Does commemorating Dadaism contradict the spirit of Dada?
To mark the 100th anniversary of the emergence of Dada, City Lights Booksellers in conjunction with other local and international partners, celebrates Dadaism this week and next at the Dada World Fair in San Francisco, bringing together artists, thinkers, and ideas the world-over. In what follows, author Maria Stavrianki offers her thoughts on the occasion.
Is it legitimate to celebrate the centenary of Dada? Doesn’t the commemoration of a founding fundamentally contradict the spirit and the practices of the movement, which, despite its intrinsic heterogeneity, was characterized in all its variants by its struggle against the reification of time and history? Rather than a movement, moreover, Dada was a constellation, shaped in different places and at different moments by fundamentally different individuals.
This is what so radically distinguished Dada from other avant-garde movements, which took on organicist or more rigorously organized and in any case more hierarchical forms. It was the name “Dada” that ultimately gave phonetic unity to a historical manifestation that was difficult to contain as a stable form. “Da,” a phoneme of infinite and infantile plasticity, brought calcified language back to its first indeterminate articulations.