Dada was there before there was Dada

In February 1916, the movement called “Dada” was founded in Zurich and it quickly gained support worldwide. To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Dadaism, the National Museum Zurich will be exhibiting selected objects that embody the creative, revolutionary, universal “esprit dada”. Exhibits will include the flightless dodo bird, an African mask, a nearly 1000-year-old depiction of Christ on a Palm Donkey, and the “Mona Lisa” of Dadaism, the urinal entitled “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp. More than 100 objects and documents from different eras and fields accompanied by video projections and sound backdrops will bring the Dada spirit alive in a whirl through space and time involving all the human senses. The exhibition is part of the “dada100zürich2016” anniversary celebration of Dada happening throughout Zurich.
Switzerland was a neutral during World War I and among the many refugees coming to Zurich were artists from all over Europe. Under the name Cabaret Voltaire a group of young artists and writers has been formed whose aim was to create a centre for artistic entertainment. The idea of the cabaret was that artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds.

The cabaret featured the spoken word, dance and music. The soirees were events with artists experimenting with new forms of performance. Mirroring World War I, the art was often chaotic and brutal.  Though the Voltaire Cabaret was to be the birthplace of the Dadaist movement, it featured artists from every sector of the avant-garde, including Futurism. The Cabaret exhibited radically experimental artists, many of whom went on to change the face of their artistic disciplines. On July 28, 1916, Ball read out the Dada Manifesto. The month before, Ball had also published a journal with the same name. While the Dada movement was just beginning, by 1917 the excitement generated by the Cabaret Voltaire had fizzled out and the artists moved on to other places in Zurich, then later Paris and Berlin.