Dadaism, or Dada, was an avant-garde intellectual, literary, and artistic movement that started in Europe during the First World War, around 1916, and lasted until the mid-1920s. It was a reaction to the horrors and atrocities of the war, as well as an opposition to the societal, political, and cultural values that they believed led to the war.
Dadaism began in Zurich, Switzerland, at the Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub that became the center for the city's radical arts scene. The founders included the poet Tristan Tzara, the painter Hans Arp, and the artist Hugo Ball.
Dada artists are known for their work that often defies reason, prizing nonsense, irrationality, and intuition. Their work was typically marked by its mockery of materialistic and nationalistic attitudes and was often political in nature, with an inherent anti-war sentiment. They sought to question the status quo and challenge established norms and conventions, using shock and satire as tools for their critique.
Dadaists employed a variety of mediums and techniques, including visual arts, literature, theater, and graphic design. They were known for their use of ready-made objects, photomontages, assemblages, collages, performance art, and manifestos. A significant characteristic of Dada was the notion of chance; artists often used random methods to create their work.
Notable figures in Dadaism include Marcel Duchamp, whose ready-made sculpture "Fountain", a urinal signed "R. Mutt", is one of the most famous Dada pieces. Other key figures include Francis Picabia, Man Ray, and Kurt Schwitters.
By the mid-1920s, Dada began to lose steam as a cohesive movement. However, it profoundly influenced many later art movements, such as surrealism, pop art, and punk rock, and concepts such as anti-art and postmodernism. Dadaism's emphasis on randomness, chaos, and rejection of traditional aesthetic standards has left a lasting mark on the art world.