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Nihilism Art... The Dada Anti-Art Movement.

Updated: Nov 24, 2023


In the period surrounding the French Revolution, Nihilism as a term was also a pejorative for certain value-destructive trends of modernity, namely the negation of Christianity and European tradition in general.


The term Nihilism...


The etymological origin of Nihilism is the Latin root word nihil, meaning 'nothing'. The term nihilism emerged in several places in Europe during the 18th century, notably in the German form Nihilismus, though was also in use during the Middle Ages to denote certain forms of heresy.


As early as 1824, Nihilism as a term began to take on a social connotation with German journalist Joseph von Görres attributing it to a negation of existing social and political institutions.


Nihilism as a concept first took shape within Russian and German philosophy. Nihilism is a philosophy that rejects fundamental aspects of objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, and meaning.



Friedrich Nietzsche used the term "Nihilism" to describe the Western world's disintegration of traditional morality.


Nihilism declares that human values are baseless, that life is meaningless, and that knowledge is impossible. Contemporary understanding of the idea stems largely from the Nietzschean 'crisis of nihilism', from which derive the two central concepts: the destruction of higher values and the opposition to the affirmation of life.


Nihilism was further discussed by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who used the term to describe the Western world's disintegration of traditional morality. For Nietzsche, nihilism applied to both the modern trends of value-destruction expressed in the 'death of God', as well as what he saw as the life-denying morality of Christianity.


Nihilism is sometimes used in association with anomie to point to the despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence. Nihilism also emphasizes the arbitrariness of human principles and social institutions.


Some theologians have stated that postmodernity represents Nihilism by a negation of religious principles. Nihilism includes the rejection of all normative and ethical views (Moral nihilism) and the rejection of all social and political institutions (Political nihilism). Nihilism must necessarily be understood in relation to religion.


The Dada art movement flourished from 1916 to 1923.


During World War I, The Dada art movement flourished from 1916 to 1923. The term Dada was first used by Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara in 1916.


The Dada Art Movement began in the old town of Zürich, Switzerland—known as the "Niederdorf" in the Café Voltaire. The Dadaists claimed that Dada was not an art movement, but an anti-art movement, sometimes using found objects in a manner similar to found poetry.


The Dada movement's tendency toward the devaluation of art has led many to claim that Dada was an essentially nihilistic movement.



Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany, 1919, collage of pasted papers, 90×144 cm, Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany, 1919, collage of pasted papers, 90×144 cm, Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The Dada Anti-Art Movement


Dadaism was an informal international art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, Dadaist activities lasted until the mid-1920s. Dada's early center was in Zürich, Switzerland, at the Cabaret Voltaire (the name of a short-lived artistic nightclub in Zürich, Switzerland in 1916).


Prominent Dadaists published manifestos, but the movement was loosely organized and there was no central hierarchy. On 14 July 1916, Ball originated the seminal Dada Manifesto.


There is no consensus on the origin of the Dada movement's name, After World War I, a group of artists and ideologists believed that the bourgeois capitalist society had led people to war.


The group expressed their rejection of bourgeois ideology in what they called "Dada artistic expression" that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality.


The Dada movement rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society. The Dada anti-art movement represented the opposite of Art. Art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics.


The term anti-art characterizes Dada works that challenge accepted definitions of art.


If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend. The shock and scandal the movement inflamed were deliberate. Dadaist magazines were banned, and their exhibits were closed.


Some of the artists even faced imprisonment. Dadaist artists declared their affinities towards radical left-wing and far-left politics, they expressed their discontent toward violence, war, and nationalism.


The term anti-art characterizes Dada works that challenge accepted definitions of art. Dada philosophy is the most paralyzing and destructive thing that has ever originated under the name of art.


Dada artists' works are nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide. Dada was a phenomenon born in the struggles of the postwar economic and moral crisis. Dada was a systematic work of destruction and demoralization... In the end, it became nothing but an act of sacrilege.



The Demoralization Adventure of Marcel Duchamp


On 28 July 1887, the French painter and sculptor Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born at Blainville-Crevon in Normandy, France.


Duchamp's first inspiration was the works of art created by his painter and engraver maternal grandfather, Émile Frédéric Nicolle. Owing to his eldest brother's membership in the prestigious "Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture" Duchamp's work was exhibited in the 1908 Salon d'Automne and the following year in the Salon "des Indépendants".


Like many artists of the time, he was intrigued with the concept of depicting the fourth dimension in art.


Toward the end of 1912, Duchamp traveled with Picabia, Apollinaire, and Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia through the Jura mountains, an adventure that was described as one of their "forays of demoralization and the disintegration of the concept of art". Duchamp's notes from the trip avoid logic and sense and have a surrealistic, mythical connotation.


After World War I started in August 1914, with his brothers and many friends in military service and himself exempted, Duchamp felt uncomfortable in Paris.


Duchamp in New York...


Duchamp decided to emigrate to the United States in 1915. Duchamp found he was a celebrity when he arrived in New York in 1915, where he quickly befriended art patrons Katherine Dreier, Louise, and Walter Conrad Arensberg.


The Arensbergs would remain his friends and patrons for 42 years. Duchamp became part of an artist colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City.


Duchamp created the Société Anonyme in 1920, along with Katherine Dreier and Man Ray. The group collected modern artworks and arranged modern art exhibitions and lectures throughout the 1930s.


The most prominent example of Duchamp's association with Dada was his submission of Fountain.


Duchamp's friend Francis Picabia connected with the Dada group in Zürich, bringing to New York the Dadaist ideas of absurdity and "anti-art". Duchamp and Picabia first met in September 1911 at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, where they were both exhibiting.


The most prominent example of Duchamp's association with Dada was his submission of Fountain, a urinal, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917. The show committee didn't consider the Fountain as an art piece and rejected it from the show.


This caused an uproar among the Dadaists and led Duchamp to resign from the board of the Independent Artists. To speak out about his anti-artistic Dada ideology Duchamp published multiple Dada magazines in New York including The Blind Man and Rongwrong.


Marcel_Duchamp,_1917,_Fountain,_photograph_by_Alfred_Stieglitz
Marcel Duchamp,1917, Fountain, Dada Anti-Art Movement..

Duchamp had rejected what he called "retinal art."


Duchamp's work is associated with Cubism, Dada, and conceptual art. Duchamp had rejected what he called "retinal art"; art intended only to please the eye. Instead, he wanted to use art to serve the mind.


Duchamp tried to create art conveying the unseen mental activity of the viewer. He has had an immense impact on 20th- and 21st-century art, and a seminal influence on the development of conceptual art.


Duchamp died suddenly and peacefully in the early morning of 2 October 1968 at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Duchamp retired at 1:05 am, collapsed in his studio, and died of heart failure. He is buried in the Rouen Cemetery, in Rouen, France.


On 17 November 1999, a version of Fountain (owned by Arturo Schwarz) was sold at Sotheby's, New York, for $1,762,500 to Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who declared that Fountain represented the origin of contemporary art.








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