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Dada was an artistic and literary movement that began in Zrich, Switzerland. It arose as
a reaction to World War I and the nationalism that many thought had led to the war.
Influenced by other avant-garde movements - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism,
and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry,
photography, sculpture, painting, and collage. Dada's aesthetic, marked by its mockery of
materialistic and nationalistic attitudes, proved a powerful influence on artists in many
cities, including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York, and Cologne, all of which generated
their own groups. The movement dissipated with the establishment of Surrealism, but the
ideas it gave rise to have become the cornerstones of various catogeries of modern and
contemporary art.

Key Ideas

Dada was the first conceptual art movement where the focus of the artists was not on
crafting aesthetically pleasing objects but on making works that often upended bourgeois
sensibilities and that generated difficult questions about society, the role of the artist, and
the purpose of art.

So intent were members of Dada on opposing all norms of bourgeois culture that the
group was barely in favor of itself: "Dada is anti-Dada," they often cried. The group's
founding in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zrich was appropriate: the Cabaret was named after
the eighteenth century French satirist, Voltaire, whose novella Candide mocked the
idiocies of his society. As Hugo Ball, one of the founders of both the Cabaret and Dada
wrote, "This is our Candideagainst the times."
Artists like Hans Arp were intent on incorporating chance into the creation of works of art.
This went against all norms of traditional art production whereby a work was meticulously
planned and completed. The introduction of chance was a way for Dadaists to challenge
artistic norms and to question the role of the artist in the artistic process.

Dada artists are known for their use of readymade objects - everyday objects that could
be bought and presented as art with little manipulation by the artist. The use of the
readymade forced questions about artistic creativity and the very definition of art and its
purpose in society.

Other meaning

Dada or Dadaism was a form of artistic anarchy born out of disgust for the social, political and

cultural values of the time. It embraced elements of art, music, poetry, theatre, dance and politics.

Dada was not so much a style of art like Cubism or Fauvism; it was more a protest movement with

an anti-establishment manifesto.


HANNAH HCH (1889-1978)
'Incision With The Dada Kitchen Knife Through Germany's Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch' 1920 (Collage)

During World War 1 many artists, writers and intellectuals who were opposed to the war
sought refuge from conscription in Switzerland. Zurich was a melting pot for these exiles
and it was there on February 5th, 1916 that the writer Hugo Ball and his partner Emmy
Hemmings opened the 'Cabaret Voltaire', a rendezvous for the more radical element of the
avant-garde. This venue was a cross between a night club and an arts centre where artists
would exhibit their work to a backdrop of experimental music, poetry, readings and dance.

Among the original contributors to the 'Cabaret Voltaire' were Jean (Hans) Arp, Tristan
Tzara, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck. Their initial 'performances' were relatively
conventional but they became increasingly dissident and anarchic in response to the
carnage of World War 1. They saw the unremitting slaughter as the undeniable proof that
the nationalist authorities on both sides had failed society and that the system was corrupt.
United in their protest against the war and in their opposition to the establishment, 'they
banded together under the battle cry of DADA!!!!'

Although the Dadaists were united in their ideals, they had no unifying style. Between
1917-1920 the Dada group attracted many different types of artists including Raoul
Hausmann, Hannah Hch, Johannes Baader, Francis Picabia, Georg Grosz, John Heartfield,
Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood, Kurt Schwitters, and Hans Richter.


RAOUL HAUSMANN (1886-1971)
'ABCD' 1920 (collage)

'ABCD' by Raoul Hausmann is a typical Dada collage which he described as a 'poster poem'.
It is a visual counterpart to the Dada 'sound-poems' that were heard at the 'Cabaret
Voltaire'. In 1916 Hugo Ball proclaimed, "I created a new species of verse, 'verse without
words', or sound poems....". However, it would be more generous to attribute their
inspiration to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti of the Italian Futurists and Hausmann
acknowledges this debt by including the letters 'VOCE', the Italian word for voice. The word
'MERZ', which appears on a ticket in the centre of the collage, refers to the art of Kurt
Schwitters who was a co-exhibiter with Hausmann in the early years of Dada. The Czech
banknote in the bottom left hand corner is a souvenir from their visit to Prague where they
performed a joint recital of Hausmann's sound poem, 'fmsbwtzupggiv-..?m'

