Francis Picabia
(French, 1879-1953)
Mouvement Dada

Francis Picabia. Mouvement Dada. 1919

(French, 1879-1953) Ink on paper, 20 1/8 x 14 1/4" (51.1 x 36.2 cm). Purchase. © 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: This stark black and white diagrammatic drawing by Francis Picabia, with the title Mouvement Dada, or ‘Dada Movement,’ was published in Tristan Tzara's Zurich Dada Periodical, and was made after Picabia's visit to Zurich late in January 1919.

NARRATOR: Curator Anne Umland:

ANNE UMLAND:** If you look at it closely, you can see a series of names, following along the arc-like current lines that go from the lower left of the image, beginning with Corot and Ingres, up through Mouvement Dada at the top, which then is wired to this round alarm-like clock, where you can read the names of many of the Dada protagonists in Zurich, Paris, and New York.

NARRATOR: Many have interpreted this image as a noisy alarm clock, sounding Dada’s wake-up-call through Picabia's periodical 391, which you can see on the lower right. It also contains a bold claim.

ANNE UMLAND: Dada is often thought of as being nihilistic, of wanting to wipe clean the slate of the past. But at the same time, the Dadaists were profoundly self-referential, and self-historicizing. There are many instances where they write histories of their own ephemeral movement, including, in this case, constructing a genealogy, and one with an implicit hierarchy that places Dada above all these grand old names of the Paris school.

This is one of many, many images throughout Dada that chart a history of a group that is constantly questioning what it means to be a group, something that's always on the threshold of breaking apart, or perhaps in this case, of blowing up.

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