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How are Dada and its descendants relevant to contemporary anarchy?

+3 votes
Over the last few years I've found myself feeling increasingly hostile towards Western society's penchant for the rational, the scientific, the falsifiable, and at the same time finding meaning more and more in intuition, what's irrational, and what's paradoxical. I've had very little explicit exposure to Dadaist ideas or history, but having seen them mentioned a few times on here, and having done some cursory reading about them I'm intrigued by the transgressive perspective they seem to offer. What can be learned from Dada? Is there anything in Dada or its descendants that can be applied to our lives and thinking that's liberatory?
asked Sep 13, 2016 by Yosemite (6,320 points)
I guess no one is biting because Dadaism is more of an art movement without the heavy focus on ideology/political ideals that the situationists had. I've read about the dadaists pulling off some funny pranks and mocking authoritarians (like the Nazis for example). There are certainly examples of their rebellion, which is relevant to contemporary anarchy.
i didn't bite because i'd never heard of dada before....

but the idea of paradox as i've come to understand it through various buddhist and taoist writings has a lot of appeal for me...and i find it compatible/complimentary with anarchy.
Is dadaism that avant-garde style of art or at least influenced by avant-garde? I like some avant-garde music, but I don't know anything about dada. I'm a paradox in time.
I would love to see someone answer this. I have long been interested in dada, but I know nothing more than could be found by doing a quick internet search.

Some of it's influence, seems (to my untrained art-brain) to be present in some of the post-situ punk aesthetics that were present in some zine and poster projects of the 60's - 90's, the surrealists (who have a good amount of overlap with the anarchist milieu, and specifically anarchist or anarchish artists like Ron Sakolsky (Oyster Catcher, etc.), James Koehline (his art has been used by CAL Press, Autonomedia, and many others), Gee Vaucher (Crass), and Bernd Langer (Kunst und Kampf), as well as maybe the collages done by Jason Rodgers (Media Junky, etc).

I bet any of them would tell me I am wrong about that influence, but I kinda see it...

1 Answer

0 votes
The Surrealists came out of Dada, and the late Surrealists associated with Andre Breton were explicitly anarchists.

"It was in the black mirror of anarchism that surrealism first recognised itself."
- Andre Breton, 1952 (La Claire Tour)

I have only a passing familiarity with them through listening to a podcast talking about them, but here are some pieces exploring the Surrealists' links with Anarchism:

http://libcom.org/history/1919-1950-the-politics-of-surrealism

The 1952 essay La Claire Tour by Andre Breton, also called The Lighthouse or The Tower Of Light.
https://books.google.com/books?id=Y3mmWbCiQh0C&pg=PA265&lpg=PA265&dq=andre+breton+"tower+of+light"&source=bl&ots=HWf2BKUGr_&sig=2MeSynox2vHkuFAPStsqxSwTnAk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwisxJKRzpDPAhUX02MKHfTYD6sQ6AEIHTAB#v=onepage&q=andre%20breton%20%22tower%20of%20light%22&f=false


As to what anarchists might learn from the Surrealists, I have two stories involving Salvador Dali.

In the first, Dali listens to an argument between fellow Surrealists about the the particulars of bombing the first class cars on the train, to which Dali interjected, "The truly revolutionary act would be putting the bomb in a passenger car."

The second is the infamous "Night of Many Sweaters," which you can read more on here:

https://books.google.com/books?id=9_Z0rVDhNGsC&pg=PA401&lpg=PA401&dq=dali+night+of+many+sweaters&source=bl&ots=6zhvQtqrfR&sig=k1c1LH40SQOUdNH_H7-J261HWCM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwingLDbz5DPAhVS0WMKHaLiDYUQ6AEIKDAF#v=onepage&q=dali%20night%20of%20many%20sweaters&f=false


The thing I take away from both is to always start by attacking the root of things and digging out their very foundations, including those of your own ideas.

Edit: Also, the Night Of Many Sweaters is something I'd like to see more of, just generally. Both in terms of more comedy among anarchists in general, and more engaging with our disagreements as anarchists so directly and fully that we beat our cousins at their own games, aiming to understand them even more fully than do they rather than the dismissal or denunciation that seems the generalized mode among anarchists of late.
answered Sep 14, 2016 by StrawDog (1,370 points)
edited Sep 15, 2016 by StrawDog
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