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Zurich Dada. 1916 - 1918. Why Dada?. to counter the logic that was used to justify the killing and mutilation of millions to show disgust with bourgeois values to create a better life after WWI through the irrational . Dada: What Is It?.

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zurich dada

Zurich Dada

1916 - 1918

why dada
Why Dada?
  • to counter the logic that was used to justify the killing and mutilation of millions
  • to show disgust with bourgeois values
  • to create a better life after WWI through the irrational
dada what is it
Dada: What Is It?
  • international movement in art and literature that used ridicule and nonsense to reflect what was considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world
  • anti-war, anti-art, and anti-bourgeois movement
  • anarchistic movement that challenged traditional perceptions of art as well as provoked a reexamination of social and moral values
founding of the movement
Founding of the Movement
  • originated in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916

– Zurich was neutral territory, the place where many artists went to find refuge from World War I

– Lenin, James Joyce, and Carl Jung were also in residence here

  • founded by exiles
  • other Dada cells located in Paris, Barcelona and New York
  • originally, to express anger over the war
  • later, to attack the art establishment which was aligned with middle class society
  • to destroy those systems based on reason and logic and replace them with ones based on anarchy, the primitive, and the irrational
anti art credo
Anti-art Credo
  • used shock, provocation, and irrationality as a weapon against the Establishment
  • asked the question: what kind of culture would condone the industrialized murder of World War I?
  • made fun of the "seriousness" and sanctity of traditional art
  • believed that traditional art had to be purged and that this new movement was going to start culture from scratch
  • created in a "child-like" manner
  • believed that the value of art was located more in the act of making it than in the work produced
characteristics of dada art
Characteristics of Dada Art
  • elementary
  • anonymous and collective
  • spontaneous, random, and provocative
  • toy-like
  • primitive
  • organic and biomorphic
mythic origins of the word dada
Mythic Origins of the Word Dada
  • first word a baby utters?
  • "yes, yes" in Russian?
  • "hobby-horse" in Rumanian?
  • word found at random in the dictionary?

Founders of the Cabaret Voltaire

In 1915, Hugo Ball

(writer and theatre director)

and his female partner

Emmy Hennings

(dancer and chanteuse)

left Munich and moved to Zurich.

I didn't love the death-hussars,And not the howitzers with girls' names,And at the end when the great days came,I went discreetly away.

Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings,

Zurich (1918).

the cabaret voltaire
The Cabaret Voltaire
  • founded on February 1, 1916, as an international literary cabaret
  • located in a slightly disreputable neighborhood in Zurich, Switzerland, on the Speigelgasse
  • venue for selling beer, sausage, and rolls
  • Emmy Hennings sang songs while Hugo Ball played the piano; others recited non-sensical poetry and improvised

Hugo Ball in “cubist” costume

reciting his poem “Caravan” at

the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich,



Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara, and

Hans Richter in Zurich (1918).


Fancy-dress costumes on

a poem by Hugo Ball (1918).


Marcel Janco.

Cabaret Voltaire (1916).

“Total pandemonium. Tzara

is wiggling his behind like

the belly of an Oriental dancer.

Janco is playing an invisible

violin and bowing and scraping.

Madame Hennings, with a

Madonna face, is doing the splits.

Huelsenbeck is banging away

nonstop on the great drum,

with Ball accompanying him

on the piano, pale as a chalky ghost." (Hans Arp, 1916)


Cover of Cabaret Voltaire, a

Dada literary magazine

(15 May 1916)

technique automatism
Technique: Automatism
  • The starting point of creation is the notion of vitality, the movement of the creative hand.
  • There are no preconceived subjects.
  • But as outlines contoured the surface, they provoked associations to plant, animal, and human life.
  • The important thing is ambiguity—to suggest rather than to define forms.
importance of automatism
Importance of Automatism
  • helped to “overcome” their own painting culture
  • challenged the inherited assumptions of style and habits of the hand
  • suggested the possibility of evoking experience located in the unconscious
the automatic process
The Automatic Process
  • First, pencil outlines are drawn.
  • Second, contours are filled in with black ink.
  • Third, changing and adjusting these shapes.
  • Fourth, eliminating shapes as the drawing was near completion.

Hans (Jean) Arp. Automatic Drawing (1916).

Brush and ink on gray paper.


Hans Arp.

Geometric Collage (1916).

Collage of pasted



Hans Arp. Collage with Squares

Arranged According to the Laws

of Chance (1917).

Collage of torn-and-pasted paper

on blue-gray paper colored papers.


Hans Arp. Collage Arranged

According to the Rules of

Chance (1917).


Hans Arp. Entombment of

The Birds and Butterflies

(Portrait of Tristan Tzara),

1916-17. Painted wood



Hans Arp.

Enak's Tears (Terrestrial Forms),

1917. Painted wood.


Hans Arp.

Birds in an Aquarium

(c. 1920).Painted wood relief.


Hans Arp.

i-picture (1920).



Hans Arp.

Mustache Hat from

7 Arpaden (1923).

Lithograph published

in a portfolio.

arpaden is a made up

word meaning “Arp



Hans Arp.

The Navel Bottle from

7 Arpaden (1923).

Lithograph in a print



Hans Arp. Portfolio Cover from 7 Arpaden (1923). Letterpress with collage addition.


Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

The Army (1917). Wood

painted in oil.


Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

Dada Head (Portrait of Hans

Arp), 1918. Wood.


Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

Dada Head (1920).

Painted wood with

glass beads on wire.


Hans Arp. Wool Rug

(executed by Sophie

Taueber-Arp), 1918.


Marcel Janco. Mask

(1919). Cardboard,

horsehair, wire, and



Marcel Janco. Study for

Brilliant Empire Architecture

(1918). Painted plaster relief.


Hans Richter. Macabre

Portrait (1917). Oil on