Unlike its Western iteration, Dadaism in early twentieth century Russia was closely allied to political revolution.
“What is Dada?” reads a famous Dadaist poster: “An art form? A philosophy? A politics?” It is fair to say that no one fully knows what Dada is. It is no surprise then that there are many untold stories of Dadaism — like that of Russian Dada. Last year’s exhibition at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and its accompanying catalogue, Russian Dada 1914-1924, make the case for Dada’s existence in Russia, which it argues was not just as another locus for the movement’s flourishing, but in fact the place of its birth.
Many of the artists who appear in the exhibition and catalogue are familiar names associated with other ‘isms’: Kazimir Malevich and Suprematism, El Lissitzky and Constructivism, Mikhail Larionov and Rayonism, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Futurism. Russian Dada 1914-1924contends, in a strongly revisionist tone, that these Russian artists share many of the aims and methods of Dada — a movement much better known for its proponents in Zurich, Berlin, New York, and Paris.