“The beginnings of Dada, were not the beginnings of art, but of disgust” So said Tristan Tzara at the beginning of Dada in Zurich in 1916. Dada is seen as a reaction to the mechanized slaughter that was happening in World War 1 and is nonsense. Intentionally nonsense that is, by using poetry made of unpronounceable words and dreadful puns. I think you can keep Dada poetry and music but the impact that the Art had and continues to have on art is immense. And everyone loves a pun don’t they, please answer below…

Dada casts the whole world as a failed experiment, it refers to itself “Dada is anti-Dada” it was an attempt to create art while the sound of big chuffing guns reverberated across Europe. It is a position of aloofness and holding a nonsense position. It is FUN and it is FUNdamental to all art that followed it and destructive of most that preceded it! One of the best things a teacher said to me as I studied for my degree was that I was a “Dadaist rebel” though now I think the ‘rebel’ bit is a little oxymoronic.

The idea of random art was a Dada construct, see the Network of Stoppages by Marcel Duchamp (Link), indeed Duchamp and the way he influences Art can be seen as Dadaist. He was there at the beginning, after being not allowed entry into the Salon des Independants in 1912 with Nude Descending a Staircase (Link) by the rule-obeying-officious-Cubist, Albert Gleizes, and asked by his (Duchamp’s) brothers to withdraw the piece. This annoyed Duchamp who went on to say “Well, if that’s the way they want it, then there’s no question about me joining a group: one can only count on oneself, one must be a loner.” And although he is associated with the Dada, conceptual & surrealist art movements he always maintained that he wasn’t a member of any.

Duchamp had success with Nude descending the Staircase in The Armory Show in New York which launched him stateside. His other ground breaking works included his ‘readymades’ such as “Bicycle Wheel” (Link) “Bottle Rack” (link) and the snow shovel called “In Advance of the Broken Arm” but most notorious of all was his “Fountain”: bought from the Mott Works in New York, it was a urinal placed on its back and signed and dated “R. Mutt 1917” and even though he had paid the $6 to enter the exhibition it was not even shown. A fun fact about Duchamp’s readymades is that none of them survive in their original form, all have been thrown away (by his sister clearing out his Paris apartment for a few) and even Fountain went missing and had to be re-bought and signed.

If you would like to read the complete Dada Manifesto you can find it here: Link










The title by Duchamp of “L H O O Q” when phonetically read (kinda) in French is “Elle a chaud au cul” which translates as “she has a hot arse” which is marvelous dontcha think?

Of course it is seen that Dada goes into the formation of Surrealism and the King of Surrealism is Salvador Dali. Born in May 1904 he stands above practically all other artists in my book, the scale and depth of his works: painting, sculpture, film, design, jewelry etc etc. A not so fun fact is he is named after his father, though his brother had the same name and died in 9 months before he was born… that must mess with your head!

I adore much of Dali’s work but if held by gunpoint to pick one it would be Metamorphosis of Narcissus (Link), which is part of the Tate collection and greets me like an old friend whenever I go there… if it is on show…once I went there and couldn’t find it and felt perturbed for a fair while afterwards. I’ve been to 2 of Dali’s permanent museums, many years ago to the quite beautiful St. Petersberg one in Florida (link) and there was Narcissus on the way in, greeting me, boy I felt relieved. The other one I visited last year was at Figueres (link) which I would recommend to everyone in the world, the whole town seems to be handed over to Dali, even the food seems slightly surreal.


As an example of how Dali reaches into all things, feel free to buy the Universal Tarot he created or the Dali’s Mustache book that he did with Philippe Halsman or perhaps you would be interested in The Hallucinogenic Toreador LSD blotter sheet, I bought one, detail below:

If you would like to read the complete Surrealist Manifesto by Andre Breton (1924) you can find it here: Link

Darwin, very kindly, gave us the theory of evolution. It touches on all aspects of the living world but more and more is being dragged into every other aspect of life. Richard Dawkins, sometimes referred to as Darwin’s Rottweiler, created the term ‘meme‘ in the final chapter of The Selfish Gene to refer to the way that thoughts, fashion and even art can evolve in a similar way to genes. There is a view that this evolution is taking us toward a final highest state but that’s gotta be crap due to its random nature hasn’t it? What about within art, there is no doubt that the Dada movement created (? Formed? Informed? Perpetrated? Fathered? Mothered? Gestated?) Surrealism, Conceptual art, and influences all that follows. Post-modernism would have been poorer without the influence of Dada and would Pop Art and it’s reliance on readymades and everyday even existed without the Fountain?

But is art evolving or is it on a downward spiral of repetition and regurgitation? Are calendars the new museums? No obviously not that would be nonsense…

If you would like to read the complete Origin of Species by Charles Darwin you can find it here: Link

Unsurprisingly this is not my first blog going through the A-Z of art, see also A is for, B is for, C is for.

In preparation for this blog I made a piece of Dadaist art, it is 32 seconds long and you need the sound on and get to the end… otherwise the nonsense makes no sense.

Phew, thanks for reading, please tell me if you have a view on the evolution of Art and that we are heading towards a new sublime or anything else you would like to comment, hugs etc, Gary B’stard.

One thought on “D is for Dada, Dali & Darwin”

  1. Nice blog, Mr B’Stard! You’ve given me plenty of thought for today, and I shall comment more once I’ve had a bath and digested your words. Intrigued by the tarot deck which I shall seek out over lunch. And you used the word ‘chuffing’ which is always a pleasure.

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