(tangential rant continuing...) It is unfortunate that the PDF is so clipped -- we get the last two pages of the entire "Art is in Danger" book (and an odd translation, at that).

Ed, the dictionary definition of anything in art, past perhaps simple nouns like "paintbrush" or "stop bath," is likely to be wrong, if for no other reason than its isolated brevity. The Dadaists had reasons for their objection to the existing art world, which they saw as a validation mechanism for the bourgois classes that had in the years previous ("Anno 13") brought great ruin onto the German people; a people whom the Dadaists (notably the Red Group like Grosz et al, members of the KDP) felt had been dragged into the war by the forces of industry that ruled the press (much as many Americans feel that the Iraq war was partly perpetrated to keep Fox News & Halliburton busy). By the 1920s, the war was over, but the problems remained and the same people were mostly still in the same seats of power. "The Kaiser is gone, but the generals are all still in place," or so the saying went. Without those underlying purposes, there would be no Dada.

The term "tendency" (used above, & in the PDF a fair bit) to the art world of the time meant "art compelled by a larger purpose," such as a social one (e.g., Goya's book of war atrocities); it's dialectic opposite was "formalism," where art is executed purely for the sake of "beauty," "form," and so forth. In other words, "do your own thing." (In the modern world, one aspect of formalism is an absurd emphasis on the technical processes of photography, rather than the content and potential meaning of the pictures. Thus we have varying camps of fetishism: compact digitals, Leicas, toy cameras, Cyanotypists -- all with their own micro-sized Academy subcultures.)

The Dadaists declared that the criteria of art formalism were inherently corrupt, created and maintained by the elites and merchant classes for the sake of Keeping The People Down -- to dismiss the rising proletarian society as tasteless and without culture (see their companion essay "The Art Scab," which riffs mercilessly on this theme). So they declared art formalism as corrupt and pushed themselves and their art to find something different, something that could be as quickly-executed and changeable as the events unfolding around them in those years, and used satire and seemingly-random assemblage as a means to attack the previous aesthetics. By the 1930's, they would themselves be denounced as "corrupt, degenerate," and "broken apart" by the new Ministers of Culture; the local art world had moved to a clean, designer-driven and formalized corporate asthetic which proclaimed itself in the nationalistic service of "the unification of the people" instead of so much (as the accepted critics of the day put it) "jewishness."
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[/list:u:8f8775417b]Interpreting "Dada" as "do your own thing" is a modern perspective that ignores all but the formal aspects of that art. As such it is the antithesis of Dada's purpose. Such a reading is not surprising, though -- modern art, IMO, went to hell with the ascendancy of abstract expressionism -- a sort of art that could make claims to be free, new, and vibrant while being so devoid of any social meaning that it was always safe to hang on the wall of any bank.