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Chapter 45; Dadaism; The meeting point of all contradictions


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Dada's Visual Communication; After All Everyone Dances to His Own Personal Boomboom



Poster for Salon Dada Exposition Internationale, Galerie Montaigne, 1921.

Dada's innovative approach to typography, photomontage, negative white space, layout, letter spacing and line spacing has played a significant role in the development of communication design. Of course, many aspects of their style, technique and aesthetics were borrowed from Futurists. In particular, Dada adopted Futurists art of typography. The Dada publications, including manifestos, magazines, and posters, reveals that graphic design was indispensable for establishing the movement's visual identity, and its strong design signature. Given the rebellious nature of Dada, the Futurists' typographical experiments were more conducive to the spirit of Dadaism's subversive nature than to their own enthusiasm for depicting the energetic pace of machines. This is perhaps why Dadaism contributions became more prominent. According to Tristan Tzara in the Dadaist manifesto:
"Every page should explode, either because of its deep seriousness, or because of its vortex, vertigo, newness, timelessness, crushing humor, enthusiasm of its principles, or the way it is printed."
This reflected exactly the founder of Futurism, Marinetti's virulent sentiment when he wrote:
"I undertake a typographical revolution directed especially against the idiotic and nauseous conception of old-fashioned books of verses ... Better still: my revolution is directed against what is called typographical harmony of the page ... I intend to redouble the expressive force of words." .

Marinetti's typographical revolution was aimed against the traditional concept of meaning, which as Richard Lanham has argued, depends on the radical act of typographical simplification, where a conventional text shows no pictures and no color. "There is a strict order of left to right then down one line; no type changes; no interaction; no revision." Marinetti called such texts "stale" and "oppressive," a symbol of the old guard that the Futurists were working against. Dadaists could not agree with him more, and further emphasized the roles of spontaneity, automatic writing, and chance operations. This was exactly why Marinetti experimented with proactive typography, writing poems that were simultaneously textual and visual. As Enrico Prampolini declared in his letter of 4th August 1917, to Tzara; "we, with Marinetti and my poor dear friend Bocconini and the others, have said and done what you are saying and doing now". The Dadaist Hans Richter confirms this assessment in his book and writes:
The free use of typography in which the compositor moves over the page vertically, horizontally and diagonally. jumbles his typefaces and makes liberal use of his stock of pictorial blocks -- all of this can be found in Futurism years before Dada.

Raoul Hausmann, Poster for the Soirée du Coeur à Barbe at the Théâtre Michel, 1923
On 6 July 1923 Tzara staged, a multi-media musical variety show in the Théâtre Michel at Paris, featuring a performance of his play Le Couer à gaz -- Gas-Operated Heart, as well as poetry by Apollinaire, Eluard, Soupault and Cocteau, spoken contributions from Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes and Pierre de Massot, modern dance, and abstract films by Man Ray, Hans Richter and Charles Sheeler. Tzara had asked Satie to arrange the musical element of the programme, but in a letter to Tzara on Satie wrote that it was already 'much too late to reach an agreement with musicians.
Dada Typography and Aesthetics of Meaning



A typeface salad of Dada typography

Like the Futurists before them, the 'typographical revolution' of Dada was founded on typography itself, where the typeface was used as a medium for creation of meaning. In other words, Dada isolated the graphic work from the transmitted textual message; the visual communication stood independently by its aesthetically induced meaning. Dada did not want the reader to look "through" words to decipher the meaning of the text, it wanted to compel the readers to look "at" the shape of typeface in its explosive layout.



Tristan Tzara, Une Nuit d'Echecs Gras, 391, Paris 1920
In contrast to Futurist typography, which superficially aimed at an 'expression' of a desire for speed, and war technology, Dada's typography, inherently multifarious, was suggesting a new paradigm for deciphering meaning, one that was eruptive, craggy and nonlinear, and most importantly independent of any textual content. Dada attached typographical weight to a word not according to its morphological significance in an statement, but according to its most uncanny characteristics; where play on words and double meaning were often given more weight and displayed more prominently. Of course, not all the Dadaists adhered to this partition rule between form and content. For instance, the graphic design of Schwitters, Höch, and Hausmann used expressive typography whereby the visual modulation in their works were highly correlated to sonority structure of language.

Hugo Ball, Karawane, 1917.
This version published the Dada Almanach, in Berlin in 1920. According, Raoul Hausmann, a Berlin Dadaist, Richard Hülsenbeck created the typography. The use of different type faces was a distinctive feature of the Berlin Dadaists.


