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Well, it's 2017, a century-plus since Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire first raised the flag of Dada derision above the senseless carnage of World War I. The founding group of Dada expats soon attracted many other bohemian rebels seeking freedom from existing social, aesthetic, and governmental norms. Of course, as Bruce Sterling's new novella, Pirate Utopia, points out, the pro-war, pro-nationalist Italian Futurist movement was winning followers at the same time, and their manifestos ultimately supported the rise of Italy's Fascist Party.

Dada believed it could subvert authoritarianism with ridicule alone, but Dada was wrong. That's why, after only eight years, the international Dada underground was rather abruptly supplanted by André Breton's more strategically organized Surrealist project. Surrealism prospered — as documented in M.E. Warlick's Max Ernst bio, as well as by China Miéville's The Last Days of New Paris — and former Dada loyalists switched allegiance in droves.

The lesson here is that art and liberation movements that aspire to effective forms of dissent need to do their homework and store lots of different tools in their activist toolbox. While it may seem unlikely that two science fiction novels, plus one comprehensive artist biography, could mentally prepare creative communities for drastic social change, never underestimate the value of a broad historical perspective.

Miéville, a left-leaning British fantasist with a Ph.D. in international relations, is also a celebrated practitioner of "New Weird" fiction. Sterling is a science fiction writer from Texas, long famous (along with William Gibson) for spearheading the Cyberpunk and Steampunk movements. Both typically write genre fiction with a view toward helping readers grapple with some of our era's thornier socioeconomic problems.

full: http://www.villagevoice.com/arts/these-must-reads-explore-dada-futurism-surrealism-and-the-art-of-opposition-9547260

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