Dada existed in six main cities, Zurich, New York, Berlin, Cologne, Hanover and Paris, this happened mainly because the war directly influenced where artist worked. The two main cities of Dada were Zurich and New York. Dada originated in Switzerland founded by German, Romanian and French refugees fleeing World War 1, as a result of being exposed to the horrors of war, these artists sought a fresh perspective and concentrated its ant-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works.
Dada thought that reason and logic had caused the war this is why they rejected logic and embraced anarchy and irrationality. The Cabaret Voltaire was established in the Hollandische Meierei a popular tavern located in Zurich Switzerland, it was the birth place of Dada and was opened on February 5th 1916 by Hugo Ball and his wife Emmy Hennings. It was run by hardcore Dada enthusiast such as Tristan Tazara, Marcel Janco, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Tauber and Hans Ritcher, along with others.
They put on a variety of shows in relation to expressing their disgust with the war and what inspired it, breaking down all stereotypical and bourgeois values, all past ideals which to them had a great influence in causing the war, they created a contradiction and a counter logic in the world of arts and entertainment and expressionism. Artists and permanent guest gave musical or literary performances, comprising of spoken word, chaotic dance and musicals and unusual poetry reading, their expressions of art and music mirrored the anarchy of World War 1.
Young Zurich artists of all tendencies were invited to join with suggestions and proposals. Dada was noted for the use of collage and assemblage, the extension of the notion of abstract to literature and film, the breaking of boundaries of the separation of different art forms from one another, forming connections within art, music and poetry defining everything which we call avant-garde today. In the United States the movement flourished in New York, featuring works from artists such as Man Ray, Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp to name a few.
Duchamp was the figurehead of New York Dada, his experimentation and theories about art and anti-art led to new forms of art known as “ready made” and “ready made assisted”. “Ready mades” was the use of seemingly random objects used as art, it challenged the way we understand and interpret art; the focus turned into an idea and intention rather than the object itself. Duchamp main goal with his “ready mades” was to provoke the art world, he did not physically create the objects nor altered it much but claimed authorship, such as his piece “Fountain” which is a urinal that was displayed as art.
In his painting Nude descending a staircase, he challenged traditional nude paintings by creating a jagged cubist of movement in a static portrait and called it nude which was radically unexpected at the time and in the process he broke down conventional ideas related to the nude human form. During the heights of Dada in Berlin, Germany’s empire was under attack and launched in the midst of a horrible World War 1, due to this the Berlin Dada movement taking place at that time was intensely political. Dadaists pushed anarchy in their disgust with the government and the destruction the war caused on their lives.
Art was used to enforce political motives rather than portray conventionally accepted forms of art. The Dadaist focus was to involve the audience into critical thinking that they hope would stimulate a social revolution. Artists in Berlin included Johannes Baader, Hannah Hoch, George Gzosz and Raoul Hausmann. Their art signified and encouraged revolution and independence, it comprised of a lot of collage, typography and photomontage techniques all with the purpose of breaking away from traditional canonized art.
Spontaneity in art was a significant feature in Dada. It was representative of Dada’s breaking away from constraints and we saw this in Dada’s love for collage which is random and easily assembled allowing the release of an easy flow of creative ideas, they believed that traditional art at that time, being oil paintings, required a lot of time spent on perfecting imagery which negated and stifled the artists ability to follow subconscious impulses. Collages and other Dada art were “works that disturb or humiliate traditional concepts of art”.
In Cologne, Max Ernst and Hans Arp used Dada for its innovation and unconventional self expression, Arp worked with collage and sculpture, dealing with solid colours and biomorphic shapes that vaguely suggested human forms, while Ernst experimented with unique mediums and expressions, developing frottage and other innovative techniques many of which are used in modern day surrealism. Kurt Schwitters, a primary artists related to Dada based in Hanover Germany, delt with collage poetry and ran a movement parallel and separate from Dada called “Merz”.
Schwitters in cooperated into his collages fabrics, pieces of metal, pieces of paper and any random materials and “garbage” he could find. His art was totally new in technique and use of materials and his goal was the rejection of traditional art canon. Dada died down around the end of the war in the mid 1920’s. In Paris, a gathering of all European and New York Dadaist became a part of mainstream society, Paris being already filled with a rich art scene, poetry, performance and film the like, the noted French Dada artist were Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau and Phillip Soupault.
Brenton was a key figure and lead the way to surrealism. The collaboration of international Dada artists in Paris lead to a series of mass demonstrations that ultimately divided and weakened Dada. Dada set the stage for contemporary art by the rejection of traditional and conventional art by using different mediums to execute artwork, challenging the way art is made through the idea of spontaneity and turning the focus of art into an idea and intention rather than the object and final product itself.
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