It’s 1916. While World War I sows death and chaos across Europe, artists seek refuge in neutral Switzerland. In Zurich, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings found Le Cabaret Voltaire, which will become the epicenter of the Dada movement—an artistic outcry over brutality, suffering, and destruction, born out of disgust over the political landscape, degradation of social structures, and evolution of trench warfare.
Exactly one hundred years later, Franco-German channel Arte and SFR, the French telecommunications company, have come together to produce an homage to the movement: an interactive-documentary-meets-creative-hackathon entitled Dada-Data.
Dada-Depot, the i-doc part of the project, is an anti-museum, “a garden of random fragments that endlessly rearrange themselves.” Quotes, animations, articles, and fragments of a video interview with Greil Marcus, an American essayist and rock critic, are all intertwined to create a unique journey through the artwork and artists that formed the movement.
The second part of Data-Data allows for more direct user participation. Every week a new hackathon launches, transporting the Dada experience to other parts of the Internet. For those with no coding experience, fear not—you won’t need any to participate, so just play along. And the projects are playful, indeed. Block, for example, is a browser plugin that blocks the omnipresent ads and replaces them with pieces of Dada artwork. Sorry, Amazon!
Another project, Connected Readymade, is a twenty-first century spin-off of the Marcel Duchamp concept. Originally, Duchamp tested the limits of what a piece of art can be by turning an everyday object into a piece of art just by virtue of calling it a piece of art. Dada-Data takes the concept into another level of meta, by turning three of the most popular Dada sculptures—Fountain by Duchamp, Dada Head by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and The Gift by Man Ray—into 3D models and printing them using 3D printers. Viewers can enjoy the live stream of the process as part of the i-doc. In addition, every day three people win the printouts.
Dada-Data’s form could not represent the content better. It’s chaotic, nonlinear, and unpredictable in the best way possible, just like Dada art itself. You never know what you will stumble upon next, nor can you return to what you have seen earlier using the back arrow. What disappoints, however, is that the piece does not delve deeper into the political. Given that Dadaism was born as an immediate response to the horrors of Europe in the early twentieth century, it only seems appropriate to try to make Dada relevant again, given the current political landscape. Making a Dada-esque selfie is fun, and as Frant Stella put it, “Dada is having a good time,” but according to Katherine Dreier and Man Ray, “Dada is [also] irony” and “a state of mind.”