When you first look at this work your eye is immediately drawn to its main theme: the letters
'ABCD' which are clamped in the teeth of a photographic self portrait. A spiralling
arrangement of ticket stubs and typographic elements frame the artist's head. It is difficult
to ignore the communicative power of the letters and numbers and you cannot help but
enter into a dialogue in an attempt to make sense of them. It's an impossible task but there
are just enough recognizable elements to keep your curiosity engaged. The text on the
'MERZ' ticket translates as 'Raoul Hausmann as Emotional Margarine', a sarcastic comment
on the Expressionists' painting technique.

Pierre Albert-Birot (22 April 1876 25 July 1967)

Guillaume Apollinaire (August 26, 1880 November 9, 1918)
Louis Aragon (October 3, 1897 December 24, 1982)
Jean Arp (September 16, 1886 June 7, 1966)
Alice Bailly (February 25, 1872 January 1 1938)
Johannes Baader (June 22, 1875 January 15, 1955)
Johannes Theodor Baargeld (October 9, 1892 August 16 or 17, 1927)
Hugo Ball (February 22, 1886 September 14, 1927)
Andr Breton (February 19, 1896 September 28, 1966)
Gino Cantarelli (1899 1950)
Arthur Cravan (May 22, 1887 November 1918?)
Jean Crotti (April 24, 1878 January 30, 1958)
Theo van Doesburg (August 30, 1883 March 7, 1931)
Marcel Duchamp (July 28, 1887 October 2, 1968)
Paul luard (December 14, 1895 November 18, 1952)
Max Ernst (April 2, 1891 April 1, 1976)
Julius Evola (May 19, 1898 June 11, 1974)
Lyonel Feininger (July 17, 1871 January 13, 1956)
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (12 July 1874 15 December 1927)
George Grosz (July 26, 1893 July 6, 1959)
Raoul Hausmann (July 12, 1886 February 1, 1971)
John Heartfield (June 19, 1891 April 26, 1968)
Emmy Hennings (February 17, 1885 August 10, 1948)
Wieland Herzfelde (April 11, 1896 November 23, 1988)
Hannah Hch (November 1, 1889 May 31, 1978)
Richard Huelsenbeck (April 23, 1892 April 30, 1974)
Marcel Janco (May 24, 1895 April 21, 1984)
Tsuji Jun (October 4, 1884 November 24, 1944)
Hans Leybold (April 2, 1892 September 8, 1914)
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (December 22, 1876 December 2, 1944)
Agnes Elizabeth Ernst Meyer (1887 1970)
Pranas Morknas (October 9, 1900 December 28, 1941)
Clment Pansaers (May 1, 1885, October 31, 1922)
Francis Picabia (January 28, 1879 November 30, 1953)
Man Ray (August 27, 1890 November 18, 1976)
Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes (June 19, 1884 July 9, 1974)
Hans Richter (April 6, 1888 February 1, 1976)
Kurt Schwitters (June 20, 1887 - January 8, 1948)
Rudolf Schlichter (December 6, 1890 May 3, 1955)
Walter Serner (January 15, 1889 August 1942)
Philippe Soupault (August 2, 1897 March 12, 1990)
Sophie Taeuber (January 19, 1889 January 13, 1943)
Tristan Tzara (April 4 or 16, 1896 December 25, 1963)
Takahashi Shinkichi (January 28, 1901 June 5, 1987)
Beatrice Wood (March 3, 1893 March 12, 1998)
Marius de Zayas (March 13, 1880 January 10, 1961)
Yi Sang (September 14, 1910 April 17, 1937)
Yves Klein (April 28, 1928 June 6, 1962) (see Neo-Dada)
Christian Schad (August 21, 1894 February 25, 1982)
Viking Eggeling (October 21, 1880 May 19, 1925)
Barry Humphries (17 February 1934 - )