Political Dadaism

Things are never going to be the same in America. 

This country is on fire, and I don’t think it’s ever going to look like it used to in the mythical, eulogized past, no matter what happens on Election Day. 

We’ve heard this all before, usually surrounding every presidential election, and these chicken little warnings have amounted to nothing more than the defeated blessings of the losing party. 

But this time, I think there’s something to it. This time I think they’re right. There will be no “healing.” There will be no “coming together.” Everybody’s got their tribe now, they’re group. And it’s not just the government doing this. 

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we hell-bent on burning it all down?

I consider it a form of political Dadaism. 

“Fountain,” Marcel Duchamp (1917)
Dadaism was a European avant-garde art movement born largely in reaction to the First World War. It set out to shock and offend capitalist society and the “reason” and “logic” its adherents claim had lead to the horrors of the war, and the inequities and hypocrisies of the modern world in general. 

As Fred Kleiner put it, the Dada movement was “a reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide.”

That sounds a lot like what we’re seeing with many modern political movements, doesn’t it?

There’s a lot of people who want to “burn it all down,” who want nothing more than to shock and offend just because (which might explain, in part, the resurgence of cartoonish anti-Semitism and other offensive memes), who work towards the destruction of America’s institutions and traditions, who want to destroy the established order or other group of people holding them back. 

Taboos are being violated. Long-held principles are being questioned. The unspeakable is being spoken and the logical and rational is being, metaphorically, pissed on largely just because it’s so much fun to piss off the powers-that-be that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. 

And what do many of these groups want once the current regimes and shibboleths are all torn down?

“Dada Head,” Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1920)
Some want to return to a “golden age” of America, usually involving adherence to the Constitution and a rule of law. Others want radical change, usually socialism. Still others just want America destroyed and their enemy du jour eradicated. 

Since nobody can agree upon what it even means to be an American anymore, will they be that far off the mark from where we are now?

Once you’ve burned it down…then what?

Dadaism, unstable as it was transitioned into other artistic movements. It’s techniques also became highly influential, such as collages, photomontages, and assemblage, as well as the general spirit of mischief and absurdity. 

“Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance,” Jean Arp (1917)
I see a lot of things–techniques of discourse or campaigning, if you will–born out of election 2016 surviving long after the final vote is tallied. 

For better or for worse. 

Like the artistic Dadaists, the political Dadaists are really disgusted with America, its government, institutions, and culture. 

The funny thing is, all sides probably hate the same things, but just for different reasons. 

Nothing can bring people together quite like anger, I suppose. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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