For other uses, see Dada (disambiguation).
Dada (/ˈdɑːdɑː/) or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, with early centres in Zürich, Switzerland, at the Cabaret Voltaire (circa 1916); New York Dada began circa 1915, and after 1920 Dada flourished in Paris.
Developed in reaction to World War I, the Dada movement consisted of artists who rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works.
There is no consensus on the origin of the movement's name; a common story is that the German artist Richard Huelsenbeck slid a paper knife (letter-opener) at random into a dictionary, where it landed on "dada", a colloquial French term for a hobby horse.
Others note that it suggests the first words of a child, evoking a childishness and absurdity that appealed to the group.
Still others speculate that the word might have been chosen to evoke a similar meaning (or no meaning at all) in any language, reflecting the movement's internationalism.
The roots of Dada lie in pre-war avant-garde.
The Dada movement's principles were first collected in Hugo Ball's in 1916.
The Dadaist movement included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media.
Key figures in the movement included Jean Arp, Johannes Baader, Hugo Ball, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Emmy Hennings, Hannah Höch, Richard Huelsenbeck, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Kurt Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Tristan Tzara, and Beatrice Wood, among others.
Dada was an informal international movement, with participants in Europe and North America.
The beginnings of Dada correspond to the outbreak of World War I.
For many participants, the movement was a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests, which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war, and against the cultural and intellectual conformity—in art and more broadly in society—that corresponded to the war.
Avant-garde circles outside France knew of pre-war Parisian developments.
They had seen (or participated in) Cubist exhibitions held at Galeries Dalmau, Barcelona (1912), Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin (1912), the Armory Show in New York (1913), SVU Mánes in Prague (1914), several Jack of Diamonds exhibitions in Moscow and at De Moderne Kunstkring, Amsterdam (between 1911 and 1915).
Futurism developed in response to the work of various artists.
Dada subsequently combined these approaches.
Many Dadaists believed that the 'reason' and 'logic' of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war.
For example, George Grosz later recalled that his Dadaist art was intended as a protest "against this world of mutual destruction."
Dada represented the opposite of everything which art stood for.
Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics.
If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend.
As Hugo Ball expressed it, "For us, art is not an end in itself ... but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in."
A reviewer from the American Art News stated at the time that "Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man."
Art historians have described Dada as being, in large part, a "reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide."
Years later, Dada artists described the movement as "a phenomenon bursting forth in the midst of the postwar economic and moral crisis, a savior, a monster, which would lay waste to everything in its path... [It was] a systematic work of destruction and demoralization...
In the end it became nothing but an act of sacrilege."
To quote Dona Budd's The Language of Art Knowledge,
The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestos, art theory, theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works.
The creations of Duchamp, Picabia, Man Ray, and others between 1915 and 1917 eluded the term Dada at the time, and "New York Dada" came to be seen as a post facto invention of Duchamp.
At the outset of the 1920s the term Dada flourished in Europe with the help of Duchamp and Picabia, who had both returned from New York.
Notwithstanding, Dadaists such as Tzara and Richter claimed European precedence.
Art historian David Hopkins notes:
However, unlike the earlier movements Dada was able to establish a broad base of support, giving rise to a movement that was international in scope.
Its adherents were based in cities all over the world including New York, Zürich, Berlin, Paris and others.
There were regional differences like an emphasis on literature in Zürich and political protest in Berlin.
Prominent Dadaists published manifestos, but the movement was loosely organized and there was no central hierarchy.
On 14 July 1916, Ball originated the seminal ; In 1917, Tzara wrote a second , considered important Dada reading, which was published in 1918.
Tristan Tzara's manifesto articulated the concept of "Dadaist disgust"—the contradiction implicit in avant-garde works between the criticism and affirmation of modernist reality.
In the Dadaist perspective modern art and culture are considered a type of fetishization where the objects of consumption (including organized systems of thought like philosophy and morality) are chosen, much like a preference for cake or cherries, to fill a void.
The shock and scandal the movement inflamed was deliberate; Dadist magazines were banned and their exhibits closed.
Some of the artists even faced imprisonment.
These provocations were part of the entertainment but, over time, audiences' expectations eventually outpaced the movement's capacity to deliver.
As the artists' well-known "sarcastic laugh" started to come from the audience, the provocations of Dadaists began to lose their impact.
Dada was an active movement during years of political turmoil from 1916 when European countries were actively engaged in World War I, the conclusion of which, in 1918, set the stage for a new political order.
There is some disagreement about where Dada originated.
The movement is commonly accepted by most art historians and those who lived during this period to have identified with the Cabaret Voltaire (housed inside the Holländische Meierei bar in Zurich) co-founded by poet and cabaret singer Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball.
