Many Dada artists were critical of the dominant social structures and political strategies that led to World War I. To them, the carnage of war was proof enough that the rationalism and order of civilization was an illusion. Rather than preventing mass destruction, many believed that the acceptance of reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct had, in fact, enabled and justified the slaughter of millions.

To critique the systems that shaped society, they turned to new art-making strategies. In their attack on rationality, Dada artists embraced chance, accident, and improvisation. Such forces figured prominently in their creation of collages, assemblages, and photomontages—and subverted elements that had long defined artistic practice, like craft, control, and intentionality. It was a form of personal protest and a tool for critiquing the increasingly mechanized, violent world in which they lived. Drawing on such methods and using imagery from magazines, newspapers, and other printed mass media, Dada artists “could attack the bourgeoisie with distortions of its own communications imagery. The man on the street could be shocked to see the components of a familiar letter of his newspapers and posters running amuck.”


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