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29 AUGUST 2017

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972

"The Situationist International (SI) was an international organization of social revolutionaries, the exclusive membership of which was made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists, active from its formation in 1957 to its dissolution in 1972.

The intellectual foundations of the Situationist International were derived primarily from anti-authoritarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century, particularly Dada and Surrealism. Overall, situationist theory represented an attempt to synthesize this diverse field of theoretical disciplines into a modern and comprehensive critique of mid-20th century advanced capitalism. The situationists recognized that capitalism had changed since Marx's formative writings, but maintained that his analysis of the capitalist mode of production remained fundamentally correct; they rearticulated and expanded upon several classical Marxist concepts, such as his theory of alienation. In their expanded interpretation of Marxist theory, the situationists asserted that the misery of social alienation and commodity fetishism were no longer limited to the fundamental components of capitalist society, but had now in advanced capitalism spread themselves to every aspect of life and culture. They resolutely rejected the idea that advanced capitalism's apparent successes—such as technological advancement, increased income, and increased leisure—could ever outweigh the social dysfunction and degradation of everyday life that it simultaneously inflicted.

Essential to situationist theory was the concept of the spectacle, a unified critique of advanced capitalism of which a primary concern was the progressively increasing tendency towards the expression and mediation of social relations through objects. The situationists believed that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicted significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society. Another important concept of situationist theory was the primary means of counteracting the spectacle; the construction of situations, moments of life deliberately constructed for the purpose of reawakening and pursuing authentic desires, experiencing the feeling of life and adventure, and the liberation of everyday life.

When the Situationist International was first formed, it had a predominantly artistic focus; emphasis was placed on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually, however, that focus shifted more towards revolutionary and political theory. The Situationist International reached the apex of its creative output and influence in 1967 and 1968, with the former marking the publication of the two most significant texts of the situationist movement, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. The expressed writing and political theory of the two aforementioned texts, along with other situationist publications, proved greatly influential in shaping the ideas behind the May 1968 insurrections in France; quotes, phrases, and slogans from situationist texts and publications were ubiquitous on posters and graffiti throughout France during the uprisings."

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195719721989 • advanced capitalism • anti-authoritarianart movement • authentic desires • avant-garde art • Branka Bogdanov • capitalist society • commodity fetishism • commodity spectacle • consumer societyconsumerism • consumption of commodities • Dadadegradationdetournement • directly lived experiences • documentary filmearly 20th centuryeveryday life • exchange of commodities • expression and mediation of social relations through objects • feeling of adventure • feeling of life • first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires • graffiti • Greil Marcus • Guy Debord • individual expression by proxy • Jamie Reid • liberation of everyday life • Malcolm Mac Laren • Marxism • Marxist concepts • Marxist theory • May 1968 • means of production • mid-20th century advanced capitalism • mode of production • moments of life • political theorists • political theorypsychogeography • Raoul Vaneigem • reawakening • revolutionary theory • second-hand alienation • Situationist International • situationist movement • situationist theory • situations • slogan • social alienation • social dysfunction • social relations • social revolutionaries • Society of the Spectacle (Guy Debord)spectaclesurrealism • The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) • theory of alienation • Thomas Levine • UbuWeb • unified critique • unitary urbanism • video documentary

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 FEBRUARY 2017

Silent-era avant-garde artist-filmmakers disrupting the new realities of mass media (rather than replicating them)

"Around the time Shub started her documentary experiments, 20th century avant-garde artists likewise began using repurposed chunks of mass-produced ephemera. Picasso and Braque threw bits of newspaper into paintings; Max Ernst cut up Victorian illustrations to create proto-surrealist collages; Walter Benjamin, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce pushed the literary practice of quotation into the realm of pastiche; Marcel Duchamp pioneered sculptural assemblage with his readymades; and photomontage blossomed in the graphic works of John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, and Alexander Rodchenko. These works rearranged reality to suit their artists' purposes but, unlike the compilation films, did not try to hide that manipulation. Whether Cubist, Dada, or Constructivist, these artists chose to disrupt the new realities of mass media rather than replicate them, savoring the illogic of dreamlike disjunctions and precipitating new ways to see all-too-common images."

(Ed Halter, 10 July 2008, Moving Image Source)

TAGS

20th centuryAlexander Rodchenkoavant-garde artistsavant-garde cinemaconstructivistcubismcut-up techniqueDadadisruptiondocumentary experiments • dreamlike disjunctions • Ed Halter • Esther Shub • experimental film • found-footage • Georges Braque • Hannah Hochinfluential artistsJames JoyceJohn Heartfield • literary practice • Marcel Duchampmass media • mass-produced ephemera • Max Ernst • new realities • Pablo Picassopastichephotomontagepioneering filmmaker • proto-surrealist collages • quotationreadymade • repurposed archival material • Russian constructivism • sculptural assemblage • Thomas Stearns Eliot • Victorian illustrations • Walter Benjamin

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 FEBRUARY 2015

Smithsonian Libraries Artists' Books Collection Online

"Artists' books are works of art, like paintings or sculptures, but in book form. While book illustration has a much longer history, the book as art object is a product of the 20th century. Some of the early examples were created by Futurists and Dadaists in their politically–motivated pamphlets and magazines, by Fluxus artists in their happenings, and by conceptual artists' in their work to dematerialize the art object. Artists' books can also be unique creations undertaken with extreme care and attention to detail. Some are experimental and done by artists better known as painters or sculptors, as a way to extend their artistic practice. Many artists use the book format to create narratives to deal with difficult issues, with ideas that cannot be conveyed as clearly on a canvas or other medium. Some artist–made books illustrate the words of others, integrating art and literature. And some artists' books do not have words at all. As a work created by an artist, the nature, appearance and purpose, of an artist's book can be fundamentally different from what one might find on the shelves of the library.

