The Dada Effect: An Anti-Aesthetic and its Influence

Exhibition Website

Mar 16 2017 - May 27 2017

Dada was an international multimedia artistic movement founded to fulminate against traditional forms of art that had dominated the western tradition up through the nineteenth century. Anti-war, radical leftist, and anti-bourgeois in ideology, the Dada began in the middle of WWI in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire. It quickly was appropriated by other groups in Berlin, Paris, and New York. The movement lasted until 1924 when internal warring factions, led by André Breton, formed Surrealism and many Dadaist artists joined this new movement or went their own ways.

The Dada Effect will show how Dadaist aesthetics and ideology directly influenced modern art and literature through the twentieth century in many subsequent movements, including Surrealism, the Pataphysiques, and Neo-Dada. Thanks to the strong collection of rare books and journals contained within the Pascal Pia Collection held at Vanderbilt’s W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies, the literary aspect of these movements will be on full display with first editions of works by Tristan Tzara, André Breton, and Louis Argon, among many others. 

Art from the Fine Arts Gallery Collection and several outside loans will be employed to highlight the connections between various branches of ‘the arts’ (visual, literary, musical, plastic arts, performance) and the artists whose imaginations were captured by the notion of anti-art for many decades, including Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Cage. The exhibition is also intensely pedagogical, with contributions from students in the Department of Theatre and the Blair School of Music.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not, Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century provides a globe-spanning narrative that resurrects some of the 20th century's most influential artistic figures.The book describes how Dada burst upon the world in the midst of total war and how the effects of this explosion are still reverberating today. The long tail of Dadaism, the author shows, can be traced as far as artists as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Robert Rauschenberg, Marshall McLuhan, the Beatles, Monty Python, David Byrne, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom, along with untold others, owe a debt to the bizarre wartime escapades of the Dada vanguard.

Dada: Art and Anti-Art

  • International
  • 20th Century
  • Salvador Dalí
  • Francis Picabia
  • Max Ernst
  • Man Ray
  • Yves Tanguy
  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • John Cage
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates