At long last, I have finished reading the book "Dada- Art and Anti-Art" by Hans Richter. It was a well written and very informative book by someone who had actually "been there, done that", which makes the book all the more believable since the information was first hand...a very rare thing indeed in the history of art.
The first thing that caught my notice were the ongoing explanations of just what Dada is/was. Every new section of the book has a new meaning, and though they are all different, they pretty much say the same thing. "Dada means nothing...thought is production of the mouth". (Dada Manifesto, 1918)
The second thing I would like to point out is that Dada seemed to be an excuse to exercise bad behavior, since Dada gave the group the freedom to not give a damn about anything. It was the "absence of opportunism", in an age without reason or future...which seem to bring about a kind of wild abandon within this group of artists. This was the "central experience of Dada" (p. 50)
Since the emphasis on Dada was "chance", then absolute spontaneity was called for. Hence, the importance of living in the moment was emphasized. These behaviors brought about monumental changes within the art world. (P.91)
The Dadaists valued personal freedom and independence- a concept that has been in existence in our (USA) country since its inception. This new idea of total freedom from pre-conceived
ideas and relationships opened up endless possibilities within the sphere of creativity.
The "pure chance" of Dada led the author (and visual artist) Hans Richter to begin experimenting with ways in which to paint. Working in twilight, he began to create "Visionary Portraits". As the light began to fade, he would continue to paint until he was working in the dark. Working in this manner, free of conventional methods, Richter found himself painting with his "inner eye". The experience had a profound effect on him. Creating though sheer instinct showed him a freedom he never before experienced in his work.
I would like to take this moment to draw a comparison between this method of working, and my "Blind Sewing" performance. The action is the same. Pulling the threads with a practiced hand while envisioning where the stitches will land and what they will look like was a completely freeing experience for me. All Dada is pure chance. The portraits and the sewing began as the random actions of the artists, and turned into a process of working with innate intuitiveness.
The most wonderful aspect of Dada is having the freedom to discard preconceived notions about process and techniques. Dada went beyond the tried and true methods of creativity. The lines between the individual categories of art became blurred. Painters became writers, and poets, dancers. Artists no longer felt tied to convention, but blossomed under a new-found freedom that enabled artists like Marcel Duchamp to conceive what he called "reciprocal ready-mades"....hence the idea of using a "Rembrandt as an ironing board." (p. 89, 109)
Thank God for Dada.