Precarious Data Aesthetics. An Exploration of Tactics, Tricksters and Idiocy in Data

Published on January 2nd, 2023

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Within the framework of precarious aesthetics, and analysing the art by La Baroness (Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven), Constant Dullaart and Erica Scourti, this chapter explores how Dadaist acts, and particularly their innovative use of portmanteaus and idiosyncratic constructions to enact defamiliarization and destabilization, are still visible in digital resistance and opportunistic acting in obfuscated data systems.

in: Dada Data: Contemporary art practice in the era of post-truth politics, eds. Mara-Johanna Kölmel & Sarah Hegenbart

What is the relevance of Dada and its artistic strategies in our current moment, one marked by post-truth politics, information floods and big data? How can contemporary art highlight the neglected nuances of cultural representation in the present day? While it may feel like we are living in a period of anomaly with the rise of the alt-right, this book shows how the Dada movement’s artistic response to the aggressive nationalism and fascism of its time offers a fruitful analogy to our contemporary era.

Dada’s counter-cultural strategies, such as the distortion of reality and attacks on elites and rationality, have long been endorsed by artistic avantgardes and subcultures. Dada Data details how modern-day movements have appropriated such tactics in their ways of addressing the public both on- and offline. Bringing together contributions from interdisciplinary scholars, curators and artists working in global contexts that explore an array of artistic modes of persuasion and resistance, the book demonstrates how contemporary art can bring out neglected nuances of our post-truth moment. In linking the Dada movement’s counter-cultural activities to modern phenomena such as post-internet art, information floods and big data mining, the book collates original propaganda with diverse artwork from such figures as Hannah Höch, Paula Rego, Tschabalala Self, Sheida Soleimani and South African artists donna Kukama and Kemang Wa Lehulere. In doing so, Dada Data brings together a rich scrapbook of Dada resources and perspectives that are highly relevant to present-day political concerns.

With artistic contributions by IOCOSE, donna Kukama, Kemang Wa Lehulere and Montage Mädels.



Introduction: From Dada Tricks to Post-Truth Politics, Mara-Johanna Kölmel (Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany & The Courtauld Institute of Art, UK) and Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University Munich, Germany)


1.1. Dadadatadada: From Dada to Data and Back Again, Mara-Johanna Kölmel (Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany & The Courtauld Institute of Art, UK)

1.2. Clouds, Critique & Contradiction: Programming Dissent in Dada and Data Art, Meredith Hoy (Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University, USA)

1.3. The Legacy of the Berlin Dada Media Hoaxes in Contemporary Parafictive Acts, Rebecca Smith (Liverpool School of Art and Design, Liverpool John Moores University, UK)

Visual Essay by Montage Mädels


2.1. Sheida Soleimani, Cyborg: Photomontage in an Expanding Network, Matthew Biro (University of Michigan, USA)

2.2. Black Dada Data: Collage as a Tool of Resistance against White Supremacy Thinking in the Digital
Age, Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University Munich, Germany)

2.3. Dada’s African South, Roger van Wyk (Independent Curator and Director of Educentric)

2.4 Paula Rego: A Dada Attitude against Authority in the Post-War Period, Leonor de Oliveira (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal)

Visual Essay by donna Kukama


3.1. Big Dada, Big Data: Schwitters’s Merzbau, the Private and the Trash, Natalie Koerner (Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts / University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

3.2. Identity, Ecology, and the Arts in the Age of Big Data Mining, Roberto Simanowski (University of Basel, Switzerland)

3.3 The Digital Revolution as Counter-Revolution, Joshua Simon (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, USA)

Visual Essay by Kemang Wa Lehulere


4.1. Down the Rabbit Hole of The Alt-Right Complex: Artists Exploring Far Right Online Culture, Inke Arns (Curator and Artistic Director, Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Germany)

4.2. Fashwave: The Alt-Right’s Aestheticization of Politics and Violence, Maik Fielitz (Institute for Peace Studies and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Germany) and Lisa Bogerts (Independent Researcher, Germany)

4.3. Post-Internet Art and the Alt-Right Visual Culture, Vid Simoniti (University of Liverpool, UK)

Visual Essay by IOCOSE


5.1. Pixel Pirates: Theft as Strategy in the Art of Joan Ross and Soda Jerk, Jaime Tsai (National Art School, Sydney, Australia)

3.3. Precarious Data Aesthetics. An Exploration of Tactics, Tricksters and Idiocy in Data, Annet Dekker (Independent Researcher, Writer and Curator)

5.3. The Multiple Narratives of Post-Truth Politics, Told through Picture, Jack Southern (University of Gloucestershire, City and Guilds of London Art School, UK)

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