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  • Writer's pictureNelson Ferreira

Dadaism vs. Incoherents: A Playful Plagiarism?

Art history is often marked by artistic movements that challenge conventions and norms, pushing the boundaries of creativity and expression. One such case is the comparison between Dadaism and the Incoherents of the 19th century. While Dadaism is renowned for its provocative and avant-garde approach, some critics have argued that it borrowed heavily from the whimsical and absurd spirit of the Incoherents. In this blog post, we will explore this intriguing connection. Dadaism emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to the horrors of World War I and the societal norms of the time. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, and Hugo Ball used this movement to challenge traditional art forms, embracing the absurd, the nonsensical, and the irrational. Dadaism aimed to disrupt and deconstruct established artistic and societal structures, often using humor and absurdity to make a statement. They are often considered the creators of modern art. I'm not convinced. Even Marcel Duchamp has been accused of plagiarism, as there is ample evidence that the urinal 'Fountain' was created by a woman: Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927). Read more here. The Incoherents, on the other hand, were a group of French artists who found their creative zenith in the 1880s - much before the Dada. Led by Jules Lévy, they created a movement that embraced the whimsical and the nonsensical. The Incoherents were known for their playful, absurdist exhibitions and inventions, such as machines designed to accomplish pointless tasks. Their purpose was to challenge the established artistic order and to question the seriousness of art. They were doing modern looking installations, performance, readymades, and abstract art! I repeat: all these experiments were made in the 19th century - not in the 20th century. The Incoherents did monochromes way before Malevich and abstracts way before Kandinski! Here's an example for you:

"Apoplectic Cardinals Harvesting Tomatoes on the Shore of the Red Sea (Study of the Aurora Borealis)", by Alphonse Allais.


One could argue that Dadaism borrowed inspiration from the Incoherents' whimsical and humorous approach to art, using absurdity and irreverence as tools for subversion and social commentary. This influence might not perhaps have been a direct plagiarism, but it definitely shakes the myth that Dadaism was radically recolutionary. While it may be a stretch to claim that Dadaists plagiarized the Incoherents, there's an evident connection between the two. Both movements sought to inject humor, absurdity, and irreverence into the art world, challenging the conventional understanding of what art should be. Ultimately, they both made their mark as pioneers of unconventional and provocative art, reminding us that sometimes, art thrives on a bit of playful absurdity.

Watch this lecture I gave about the nonsensical canonization of contemporary artists such as Marcel Duchamp, to the expense of 19th century geniuses:



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