Cultural Studies Homepage

Subject - CSG / CSV (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311), Diploma of Visual Art (CUV50111)

VUIT Digital Arts

Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Education Manager: Adam Hutterer - email:

Class Website -

Class 08 - Lecture Notes

This document URL:





  • Dada was anti-art and anti-social

Dada rejected all forms of middle class (bourgeoisie) art, including not only academic art of the salon but also early modern painting, those like the Expressionist and Fauvism. Dada was anti art and anti social, the poet and philosopher Hugo Ball created it in 1916 in Zurich at the height of the First World War.

In many ways Dada was a reaction to the horror of a war, which saw the promise of modernism and mechanisation turned against humanity in unparalleled degrees of mass destruction.

Raoul Hausmann, “The Art Critic”, photo-montage and collage, 1919-1920.

At the end of the First War World, Tristan Tzara, leader of the Dada movement, wanted to attack society through scandal. He believed that a society that creates the monstrosity of war does not deserve art, so he decided to give it anti-art–not beauty but ugliness. With phrases like Dada destroys everything! Tzara wanted to offend the new industrial commercial world–the bourgeoisie.

However, his intended victims were not insulted. In time, the bourgeoisie embraced this "rebellious" new art so thoroughly that anti-art became art, the anti-conventionalism the convention, and the rebellion through chaotic images, the status quo.

While they rejected all aesthetic theory and most type of established artistic design organization, they developed a unique and very influential syntax and vocabulary in sound poetry, theatre, sculpture, montage and graphic design.

Cabaret Voltaire

Between 1916 and 1918 the Zurich Dadaist were involved at the Cabaret Voltaire with a series of outrageous anti art performances. Hugo Ball incorporated absurdist theatre performances, which provoked the audience to outrage, using language, which was equally absurd in the creation of sound poetry. The writing of pure sound texts that downplay the roles of meaning and structure is a 20th century phenomenon.

Hugo Ball co-founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich 1917

As co-founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, Hugo Ball led the Dada movement in Zürich, and is one of the people credited with naming the movement “Dada”, by allegedly choosing the word at random from a dictionary.

The Dadaist vanguards of the beginning of the 20th century were the pioneers in creating the first sound poetry forms. They invented different categories such as word cutups and exploded font design in their publications.

Chance Procedures

The Dadaists embraced ‘chance procedures’ in their works of art by merging random occurrence with conscious creation, attaining a ``balance" between ``art and anti-art”. Jean Arp used chance procedures in making his art by throwing pieces of coloured paper on the ground and repainting whatever patterns they produced. In the 1940’s Jackson Pollock practiced the technique called Action Painting, and also placed value on the complementary forces of the rational and irrational. 

Jean Arp, ‘Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance”, 1916–17.

Jackson Pollock in his studio accomplished the technique called Action Painting 1948


Ready Made

Marcel Duchamp created the idea of ‘ready made’ art and used found objects and declared them to be art by removing them out of their usual context and placing them in the gallery. In the process he instigated the greatest change in the conception of the romantic stereotype of the creative artist, replacing it instead with conceptual ideas related to appropriation. This would have a lasting influence on art and design that extends to the present day. Duchamp created the first ready-made, Bicycle Wheel (1913), which consisted of a wheel mounted on a stool, as a protest against the excessive importance attached to works of art.

Marcel Duchamp, “Bicycle Wheel”, 1913


This work was technically a “ready-made assisted,” because the artist intervened by combining two objects. Duchamp subsequently made “pure ready-mades,” each of which consisted of a single item, such as Bottle Rack (1914), and the best-known ready-made, the porcelain urinal entitled Fountain (1917). By selecting mass-produced, commonplace objects, Duchamp attempted to destroy the notion of the uniqueness of the art object. The result was a new, controversial definition of art as an intellectual rather than a material process.

Marcel Duchamp “Fountain’” 1917

  • Dada’s Nihilist Attitude would prevail

Duchamp and his ready-mades were embraced by the artists such as Man Ray who formed the nihilistic attitude of the Dada movement from 1916 to the 1920s which would be instrumental informing the Surrealist attitude towards culture.

