“…Dada had long operated according to the principle of instability, blurring distinctions between art and mass media (in photomontage), art and mass production (in the readymade), and intention and reception (in public provocations and spectacles). In 1921, Roman Jakobson characterized the movement as “transrational”—an indulgence in sheer relativity and paradox—citing Tristan Tzara as support: “I am against all systems, the most acceptable system is to have no system at all.” Framed by flou, Man Ray’s equivocations—photography is not art/photography can be art/art is not photography—strike one as a form of discursive repurposing that recalls the readymade, or at the very least, a cultivation of irrationality commensurate with automatic writing. What appears at first to be a show of dogmatic inconsistency is in fact an instance of Dada blur and flux, activated by a form of crit ical recycling that would later come to be called détournement—not a negation, precisely, but an intervention or interleaving of new forms into old that is put in play to expose conventional demarcations as redundant. “And yet you still paint?” “Yes . . . to persuade me of its inanity.”
The photographic medium further underscores the references to mass media: like the newspaper, it is itself a form of technological reproduction, and like the news, it is valued for its immediacy. Instantly obsolescent, all bear the double intimation of a frozen present, simultaneously past. Likewise, photographs prove to be the perfect analog to the automatic text in its relation to unconscious processes: inclusive of all that appears in the camera’s viewfinder, mechanically made “memory-records” constituted by visual residue. Deserved or not, photography’s reputation is still that of being an unmediated print—a myth that is foregrounded by the relative directness of the photogram process. The absent camera is replaced by mechanical actions: picking up trash at random on the street, drawing newspaper fragments from a bag . . . or, in Man Ray’s case, absent-mindedly misplacing objects in a developing tray.” excerpt from the article Flou: Rayographs and the Dada Automatic, by Susan Laxton, published in OCTOBER 127, Winter 2009, pp. 25–48.
more of Bohnert‘s work here