Zurich, 1916. Artists and intellectuals of all stripes come together, work together, and produce creative work together in reaction to the ideological, political, and aesthetic conventions of the day. Defying rules while enjoying the utmost freedom of expression, they gave rise to a new art movement that was joyful, engaged, and… subversive.
The movement was Dadaism or Dada, which celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2016. As a tribute, author and director Anita Hugi, director David Dufresne, and the Akufen agency created Dada-Data, an interactive web documentary that reflects the spirit of this pivotal development in the history of art.
“For the past 50 years, there has been no documentary on Dada,” states Anita Hugi, who initiated the project. “And yet Dadaism is part of the world’s DNA. It’s in us.” David Dufresne, one of the authors of Dada-Data, goes even further: “Dada is the foundation for everything. The artists in this movement invented automatic writing, collage, and photomontage.” The developers of the project wanted to do something about the lack of documentary resources on Dada.
As one of the leading figures of the movement, Richard Huelsenbeck, said in 1920: “One cannot understand Dada. One must experience it.” Dada-Data consists of six “hacktions,” which include Instagram photo collages and tweeted poetry; a filter transforms the images into Dada constructs. “Some of the pages are truly works of arts,” says Christian Lebel, technical director at Akufen.
Dada’s dissident practices recall the spirit that drove the creators of the web.
“The web’s dissenting attitude and decentralized structure are features it shares with Dada,” points out David Dufresne.
When it emerged in 1916, this art movement was opposed to the commodification of the world and the concentration of wealth in just a few hands. “Today, we can speak of data-ization,” says David Dufresne. If we fought a war, it would be against GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), which collects all this information about us for marketing purposes.”
The aura of resistance was present even in the production process. There was no project hierarchy. In a spirit of true collaboration, the developers encouraged everyone to contribute to all aspects of the site. It made for a chaotic process that, according to participants, worked really well. “Considering the project’s extensive scope, it’s surprising how well everything worked out,” admits Christian Lebel.
The project’s reception has also been surprising. Within forty-eight hours post launch, as many as 120,000 visitors stormed the site. “Reddit,” recalls David Dufresne, “reported on our site. Immediately, a channel on Dada was launched where people discussed the movement, its history, what it had achieved, and so on.” Now, the site attracts visitors from all over the world.