The Radical Heterodoxy of Dada

A course by Servando Rocha

7, 8, 12, 14 and 15 June, 2018 - 5pm
Nouvel Building, Workshops

3 hours


free, with prior registration via email at, stating reasons for participation and background. Confirmation required

Total number of course hours:


Number of places:



An official certificate of attendance will be issued to all interested attendees.  


Attendance of at least two-thirds of the course

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía
Louis Feuillades. Fantômas. Film, 1913
Louis Feuillades. Fantômas. Film, 1913


In this course, writer Servando Rocha will survey the deviations and disbandment of Dada, in addition to its repeated resurrection in popular culture, sound experiments and a wave of on-the-edge situations running from the Surrealists to the Lettrists, from Fluxus to Situationists, from punk to guerrilla communication, ending up at noise and experimental music. Far from being viewed as just another avant-garde movement, Dada was conceived as the start of a long-standing relationship between culture, negativity and identity that would form the backbone of the twentieth century. A type of electric current or, further still, a virus which changed everything from the time it surfaced in the prefaces of another gargantuan exploit, the Russian Revolution.       

The five-session course looks to trace the origins of Dada as “anti-art”, defined more as an attitude than a movement; in essence, a state of outright repudiation. The contradictions that Dada brought into effect became a critical tool, a subversive strategy and political standpoint. The unlikely alliance between an anti-artist (Tzara), a professional revolutionary (Lenin) and a modernist writer (Joyce) would eventually define the spirit of the movement. The Dadaists thrived on primitive faces, unrepressed desire, psychoanalysis and occultism; they aggressively vindicated the “dictatorship of the spirit” as they embraced the Soviet revolutions. Dadaism gained in strength in its endeavours to walk through the darkness, arriving in a tumultuous, unstable and wayward region, where dreams and violence were confused with ungovernable moods.  

The international activity of Dadaist delegations, with divergent positions and discourses in Zurich, Paris, Cologne and New York, sought to wreck the meaning of art, replacing it with a new sense of chaos. Madrid would follow the trail of these cities as a Dadaist metropolis, with movements, groups, places and figures supporting many of the ideas included in the movement’s manifestos and actions.   

In 1920 Dada prepared its progressive disappearance after becoming celebrated, predictable, almost boring — the exact opposite of the spirit of the original repudiation. It disbanded without much ado, leading the way for the Surrealist troupe, yet doing so by leaving behind a brilliant phrase for future generations: “The true Dadaists are against Dada”. Nevertheless, its self-annihilation could be interpreted as a false exit, and since then its shadow has loomed over spaces of contemporary and underground culture. It was and remains a permanent source of inspiration.    


Servando Rocha is a writer, cultural activist and the founder and director of La Felguera Editores. For over two decades he has participated in different radical expressions related to artistic creation, his investigations traversing the history — often almost concealed — of subcultures, counter-culture and violence in mainstream culture. Rocha is also a specialist in avant-garde and counter-culture movements and has published a number of essays on art and political movements such as Internacional Situacionista and The Angry Brigade, as well as investigating and writing about motorcycle gangs, terrorism, secret societies, psychogeography and magic. His most recent publications include La Facción Caníbal. Historia del Vandalismo Ilustrado (La Felguera Ediciones, 2012).

Gloria G. Durán is an art historian and professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her doctoral thesis Dandysmo y contragénero (Dandyism and Counter-Gender) explored the subject of Dandy women in the interwar years. After a lengthy spell teaching in Spain and the USA, she focused her studies on the Parisian salons in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the cuplés and underground show business at the turn of the twentieth century in Madrid. She has also published Baronesa dandy, reina dadá. La vida-obra de Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (Díaz & Pons, 2013) and Agentes críticos: prácticas colectivas y arte público (Díaz & Pons, 2017).


Nouvel Building, Workshops – 5pm

Thursday, 7 June. Session 1. The Chess Match that Changed Everything

Friday, 8 June. Session 2. The Meaning of Chaos

Tuesday, 12 June. Session 3. A Crime Against Art. How to Leave a Beautiful Corpse or Dada’s “Suicide”

Thursday, 14 June. Session 4. Dandydada: Cupleteras, Performers and Other Things from a Possible National Dada, conducted by Gloria G. Durán.

Friday, 15 June. Session 5. Our “Godless Temples”. A Guided Walk Around Dadaist Madrid.