Celebrate ‘anti-art’ at Dada Festival

Do you Dada? For three days in September, the first-ever Dada Festival at Western Carolina University brings together music, dance, the visual arts and lectures on topics literary, artistic and film-related in the spirit of the early 20th-century art movement known as Dadaism.

All festival events are free, and the public is invited.

A Sept. 20 reception and talk with artist Carrie Ann Baade, whose work includes the surrealistic ‘Butterfly Lovers’ (oil on panel, 2011), is one in a series of events comprising Western Carolina University’s Dada Festival.

Sponsored by the WCU College of Fine and Performing Arts, with collaboration from the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Dada Festival is a celebration of the art – and anti-art – of the early 20th century. Dadaism grew from the aftermath of World War I, which fostered a period of disillusionment with the conventions of society that spread to the arts. A rejection of beauty characterized the movement, which ushered in the age of surrealism.

“The spirit of Dada is reflected in acts of spontaneity, absurdity, natural impulse and futility and is an attitude that is still influencing contemporary art today,” said Bruce Frazier, WCU Carol Grotnes Belk Endowed Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music and an event organizer.

Robert Kehrberg, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, proposed the idea as a unifying concept around which the different branches of the arts could gather around.

“I wanted to do this and get faculty together on a joint project because I thought we’d have a lot of fun,” said Kehrberg, noting that the movement crossed boundaries after its genesis in Zurich to places including Berlin, Paris and New York. He hopes WCU students gain an understanding of how “there are movements that have huge effects on art,” including social and economic connections.

Dada Festival events are:

Suzanne Churchill

With “Pas de deux: Mina Loy and Alfred Stieglitz Dance Dada,” Churchill, a professor of English at Davidson College, looks at the “curious convergence” of Mina Loy and Alfred Stieglitz in a 1917 experimental literary magazine. Her work examines a flippant collage of gossipy snippets by Loy followed by an earnest letter from Stieglitz calling for anonymous submissions to an art exhibit. According to Churchill, her talk “presents an entrée analyzing Loy’s and Stieglitz’s juxtaposition in [the magazine] Blind Man, an adagio illuminating the common ground between them, two variations tracing each artist’s involvement with New York Dada, and a coda, explaining how their common attraction to Dada complicates current conceptions of modernism and the avant-garde.”


  • Dada chamber music concert, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, in the Coulter Building recital hall


Bruce Frazier and other faculty members from the Western Carolina University College of Fine and Performing Arts will deliver two musical events, Sept. 18 and Sept. 20, as part of the WCU Dada Festival.

P. Bradley Ulrich, professor of trumpet, and Jake Waldrop, a senior studying commercial and electronic music, will open the concert with a trumpet duet by French composer and pianist Erik Satie. Piano professors Bradley Martin and Andrew Adams will play a four-hands piano sonata by Francis Poulenc, a member of a group of composers known as “Les Six.” Adams also will perform L’Album Des Six, a suite of six movements each composed by a member of Les Six. Also featured: Will Peebles, director of the School of Music, performing “Bass Nightingale” by Erwin Schulhoff on contrabassoon; flute professor Eldred Spell performing “Density 21.5” by Edgard Varese; a work for solo clarinet by John Cage comprising “chance elements” and performed by professor Shannon Thompson; selected works for flute and piano by Charles Koechlin, performed by Spell and faculty member Christina Reitz on piano; and original work from Frazier performed on the electronic wind instrument. Set to screen is “Data,” a short, digital animation movie by Mary Anna LaFratta, faculty member in the School of Art and Design.


  • Film and talk by visiting scholar Anna Vallye, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, in Room 130 of the Bardo Arts Center

Vallye, curatorial fellow at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will lecture on “Games of the Unexpected: Fernand Léger and Dada Spectacle in Paris.” The talk will focus on the painter Léger’s collaborations with the Dadaists in Paris between the first and second world wars, when Dada activities centered on the creation of public spectacles that showcased avant-garde plays, poetry readings, concerts, exhibitions and films. A screening of one of the most famous of these films, Léger’s “Ballet Mecanique,” as well as other selected Dada shorts, will follow the lecture.


  • Reception and artist’s talk with Carrie Ann Baade, 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the WCU Fine Art Museum

A series of 20 paintings from less than a foot square to 4-feet long, plus a large collage installation, “Since Midnight” by Baade explores political issues and is based in surrealism (a movement that emerged from Dadaism). Magical and imaginative, the works span from delightful to satirical to humorous and will remain on exhibit at the museum through Oct. 19.


  • Dada orchestra concert and ballet, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, in the Bardo Arts Center

Under the direction of Frazier, the WCU Artist-in-Residence Orchestra, comprising students and faculty from the WCU School of Music and members of the Asheville Symphony, will perform “Scaramouche” by Darius Milhaud, a three-movement piece featuring WCU saxophone professor Ian Jeffress; two “Gymnopédies” compositions by Satie that are slow, simple, modal pieces orchestrated by French impressionist composer Claude Debussy; and “Pacific 231,” an orchestral tone poem by Arthur Honegger that uses the rhythms, brass and strings to portray the power and energy of a locomotive. The centerpiece of the evening is a performance of “Parade,” a one-act ballet by Satie featuring a magician, young girl and acrobats (and more vaudeville than concert hall) first presented in Paris in 1917. Karyn Tomczak, director of the WCU dance program, will choreograph the dance; Susan Brown-Strauss, who along with Tomczak is a faculty member in the WCU School of Stage and Screen, designed the costumes in the spirit of cubist designs by Pablo Picasso, who designed the costumes and sets for the original production.

For more information about Dada Festival events, contact Frazier at bfrazier@wcu.edu or 828-227-2400.