Who Is Dada | What Is Dada

What is Dadaism | What is A Dadaist


Dada or Dadaism was a form of artistic anarchy born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time. It embraced elements of art, music, poetry, theatre, dance and politics.


who ha dada

Da-Da Defined

Dadaor Dadaism, which in French is a child’s word for hobbyhorse. The name Dada from historic evidence is said to have been randomly picked from a German-French dictionary by Tristan Tzara, a Romanian poet, essayist, and editor. The meeting took place in Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 where a paper knife inserted into the dictionary pointed the name “DADA”. The group saw the word as appropriate for their anti-aesthetic creations and protest activities. Generally, it was an artistic movement (1916 to 1923) born in Europe. It first rose during the horrorsof the World War I(1914-18). The founders of the movement are said to be the German writer Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp the Alsatian born artist, and other various intellectuals from Zurich, Switzerland. At the time of formation, around 1916, it is said that it was the war [World War I (1914-1918)] that led to the rise of these artists, writers and intellectuals. History has it that they all converged or congregated in Zurich, Switzerland as refugees. At that time, Switzerland was a neutral nation. In addition, at the time the movement was established, in 1916 in Europe, it simultaneously established in New York City, America and in Paris, France. In America Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Francis Picabia led it. The leaders are said to have been very young as they were in their early twenties.




The nihilistic revolution mainly flourished in France, Germany, and Switzerland from 1916 to 1923. They deliberately embraced irrational, anarchy and cynicism behavior leading to rejection of laws of beauty and social organization. The Irma in goal was to undermine the rules and laws of the ruling establishment, which to them had allowed the war to happen. They were so angry at the fact that, the modern European society and the ruling systems allowed such a senseless war to happen. They (The writers and artists) used art to protest. They literally, took center stage as they used any public forum they could find to undermine rationalism, nationalism, materialism and any other activity to their perceptive, led and contributed to the war.


History of Dadaism

As mentioned earlier, the Dada movement rose during the barbaric war, World War I, the movement’s proponents was distributed throughout Europe and the United States at that time. The Dada revolution did not restrict from being artists, writers, dancers, or musicians. In other words, a large number were involved in various art cultures and destroying those boundaries that kept the arts distinct from one another. They were never content to create art; they only wanted to affect all the Western civilization aspects eventually influencing them to take part in the revolutionary changes, which were because of the First World War. The Dada movement was not affiliated to writing books and painting portraits or pictures that the society would admire, however their goal was to provoke the society into reacting to their activities. They mainly took public forums to show case various activities. This has a major influence on the development of twentieth-century art.



Founded in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland by a group of exiles from various countries that shared the conflict, Dada consisted of different kinds of people; pacifists, dodgers etc. they found refuge in the lands of Swiss, a neutral country in Europe. Outraged by the killings that were ongoing on both sides of the continent, that same year, in February, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, and the rest formed the Cabaret Voltaire. According to the Dadaists, the Cabaret Voltaire was dedicated to presenting the ideals of arts and culture for  variety show. Later that year, about two months later, the name Dada was formed as well.

When the movement began, they were dedicated to fighting the cultural values or morals that they believed led to the war. They used the basic forms of modern art as the tool of attacking these values of the society. For instance, abstraction, collage, chance, audience confrontation, sound and visual poetry, eclectic typography, among others. The Cabaret and its prototypes held performances across Europe with various presentations of the art, poetry, and drama for different avant-gardes that took the Europe by a storm; Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism. They recited poems simultaneously in German, French, and in English. Hugo Ball was reported to be dressed in a bizarre cardboard costume as he chanted his sound poetry. Nevertheless, Richard Huelsen beck also flavored the meetings with continuous drumbeats.


smoking girl

After the war was over, it was again free to travel to most parts of the continent and the Dada members distributed to different parts of Europe. Berlin and Paris were the major strong holds of the movement as most members left Switzerland and regrouped there. Richard Huelsen beck was recorded to have grouped with a team of writers and artists who adapted the name and the legacy of Dada. During this time, there were a turn of events such as the collapse of the German Empire that sent the society into a state of disorder. This led the Dada movement to take a political stage. They were involved in disruptive activities across Berlin including the violent disruption of the services held at the Berlin cathedral, distribution of flyers or leaflets with manifestos, as well as demonstrations at the National Assembly at Weimar. Other activities included theater and Cabaret performances, exhibitions, lecture tours, among others.

Apart from Berlin, other parts of Germany such as Cologne and Hanover were also filled with Dada activities. Jean Arp and Max Ernst of the Cologne Dada movement(1919-1920) were less political as opposed to those in Berlin. However, they were strict and harsh on the social and moral aesthetics. They performed various activities such as distributing printed material, depicting the grotesque and the rest. However, their major performance was in May 1920 where an event was suspected to show case pornographic exhibition.


girl with mask

In Paris, the movement under the leadership of Tristan Tzara also distributed their literature reviews and pamphlets published from 1919-1924. The reviews contained remarks and writings by Andr Breton, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, and Paul luard.

Some of the early and famous Dada activities include Picabia's stuffed-monkey Portrait of Cezanne, Renoir and Rembrandt (1920), and Duchamp's picture of Leonardo's portrait of the Mona Lisa complete with beard and moustache in 1919.In addition, the event that took place such as Schamberg's "God" in 1917 and Man Ray's "Gift" 1921.

The Dada expressed their interests through publications such as The Blind Man, Rongwrong, and the New York dada. Their main aim was to fight the current social aesthetics or values that people believed in as they did not believe in anything. Their activities mainly stretched between the US and Europe. Some historic pre-Dadaism activities include the posteriori, sensitized by EbuRoi(1896) by Alfred Jarry and the Ballet Parade (1916-1917) by Erik Satie. They all sensitized the public about Dadaism activities. Later after the freedom, that is after the war was over, cubism and the development of collage led to most Dada movements turning political as opposed to their initial aim of fighting values of the society. After 1922, the movement faded away as many Dada members got interested in surrealism. Nevertheless, today most innovations and creativity and the developments in are owed to Dadaism.