Memes can be considered a form of neo-dadaism
November 30, 2016
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Thanks to the rise of social media and millennials’ disenchantment with society, a new offshoot of contemporary art has been born. Finally, millennials have something to contribute to humanity’s rich history of art: meme culture. Though on the surface memes seem like lighthearted, nonsensical fun, to some extent they can actually be classified as a form of neo-Dadaism.
Dadaism is an art movement that emerged in Europe in reaction to World War I in the late 1910s. Dada art made little sense and, unlike previous art movements, did not necessarily have an aesthetic appeal. The senselessness of Dada art reflected the senselessness of the world circa WWI, in which conventional logic led to the senselessness of a world war. Consequently, artists created a sort of anti-art that rejected the conventions that brought about the atrocity in the first place.
In this day and age, news headlines in the mainstream news cycle within the last year include “Trump’s Behavior Similar to Male Chimpanzee, Says Jane Goodall” from Huffington Post; “Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? Maybe, Say 38 Percent of Florida Voters” from the Rolling Stone; “Harambe: Stop making memes of our dead gorilla, Cincinnati Zoo pleads” from The Independent; and “Hillary Clinton Carries Ninja Squirrel Hot Sauce Everywhere” from Time Magazine. Ridiculous headlines like this highlight the senselessness of politics and the modern world.
In addition to the 2016 election, disenfranchised American millennials have lived through a period of time in which their country has been involved in a long, ethically debatable war in the Middle East, an economic recession in 2008 caused by elite who were not properly reprimanded and an increasing, drastically unequal distribution of wealth. Moreover, millennials must bear the growing frequency of police brutality and school shootings as well as the daunting reality of exponentially rising college tuition costs. On top of it all, millennials must cope with being accused of laziness and self-absorption by older generations that thrust all the aforementioned problems upon them in the first place. With this in mind, these grim circumstances have surely fostered a similar mindset to the one that precipitated the original Dada movement.
“From my perspective, there is serious intellectual continuity between the absurdity of attaching a bunch of tacks to the bottom of an iron, rendering it useless, and say…bath bomb posts,” said Tumblr user Inrealityadream, who initially discerned the similarities between meme culture and dadaism. “Put a Macbook in a bath. It’s useless now. Nobody cares anymore. You want something funny? You want a punchline? That’s your punchline. Take it. I am laughing.”
Through memes, youth utilize irony, nonsense and black humor as a social commentary of the times in order to express their frustration, hopelessness and dissatisfaction with society. Memes serve as a coping mechanism for the millennial generation in an increasingly bleak world where normalcy, social convention and logic seem to deteriorate.