Dadaism and The Punk Movement

This written piece is inspired by “Lipstick traces” by Greil Marcus. This is a book written in the 1970s which explores the connections between Punks, Dadaism to the Knights of the Round table and heretics throughout history.

The Dada movement was how the art world responded to the awfulness of war. How it responded to all previous ideas about peace being shattered as the world exploded and everyone died. There seemed to be a strong feeling of “this is what classical culture leads to, and therefore we must do the opposite.” This lead to a turning away from the material reality into a realm where there was no more representation.

The world was too ugly to inspired by as an artist. As friends, community members and family came home from war with horrendous battle scars and disfigurements, or didn’t come home at all. The line between what was natural and what was unnatural had been blurred. 

Everything was messed up and the art world needed something new.

This is when Dadaism was born with a primal scream, it’s middle finger up to everything that had come before, while taking pleasures in the simple things in life. It was avant-garde anarchy. 

Dadaism also has a strong links to primitivism and childlike abstractions of our world. Which I think was also a response to the First World War, as it’s a return to a level of simplicity that is manageable. It’s a return to simple shapes, colours and textures. Like trying to go back in time to when you were a young child, it was a search for comfort in such a brutal and unfeeling world. 

This links to my research into Hugo Ball, a member of the Dada movement. How he deconstructed language and the shape of the body through his performance of “Karawane.” Transporting the audience into a primitive, minimalistic reality. 

Then in the 1950s there was formation The Situationalist International, which was a French group that produced protest posters and leaflets in response to Capitalism and it’s affect on society.

While Dadaism stemmed from the melancholia of the First World War and lack of control, whereas, punk stemmed from an anger of the lack of control. Both were forged from a level of angst and discontent about the world around them.

In the 1970s Punk was born. The punk movement was a response to the paranoia of the Cold War and Thatcherism.

The lack of clarity in the punk political message and the working class’ disillusionment for left-wing ideals led us to think that the issue was far more complex… notably as a strong symbolic force, and as a vehement opposition to the establishment in general.

Again this was a return to primitivism. This time through the expression of raw emotion in Punk music and attitude. It was a different search for comfort in such a brutal and unfeeling world. The Punk movement provided comfort through community. Providing an environment for expression for the misfits and the pissed off.

Laura Oldfield Ford, was a member of the punk movement, and produced zines about the punk scene in working class London. You can find my analysis of her work here. Through her work she displayed the primitive, grungy reality that she lived in. Showing the brutality and disillusionment of the working class.



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