Australian art
Dada + surrealism

Dada means baby-talk or a hobbyhorse or the tail of a sacred cow. It was an emphatic affirmation, in the face of the horrors of World War I, by artists, poets, musicians and theatre people. Fiercely satirical and often political, governed by chance and the anti-rational, the anarchic movement was international in scope. Launched in Zurich in 1916, independent Dada groups arose in New York, Berlin, Paris and elsewhere.

Rejecting traditional methods of painting and sculpture, Marcel Duchamp produced his first readymades in Paris in 1913. He wanted to provoke conventional modernists as well as the artistic establishment. Man Ray met Duchamp in 1915: they became close friends and allies in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, then both returned to the United States. The Frenchman Duchamp stayed there, while the American Man Ray returned to France.

Surrealism is Dada’s descendant. Through dream-like imagery, the painters and writers associated with Surrealism shocked the spectator into a new awareness of reality. Commentators usually distinguish between the mimetic or hyper-realism of artists such as Salvador Dalí or René Magritte, and the more abstract imagery of Jean Arp, Joan Miró and others.