In late 2015, in anticipation of the centenniatl of Dada’s founding, Italian curator Fabio Paris offered to the online world the possibility of downloading high-resolution digital files of original Dada works: 21 two-dimensional works, 12 magazine covers, and 3D scans of three sculptures. The works, all drawn from the Campiani collection of Carlo Clerici, were intended to be remixed and shared back to the Link Art Center, a nomadic digital art gallery based in Brescia, Italy. The resulting online art project, dadaclub.online, yielded 148 digital artworks that supposedly treasure Dada indeterminacy.
A selection of the project’s Dada tributes, curated by Valentina Peri and also titled dadaclub.online, is currently on view at Galerie Charlot, where she blends pieces by 27 digital artists’ responses with their Dada precursors. These contemporary works are installed in heterogeneous fashion (mixing screens with prints) as a stream that flows from each of the six Dada pieces included (three of which are by Man Ray) in a progressive path. As such, the show marks an interesting contrast to art historian’s Maria Stavrinaki’s discussion of Dada’s “continuous now.” In her recent book, Dada Presentism: An Essay on Art and History, Stavrinaki made the case that “Dadaist presentism revolted against any commemorative appropriation of a flawlessly coherent history.” For her, real Dada deals with contingency, chance, and uncertainty.
While it’s hard to find in remix culture much of the anti-bourgeois nonsense, noise, and irrationality of original Dada presentism, it is true at least that most of the works here utilize Dada photomontage: the process (and result) of making a composite image by cutting and joining a number of other images. Two of my preferred examples of this are Vuk Cosic’s green digital print “Psychodada” (2016) and Inhye Lee’sswank animated GIF, “Plus Belle Haleine” (2016). Both play off Man Ray’s “Belle Haleine” (1920), which featured one of his earliest portraits of Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp in drag), and which Duchamp in turn made into a label for a perfume bottle for his artwork “Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette” (“Beautiful Breath, Veil Water,” 1921). This play of mélange, appropriation, and tribute sets the stage for the entire show.