Some sources propose a Romanian origin, arguing that Dada was an offshoot of a vibrant artistic tradition that transposed to Switzerland when a group of Jewish modernist artists, including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Arthur Segal settled in Zürich.
Before World War I, similar art had already existed in Bucharest and other Eastern European cities; it is likely that Dada's catalyst was the arrival in Zürich of artists like Tzara and Janco.
Opening night was attended by Ball, Tzara, Jean Arp, and Janco.
These artists along with others like Sophie Taeuber, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Richter started putting on performances at the Cabaret Voltaire and using art to express their disgust with the war and the interests that inspired it.
Having left Germany and Romania during World War I, the artists arrived in politically neutral Switzerland.
They used abstraction to fight against the social, political, and cultural ideas of that time.
The Dadaists believed those ideas to be a byproduct of bourgeois society that was so apathetic it would wage war against itself rather than challenge the status quo:
Ball said that Janco's mask and costume designs, inspired by Romanian folk art, made "the horror of our time, the paralyzing background of events" visible.
According to Ball, performances were accompanied by a "balalaika orchestra playing delightful folk-songs."
Influenced by African music, arrhythmic drumming and jazz were common at Dada gatherings.
After the cabaret closed down, Dada activities moved on to a new gallery, and Hugo Ball left for Bern.
Tzara began a relentless campaign to spread Dada ideas.
He bombarded French and Italian artists and writers with letters, and soon emerged as the Dada leader and master strategist.
The Cabaret Voltaire re-opened, and is still in the same place at the Spiegelgasse 1 in the Niederdorf.
Zürich Dada, with Tzara at the helm, published the art and literature review Dada beginning in July 1917, with five editions from Zürich and the final two from Paris.
After the fighting of the First World War had ended in the armistice of November 1918, most of the Zürich Dadaists returned to their home countries, and some began Dada activities in other cities.
Others, such as the Swiss native Sophie Taeuber, would remain in Zürich into the 1920s.
"Berlin was a city of tightened stomachers, of mounting, thundering hunger, where hidden rage was transformed into a boundless money lust, and men's minds were concentrating more and more on questions of naked existence...
Fear was in everybody's bones" – Richard Hülsenbeck
Dada is envisioned in contrast to art forms, such as Expressionism, that appeal to viewers' emotional states: "the exploitation of so-called echoes of the soul".
In Hausmann's conception of Dada, new techniques of creating art would open doors to explore new artistic impulses.
Fragmented use of real world stimuli allowed an expression of reality that was radically different from other forms of art:
The groups in Germany were not as strongly anti-art as other groups.
Their activity and art were more political and social, with corrosive manifestos and propaganda, satire, public demonstrations and overt political activities.
The intensely political and war-torn environment of Berlin had a dramatic impact on the ideas of Berlin Dadaists.
Conversely, New York's geographic distance from the war spawned its more theoretically-driven, less political nature.
According to Hans Richter, a Dadaist who was in Berlin yet “aloof from active participation in Berlin Dada”, several distinguishing characteristics of the Dada movement there included: “its political element and its technical discoveries in painting and literature”; “inexhaustible energy”; “mental freedom which included the abolition of everything”; and “members intoxicated with their own power in a way that had no relation to the real world”, who would “turn their rebelliousness even against each other”.
In February 1918, while the Great War was approaching its climax, Huelsenbeck gave his first Dada speech in Berlin, and he produced a Dada manifesto later in the year.
Johannes Baader, the uninhibited Oberdada, was the “crowbar” of the Berlin movement's direct action according to Hans Richter and is credited with creating the first giant collages, according to Raoul Hausmann.
After the war, the artists published a series of short-lived political magazines and held the First International Dada Fair, 'the greatest project yet conceived by the Berlin Dadaists', in the summer of 1920.
As well as work by the main members of Berlin Dada – Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Johannes Baader, Huelsenbeck and Heartfield – the exhibition also included the work of Otto Dix, Francis Picabia, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Rudolf Schlichter, Johannes Baargeld and others.
In all, over 200 works were exhibited, surrounded by incendiary slogans, some of which also ended up written on the walls of the Nazi's Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937.
Despite high ticket prices, the exhibition lost money, with only one recorded sale.
The Berlin group published periodicals such as Club Dada, Der Dada, Everyman His Own Football, and Dada Almanach.
They also established a political party, the Central Council of Dada for the World Revolution.
In Cologne, Ernst, Baargeld, and Arp launched a controversial Dada exhibition in 1920 which focused on nonsense and anti-bourgeois sentiments.
Cologne's Early Spring Exhibition was set up in a pub, and required that participants walk past urinals while being read lewd poetry by a woman in a communion dress.
The police closed the exhibition on grounds of obscenity, but it was re-opened when the charges were dropped.