Man Ray, “Cadeau”, 1921


Hanna Hock and Raoul Hausmann made montage from newspaper images critical of the political climate of the day. Dada montage used a pictorial vocabulary to provide new artistic impulses, one, which would radically alter artistic expression in the future, by its use of fragments of the real world.


Raoul Hausmann                                                                        Hanna Hock



The Dadaist graphic style evolved from combining the random methods of cubist collage with the efficiency and economy of mechanical reproduction techniques, resulting into the most enduring Dada innovation called photo-montage. A widely scattered and mixed typography characterized the numerous Berlin Dada periodicals while the Zurich magazines had more crammed jumbled layouts.



Kurt Schwitter “Small Dada Evening” (1922)


Dada’s prominent graphic illustrator George Grosz stated ‘if we express anything at all then we are the expression of the ferment of dissatisfaction and unrest. In this respect Dada was as much a political protest as an anti- art movement.


George Grosz “Aristocrats” 1918

George Grosz,” A Victim of Society” 1919



Dada came to influence a number of consequent artistic and design movements. In Hanover Kurt Schwitter conducted a one-person movement parallel with Dada called Merz which incorporated sound poetry, typography, assemblage and publication.


Kurt Schwitter “Merz 11” 1920


Schwitter is famous for a type of modernist collage art that he made out of the printed paper detritus of everyday life. Scraps of labels, tickets and type are combined to recreate the fragmentary and elusive experience of modern metropolitan life. He called these works, Merz. 


Duchamp became Dada’s main proponent in the United States. The ready-made continued to be an influential concept in Western art for much of the second half of the 20th century. It provided a major basis for the Pop art movement of the 1950s and ’60s, which took as its subject matter commonplace objects from popular culture.

  • Neo Dada revival in New York

In the sixties there was a Neo Dada revival in New York prompted by the presence and influence in that city of Marcel Duchamp. His ready made aesthetic would come to influence young emerging artists seeking an alternative to the dominance of Abstract expressionism.


Joseph Cornell, "Sirius," late 1950s


This influence took root mainly in the works of Joseph Cornell, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg who used found objects as their starting point for the creation of their assemblage based artworks.

Robert Rauschenberg, 'First Landing Jump' - 1961


This strategy would eventually lead to the emergence of Pop art in America. The intellectual emphasis of ready-mades also influenced the conceptual art movement that emerged in the 1960s, which considers the artist’s idea more important than the final product.


Jasper Johns' "Three Flags" 1959

Robert Rauschenberg, “Coca-Cola Plan” 1959



Arguably the most influential cultural youth movement in the seventies was Punk, bought about by two bands the Ramones in New York and The Sex Pistols in the UK. Punk with its anti establishment ethic and do it your self approach to every thing from fashion to music and graphics, borrowed extensively from the Dada nihilistic attitude and spirit of social protest and anti art approach to music, fashion and design. Jamie Reid, Vivian Westward and Malcolm Maclaron where seen as the architects of the British punk movement with their holistic approach to music, graphics, fashion and art. In doing so they captured the imagination of a generation.

  • “God save the queen, a fascist regime”

Jamie Reid “God Save the Queen” 1975

This is one of the most famous images in punk. In the 70′s it was very popular and still is till this day to anyone who loves punk, but not for being British, it was the fact that the Sex Pistols had defaced the image of The Queen, which incited riots outcries from the popular media. People will recognise “God save the Queen” as the Sex Pistols ultimate anti social statement both in image and song.

The Sex Pistols 1976




René Magritte, Je ne vois pas la(une femme) cachée dans la forêt (I do not see the woman hidden in the forest). 
(clockwise, from top): Maxime Alexandre, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Luis Bunuel, Jean Caupenne, Paul Éluard, Marcel Fourrier, René Magritte, Albert Valentin, André Thirion, Yves Tanguy, Georges Sadoul, Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalì.


