It all started a 100 years ago in Zurich and Zurich is celebrating. The Kunsthaus, the Landesmuseum, the Museum Haus Konstruktiv, the Cafe Voltaire, Galerie, Hotel Limmatblick with its DADA Bar and lots of other events during the year.
So why is this movement one of the most revolutionary movements of the twentieth century which still influences more than ever the contemporary art world.
The place it started – Zurich Switzerland
Neutral Switzerland was a haven for intellectuals, scientists, poets and artists that were repelled by the slaughterhouses of the world war around them from all the belligerent nations. World War 1 was a devastating war that left everyone looking for a way to rebalance their lives. A very small group of artists got together and in a very subversive and irreverent matter thought that anyone could be an artist and that anything could be art they wanted to start over like children, wipe out the old way of thinking of art.
Where…. the Cafe Voltaire Feb 5 1916 closed only 4 months later.
The Cafe, named in honour of the eighteenth century French writer, philosopher and radical critic was held there for only four months.
It was here at the Spiegelgasse 1 that the birthplace of Dada started. No one is quite sure where the name came from. Here every night the 7 Dada Founders pushed themselves to the edge of madness they acted childlike, silly, they sang, painted, made collages composed poetry, danced mock rituals that happened on the stage and looked for a new order to heal human beings. They were not opposed to art or religion, they wanted to penetrate them and be inspired by them and at the same time were very subversive.
Hans Arp remembered these evenings as total pandemonium. “The people around us are shouting, laughing gesticulating. Our replies are sighs of love, volleys of hiccups, poems, moos and meowing of medieval Bruitists. This audience was composed of dissidents, refugees , artists and dissidents all who came every night.
The 7 DADA founders who started the most revolutionary movements of the twentieth century
Hans Arp – an Alsatian painter, sculptor and poet who co-founded the movement. He created biomorphic shapes in ink, woodcuts and painted layered wood reliefs. He married Sophie Tauber. They collaborated on abstract images and established the Cabaret Voltaire. Rejected for Swiss citizenship Arp moved to Paris in 1925 and exhibited with the Surrealists.
Hugo Ball – German, Presented short plays such as the Nativity Play, he famously appeared in a cubist costume reciting one of his sound poems (poem without words) . Ball read his “Dada Manifesto aloud at the first dada evening performance outside the Cabaret Voltaire. He is thought to have used the word Dada first. In his sound poems, such as “Karawane”, Ball wanted to find a language that emerges from the “primeval strata untouched and not reached by logic and by the social apparatus.”
Emmy Hennings – German, The bon vivant and professional Cabaret singer and poet presented songs and had audience participation.Co-founder of the Cafe Voltaire.
Richard Huelsinbeck – German, He recited pseudo-African poems he played the drums on stage introducing a stronger rhythm. Underlining the groups search for “primitive art” Had a nervous breakdown because his Swiss girlfriend demanded that he choose between her and DADA. readings of expressionist and futurist poems simultaneous poems in three different languages to cubist dances. Everything was possible.
Marcel Janco – Romanian, Along with Dada performances he produced abstract costumes and masks for the Cabarets soirees, printed posters and invitations for other Dada Events. He returned to Bucharest in 1920 and cardboard communicated characters and passions that are larger than life.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp – Swiss, A key representative of the Zurich dadaists and simultaneously a pioneer of constructivist-concert art.She is seen as one of the most versatile and adventurous female Swiss Artists of the 20th century.Painting, drawing,sculpture, architecture, design, dance and scenography, she introduced to Arp non-traditional materials and geometric constructions.Her first show was at the opening of Galerie Dada where she danced to verses by Hugo Ball wearing a mask by Marcel Janco. In 1918 with Hans Arp and other artists she signed the “Dada Manifesto”.
Tristan Tzara – Romanian, Tzara edited an anthology of works performed at the cabaret The PR Genius organised a conference at the Kunsthaus Zurich He constantly promoted the trade mark Dada. He also was responsible for sending out to over 40 artists that they submit their art work to him and it would be published for his 1921 book project “Dadaglobe”. Due to inflation the German publisher could not finish the project. It was unpublished till now. So to mark the 100 years of the foundation of Dada the widely dispersed original artworks are reunited for the first time in“Dadaglobe Reconstructed” It is a milestone in Dada Research and can be bought online or at the bookstore of the Kunsthaus. Some of the artists included are Hans Arp, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Hannah Hoch, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and around 30 other artists.The exhibition will travel to the Museum of Modern Art, New York from June 2016.
The first Dada show was at the Corray . With Arp, Janco, giorgio de Chirico, Otto and Adya van Rees, Hans Richter, Swiss artists and african sculptures. The name was changed after to Gallery Dada. This was in January 1917. In their new performance space they charged steep entrance fees and had to agree to admit spectators by invitation only which assured a predominantly upper class audience. Dada works were exhibited only in the last month of the gallery. They gave lectures, dance and music performances, Ball recited his sound poems. Unfortunately due to financial difficulties the gallery closed in May 1917.
The last Dada Soiree in Zurich was held in the Saal zur Kaufleuten on April 9, 1919. The event created a riotous scene among the 1,500 people reported to have been there.
And that was just the beginning …