International artistic and literary movement in the art of the 20th century. Its members, that witnessed the WWI, lived in the sense of disintegration, in the protest against the world of politics, they denied the generally accepted aesthetic ideas and values, breaking with all tradition (creating anti-art cultural works) and introduced a freedom of artistic expression.

“DADA is what you can make out of yourself”
Hansmann 1968

Main characteristics of DADA

– the lack of a uniform style, or program that would consistently combine their work
– negation of everything
– united by an attitude rather than a common style
– anarchist and anti-bourgeois in nature
– primarily involved visual arts, literature – poetry, art manifestoes, art theory – theatre and graphic – design
– public gatherings, demonstrations, publication of art, literary journals
– absurd, fun, humor
– rarely used traditional genres (painting, sculpture and graphics) in the pure form
– was common to combine different techniques and creating new ones
– abstract paintings, collages, photomontages
– absurd texts and phonetic poems
– the work of everyday objects, artifacts and even the garbage
– influenced later styles, including Surrealism, Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art, Fluxus and Punk Rock

Emerged in Zurich, the movement peaked from 1916 to 1922.
The List of Artists
Hugo Ball, Emmy Ball – Hennings, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter, Walter Serner, Kurt Schwitters, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Francis Picabia.

In Zurich, the artists were focused around Tristan Tzara (poet) and Hans Arp (painter).

In th U.S., among others, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Francis Picabia. After the war Paris became Dadaism capital, other cities such as Berlin, Cologne and Hanover vere also essential.

Cabaret Voltaire
Literary and artistic club opened by Hugo Ball on the 5th of February, 1916 in Zurich.
Artists, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans Arp, Hans Richter, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Georges Janco, along with others discussed art and organised performances. In 1917, Ball, established the Galerie Dada and began publishing the magazine named “DADA”.

DADA magazine

In New York, since 1915, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and Man Ray, gathered around Alfred Stieglitz (a publisher of the “291” magazine). Their work was based on humor, irony, a desire to call a scandal, denying the artwork in its traditional sense.

Artists from Paris, primarily, focused on the literature. Andre Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard initially did not formulated strictly Dadaists ideas, but Picabia’s and Tzara’s arrival in 1919 made a change. Under the influence of Picabia and Tzara Parisian Dadaists adopt an attitude of a total denial, and began to organize provocative spectacles.They released one issue of “Bulletin Dada” and “Dadaphone”.

Dadaists were also active after the war in Germany, where for their activities, the strongest was political subtext. Berlin group (1918 – 1920) founded by Richard Huelsenbeck, associated with Johannes Baader, Roul Hausmann,  Otto Dix and George Grosz.

Francis Picabia (b. 22 Jan 1879) French painter, graphic artist and writer. Associated with both the Dada and Surrealist art movements.
From 1913 to 1915 Picabia took an active part in the avant-garde movements in New York City, introducing modern art in the U.S.
In 1918, he met Tristan Tzara and DADA group from Zurich. Inspired, he became a propagator of the movement in Paris (together with Andre Breton).

“If Dada, as claimed by the Dadaists, was a noisy alarm that woke up modern art from merely aesthetic slumber, then this Picabia drawing shows us how the alarm was sounded. It is the wiring diagram of a Dada alarm clock (made in Switzerland in 1919) which historically plots the flow of the current of modern art, from Ingres to 391, Picabia’s own Dada magazine. For the nonmechanically minded, some words of explanation as to how this machine works:

To the left we see a battery in cross section, with the electircal current moving in waves between the positive and negative poles, properly represented: the former in black, the latter in white (and with the ladderlike pattern that conventionally associates the negative with neutral or ground). French modernism is attracted to the stable, negative pole (and therefore to tradition), and rises historically until it reaches (with the help of Walter Arensberg, patron to French artists in New York) the rectangular transformer that bears the Dada name. Around the top of the active, positive (and therefore antitraditional) pole is an international cluster of innovative early twentieth–century artists, headed (of course) by Picabia himself. This positive pole directly connects with the Dada clock. The negative pole of French modernism, however, has to pass through the Dada transformer before it can be wired up to that inner circle. (Even then the wiring job looks amateur and not entirely convincing, but apparently it works.) When thus connected, the circuit is completed; the clock can start ticking, and the bell that was made in Paris and New York can begin to sound.

