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The Implicit Apophaticism of Dada Zurich: A Spiritual Quest by Means of Nihilist Procedures

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Abstract

The present article focuses on the intrinsic theological intuitions of the Avant-garde. More to the point, the article is built around the key representatives of Dada Zurich and the relationship between their art and the concept of Byzantine apophaticism in an attempt to argue that the apparently anarchist movement can and should be interpreted in this theological key. Mostly due to a confusing understanding of nihilism and apophaticism, previous scholarship has generally linked Dada with nihilism, in spite of the anti-nihilist essence of the central Dada ideals, such as man's spiritual freedom, the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk) and the positive use of otherwise anarchist techniques, such as chance and de-contextualisation. Methodologically, the article investigates each of these concepts from an apophatic perspective; thus, it focuses, respectively, on the deeply anthropologic interest of the Dadaists, their use of chance as an apophatic creative force, and on de-contextualization as a key to understanding Dada spiritual concern with primitive art. Overall, this is a theological analysis of the early Dada artists in Zurich, aiming to underline the principles of their deeply apophatic manner of understanding and creating art.

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