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Dada

by Jean (Hans) Arp
February 1962

Dada wanted to destroy men's pretences at reason and rediscover the natural, unreasonable order of things. Dada wanted to replace the logical nonsense of men today by illogical meaninglessness. This was why we beat the great Dada drum and trumpeted long and loud the praisesof unreason. Dada gave a clyster to the Venus de Milo and allowed Laocoon and his sons to relax after fighting a several-thousand-year battle with that fat sausage-snake. Philosophers mean less to Dada than an old toothbrush long since thrown away and so Dada leaves them to the great world leaders. Dada denounces the devilish tricks of the official vocabulary of wisdom. Dada is for meaninglessness, which is not the same as nonsense. Dada is as meaningless as nature. Dada is for nature and against art. Dada is as direct as nature. Dada is for infinite meaning and definite means.

Dada objects are made from things that have been found or manufactured, plain or complicated. The Chinese a few thousand years ago, Duchamp, Picabia in the United States, Schwitters and myself during the 1914 war were the first to invent and spread abroad these toys of wisdom and perspicacity which were to cure human beings of the wild madness of genius and bring them gently back to their place in the proper order of things. The natural beauty of these objects is a basic part of them, like that of a bunch of flowers gathered by children. Thousands of years ago, an Emperor of China sent his artists to the furthest of his lands to find the rare and unusually-shaped stones he loved to collect and he set them on pedestals alongside his vases and his gods. This pleasant pastime would never suit our thinkers, modern Jacks-in-office who lie in wait for the connoisseur like hotel porters stalking customers at a station.

Catalogue for the Arp retrospective exhibition
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne,
February-April 1962