With Decorating Dissidence, I developed Take Dada Seriously (It’s Worth it), with support from Guest Projects, as a way to challenge art history and open up a global perspective on the movement. Through an online platform, series of digital salons, and special artist collaborations, this project explored ways of reclaiming avant-garde techniques that can recharge us politically today, whilst being mindful of its failures.
In 1920, the International Dada Fair shocked Berlin. The era’s most radical, experimental artists showcased shockingly confrontational works that lampooned the establishment and ripped up the rules of conventional art. The collage and photomontage work on display reflected a broken society that had been shattered by violent conflict and rampant capitalism. Yet, there is much to critique in Dada’s approaches too, not least the appropriation of African and indigenous art, lack of gender parity and approaches to sexuality.
Having to pivot to an online exhibition format, due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, this project explored what Dada can mean today – should we take Dada seriously? And how can we challenge its legacies? We worked with four artists to set up a series of workshops and commissioned new performances as well as hosting artists, makers, academics and writers in a series of themed salons. Our resources page further sought to share the platform with people who had something to say about Dada.
The project was featured as part of BBC Three’s Free Thinking programme ‘Dada and the Power of Nonsense’, hosted by Shahidha Bari.