Automatism [REVISED AND EXPANDED] By Donkin, Hazel
There were different directions and forms connnected to Dada but an important element within it was a position of critique of established art and society. Dada writers and artists developed a critique of traditional and even ‘modern’ notions of art. Their artistic expressions included explorations of the absurd, chance, and the subconscious. Tristan Tzara wrote instructions on how to create a Dada poem: he suggested taking a newspaper article, cutting out each of the individual words, putting them all in a paper bag, taking these scraps out one at a time and writing them down in the order in which they left the bag. Tzara also applied this ‘cut-up’ process to his visual works. Other Dada artists also experimented with automatism including Hans Arp who produced collage works using a process of tearing paper into pieces, dropping them onto a larger sheet and pasting each of them where they happened to fall. Marcel Duchamp’s famous exercise in chance, an attempt ‘to combat logical reality’, resulted in the work entitled 3 Standard Stoppages (1913–14). His process involved dropping three pieces of string, each measuring one metre in length, from a height of one metre and recording the unpredictable shapes that they made on canvas strips below. The profiles of the curved lines were then used as templates and transferred on to wood.