Main article: New York Dada
Like Zürich, New York City was a refuge for writers and artists from the First World War.
By 1916 the three of them became the center of radical anti-art activities in the United States.
Arthur Cravan, fleeing conscription in France, was also in New York for a time.
The New Yorkers, though not particularly organized, called their activities Dada, but they did not issue manifestos.
They issued challenges to art and culture through publications such as The Blind Man, Rongwrong, and New York Dada in which they criticized the traditionalist basis for museum art.
New York Dada lacked the disillusionment of European Dada and was instead driven by a sense of irony and humor.
In his book Adventures in the arts: informal chapters on painters, vaudeville and poets Marsden Hartley included an essay on "".
In 1917 he submitted the now famous Fountain, a urinal signed R. Mutt, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition but they rejected the piece.
First an object of scorn within the arts community, the Fountain has since become almost canonized by some as one of the most recognizable modernist works of sculpture.
Art world experts polled by the sponsors of the 2004 Turner Prize, Gordon's gin, voted it "the most influential work of modern art".
As recent scholarship documents, the work is still controversial.
Duchamp indicated in a 1917 letter to his sister that a female friend was centrally involved in the conception of this work: "One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture."
The piece is in line with the scatological aesthetics of Duchamp's neighbour, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.
In an attempt to "pay homage to the spirit of Dada" a performance artist named Pierre Pinoncelli made a crack in a replica of The Fountain with a hammer in January 2006; he also urinated on it in 1993.
Picabia's travels tied New York, Zürich and Paris groups together during the Dadaist period.
For seven years he also published the Dada periodical 391 in Barcelona, New York City, Zürich, and Paris from 1917 through 1924.
By 1921, most of the original players moved to Paris where Dada had experienced its last major incarnation.
The French avant-garde kept abreast of Dada activities in Zürich with regular communications from Tristan Tzara (whose pseudonym means "sad in country," a name chosen to protest the treatment of Jews in his native Romania), who exchanged letters, poems, and magazines with Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Max Jacob, Clément Pansaers, and other French writers, critics and artists.
Paris had arguably been the classical music capital of the world since the advent of musical Impressionism in the late 19th century.
This was a ballet that was clearly parodying itself, something traditional ballet patrons would obviously have serious issues with.
Dada in Paris surged in 1920 when many of the originators converged there.
Inspired by Tzara, Paris Dada soon issued manifestos, organized demonstrations, staged performances and produced a number of journals (the final two editions of Dada, Le Cannibale, and Littérature featured Dada in several editions.)
The first introduction of Dada artwork to the Parisian public was at the Salon des Indépendants in 1921.
Jean Crotti exhibited works associated with Dada including a work entitled, Explicatif bearing the word Tabu.
In the same year Tzara staged his Dadaist play The Gas Heart to howls of derision from the audience.
When it was re-staged in 1923 in a more professional production, the play provoked a theatre riot (initiated by André Breton) that heralded the split within the movement that was to produce Surrealism.
Van Doesburg and Thijs Rinsema  (a cordwainer and artist in Drachten) became friends of Schwitters, and together they organized the so-called Dutch Dada campaign in 1923, where van Doesburg promoted a leaflet about Dada (entitled What is Dada?
Van Doesburg wrote Dada poetry himself in De Stijl, although under a pseudonym, I.K.
Bonset, which was only revealed after his death in 1931.
'Together' with I.K.
Bonset, he also published a short-lived Dutch Dada magazine called Mécano (1922–3).
Another Dutchman identified by K. in his study of the movement in the Netherlands was the SchippersGroningen typographer H. , who was in touch with van Doesburg and Schwitters while editing his own magazine, The Next Call (1923–6). N. Werkman
Two more artists mentioned by Schippers were German-born and eventually settled in the Netherlands.
These were Otto van Rees, who had taken part in the liminal exhibitions at the Café Voltaire in Zürich, and Paul Citroen.
In Yugoslavia, alongside the new art movement Zenitism, there was significant Dada activity between 1920 and 1922, run mainly by Dragan Aleksić and including work by Mihailo S. Petrov, Ljubomir Micić and Branko Ve Poljanski.
The Dada movement in Italy, based in Mantua, was met with distaste and failed to make a significant impact in the world of art.
It published a magazine for a short time and held an exhibition in Rome, featuring paintings, quotations from Tristan Tzara, and original epigrams such as "True Dada is against Dada".
In the Tsuburaya Productions's Ultra Series, an alien named Dada was inspired by Dadaism movement, with said character first appearing in episode 28 of the 1966 tokusatsu series, Ultraman, its design by character artist Toru Narita.
On May 19, 2016, in celebration to the 100 year anniversary of Dadaism in Tokyo, the Ultra Monster was invited to meet the Swiss Ambassador Urs Bucher.
