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Neo-Dada Performance Art

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Neo-Dada was a term used in the late 1950s, usually pejoratively, to characterise creations that fell outside the domains of abstract art, absurd theatre, and surrealism. By the early 1960s, the works focussing on the quotidian aspects of late-capitalist, urban culture increased in number. Their exuberant energy, their critical focus on the emerging media society, and their novel forms of production and presentation revealed that they were much more than just a rehash of an earlier phase of the avant-garde.

Many of the American artists to whom the term Neo-Dada was applied worked in the performance medium and preferred the term Happening for their time-based creations. In Continental Europe, artists working in a similar vain called themselves New Realists. In Japan, the term chosen for this concept was Concretism, or the Japanese word for it, Gutai. In 1962, a second generation of artists continued this trend under the banner of Fluxus (but its first public performance in Düsseldorf again carried in its title the word "Neo-Dada"). Starting off in Germany with close ties to the Happening movement, Fluxus grew into a world-wide phenomenon and a well-organised network held together until the mid-1960s by George Maciunas. This contribution defines some of the characteristic traits of Neo-Dada performance art, discusses its relation to the Dada experiments of the period 1916-22, and establishes to what degree the Happening and Fluxus movement was an original and innovative feature of the post-war avant-garde. It uses some exemplary Neo-Dada performances to examine Bürger's claim that the neo-avant-garde repeated the mistakes and failures of its predecessor and that as a movement it accommodated to the prevailing system of alienation rather than attempted to overcome it.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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