The dadaists. Absurdism. Nonsense.
It is common to think of these things as meaningless, effete gestures at the rational order. Random nonsense is often decried as a masturbatory means of expression, satisfying the communicator but boring the communicatee. Many people have a similar distaste for "modern" art. "Anyone can draw a single dot on a canvas, how is that art?" In part, they are reacting with frustration at their inability to grasp the expression with their rational mind. In this essay I hope to illustrate the intent of much "meaningless" expression.
I don't think that you should lump "modern art" and dadaism together in that manner. Modern art generally takes little or no real effort to produce, whereas Dadaism, (as I understand it), entails a concerted effort to be as bad as possible.
err, you know Dadaism is a form of "modern art", right?
a long long time ago art used to be entirely about skill. You were a good artist if you could paint realistic portraits or landscapes or whatever. The conceptual element was kind of minimal.
Many artistic movements are based on people coming up with a new way to conceive of something visually. Like the impressionists - that was the first time anybody tried to paint the "impression" of something. Largely, most artistic movements are in response to other artistic movements. The real story is invisible unless you understand the piece's context. Which means that most art isn't really meant to be understood by us chumps with no art history background.
In the 1930s, a cavalcade of renegades came along, including Marcel Duchamp and friends. They decided that the concept
of the painting was more important than the technical skill
involved in its production. By creating art that consisted of stuff like a single dot on a white canvas, they actually changed art
. I think that's pretty impressive! Yes, it takes no technical skill to make a single dot, but they were saying that's not as important anymore. It's a new world.
It really irritated the art market, who was used to getting their pretty pastoral paintings to hang in the foyer and everybody thinks its lovely
Mondrian (a "modern artist" whose paintings basically looks like lines and colored boxes) rejected symbolism entirely, trying to make paintings without even representing
anything. Now you can look a a Mondrian painting and say "what a bunch of crap, any teenager could do that", but it's kind of missing the point. It's like criticizing ee cummings for not writing poetry in traditional rhyming lines and stanzas. It's not that he doesn't know
how to capitalize. It's that he's intentionally breaking step from the last 2000 years of poetry.
Now, nobody can come along and make a single dot on a canvas and call it art again. Somebody already did that. You still have to be original
to be an artist, although the current fad ("reappropriation") challenges the definition of originality.
that was kind of a tangent, and I'm sure I didn't do justice to the Dadaists. (like I said, I don't really have an art history background) But the point is that, critiquing the lack of technical skill involved in the production of "modern art" is missing the point.
Bringing it back to the topic, it only appears like nonsense if you're unaware of the piece's context.