100 Years Dada

Programme Galerie Dada, Zürich, 28. April 1917. © 2015 Kunsthaus Zürich

Founded on 5 February 1916 by Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Tristan Tzara, and Jean Arp at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Dada would become one of the central movements in 20th-century art. The spirit of Dada developed in the interplay between the two contrasting birthplaces in the extremely cosmopolitan atmosphere of Zurich in 1916 – one of Europe’s refugee metropolises.
A major starting point was the strictly pacifist attitude of the Dada’s protagonists. Even the artists who initially were not able to completely evade the omnipresent martial rage ultimately rejected it and attempted to suppress the events occurring on the other side of the seemingly secure mountain range. At the same time it was the horrors of war that called everything into question – and elevated nothingness to the new deity. Bourgeois culture and its conventional canon of values which brought about World War I were simultaneously declared to be the target of artistic protest. Established art, as a part of this society, was rejected as reactionary and obsolete. The Dadaists sought new forms of expression instead, both in the performing and the fine arts.

At the legendary soirees in the »Cabaret Voltaire« the artists read poems, sang, danced while wearing masks and paid tribute to the anarchic forces of body and soul. The occasionally absurd Dadaist performance was by all means more than just a farcical entertainment, and yet it was not a decisive act of political protest. The Dadaists refused to clearly align themselves with a specific political approach. It was rather the forces of reason and its supposed strategies that were now declared to be the source of all collective criminal acts. The artists thus administered logic a radical rejection. Dada centres developed in Hannover, Berlin and Cologne, but also in Paris and New York, enabling Dada to revolutionise the art world within a brief period of time. Further information: http://www.dada100zuerich2016.ch and http://arpmuseum.org.