cool ‘20’s connection to your next event, or how last century’s Dadaism might inspire some ideas for your 21st century event.

What is Dadaism?

Dadaism is an art movement that emerged in the cultural fallout of World War 1. The stresses of the protracted conflict in Europe, combined with interpretations of the cause of the war being rooted in cultural and intellectual conformity inspired this anti-art revolution. If antebellum art and culture was about order and logic, then Dadaism would revel in irrationality and chaos and be absurd by design. At the outset of the 20’s Dadaism was a formidable field of political, visual, musical, and poetic criticism of the cultural status quo. 

Visual artists like Marcel Duchamp, produced ‘readymade’ works by signing everyday objects. 

Pioneering photographer and OG punk Hannah Hoch innovated the photomontage and mixed media collage.

On the literary side, Hugo Ball wrote nonsense poems around random sounds. Here’s his most famous work, ‘Karawane’ as performed by Marie Osmond (she’s a little bit Dada).

You know how a lot of art in the 20th century is…kinda weird? Dadaism can take a lot of the blame for that. There’d be no 8-hour Andy Warhol stationary films of the Empire State Building without it.

So, thanks Dadaism. 

How to Apply a Dadaist Aesthetic to Your Next Event

People like to use the word ‘experimental’ with art movements like Dadaism. Experimental as a qualifier often gets applied to things in the art world that are obnoxious-for-arts-sake but the application of the term makes sense for Dadaism. The purpose of a Dadaist piece is to elicit a reaction. Don’t get intimidated here, there isn’t supposed to be hidden meaning. Through conflating different medias in a collage, defacing a famous portrait with a mustache, or applying an artist signature to a water fountain, you’ve created a new artistic reality. 

Basically, your goal is to trigger an emotional response from your audience that should hopefully inspire a new way of seeing the world. Whereas some argued that as an anti-art, Dadaism was intended to offend sensibilities, there are of course positive emotional responses that you can glean from your audience using a Dadaist approach.

Meme culture is without question a form of current Dadaism/Surrealism. A central aspect of Dadaism and meme culture is a tacit wit that makes its viewers all suddenly feel part of an in-joke. But be careful here, if you force it like these companies or Mike Bloomberg you’re going to have a bad time.

We’re just spit balling here – find an absolutely bizarre, but harmless and non-alienating way for attendees to sign in to your event, then display it like a priceless art object or smash it on video (or both). Choose distinctive, seemingly clashing visual themes and meld them together for a new style. Broadly, apply a unique alternative system of visual order, or new ways to interact with commonplace objects to make a strong impact. Better yet, just get weird.

A few weeks ago, we shared this photo of Marriott Courtyard’s Sleepover promotion for the Superbowl. There’s an absurd element to this that could be argued to be Dadaist:

How to Use the Dadaist Mindset to Plan/Brainstorm Your Next Event

Before you sit down and think about your goals or head towards a project management plan, consider writing a short manifesto. Seriously, writing an art manifesto in the 1920’s was basically the equivalent of having a Tumblr for the era. Dadaism was all about manifestos. 

Manifestos are typically full of tons of wild unverifiable claims, left-field interpretations of human nature, and insane ambition. But that’s the point. They aren’t held back by traditional reason and constraints. They’re not even always about follow-through. Manifestos are intended to be a starting point, or a brazen call to arms – and this is why they’re often very exciting, charismatic documents. 

If you could have it all, what does your group actually want out of your next event? Go crazy. Don’t worry about what’s possible – clear your mind and rattle off some revolutionary rhetoric about your group’s goals in 15-minutes flat. The manifesto exercise is often a great way to bring far reaching ambitions and goals to the fore that can be very useful when it comes down to the actual planning of your event.

Find some inspiration in one of Hugo Ball’s Dadaist manifesto from 1916.

Send us your event manifesto and get your Dadaist-inspired event started today!