How to Create Dada Art

Written by kathleen lake
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How to Create Dada Art
Salvador Dali, a force in the dada movement, incorporated yin and yang in this painting. (Salvador Dali painting ying - yang image by Daria Miroshnikova from

According to, a website devoted to art history, "Dadaism or dada is a post-World War I cultural movement in visual art as well as literature (mainly poetry), theatre and graphic design. The movement was, among other things, a protest against the barbarism of the War and what Dadaists believed was an oppressive intellectual rigidity in both art and everyday society; its works were characterised by a deliberate irrationality and the rejection of the prevailing standards of art. It influenced later movements including Surrealism." The diverse and challenging art world of today owes a great deal to dada.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Photographs
  • Magazines
  • Found objects
  • Crayons
  • Pastels
  • Paint
  • Glue

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  1. 1

    Stop making sense. Put a pineapple next to an Eskimo, or a doghouse on top of a trailer. In an effort to challenge the prevailing opinions about art in the early 1900s, members of the dada movement cultivated irrationality, deliberately placing incongruent images together and combining the mundane with the spiritual. Some of what they made poked fun at serious ideas and institutions, while some of it made no sense whatsoever. At least part of what dada heightened in the art world were the senses of humour, anarchy and irony.

  2. 2

    Glue many pieces of small paper together, overlapping on one background to form an image or just an abstract shape. Collage in its most basic form uses many different pieces of paper. But collage may also use pastels, paper, feathers, crayons, clay and other textures and media.

  3. 3

    Shoot some photos, then chop them up and reconfigure them, combine them with other media, or display them out of order. Photo-montage takes the distinctive attributes of photography, particularly its journalistic aspect, and plays with them. Experiment with jumbling up your photographs or photoshopping them to create original photographs, made up but seemingly real. Dadaists probably would have loved Photoshop. A strong element of Dadaism is asking the viewer to question his assumptions about the legitimacy of what he sees.

  4. 4

    Stick things together that shouldn't be together. Assemblage is like collage, but three-dimensional, so it has the capacity to fill up spaces with objects that confuse and confound audiences. Dada liked to put an object that had sacred symbolism next to something ordinary or even debased.

  5. 5

    Pick up a random object, sign it and call it art. This is found or ready-made Art. Artist Marcel Duchamp shocked the art world in 1917 by signing R. Mutt to a urinal, titling it "Fountain," and entering it in an art show. He offended them on multiple levels -- by the seeming laziness of throwing something together with no effort, instead of months of painstaking work; by evoking the process of excretion; and by not creating something original, just to name a few. Choose an object related to body function, or as far from the world of beautiful and uplifting art as you can get, if you want to incorporate the Dadaist thread into your own ready-made artwork.

  6. 6

    Re-purpose things. In other words, create a hat made out of a cellphone, or a house made entirely of cookies. Challenge people's ideas about functionality. Today, with multimedia, multimovement art, it is hard to realise how disturbing and confrontational dada was in its time. If you want to get a sense of it, read a little of Plato on art to see the then still-ruling ideas of purity and idealism that dada assaulted. To create your own new media, combine all of the above.

Tips and warnings

  • Defying convention can pay off in the art world. In 2004, according to the BBC, a poll of 500 art experts named Duchamp's "Fountain" "the most influential modern art work of all time."

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