  • Surrealism was a more positive form of Dada

Dada came to influence a number of consequent artistic and design movements. Dada developed a strong hold in Paris where it evolved into Surrealism described by some critics as a house broken form of Dada. Many Dada artists such as Max Ernst, Jean Arp and Francis Picabia evolved their practice to form the basis of the Surrealist movement, which was to combine the irrationality of Dada with the subconscious expression unleashed by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.


Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, worked in London.

Max Ernst. “Murdering Airplane 1920. 

  • Surrealism an expression of a cultural, psychoanalytical, philosophical movement first and foremost

Surrealism is known a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. While surrealist artworks feature the element of the uncanny, unexpected juxtapositions and the abject; many Surrealist artists and writers however regard their work as an expression of a psychoanalytical, philosophical movement first and foremost, with their works being visual artefacts of that expression.


Andre Breton

Leader Andre Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all revolutionary. Surrealism was an artistic and literary movement, dedicated to expressing the subconscious imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and convention. Surrealism inherited an anti-rationalist sensibility from Dada, and was shaped by emerging theories on our perception of reality, especially Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical model of the subconscious. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film and music of many countries and languages, as well as philosophical thought and practice and social theory.

Freud was an Austrian neurologist who created the technique of psychoanalysis, which so intrigued Breton. Freud is most well known for his theories on the unconscious mind, and interpreted dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires, and believed dreams were a “road into the unconscious”. Freud also drew on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of subjectivity in culture. Freud believed that the unconscious mind was important to understanding the conscious thoughts and behaviour of the individual shaped by cultural ritual focused on patriarchy.

The Surrealist Manifesto

  • "Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table."

The Surrealist Manifesto, written by Breton along with George Bataille’s “Documents” were the movement's principal statement on aesthetic philosophy, which set out 'to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality'. Its roots can be traced back to French poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and in particular Charles Baudelaire, who providing the famous line that summed up the Surrealists love of the incongruous; "Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table."

Georges Bataille “Le Language des fleurs,” from Documents, no. 3 (June 1929).

The Surrealist Manifesto “Cover of the First Issue of 'La Revolution Surrealiste' Magazine”, 1st December 1924



The Surrealist movement was formed in the early 1920s and was characterized by the artworks of Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, Max Ernst, René Magritte and Joan Miro amongst others.

Surrealism can be split into two groups of artists (Automatist & Veristic), one whose focus was suppressing the conscious mind in favour of the subconscious prevailing through techniques such as Automatic Writing and Drawing, hence the title of Automatist. This group felt that the traditional approach to art and form restricted true expression.

The major artists of the Automatist group included Joan Miro,Yves Tanguy, Andre Masson and Max Ernest The artist in this group developed a variety of techniques such as automatic drawing, frottage and decalcomania. Andre Masson’s automatic drawings of 1923 are often used as the point of departure and the break from Dada, since they reflect the influence of the idea of the unconscious mind.

Andre Masson “ There is no Finish to the world ” 1942


The line of the pen or other instrument was allowed to rove at will without any conscious planning. Masson tried to achieve the same sort of result in painting, by drawing a mass of lines in an adhesive substance on the canvas, adding colour by coatings of different coloured sand.

After the end of the Surrealist period, this approach was carried into painting in New York by Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), the 'white writing' paintings of Mark Tobey (1890-1976) and, above all, the vast abstractions of Jackson Pollock which contain a strong element of drawing with paint while the artist was in an ecstatic trance."


Joan Miró "Carnival of Harlequin" 1924-1925

Max Ernst “L'Ange du Foyer ou Le Triomphe du” 1937


Breton initially doubted that visual arts could even be useful in the Surrealist movement since they appeared to be less flexible and open to chance and automatism. This caution was overcome by the discovery of such techniques as frottage and decalcomania.


Max Ernest “Europe after the Rain II”, 1940-42.



Frottage was a technique of rubbing graphite, crayon, or similar media over different surfaces. Transferring textures would suggest to an artist the most provocative approach to composing an image. This was a process that cultivated natural artistic expression, since the artist didn't have any control over the resulting textures.

Frottage was the same technique used in painting.

Decalcomania was a process of smearing paint over a slab of glass and pressing it against paper. Unusual results guided by chance allowed the artists to observe their ideas without controlling the process.

