John O'Neil 'Beetle Lips' Photograph 2008

                                                                John O'Neil 'Beetle Lips' Photograph 2008

Dada Lives! 3 March – 4 April 2015, Hatch Contemporary Art Space, 14 Ivanhoe Parade, Ivanhoe, Australia

The Story

It’s 1916 and the First World War is raging. Artists, poets and performers despair.  The anything goes anarchy of Dada quickly became a vehicle for new ideas about art. Marcel Duchamp exhibited Le Fountain urinal, Max Ernst seeded his development as a Surrealist, and in Switzerland Tristan Tzara performed at the Cabaret Voltaire.

Thus Dada art was Hydra-headed with at least three manifestations; conceptual, optical and political. It differed from the earlier more painterly art movements, like Impressionism, to be the first installation based, contemporary arts practice of the twentieth century. Within its multi-disciplinary platform and talismanic approach to interpreting the human psyche, was a message that still resonates today.  

A hundred years on and we homage Dada and open the cork on the bottle that’s been floating around in the ocean all these years, to read the note within. More of that later. 

And in the Australian context, it’s over 60 years since Barry Humphries was served breakfast on the Frankston-Melbourne peak-hour suburban train as a Dadaist act. Dada and Australian sensibilities have much in common in wrestling with issues of social mores and an absurdist art world, both often using humour to entrap the viewer. Contemporary academics continue to pick over the bones of Dada, vesting them with various roles – a purifier of art history, a fake genre full of contradictions or an important precursor of much 20th century art. 

The ‘original’ Dada artists fought with the question of ‘what is art?’ to give it an expanded definition. Today when we consider Dadaism we tend to be sentimental, intuitively looking for the its heart as an activist art practice – explorative, idealistic and naïvely amoral. However, it was probably the space between art and and the idea of 'anti-art', which was code for a new world order, that gave it its vitality as an art movement, as it allowed for the concept of the 'other', resulting in cell-like growth.

Dada lives! shares the aim of involving the viewer to be part audience, part subject, part artwork even. The artists in this exhibition show the effects of the seeds sown by the Dada art movement. Splitting into many fragments, the freedom to create completely original art has infiltrated everywhere.   

Dada lives! coalesces around the thought that art is inquiry. Almost every contemporary artist seems to have a Dada moment in their development, locking into their art making a special anarchic energy that frees them when needed.  

The artwork in Dada lives! explores such Australian themes as Indigenous art, regional artists, the landscape, family, politics, obsolescence, oxymoronic post-modernist humour, et cetera. Technical brilliance and psychologically charged perceptions of scale permeate the exhibition, to illustrate the accidental bargain between historic Dada and contemporary Australia. The cork on the bottle has popped!

And here is the note.




Stephen Benwell

Mark Cain

Anika Cook

William Kelly

Nicholas Jones (Artist-in-Residence)

Anastasia Klose

Kir Larwill

Elizabeth Liddle

John O’Neil

Stefan Szonyi

List of artworks

The beautiful wisdom of art history essay by Joe Pascoe


Dada lives! opening 6pm Wednesday 4 March 2015 with sound performance by Dale Gorfinkel

Diving into the Wreck; sad about broken appliances, stuff from your ex that was never collected, gifts you don’t like? Destroy them! Sunday 8 March 1-2pm and be part of Dada lives!

Join the Dada Circle for Coffee & Cake Sunday 8 March 2015 2.30pm with Stephen Benwell, Mark Cain and Grace McQuilten.

Terror Coffin - Dada, Anarchy, War Thursday 26 March 12.30pm Joe Pascoe & Dr Anthony White, RMIT Project Space / Spare Room Gallery, Bld 94, Lvl 2, Rm 1, 23-27 Cardigan Street Carlton/

War Spoils ceramic installation by Christopher Headley opening ANZAC Day 25 April 2015 at Angela Roberts-Bird Gallery, Gasworks Art Park, Albert Park until 20 May.


Exhibition Curator Joe Pascoe

Hatch Art Curator Claire Watson

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