Monday, February 21, 2011

Dada du jour: Hans Richter (1888-1976)

"Chance became our trademark. We followed it like a compass."
--Hans Richter

Rythmus 23 (1923)

excerpts from Dada Art and Anti-Art (Hans Richter, 1965)
Dada's propaganda for a total repudiation of art was in itself a factor in the advance of art. Our feelings of freedom from rules, precepts, money, and critical praise, a freedom for which we paid the price of an excessive distaste and contempt for the public, was a major stimulus. The freedom not to care a damn about anything, the absence of any kind of opportunism, which in any case could have served no purpose, brought us all the closer to the source of all art, the voice within ourselves. The absence of any ulterior motive enabled us to listen to the voice of the "Unknown"--and to draw knowledge from the realm of the unknown. Thus we arrived at the central experience of Dada.
Dissatisfied with a drawing he had been working on for some time, Arp finally tore it up and let the pieces flutter to the floor of his studio on the Zeltweg. Some time later he happened to notice these same scraps of paper as they lay on the floor, and was struck by the pattern they formed. It had all the expressive power that he had tried in vain to achieve. How meaningful! How telling! Chance movements of his hand and of the fluttering scraps of paper had achieved what all his efforts had failed to achieve, namely expression. He accepted this challenge from chance as a decision of fate and carefully pasted the scraps down in the pattern which chance had determined.
The conclusion that Dada drew from all this was that chance must be recognized as a new stimulus to artistic creation. This may well be regarded as the central experience of Dada, that which marks it off from all preceding artistic movements ...

               Jean (Hans) Arp, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter (Zurich, 1917) 

... the new experience gave us new energy and an exhilaration which led, in our private lives, to all sorts of excesses; to insolence, insulting behavior, pointless acts of defiance, fictitious duels, riots--all the things that later came to be regarded as the distinctive signs of Dada. But beneath it all lay a genuine mental and emotional experience that gave us wings to fly--and to look down upon the absurdities of the 'real' and earnest world.

Ghosts before breakfast (1927)

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