selected segments from “Random Acts of Beauty,” a documentary-in-progress



DADA: THE MOST IMPORTANT MOVEMENT YOU NEVER HEARD OF


Their rallying cry was “Dada,” a word that meant nothing, aimed to mean nothing, and was adopted precisely because of its absence of meaning.


Random Acts of Beauty is a historical documentary on the little known but highly influential early 20th century absurdist arts movement known as DaDa.  The above clips are a few selected segments from the documentary.

RANDOM ACTS OF BEAUTY: THE STORY OF DADA


It was the beginning of the 20th century and it was a time unlike any other. It was the time of Einstein, Freud, and Lenin.  It was a time of war, revolution, and creative ferment.  It was the dawn of the modern era. The Pandora’s box of the industrial age had been opened and there was no going back.


Born from disgust at the society that created the Great War and all it’s horrors, the DaDaist goal was nothing less than a complete re-thinking of the way we as individuals, function within society... no small task.  As such, the DaDaists were iconoclasts of the first order, knocking down every sacred cow they ran across.  Indeed, the DaDaists were brilliant and merciless in their critiques of society, carrying out a program of cultural sabotage that still resonates with us today.


Of particular interest is:  What was so outrageous and blasphemous then, is now a part of the every day fabric of our lives.


Artists such as Andy Warhol (through the elevation of the everyday to art) and Robert Rauschenberg (through the use of found objects & junk) are direct inheritors of DaDa thinking.  The DaDaists can brag among their achievements: the photo-montage, the ‘ready-made’ art object, machine-art, Modern typography & page design, conceptual art, performance art, installation art, sound poetry, and more.


It is both ironic and fitting that DaDa faded into obscurity only to be replaced by the far more famous but far less original Surrealists; still, for one brief shimmering moment, the DaDaists captured both the imagination and the ire of an unsuspecting world.


   -bc



Scholars


William Camfield, Ph.D. Camfield came to Rice University in 1969 and became the Joseph and Joanna Nazro Mullen Professor of Art History in 1980. He has published several important books on Frank Freed, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, as well as numerous articles.


Marc Dachy.    Dachy is a scholar and author of the Dada Movement who lives in Paris, France.  He is publisher of the review “Luna Park,” and “Journal du Mouvement Dada.”  Author of many books on the subject of Dada, including The Dada Movement 1915-1923, Dada & Les Dadaïsmes, and Tristan Tzara, Dompteur Des Acrobates.


Arthur Danto, Ph.D. Professor Danto has been a professor of Aesthetics at Columbia University since 1966. He has been the recipient of many fellowships and grants, including two Guggenheims, ACLS, and Fulbright, published many books and scholarly articles, and is art critic for The Nation. 


Dorothea Dietrich, Ph.D. Professor of Art History at the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, D.C.  Dietrich has taught modern and contemporary art history at Princeton University and held visiting positions at Yale, MIT, Washington University, Duke and Boston Universities. She is the author of The Collages of Kurt Schwitters: Tradition and Innovation and German Drawings of the 60s.


Stephen Foster, Ph.D. Foster received his Ph.D. in art history from The University of Pennsylvania. He has served the National Endowment of the Humanities, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Getty Post-Doctoral Grant Program, and has directed numerous interdisciplinary cultural programs, most notably The Dada Archive and Research Center at the University of Iowa, the largest American research center devoted to study of Dada.


Irene Gammel, Ph.D. is the Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature & Culture and Professor of English at Ryerson University, and author of Baroness Else: Gender, Dada, Everyday Modernity and numerous other peer reviewed books. 


Francis M. Naumann, Ph.D. is a scholar, curator, and art dealer specializing in the art of the Dada movement and the Surrealist periods.  He is author of numerous articles and exhibition catalogues, including New York Dada 1915-25 and Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  In 1996, he organized "Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York" for the Whitney Museum of American Art; in 1997, "Beatrice Wood: A Centennial Tribute" for the American Craft Museum in New York; and, in 2003, he co-curated "Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray" for the Montclair Art Museum.

“The DaDa philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated in the brain of man… because they believe in the utter futility of everything, DaDaists write lunatic verse and paint meaningless pictures as jibes at the rest of mankind, which they hold in contempt.  The more inexplicable the verse and pictures are, and the more exasperated the public gets, the better pleased the DaDaists are.”  


-Unnamed reviewer in American Art News (April 2, 1921)