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This is an extract from A316, a Level 3 art history course:
There is clearly a problem in trying to represent succinctly the ideas and activities that took place under the aegis of Dada. It isn’t just that the one general label was used to stand for a range of geographically, intellectually, politically and artistically diverse work. It is also that, for many of those who produced the work, one of its characteristics was that it systematically avoided clarity, consistency and logical analysis. In the same way as many Dada pictures are clearly ironic and others are, so to speak, only ironically clear, some are intentionally confusing but are not necessarily the product of confused intentions. Similarly, much Dada writing is of the same uncertain character. What may sound like a clear statement of intent may only be intended to lay a false trail.
There is the further confusion that we are interpreting these works and utterances from a distance, so it is often difficult to distinguish a statement meant to convey a literal truth from one that is largely rhetorical. (This is obviously a difficulty for any historical interpretation, not just in the analysis of Dada.) There was, for example, a lot of antipathy expressed against earlier art. Hostility to Cubism and Futurism was meted out in much Zurich and Parisian Dada, and German Dada was often couched in highly anti-Expressionist terms. But while it is clear that the Dadaists sought to distance themselves from what these movements may have become towards the end of the second decade of the century, their work was in many ways dependent upon those earlier styles and techniques. Without Cubism, for example, there would have been no precedent for collage; Futurist irrationalism, vitalism and simultaneity pervade much of their writing and ‘cabarets’; their appeals to ‘directness’, to ‘nature’, and to some form of pre-cultural organic community, or Gemeinschaft, as well as their woodblockprinting techniques, are clearly derived from Expressionism.