The Dada device of deliberate arbitrariness
A modern movement of intellectuals that began in 1915 and included writers and artists of all mediums. Its very first beginnings are in the German poet Hugo Ball's founding of the “Cabaret Voltaire” in 1916. The movement didn't last very long - barely beyond the year 1923- but its influence over all artistic styles since has been phenomenal. The incomprehensible name is explicitly Dada, having derived from a random sweep of a French dictionary. Dada may mean rocking horse' in French or it may be an ironic representation of what most people's first, mumbled word is as a baby, but that is certainly beside the point. More important is the manner of its choosing- the random act signifying the most prominent characteristic of the Dada movement; an anarchic, anti-aesthetic, anti-rational doctrine; an artistic reaction to the reality of post World War I Europe. Though this initial premise would change over the years, and the movement would turn to rejecting far more than the military mind-set of that era.
The invention of Non- art'
First exhibited in Switzerland , they quickly made their way to the more actively chic part of the art world- New York . They were soon exhibiting in all the great European capitals. The first names in this list would be Jean Arp , Tristan Tzara and Yanko. When the Dada scene stormed the U.S the names of Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Francis Picabia would join this list. As they solidified their stance, Dada became a complete rejection of the social structures and norms of the time. Spurning what they deemed false and purposefully hypocritical in the world, they also spurned the art that reflected and was derived from that world. They proposed a new world order and with it a new kind of art- a non -art; something that applied no regurgitated technique or historically acclaimed style, something that followed no recognizable discipline and was created to shock the viewer.
Art as an act of conscious will- of choice- and not craftsmanship
Art for arts sake, art for its beauty- these were merely the bastard traditions of a culture extending itself into art. Dada art was not meant to be beautiful or aesthetic; it wasn't exemplified in fine craftsmanship. Ready-made, nonsense poetry, wildly juxtapositional contexts- these tools were all used to prove that Man controls nothing in this world, [except, perhaps, the illusions he chooses to believe in] and that arbitrary chance rules us all. Thus art too, may be- or perhaps must be- arbitrary. This is exemplified in one of the Dadaists most famous work, which is probably Duchamp's “Fountain”, made in 1917. This is a single unit of a man's urinal, placed proudly on display, and the single involvement of the artists in the work in the fact that he chose it out of a urinal catalogue. Duchamp separates between the act of art and the result of art. Having had nothing to do with his own creation, the act of choosing becomes the act of art making.