Exquisite Corpse was a Surrealist game that required writers to arrange random words into absurd sentences.


The Veristic Surrealists

The Veristic Surrealists however believed automation to be a process of interpreting of the subconscious thought process, and its artwork was freezing those thoughts so the conscious mind could learn to interpret them. Their work was a metaphor for their inner reality and thought process. Veristic Surrealism or Illusionism was an opposite approach to automatism that stressed the importance of depicting the unconscious as concretely as possible. Artists stayed true to their visions, portraying them with academic realism, photographic precision, and clarity. This movement inspired a wide range of creative drives and contributions to the history of art.


Rene Magritte "This is not a pipe." 1928–29

Réné Magritte, “La reproduction interdite”, 1937


The Veristic Surrealists included Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, René Magritte and. The movement in the mid-1920s was characterized by meetings in cafes where the Surrealists played collaborative drawing games, discussed the theories of Surrealism,


Salvador Dali “Slave market with the disappearing bust of Voltaire” 1940

Giorgio de Chirico “Mystery and Melancholy of a Street” 1914


Soon more visual artists became involved, including Francis Picabia, (from the Dad movement), Alberto Giacometti, Frida Kahlo and Meret Oppenheim. Though Breton admired Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp and courted them to join the movement, they remained peripheral.


For a modern and humorous take on the Surrealists as a movement, watch this British comedy-drama enacted by some well known English comedians:

Surrealissimo: the scandalous success of Salvador Dali
In 1934, Salvador Dali was put on trial by his fellow Surrealists for offences against the movement. This surreal comedy-drama examines the trial and the events that led up to it.

"In the 1930s the majority of Surrealists had strong political views, traditionally leftist, and the apolitical Dali didn't fit in anymore. In 1934 there was a "trial" among the Surrealists which resulted in Dali's expulsion from the group. The famous line "I myself am surrealism" was Dali's reply to being expelled by his colleagues.

In 1939 Breton rearranged Salvador Dali and came up with an anagram Avida Dollars, based on the French avide à dollars which means [...] eager for dollars. Many surrealists critisized Dali for the increased commercialization of his work, and some even went as far as to talk of Dali in past tense only." (from



Surrealism was to go on and influence visual culture through out the remainder of the 20th century via the counter culture of the sixties, through the Beats and later the Hippie movement. Art and Design in the Sixties was no longer just about form and function. It was a time of social freedom, of permissiveness and unconventionality.

The psychedelic art and cultural movement was characterized by the striking shift in both mental and social perceptions previously unknown to youth culture. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences including changes of perception such as hallucinations, synaesthesia, altered states of awareness or focused consciousness, variation in thought patterns, trance or hypnotic states, mystical states, and other mind alterations most commonly by the use of psychedelic substances.


As youth culture took over as the major force in mainstream western culture, London, New York and Paris fast became the cultural capitals of a new-found and much celebrated sub culture, which through mass communication paved the way for its development on a truly global scale including Australia. It was time of optimism, reflected in a buoyant mood that anything was possible, often bought about by the consumption of mind expanding drugs such as LSD and alternative social awareness and sexual freedom.




1: Dada can be explained as an art movement violently reacting to the social norms of the times. Explain?

2: how did Dada’s anti art convictions translated into their artworks?

3: Which graphic medium was favoured by the Dadaist and why?

4: Dada became an influential style for the Neo Dada movement in America in the 1960s. Investigate three Neo Dada artists and explain what Neo Dada means.

5: In what ways can Dada be said to have influenced Punk graphics?

6: Investigate five examples of ready-made art.




1: When and where did Surrealism emerge?

2: Who was Andre Breton and what did he create?

3: Surrealism developed out of an interest in the irrational working of the mind, how was this linked to Dada?

4: In what ways did Sigmund Freud’s ideas influence the Surrealist art style?

5: Investigate examples of four Surrealist artists and describe their style and technique.

6: When and where did Psychedelic art emerge?  

7: In what ways did Surrealism influence Psychedelic art?