Reading about Josep Maria Jujol’s ceramic mosaics for Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell recently, I came across a number of observations that Jujol’s technique of collaging broken pottery found around the site (a technique known in Catalan as “trencadís”) showed presience of the Dada movement: ‘at the beginning of the century he already preempted an art movement that was to first blossom forth in the ’20s: the collage technique of the Dadaists’ (Zerbst 2002); ‘a brilliant example of proto-dada…[using] broken patterned plates and coloured bottle glass – even incoporating a china doll’s head!’ (Sweeney and Sert 1960). Amazingly, there are no images of this china doll’s head available on-line.
On a purely formal level, it’s not hard to see where these critics are coming from. There is a clear parallel between the work of Jujol and that of, say, Kurt Schwitters: both subject humble, discarded material to some sort of pattern or montage. But these similarities merely serve to flag up the (probably strategic) flippancy with which critics occasionally view the idea of artistic correspondence. Jujol’s designs were conceived for a civic context, intended to enrich the appearance of a major public planning initiative: the Park was originally conceived as an English-style Garden City. Schwitters’s collages on the other hand, and those of the international Dada movement in general, were conceived as a response to the early 20th-century city, with its mountains of ephemera and its overlapping inflammatory texts (see also those of John Heartfield). There is more than one reason to create a collage, and Dadaism was one phenomenon that made its reasons (or rather, its anti-reasons) clear.
by Luke Healey