Those who say history repeats itself are not wrong, especially if they are talking about art history. With infamous pieces such as The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp and The Spirit of Our Time by Raoul Hausmann, it is only reasonable that people would eventually emulate the styles pioneered during the Dada Movement.
The Dada Movement was an art movement from 1916 to 1924 and is known as the movement of “nothing” due to its nihilistic views. The movement was started in Switzerland as a reaction to World War I and the nationalism and traditionalism that was thought to have led to the war. The movement would come to influence other avant-garde movements such as Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism and Expressionism.
There is one art style that came out of Dada that has been copied by more than just artists over the last 100 years, which is the creation of photo collages. Now, most might think of this style as something they did in grade school for art class or as what their grandmother does when she scrapbooks, but the style is actually accredited to one of the few women of the Dada Movment, Hannah Höch.
Höch’s work was comprised of mostly newspaper and magazine clippings but also incorporated sewing and craft designs. Her most famous work is Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany. The piece was commentary on German culture by literally cutting apart images and news articles and repositioning them to better reflect the culture of pre-war Germany.
While this all seems outlandish and abstract, many are starting to consider today’s meme and social media culture as the new age of Dada. Most millennials today use social media and many companies are also starting starting to get on board. And one of the most popular things to post are images called memes. Memes are images that play on pop and political culture through humor and are widely shared across all social media platforms. One of the main points of Dadaism was to point out the absurdity of everyday life and to force viewers to not separate art and life.
We see the similarities between Dada and internet culture through static images, but we can also find crossovers in styles and meanings in videos. Marcel Duchamp has arguably one of the most recognizable pieces from the Dada movement and that is his piece The Fountain, which is just a urinal laying on its back with his signature on the top. The piece was a commentary on the uselessness of objects when removed from their original context.
YouTube is one of the fastest growing platforms online and many studies have proven that videos on social media get the most engagement from the general public. It can be very easy to get lost in the digital vortex of the internet, especially once YouTube starts automatically playing videos for you. However, one theme you can find consistently throughout the internet and especially videos is the idea of rendering objects useless by taking them out of context.
Think about every video you have come across where the creator drops a computer or iPhone into a bathtub or sink. You have probably seen this kind of content more than a dozen times, but each time it is still just as startling as seeing a car accident as you drive by. You cannot look away although you know that the item was probably broken or useless before the content creator placed it in the water.
Still, seeing it submerged still takes you aback. This is the modern version of The Fountain. Just as the urinal cannot come back from being removed from the wall, the electronic item cannot be fixed after being fully submerged in water.
While we may never see internet memes in art museums like we do Dadaist pieces, it can still be helpful to look at internet culture as a way of understanding what the younger generations are thinking so that, as marketers, we can better communicate with them and evaluate their purchasing habits.