Artists' books exist at the intersections of printmaking, photography, poetry, experimental narrative, visual arts, graphic design, and publishing. They have made a place for themselves in the collections of museums, libraries, and private collectors. They have caught the interest of art historians and critics writing about art, and there are numerous studio programs in art schools dedicated to the art of the book, ushering in new generations of artists making books."

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20th century • art and literature • art object • artist-made books • artists books • artists making books • Barbara Krugerbook formbook formatbook publishing • cataloguer • cataloguing challenge • Claire Van Vliet • Cooper Hewitt Library • cross-institution collaboration • culture onlineDada • defy easy classification • Dibner Library • diorama • Ed Ruscha • experimental books • FluxusFuturism (art movement) • Georges Adeagbo • graphic designhappenings • Hirshhorn Museum • Ida Applebroog • illustrating the words of others • Joe Freedman • Julie Chen • Kara Walker • Laura Davidson • library catalogue • Luan Nel • museum collectionsnational cultural heritage online • National Museum of African Art • National Portrait Gallery Library • online resource • pamphlets • paper engineering • photographypoetry • politically motivated • pop-up booksprintmaking • Smithsonian American Art Museum • Smithsonian Design Library • Smithsonian LibrariesSol LeWitt • the art of the book • Thomas Parker Williams • unusual physical features • Virginia Flynn • visual arts • Warren M Robbins Library • William Kentridgeworks of artYoko Ono

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
24 JANUARY 2013

Anemic Cinema (1926) by Marcel Duchamp

"This characteristically dada film by Marcel Duchamp consists of a series of visual and verbal puns with nonsense phrases inscribed around rotating spiral patterns, creating an almost hypnotic effect. Silent.

Anemic Cinema (various versions were made in 1920, 1923 and, finally, in 1926). Essentially a film by Duchamp with help from Man Ray. Calvin Tomkins: 'Duchamp used the initial payment on his inheritance to make a film and to go into the art business. The film, shot in Man Ray's studio with the help of cinematographer Marc Allégret, was a seven–minute animation of nine punning phrases by Rrose Sélavy. These had been pasted, letter by letter, in a spiral pattern on round black discs that were then glued to phonograph records; the slowly revolving texts alternate with shots of Duchamp's Discs Bearing Spirals, ten abstract designs whose turning makes them appear to move backward and forward in an erotic rhythm. The little film, which Duchamp called Anemic Cinema, had its premiere that August at a private screening room in Paris.'"

(UbuWeb)

Marcel Duchamp (1926). "Anémic Cinéma", 7 minutes, B&W.

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1926 • Anemic Cinema • art historyavant-garde cinema • Calvin Tomkins • circle • concentric cirles • Dadadada filmdiscs • disk • erotic rhythm • gyrating • hypnotic effectMan Ray • Marc Allegret • Marcel Duchampmovement • nonsense phrase • op artoptical artoptical effectoptical illusionpatternperceptual phenomenonphonograph • phonograph turntable • pulsating alternation • revolving • rhythm • rotary demisphere • rotating spiral patterns • rotation • Rotoreliefs • Rrose Selavy • spinning • spiral • spiral pattern • spiraling • stereo-kinetic effect • surrealist cinematurntableUbuWebvelvet • verbal pun • visual experience

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
22 JULY 2012

Fountain: an ordinary article of life without useful significance

"Fountain is one of Duchamp's most famous works and is widely seen as an icon of twentieth–century art. The original, which is now lost, consisted of a standard urinal, laid flat on its back rather than upright in its usual position, and signed 'R. Mutt 1917'. The Tate's work is a 1964 replica and is made from glazed earthenware painted to resemble the original porcelain. The signature is reproduced in black paint. Fountain is an example of what Duchamp called a 'readymade', an ordinary manufactured object designated by the artist as a work of art. It epitomises the assault on convention and good taste for which he and the Dada movement are best known.

The idea of designating such a lowly object as a work of art came from a discussion between Duchamp and his American friends the collector Walter Arensburg and the artist Joseph Stella. Following this conversation, Duchamp bought an urinal from a plumbers' merchants, and submitted it to an exhibition organised by the Society of Independent Artists. The Board of Directors, who were bound by the constitution of the Society to accept all members' submissions, took exception to the Fountain and refused to exhibit it. Duchamp and Arensburg, who were both on the Board, resigned immediately in protest. An article published at the time, which is thought to have been written by Duchamp, claimed, 'Mr Mutt's fountain is not immoral, that is absurd, no more than a bathtub is immoral. It is a fixture that you see every day in plumbers' shop windows. Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.' ('The Richard Mutt Case', The Blind Man, New York, no.2, May 1917, p.5.)"

(Sophie Howarth, April 2000)

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1917196420th centuryabsurdAlfred Stieglitzartart historyassault • assault on convention • assault on good taste • avant-garde • black paint • contextconventioncultural signalscultural significance of objectscurationDadaDada movement • designated by the artist • everydayexhibition • fixture • Fountain (work of art) • glazed earthenware • good taste • icon of twentieth-century art • immoral • information in context • Joseph Stella • layers of meaning • lowly object • Marcel Duchampmodern artobjet trouve • ordinary article of life • ordinary manufactured objectporcelain • R. Mutt 1917 • readymadereplica • Society of Independent Artists • Tate Modern • took exception • twentieth-century art • urinaluseful significance • Walter Arensburg • work of art

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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