Dada: Expect the unexpected

“Cinema could relate to all classes,” Dr. Anna Vallye said in response to a question from WCU professor Ron Laboray. Artistic cinema is not just for an artist audience.

WCU held its very first Dada Festival last week. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, in room 130 of the Bardo Arts Center, Dr. Vallye shared part of her dissertation and discussed “Games of the Unexpected: Fernand Léger and Dada Spectacle in Paris.” She prepped the audience for the film to come, “Ballet Mecanique,” by Fernand Léger.

Vallye led the lecture by telling the listeners about Léger’s relation to the Dada movement. Léger was not a Dadaist but a cubist. He influenced artists like Frances Picabia, a Dadaist, before and after the dada movement.

Léger, like Picabia, experimented with a “hybrid of the arts,” a mixture of theater and painting or poetry and photography. His experimentation led to the film, “Ballet Mecanique.”

Following Vallye’s informative talk she showed two short films made in 1924: “Entr’acte” and “Ballet Mecanique.”

The first, “Entr’acte” (French for “Intermission”), directed by René Clair, featured Frances Picabia and Erik Satie firing a cannon and led to Picabia shooting Satie. Satie fell into a coffin and was taken around in a camel-led-carriage hearse. The carriage hearse was on the loose and chased by the mourners. The carriage then threw the coffin out and Satie emerged alive.

The second film, “Ballet Mecanique,” was a collaboration of manipulated and fluid film. Director Léger distorted appearances of everyday objects such as pan lids, whisks, and hats that resembled a view within a kaleidoscope, using these methods to question the illusion of reality.

The music that accompanied Vallye’s presented edition of the film was not the original score but Dada-esque music composed by George Antheil.

Vallye allowed the viewers to see the hybrid of theater, film and dance. It literally became a “game of the unexpected.” Both the scenes and the music were unpredictable.

“I expected the films to be nonsensical and bizarre, of true Dada spirit,” said art student Jessica Kovacs. “I was amused to find the randomness, clever and original.”

Raoul Hausmann, a co-founder of Club Dada and a former Dadaist of Berlin, said, “Dada is what you can make of yourself.”

“The movement was just in the life of the artist, not necessarily a given date,” Dr. Vallye said to her audience. “It was not so cut and dry; you were just being you.”