Art and Architecture, Literature, Reviews

Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

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In the August 11 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education columnist Richard Byrne takes note of the recent “flurry of scholarly work” that “has opened up new vistas in the history of Dada.” Byrne reviews several new contributions to the subject including The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. An excerpt from Byrne’s review follows:

Expanding Dada’s reach and placing it in a wider context is the aim of another new collection, The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Dawn Ades, a professor of art history and theory at the University of Essex, The Dada Reader pulls together the key excerpts from the explosion of Dada journals between 1916 and 1924. Not only does the new anthology present dozens of texts that have never been available in English, but it also brings in journals far from Dada’s traditional loci in Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United States—including ones from the Netherlands and Yugoslavia.

The revolutionary Dada movement, though short-lived, produced a vast amount of creative work in both art and literature during the years that followed World War I. Rejecting all social and artistic conventions, Dadaists went to the extremes of provocative behavior, creating anti-art pieces that ridiculed and questioned the very nature of creative endeavor. To understand their movement’s heady mix of anarchy and nihilism—combined with a lethal dash of humor—it’s essential to engage with the artists’ most important writings and manifestos. And that is is precisely where this reader comes in.