Learning the Unruly ABCs of Dada






M is for...
Mask, Monstrous and Malign



It's easy to look at dada's wacky objects, embalmed in their museum vitrines, as merely fun or curious sculpture. Many of them were once much more alive and threatening than that: They were often props for radical performance art.

Hugo Ball, founder of Zurich's famous Cabaret Voltaire, talked about an act in which he put on one of the masks of his dada colleague Marcel Janco:

It "demanded a quite definite, passionate gesture, bordering on madness. Although we could not have imagined it five minutes earlier, we were walking around with the most bizarre movements, festooned and draped with impossible objects, each one of us trying to outdo the other. . . . What fascinates us all about the masks is that they represent not human characters and passions, but passions that are larger than life. The horror of our time, the paralyzing background of events is made visible."

- Blake Gopnik, Washington Post Staff Writer




PHOTO: PHILIPPE MIGEAT - CENTRE POMPIDOU, MUSEE NATIONAL D'ART MODERNE, PARIS




© 2006 The Washington Post Company