Surrealism, Dada and the Refusal of Work


There are two art-historical frame discussing “activist-art” : the post modern move towards colletive practices and the failure or success of the revolutionary avnant-garde ambitions.

In the bourgeoise era art began to seek autonomy from other social institutions. In the early 20th century this striving for aesthetic autonomy was taken a step further, to imply a freedom beyond the limits of aesthetic production.

The avant garde becomes impossible as anti-art works themselves are brought up as artwork!

The concept of ‘autonomy-as-value’ starts to exist and through this a dialect/conflict between notions of work and play, purpose and disinterest.

However the gap between aesthetic play and capitalist work brought on the possibility that art as play is reactively articulated against work and the “sovereignty or art expressed in ‘autonomy-as-value’s ideal of free play, could be imagined as allied with attacks on other forms of sovereignty, such as that of capital or the state”.

At the beginning of Surrealism art work had to be approved by the group before being made public and what was thought of regular work (a.k.a. a job) was forbidden.

It was a refusal to participate in any way in the promotion of capitalistic values.

Little by little aesthetics began to play an actual role in the composition of social identities.

After World War I and due to the technological leap that had been made, modernity started to represent a new high point of technical composition.

This lead some artists to re-evaluate and consider the impact of their work in terms of the social role it performed.

Dada comes along to point out that a worker who is opposed to capital must be opposed to himself as capital, to the identity of worker.

Art begins to be more of a protest than a means of aesthetics and the art of activism is thought of as one of the fine arts.\

“The term ‘activist’  itself as an ideological suffix to ‘action’, referring to one who adopts the anarchist strategy of political direct action”

Constructivism begins when the Berlin Dadaists add production of material objects to production of performance and objects are given a performative value.

Four-page pamphlet called “Every Man His Own Football” is distibuted as a form of ironic protest/ political statement.




“The artist is celebrated for a rejection of measure and fixity, and provides a refuge of non-normative behaviour. In other words, the artist was a sovereign figure” –> It is for me a statement showing the power of those who dare do the non-normative, those who transgress beyond the existing sovereign figures.


“Man is only fully a human being when he  plays” –> The absence of judgement in play allowes for the freedom of expression and creativity…More and better results can come through play than through a life of criticism.



How do I portray the NOTHING I felt after reading all these papers???? Just a headache and the need to get out of the house and be around people and talk about everyday things and relax…..

If it would be a picture it would be one at the beach, a drink with a tiny umbrella stuck in it and me sleeping in the sun. IT IS RAINING THESE DAYS THOUGH!!!


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