Study skills – Dadaism, Man Ray and questioning logic

This Thursday we had a study skills session with Mahnaz Shah, it was a session that I found really beneficial – it was all about the idea of questioning, and what is a question?
We were introduced to the fundamental idea that everything can be and should be questioned, and that the most interesting research areas are those that we think are simple but that we really want to investigate. It was emphasised to us that as artists we should not be satisfied with the ‘logical’ answers to anything, for example what is presented to us as a chair should not be blindly accepted as a chair but questioned, researched and investigated from various angles.
We looked at this notion through ideas present in the Dada movement, looking into the work of Man Ray. Dada’s intent was to reject the logic and reason of humanity – the logic and reason that throughout history has led to conflict and war. Dadaism wanted to challenge us instead to question and reject our understanding of what logic is, and begin to value the nonsensical and irrational over this.  This movement aimed to do this through artwork that allowed us to question our relationship between objects and people, examining the relationship between our ability to discard and use objects to serve their purpose and the parallel attitudes we develop towards people in the context of war.

Examples of the work of Man Ray

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Our task was to investigate the following letter, and to discuss in groups a potential research strand that we would take in investigating it,


This is a letter that Man Ray wrote in reflection of the events between the start of Dadaism in response to the horrors of the First World, and its apparent failure to make an impact on our attitude towards war after the Second World War took place.  We decided to pose the following question, ‘Can something be both alive and dead?’, we discussed whether something that existed and impacted our view on history can ever really die. A fixed point in history may not still be evolving and therefore be viewed as dead, yet at the same time its very existence in our understanding of history and what was built from it means that is always still alive.

I really benefitted from this session, and found it really interesting and challenging in the way it provoked a new channel of thinking. I feel that I can really take what I’ve learnt about questioning, researching and also the general notions behind the Dada movement and apply it to the current project of ‘Outside Inside’ that I am currently undertaking.


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