This thesis aims to revisit dada from an anthropological perspective. Anthropologist Alfred Gell among others provides a useful theoretical framework that is centered on such notions as art nexus, agency, distributed personhood and technology of enchantment. The latest European anthropological research on art is concerned with how the human-object dichotomy can be dismantled by art practices, and how a new awareness of the body, materiality, time and space is developed in the art nexus. In this regard, some of the interesting anthropological matters are embodied in the dadaist works of Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Hannah Höch.
Drawing on applied arts like textiles and marionettes, Taeuber's work can be characterized by bodily movements and abstraction. She produced kinetic force, not only by the use of human body forms but also by the configuration of verticality and horizontality, figure and ground, forming and deforming, and the part and the whole. She also mediated between radical dance practices and Dada experiments of the time. Her performances unfolded abstract movements onto spatiotemporal variability by dint of the body itself. Taeuber's work creates uncertainty in the distance between original forms and abstracted ones, generates the state of constant transition between media of art, craft, dance, and makes different sensorial experiences exert their agency over each other.
Höch brought one of the components of popular culture into her dada work, i.e., photography, by which she represented the German society and the woman's identity in the middle of a whirlwind of great changes. Cut-and-paste of photomontages has an effect of defamiliarizing images and interrupting a seamless flow of narratives. The bodies that Höch photomontaged combine a person and a sculpture, fuse a human being and a machine, synthesize the Western and the non-Western, let the traditional role of women and that of emancipated women coexist, and even break down the boundary between male and female. Her photomontages having qualities of handicraft and filmic editing, are a description of personal experience with everyday images connecting it to wider social and cultural meanings, and are a critique of the ways alterity is consumed in entertainment, in art and in academia.
Taeuber and Höch's dada dealt with different bodies: the armed body by the war, the mechanized body by industrial labor, the commercialized body by capitalism, and the objectified body by colonialism. They did not rely on aesthetic imagination of dominant power, but on performativity of their own bodily performances, if unstable but visceral. The bodies in their works go beyond being an indicator to and a place of realities, through the performance of chance and improvisation and through intentional inversion and juxtaposition of unsystematic elements. Their dada was performative causing in-between ruptures and thus increasing entropy, whose practices are worth anthropological exploration.