When Dadaism Falls

After a long day at the office, one puts on a rubber mask of a random American president, goes to the local pub to scream obscenities in an alcoholic frenzy to a topless woman with glowing devil horns, and gorges on candy and chocolates as though it were the last remaining food this world has to offer.

That’s the traditional North American night of debauchery on any given October 31st , in any random pub. Usually the night is reserved for a certain kind of social release and childlike pleasure, even amongst the most serious (with enough social lubricant). But what most people don’t realise is that this kind of release is repeated night after night in the same circumstances, and that a specific celebration for it is merely highlighted by a date in the calendar to identify its existence in us all.

The idea of rejecting logic, acting like a child, and being extravagant in demeanour but humorous in spirit in the constant search of liberty were first identified and catalogued with the Dada art movement.

Created in 1916 in Germany, Dadaism was formed from the need to understand the high social conflicts of the First World War by artists who believed that art was no longer representative of what was happening at that time.

Society had become too strict (Stalinism, the rise of Nazism), and with no social or cultural release in sight, Dadaists converged to fight back in every crazy artistic way they could find. The word “dada” itself doesn’t mean anything; it just happens to be easy to scream out, and sounds like something a child might say.

Artists like Otto Dix depicted sexual liberation with three grotesque prostitutes from Berlin in a piece called “Three Women”. Others preferred the socio-political route, like Max Beckmann in “The Night”. The painting shows a juvenile and orgy-like torture room, representing the restraining social limits placed upon society at that time. Theatre-wise, cabarets in Germany were popping up everywhere with topless dancing girls as their star attractions – germinating the first notions of sexual liberation as pure entertainment value.

Yes, the artistic movements of social and sexual debauchery are not recent developments (everyone enjoys watching those silly characterisations of hedonistic Romans in Fellini’s “Satyricon”). But the social idea – that is, the social collective thought of releasing oneself to our primordial needs to raise a spontaneous reaction from any receptor – is a modern one stemming from our collective worries about the state of the world.

If the day is reserved for such meaningless things as administrative work, shopping, banking and cigarette breaks, then the night is the time when we can all reconvene and be our real selves, with our own dreadful thoughts. Perhaps even with a drink or two.

By day, three-piece suit professionals roam the busy streets of their metropolitans and quietly acknowledge each other with shy grins and matching shopping bags. But by night, those same respected individuals find themselves in underground sex clubs licking boots and engaging in highly imaginative orgies (some not even sexual) to help them continue with their socially repressed worlds the next day.

On a lesser scale, some would rather watch pornography on their laptops and call it a day, while others prefer a pint with a good friend and a shouting match over who is the best rugby team in the world, but the idea is the same. Social liberation, through our most guttural and sexual instincts, is something that we must all take part in (even if you think you don’t). Otherwise, our repressed urges would explode and land us all in a coma.

It isn’t any wonder that in such high times of social uncertainty, we are surrounded by innumerable topless bars and more sexual fetishes than a Latin linguist can shake a suffix at. Would you consider such things immoral social behaviour or simply a product of our wanton desires?

Learn to accept and develop your release pattern and live what you artistically feel inside, no matter how idiotic it comes out. The more sexually or politically grotesque, the better. If not, you might find yourself in the horrible act of switching back and forth between “Coronation Street”, your archived chat logs and “Jeopardy” on a Halloween night.

Justin-Barry Mahoney

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