Dada and constructivism

For van Doesburg, there was an underlying unity between the anarchic Dada movement and the more ordered aesthetic of De Stijl. ‘The Dadaist spirit pleases me more and more’, he wrote to Tristan Tzara in October 1921. ‘There is a desire for something new similar to that with which we proclaimed the great modernist ideal. It is only the means that are different… I believe in the possibility of really meaningful contact (and synthesis) between Dada and developments in “serious modern” art.’ Nonetheless van Doesburg considered it prudent to hide behind the pseudonym I.K. Bonset for his Dada writings and artworks.

As IK Bonset he published the first issue of the Dadaist review Mécano in January 1922. Its title carried associations with the machine as a symbol of functional efficiency, precision and speed. This was a common concern among avant-garde artists, though the Dadaists took a more critical and humorous view, while the Futurists saw the machine as an ideal of modern beauty. Reflecting this diversity, the magazine featured strange amalgams of ordered or disordered constructions and a fusion of styles and disciplines.

At the same time, van Doesburg was forging links with constructivist artists such as El Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, Sándor Bortnyik and Lajos Kassák, whose influential magazine MA (Today) published van Doesburg’s writings and showcased his work. The constructivists shared his belief in the broad application of abstract principles across different disciplines and the transformation of everyday life.

In September 1922 van Doesburg organised a Congress of Constructivists and Dadaists in Weimar, hoping to promote a united avant-garde. It was not a great success. Following the Congress, however, he joined the Dadaists for a series of musical and poetical soirées in Jena and Hanover. The following year, he took part in a Dada tour of Holland, which featured – among other attractions – a dancing puppet designed by Huszár.

Theo van Doesburg Poster Small Dada Soirée. Dada tour of the Netherlands 10 January 14 February 1923

Theo van Doesburg
Poster Small Dada Soirée. Dada tour of the Netherlands 10 January 14 February 1923

Centraal Museum, The Netherlands