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Masking the Human Face in Dadaism and Surrealism
Morganne A. Maselli

What both movements shared most was their unconventional approach to creating art, and a slight obsession with an alternative view to sex and the sexual being. Many artists incorporated androgyny into their depictions of the human form. Anonymously stated, “It is in the freeing of both the natural and artificial bodies that art is created.”



Dada is defined not only as an art movement but a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland during World War I; peaking from 1916 to 1922. Surrealism, another cultural/art movement began in the early 1920’s whilst the Dada movement ended (if it ever truly did come to an end). Both movements are widely known for their visual art works, art manifestos and theory. A crossover exists between the movements and artists associated with both occasionally worked together and shared ideas. The closeness between the two movements- the closeness between the movement’s artists- develops from the fact that they were coexisting subcultures in a war ridden society.
While Dada was an informal international movement, Surrealism expanded vastly into areas of culture that Dada had only hoped to touch, such as international politics. This may be because Dadaism can be viewed as a movement that grew only in opposition to World War I, while Surrealism had more time to develop their principles; growing out of the Dadaist’s.
It also may be in part because Dada was associated with anti-art movements, while Surrealists embraced the artistic nature of their beliefs.

What both movements shared most was their unconventional approach to creating art and also a common theme represented through many of the artists: ambiguity and androgyny. Dada artist Marcel Duchamp first implemented the "ready-made" with his sculpture piece, Fountain in 1917; in 1919 he followed with this style of art by creating LHOOQ using Leonardo DaVinci's esteemed Mona Lisa as a ready-made and ad​din
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Marcel Duchamp's "LHOOQ"
g a mustache and beard onto the print. Surrealist Salvador Dali's altered the Mona Lisa (1954) shows his face and hands, a takeoff on Duchamp's
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Salvador Dali's "Mona Lisa"
earlier transfiguration of DaVinci's work. Both pieces can be viewed simplistically and seen as an just an altered masterpiece, or it can be searched for a deeper meaning. Both Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp had gender identity issues, Dali more than Duchamp. Duchamp created a pseudonym, an alter ego or sorts named Rrrose Selavy to title pieces. Several times he dressed as her to be photographed. Dali's gender identity issues were more complex. Although Dali was married and very much in love with his wife and muse, Gala, there were many rumors that he had been involved in homosexual affairs. By masking the Mona Lisa with masculine features, they are not only displaying a modern androgyny but reinforcing the adrogyny that was already depicted by DaVinci, something that led to rumors that the the Mona Lisa was truly a self-portrait of DaVinci himself in drag.



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Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy by Man Ray

Man Ray (1890-1976) Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy c. 1920-21. Photograph retouched by Duchamp, gelatin silver print.
Marcel Duchamp collaborated with Dada photographer Man Ray (1921) to portray himself as his alter ego in drag, Rrose Selavy, a pun on the French word Eros and phrase, C'est la vie. Man Ray and Duchamp were both Dadaists and often worked together. In the photographs Man Ray took of Duchamp in drag, the artists are purposely trying to highlight effeminate features such as the hands and cheek bones. Rrose first appeared on a perfume bottle that Duchamp had created. Duchamp even signs the portrait in a womanly script. Although some may argue that the image of Duchamp is clearly too masculine to be a female; the artists were smart in creating the feminine pose and posture, giving Duchamp a charm of certain androgyny.


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Claude Cahun: Self Portrait, 1928
Another artist who exemplified androgyny through their work was Claude Cahun (1894-1954). Born Lucy Schwob in Nantes, she began taking self-portraits photographs under the androgynous name Claude. Her self-portraits are elaborations of herself, and what she hopes to be and appear to others. That is what Surrealism and Dadaism were about: creating something new and self pleasing and entertaining for a greater purpose. With Claude masking her face in her portrait, she is masking her physical sexuality, and exposing her desire of masculinity. The surrealists were often criticized for the way they portrayed women as sexual beings, being only the object of male sexual desires. Claude Cahun breaks this barrier by questioning the boundaries of gender identity along with Marcel Duchamp. This ambiguity in gender was central to Cahun, although her work was not presented during her lifetime. By endlessly changing her appearance in her self-portrait photographs, she suggests that in every form of self-representation elements of masquerade are involved, where it be physically masking ones identity, or emotionally.


Dada 250hoch2.jpgartist Hannah Hoch specialized in photomontages. In this image, Mutter: Aus einem ethnographischen Museum (Mother: From an Ethnographic Museum) from 1930, Hoch is depicting androgyn in it's perfection. The piece is enitled "mother" and although the figure does look womanly because of her breasts, her facial features are arguably masculine. The nose is large, sharp, and angular, typical of a man. The right eye is feminine and looks modern with makeup and long lashes, not typical of an ethnic, traditional mother. The eye appears to be from the Western culture rather than the traditional culture in which this mask comes from that adorns the mother.

When we view something contrary to custom we often assign it as a monstrous entity. As quoted by pop culutre icon, Lady Gaga, "We infer based on something’s lack of ordinariness that it is disgusting or somehow linked to something inhumane, in some cases one might say uncivilized." This can be said for both Dada and Surrealist art. It is often understood by those who live solely by the classical rules as a monstrosity to art; or not even art at all. But that was the Dadaist's goal, to create something that wasn't art, and the Surrealists built off of their beliefs to create a modern art movement that plays a significant role in our culture today. Many artists, such as Lady Gaga, a performance artist, incorporate surrealist ideals into their art. Particulary adrogynous ideals; as the LGBT community grows in American and European society many of the peoples associated continue the tradition of artists such as Claude Cahun.
Contempory artists continue to use Dada and Surrealist values, proving that these art movements are essentially undying.
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Lady Gaga, a contemporary surrealist. Not only does her piano and costume reflect the work of Salvador Dali, but she has stated that she purposely lowers her register while singing to appear more androgynous as well as wearing masks.

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Salvador Dali's "The Temptation of Saint Anthony"





















Lady Gaga is continuously
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Jo Calderone, Gaga's Male Alter Ego
following in the footsteps of Dadaists and Surrealists; recently an unknown male model posed for Japan's Men's (Hommes) Vogue. Gaga's stylists, Nicola Formichetti tipped of fans by posting a picture of the model on twitter; later with a link debating whether or not the model was really Gaga.
Lady Gaga's male alter-egos name is Jo Calderone. Jo, referencing her deceased Aunt JoAnn, and Calderone, a strong Italian name like Gaga's actual last name: Germanotta.
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July 2010 issue of Rolling Stone

Lady Gaga recently graced the cover of Rolling Stone with her new short hair cut; obviously this wasn't the only recent magazine shoot she has done. With her male alter ego, Gaga is taking another step into her Surrealist and Dadaist background. One can only ask; does she know of those who have done this before her? Such as Rrose Selavy, or shall I say, Marcel Duchamp.




























Works Cited:
Amaya, Mario. Pop Art... and After - A Survey of the New Super-Realism. New York: Viking, 1966. Print.
Tomkins, Calvin. The World of Marcel Duchamp: 1887-1968. New York: Time-Life, 1974. Print.
"What Do You Want From Me?, Claude Cahun (1928) | Culture | The Guardian." Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian.co.uk. Web. 08 June 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2001/sep/29/art.
"Tate Modern | Past Exhibitions | Surrealism: Desire Unbound." Tate: British and International Modern and Contemporary Art. Web. 08 June 2010. <http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/surrealism/room3.htm>.