Lessons from the Dada Literary Movement

(Excerpts from Invaluable.com, used with permission)

Dadaism was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in Zürich in 1916 out of opposition to World War I, the nationalism many believed led to the war, and the senselessness of its brutality. The movement itself is difficult to define because members wanted to evade the definition of a unified operation entirely; abandoning established artistic norms. It was the first conceptual art movement where the focus was not on crafting aesthetically pleasing art, but on creating things that challenged traditional art, the role of the artists, and societal issues.

While Dadaism was a particularly art-dominated movement, it also encouraged writers to explore new genres and think outside the box. Some even took to performing their written words to further their creativity and fuel others to join the movement. The whimsy and spontaneity of the movement impacted famous writers like T.S. Elliot, but the movement itself was originally coined by poet Hugo Ball.

In June of 1916, Hugo Ball appeared on stage at the Zürich-based nightclub Cabaret Voltaire, where he performed a series of his new sound poems. These poems were constructed sequences and unrecognizable sound-words, and Ball was wearing rigid, shiny blue cardboard cylinders as he spoke. This was one of the defining moments of Dada literature and expression, and though characteristics of the movement have since been induced in more subtle ways, they continue to influence contemporary poetry and writing. Below are ways that writers today use principles of Dada to inform their writing.

dada literature characteristics