Dada (däˈdä) [key] or Dadaism däˈdäĭzəm, international nihilistic movement among European artists and writers that lasted from 1916 to 1922. Born of the widespread disillusionment engendered by World War I, it originated in Zürich with the poetry of the Romanian Tristan Tzara. Dada attacked conventional standards of aesthetics and behavior and stressed absurdity and the role of the unpredictable in artistic creation. In Berlin, Dada had political overtones, exemplified by the caricatures of George Grosz and Otto Dix. The French movement was more literary in emphasis; it centered around Tzara, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and Man Ray. The latter three carried the spirit of Dada to New York City. Typical were the elegant collages devised by Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Max Ernst from refuse and scraps of paper, and Duchamp's celebrated Mona Lisa adorned with a mustache and a goatee. Dada principles were eventually modified to become the basis of surrealism in 1924. The literary manifestations of Dada were mostly nonsense poems—meaningless random combinations of words—which were read in public.
See R. Short, Dada and Surrealism (1980); S. C. Foster, ed., Dada-Dimensions (1985); H. Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1985); R. Motherwell, ed., The Dada Painters and Poets (1951, 2d ed. 1989).
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