The drawing was made for the “Anthologie Dada” issue (May 1919) of the Zurich magazine Dada, edited by Tristan Tzara, where it was reproduced on pink paper by the printer Julius Heuberger, who was sent to prison for his anarchist activities during the preparation of the magazine. On its inside cover was reproduced a Picabia drawing called Réveil matin, made by dismembering an alarm clock and printing its parts in ink. After previously having mainly used automobiles as the source of his machine images, Picabia shifted (appropriately) to clocks when he moved to Switzerland; hence the form of this drawing too. Its subject is by no means unique. Indeed, charts like this became a favorite Dada pastime just after the war, and served three main functions: to assert the superiority of Dada among contemporary movements; to clarify the progenitors and sympathizers of Dada; and to establish hierarchies within Dada itself, as quarrels about priority and sympathizers of Dada; and to establish hierarchies within Dada itself, as quarrels about priority and importance developed once the movement became established. The first such chart, Picabia’s Construction moléculaire, was published in the first Zurich issue (February 1919) of 391. It listed only New York and Paris Dadaists. This one, published three months later, affirms Picabia’s alliance with the Zurich Dadists, listing as it does Dadaists from all three centers within the clock face.

Obviously, then, this is an interpretation as well as a document of history, drawing as it does a highly selective diagram of the history of modern art: a history, in fact, not of modernism itself but rather of what the critic Frank Kermode calls neomodernism, the antitraditional and antiformalist branch of modernism, intimated by Futurism, that Dada properly began. The history recounted in this drawing justifies the kind of modernism that it itself pioneered.”

John Elderfield, The Modern Drawing: 100 Works on Paper from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983, p. 116

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

Alarm Clock  1919

Picabia associated himself with the subversive, anti-rational Dada movement, and made this work during a visit to Zurich when he first met fellow Dadaists Tristan Tzara and Jean Arp. In inking-up the cogs of a clock (a key Swiss product), Picabia undermined the rational measuring of time upon which the social order was based. Conversation, made three years later, also links the measurable (the carefully delineated stripes) and the sensual (the nude female torsos).


Hans Arp (b. 16/09/86 d. 7/6/66)
German / French sculptor, painter, poet and abstract artist. Founder of the DADA. movement in Zurich (1916). In 1920 he set up the Cologne DADA group (together with Max Ernst and Alfred Grinwald).
– introducing “biomorphic”  forms to establish a new, counter- Cubist- form- language
– abstract sculptures made of rounded shapes and smooth surfaces
– organic morphology, frequently sensuous in form
– experiments with automatic composition (automatism)

© DACS, 2002

Torn-Up Woodcut  1920/54
“Arp felt that he could incorporate chance within artistic production, comparing the role of the artist to a plant bearing fruit. According to the Laws of Chance shows Arp playing with random composition, in this case dropping painted pieces of paper onto a surface. Torn Woodcut was made in a similar way in 1954, using the pieces of a Dada print he had made in 1920.”

© DACS, 2002

Moustaches  circa 1925
“Arp developed a distinctive repertoire of abstracted shapes for his sculptural reliefs. The same motifs, repeated from work to work, were intended as a kind of ‘object language’. One of these symbols was the moustache, which Arp associated with pomposity. A common affectation of figures of authority, the moustache embodied the spirit of bourgeois stupidity that had precipitated the First World War. It was only around the time of making this work that the German-born Arp secured his French nationality, having been stateless since refusing to fight in the war.”



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