Butoh, the Japanese dance-form originating in 1959, can be considered to have direct connections to the spirit of the Dada movement, as Tatsumi Hijikata, one of Butoh's founders, "was influenced early in his career by Dadaism".
Dada in itself was relatively unknown in Russia, however, avant-garde art was widespread due to the Bolshevik's revolutionary agenda.
The Nichevoki , a literary group sharing Dadaist ideals achieved infamy after one of its members suggested that Vladimir Mayakovsky should go to the "Pampushka" (Pameatnik Pushkina – Pushkin monument) on the "Tverbul" (Tverskoy Boulevard) to clean the shoes of anyone who desired it, after Mayakovsky declared that he was going to cleanse Russian literature.
For more information on Dadaism's influence upon Russian avant-garde art, see the book Russian Dada 1914–1924.
Tzara's 1920 manifesto proposed cutting words from a newspaper and randomly selecting fragments to write poetry, a process in which the synchronous universe itself becomes an active agent in creating the art.
A poem written using this technique would be a "fruit" of the words that were clipped from the article.
In literary arts Dadaists focused on poetry, particularly the so-called sound poetry invented by Hugo Ball.
Dadaist poems attacked traditional conceptions of poetry, including structure, order, as well as the interplay of sound and the meaning of language.
For Dadaists, the existing system by which information is articulated robs language of its dignity.
The dismantling of language and poetic conventions are Dadaist attempts to restore language to its purest and most innocent form: "With these sound poem, we wanted to dispense with a language which journalism had made desolate and impossible."
Simultaneous poems (or poèmes simultanés) were recited by a group of speakers who, collectively, produced a chaotic and confusing set of voices.
These poems are considered manifestations of modernity including advertising, technology, and conflict.
Unlike movements such as Expressionism, Dadaism did not take a negative view of modernity and the urban life.
The chaotic urban and futuristic world is considered natural terrain that opens up new ideas for life and art.
While broadly based, the movement was unstable.
Some theorists argue that Dada was actually the beginning of postmodern art.
By the dawn of the Second World War, many of the European Dadaists had emigrated to the United States.
The movement became less active as post-war optimism led to the development of new movements in art and literature.
French writer Dominique Noguez imagined Lenin as a member of the Dada group in his tongue-in-cheek Lénine Dada (1989).
After their eviction, the space was turned into a museum dedicated to the history of Dada.
The work of Lee and Jones remained on the walls of the new museum.
Several notable retrospectives have examined the influence of Dada upon art and society.
In 1967, a large Dada retrospective was held in Paris.
The LTM label has released a large number of Dada-related sound recordings, including interviews with artists such as Tzara, Picabia, Schwitters, Arp, and Huelsenbeck, and musical repertoire including Satie, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Picabia, and Nelly van Doesburg.
Musician Frank Zappa was a self-proclaimed Dadaist after learning of the movement:
Art techniques developed
Dadaism also blurred the line between literary and visual arts:
The Dadaists imitated the techniques developed during the cubist movement through the pasting of cut pieces of paper items, but extended their art to encompass items such as transportation tickets, maps, plastic wrappers, etc. to portray aspects of life, rather than representing objects viewed as still life.
They also invented the “chance collage" technique, involving dropping torn scraps of paper onto a larger sheet and then pasting the pieces wherever they landed.
The Dadaists – the "monteurs" (mechanics) – used scissors and glue rather than paintbrushes and paints to express their views of modern life through images presented by the media.
A variation on the collage technique, photomontage utilized actual or reproductions of real photographs printed in the press.
In Cologne, Max Ernst used images from the First World War to illustrate messages of the destruction of war.
The assemblages were three-dimensional variations of the collage – the assembly of everyday objects to produce meaningful or meaningless (relative to the war) pieces of work including war objects and trash.
Objects were nailed, screwed or fastened together in different fashions.
Assemblages could be seen in the round or could be hung on a wall.
He would add signatures and titles to some, converting them into artwork that he called "readymade aided" or "rectified readymades".
Duchamp wrote: "One important characteristic was the short sentence which I occasionally inscribed on the 'readymade.'
That sentence, instead of describing the object like a title, was meant to carry the mind of the spectator towards other regions more verbal.
Sometimes I would add a graphic detail of presentation which in order to satisfy my craving for alliterations, would be called 'readymade aided.'"
One such example of Duchamp's readymade works is the urinal that was turned onto its back, signed "R. Mutt", titled Fountain, and submitted to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition that year, though it was not displayed.
- Art intervention
- The Central Council of Dada for the World Revolution
- List of Dadaists
- Épater la bourgeoisie
- Shock art
- Transgressive art
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada.