After World War II, art academics describe Dadaism as an artistic movement hijacked by politicians to embellish their propaganda machines. Here’s some of the how and the why.
By: Vanessa Uy
Whenever election time comes around, I tend not to take my civic duties lightly. Since this is one of the few times when we ordinary folks are granted the power to decide the future of our nation and for the betterment of everyone. But there’s no ignoring that art, for better or for worse- plays a much larger role than you think in the coming political races.
Dadaism, as defined by Webster’s dictionary as an artistic movement based on deliberate irrationality and negation of the laws of beauty and organization. If at first we steer away from the political connotations, Dadaism in my experience has a fixation with the absurd or flippant imagery, object d’art or actions were presented as opposed to conventional art works. For example, a wooden bust of George W. Bush were presented with a machete attached by a chain, visitors are invited to chop at it if they so desire. Dadaism’s strongly represented protest against the conventional sentimental admiration of art. The movement gained popularity in France, from 1916 until the start of the 1920’s, when a sect of Dadaism that has grown tired of politics merged into surrealism. In more recent times, surrealism is more commonly displayed in the cover art of albums by the Rock group Yes and the Salvador Dali-esque Anthrax’s “Persistence of Time” album cover art.
One Dadaist symbolism that’s been hijacked by political forces was the “fasces”. The fasces were formed by a bundle of rods bound with a red cord, which was carried by the lictor (attendant of a magistrate) in ancient Rome. The fasces symbolized the magistrate’s authority to enforce obedience. Outside the walls of Rome, an ax (securis) was carried in augmentation to the bundle of rods; the ax indicated that the, magistrate, as a military commander, could exercise the power of life and death over those under his command. The fasces, was chosen by Benito Mussolini as the symbol of his 1919 movement in Italy, which became the “Fascist Party”.
The Marxist-Leninist Socialism’s iconic hammer and sickle emblem, which symbolizes Communism, was used on the Soviet flag. During the Cold War, the hammer and sickle was a very ominous iconic symbol, which the Western powers say best symbolizes the “Evil Empire” which brought humanity to the brink of nuclear annihilation.
One politician here in the Philippines has an electoral poster designed to make this certain politician look like an Orwellian “Big Brother.” This poster design, castes the politician in a sinister light even though this certain politician has a good track record with an altruism that doesn’t pave the proverbial road to hell. Better consult your “focus groups.” Just like the wooden George W. Bush bust with the machete, political/election posters are torn down after election in a cathartic expression of renewal.
To know more about Dadaism, check out DW-TV’s Arts21 web site.