Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction

Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction

Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction

Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction


The avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism, and shock tactics. In this new treatment of the subject, Hopkins focuses on the many debates surrounding these movements: the Marquis de Sade's Surrealist deification, issues of quality (How good is Dali?), the idea of the 'readymade', attitudes towards the city, the impact of Freud, attitudes to women,fetishism, and primitivism. The international nature of these movements is examined, covering the cities of Zurich, New York, Berlin, Cologne, Barcelona, Paris, London, and recenlty discovered examples in Eastern Europe. Hopkins explores the huge range of media employed by both Dada and Surrealism (collage, painting, found objects, performance art, photography, film) , whilst at the same time establishing the aesthetic differences between the movements. He also examines the Dadaist obsession with the body-as-mechanism in relation to the Surrealists' return to the fetishized/eroticized body.


Question: How many Surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: A fish.

Everybody knows something about Dada and Surrealism. Dada, born in 1916 and over by the early 1920s, was an international artistic phenomenon, which sought to overturn traditional bourgeois notions of art. It was often defiantly anti-art. More than anything, its participants, figures such as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Raoul Hausmann, counterposed their love of paradox and effrontery to the insanities of a world-gone-mad, as the First World War raged in Europe.

Surrealism, Dada's artistic heir, was officially born in 1924 and had virtually become a global phenomenon by the time of its demise in the later 1940s. Committed to the view that human nature is fundamentally irrational, Surrealist artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and André Masson conducted an often turbulent love affair with psychoanalysis, aiming to plumb the mysteries of the human mind.

For many people Dada and Surrealism represent not so much movements in 20th-century art history as ‘modern art’ incarnate. Dada is seen as iconoclastic and confrontational; Surrealism as similarly . . .

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