UBC Theses and Dissertations
Berlin Dada and the notion of context Wall, Jeffrey David
I. BERLIN DADA AND THE NOTION OF CONTEXT A. Dominant material force = dominant intellectual force in society. B. Society and language are aspects of a single process. C. In twentieth century society the fundamental human process of labour is distorted. D. Art in conflict with society over the attitude toward labour as process. 1.-Art is in state of tension with language. E. In twentieth century the ideological function of art is taken over by other media. 1.-The artist is deprived of social necessity. a.-Artists' immediate reaction was absolute rejection of society (e.g. Rimbaud.) F. The Dada movement is the first step beyond absolute rejection toward a viable critical dialectic. 1.-Berlin Dada establishes critique of the notion of the avant-garde. a.-Marxist attitudes in Berlin 1917-1922. Berlin Dada resists mystification. (example: attitude toward primitivism in poetry.) G. Power of myth is ability to control definitions. Applied meanings become absolute meanings (reification). H. Resistance to mystification means historical awareness; history as the process of development of meanings. 1. -Historical awareness is contextual awareness and process awareness. 2. -Art in conflict with social definitions engages in contextual struggle. 3. -Manifesto is the tool of contextual struggle. a.-Critical analysis of Huelsenbeck's and Tzara's manifestos shows that manifesto is antithetical to "art condition". Manifesto is successful to the extent that it does not operate as art. I. Historical awareness makes negation of art possible: negation of art by art. (Duchamp and Berlin Dada). 1. -Negation of art meaningful only in social terms. 2. -Negation of art by Duchamp and Berlin Dada brought art into existence anew. A new method of creation is established. a.-New method is totally historical/dialectical. Objection to reification makes art possible. J. New method of Berlin Dada and Duchamp takes art-context as its subject-matter. K. Old context becomes artifact in new context; a total break is established in which new system completely redefines activity. L. Art's activity is inherently revolutionary. 1.-For Berlin Dada, the importance of art lay in the contextual assumptions made by the bourgeois audience. II. ALIENATION AND IDEOLOGY A. Account of Marx's analysis of labour process; concept of alienation, critique of political economy,philosophy. B. Ideas are created from practice. C. All activity is by definition social in the human world. D. Dialectical criticism establishes existence as a process. E. The nature of art is dialectical. The center of art is process, revealed through theory which describes context. F. Account of the theory of ideology. The opposition of theory to ideology. G. Marx: Ideology = False consciousness. H. Account of how ideology enters language; truth and error part of single process of knowledge. I. Language is social in nature. J. Ideology mediates between action and language. K. Ideology is function of class antagonism. Account of difference between myth and ideology. L. Dialectical criticism brings knowledge (true theory) out of false consciousness through contextual awareness. M. Knowledge destroys ideology. N. Art is a function of knowledge. III. ART VS. CULTURE A. Culture is society's definition; it is a function of ideology. B. Account of bourgeois-idealist concept of culture. C. Post-bourgeois world altering bourgeois-idealist cultural ideology, moving it toward more positivistic viewpoint in connection with technological rationality. D. Art is a particular kind of labour: it is the image of all labour. E. Bourgeois-idealist concept of culture remained dialectical; new ideology denying dialectic idea completely. F. Marcuse's criticism of post-bourgeois cultural ideology. G. Account of new notion of "empty category" of Duchamp and Berlin Dadaists. H. Social function of a work of art essentially transforms its meaning. I. In face of antagonistic social reality, art structures alternative events, generates an alternative language. J. This language and event is unreal; the fact that it proclaims itself as antagonistic to the existing is the basis of its significance.
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