Dada originated in Zurich towards the end of 1915, in protest against the atrocity of World War I. A group of people, who were disgusted with the war, put up a performance in the Cabaret Voltaire, to express their ideas. On the 14th of July 1916, Hugo Ball recited the first Dada Manifesto. Tristan Tzara campaigned to spread the ideas of Dada, and soon became the leader of the movement. The Dada philosophy soon spread to Berlin, Cologne, New York, Paris and the Netherlands. The Dadaists insisted that the movement was not to be mistaken for an art movement, and that it was not to be called Dadaism.
The Dada Philosophy
The philosophy of Dada was simple: logic and reason, it was believed, had led to war and crisis, and therefore salvation could only be achieved by anarchy and irrationality. The Dadaists were of the opinion that it was the bourgeoisie that had inspired the war and that was responsible for imparting a certain rigidity to art and society.
Accordingly, the motto of Dada was to fight such art, and hence it was anti-art. It scoffed at everything that art was concerned with: aesthetics, morality, latent meaning, appeal. It strove to possess no inherent meaning: according to it, the meaning depended on the viewer entirely. Its aim was to offend and destroy traditional culture. Historians consider the Dada ideal, paralyzing and destructive.
The Growth of Dada
Dada originated in Zurich, but soon spread to other parts of the world.
In New York, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Beatrice Wood and Man Ray became the centre of Dada anti-art activity. In 1917, Duchamp submitted Fountain, a urinal, to the society of Independent Artists. It was rejected, but is today regarded as the watershed of modern art . Duchamp also reproduced the Mona Lisa, by adding a moustache. He called this work, L.H.O.O.Q.
In 1921, Dada art work was introduced in Paris. Here Jean Crotti exhibited his works. One important work is Explicatif.
In Hanover, Kurt Shwitters used cast off material to create interesting compositions. He called these Merzbilder.
The Dadaists tried to bewilder and shock the public through their work. This was their way of opposing traditional art. They adopted the collage as their ideal medium of expression. Hans Arp made several compositions in Zurich.
By 1924, however, Dada became unstable. Slowly, it ceased to exist as an independent ideal, and began to give way to Surrealism, Socialist Realism, and Modernism.
With World War II and the new movement in art and literature that followed, Dada quietly died out.