Functionality was not a concern in Dada layouts, as artists composed on the same page, and sometimes in the same word, using different typefaces of different sizes. They studied with disharmonious assemblages, disproportionate white space, and multi-directional typesetting. rendering the layout polycentric and polysemic. Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters in their design for a Dada evening in The Hague, 1923, created an explosive composition spawning an avalanche of incongruous signs. However, neither Futurists nor Dadaists altered the traditional form of the letters or the overall integrity of the layout. For instance, the main innovation in the poem Karawane, according to Scholz appears to reside in "its headline, which seems to be in motion and the use of different types of writing in the seventeen lines of the text ', and not in an unconventional layout or a illegibility of its letters. Unquestionably, Dada pushed typography to its limits of legibility, and perhaps violated the canons of classical aesthetics in chirography, but it remained faithful to the cardinal rule of graphic design, as tried to convey its inconsistent message- resorting to logic and language, using its subversive style, to establish the case for emptiness of language and logic.

Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters, Kleine Dada Soirée --Small Dada Evening, 1922.
Dada Hannover was basically a one-man show by Kurt Schwitters. Accused of not being "political enough," Berlin's Club Dada denied him membership, hence he formed Merz his own Dada movement. The name was a cut from the word "Kommerz," and was taken from a bank's newspaper advertisement.


Dada's graphic design, and typography were among the rare cases that Dada adhered to a kind of cultivated manner. But in general, Walter Benjamin's verdict that "barbarisms were abundant in Dadaism" is still a valid assessment particularly for Dada's art performances. As Benjamin observes, like every art form, aspiring "to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard" Dada carried beyond its goal. He writes:
The Dadaists attached much less importance to the sales value of their work than to its usefulness for contemplative immersion. The studied degradation of their material was not the least of their means to achieve this uselessness. Their poems are “word salad” containing obscenities and every imaginable waste product of language. The same is true of their paintings, on which they mounted buttons and tickets. What they intended and achieved was a relentless destruction of the aura of their creations, which they branded as reproductions with the very means of production... In the decline of middle-class society, contemplation became a school for asocial behavior; it was countered by distraction as a variant of social conduct. Dadaistic activities actually assured a rather vehementd distraction by making works of art the center of scandal.

Francis Picabia, L'Oeil cacodylate, The Cacodylic Eye, 1921.

Yet, Dada's graphic design, was not causing any scandal, and by today's standards was not very far from conservative practices. In studies for new aesthetics, Dada employed collage, photomontage and expressive typography, which played the key role in linking its visual art and poetical inspiration. The visual poems such as Karawane by Hugo Ball (1917), Une nuit d’échecs gras by Tzara (1920), and Soiree du Coeura Barbe by Zdanevich (1923), adhered to strict optical composition balances. Dada's sophisticated graphic in its publications dispelled the myth that anyone can make art. To be sure, the aesthetics of their balanced visual compositions were different from traditional layouts, but they were not displeasing. As Willy Verkauf writes:
The Dadaists unfettered by any tradition, tried to breakup the rigid set, the regular rhyme of typography by using types and blocks of the most widely different grades. The layout of the sets was enriched by a lively rhythm of black and white, and a new effect, rather like a picture was achieved. The joy of experimenting and creative imagination took the place of orthodox typographical tradition. Coloured paper was introduced to liven up the publications. Bizarre woodcuts by Arp, mysterious "mechanical design by Picabia, reproductions of works by A. Giacometti, Kandinsky, and Klee, woodcuts by Hans Richter, lithographs by Viking Eggeling and many other things more, adorned the periodicals and other publications, Marcel Janco and Hans Arp illustrated the periodical works of their friends with fine woodcuts, distinguished for their wealth of forms,
This is particularly evident in Kurt Schwitters faith in the project of art, in its immediacy and necessity of communication through visual and literally means. In the end, it was he who admitted that "Typography, under certain conditions, can be an art,", and those conditions were determined by "strict artistic discipline". He wrote:
"With regard to typography one can establish innumerable laws. The principal one would be: never do what someone else before you has done,
implicitly suggesting a materially and thematically dynamic methodology of exploration that in final analysis would result in art. Nevertheless, at the same time many of Dadaists, still asserted that the normative means by which art and literature operate no longer is adequate to the task of representing the true nature of human experience, and thus resorted to their art performances, a bizarre  mixture, of disharmonious noise, chaotic performances, and plain stupidity.

Dada layout, Two Poems, by Tristan Tzara, Page 14 of Der Dada 3.



In contrast to these public performances where a deliberate attempt was made to annoyed and repel the audiences, Dada's claim of total disregard for aesthetics in visual communication is not borne out by the evidence of their published materials, as its periodicals, and various tracts were designed to attract the potential interest -- albeit, largely in those interested in anarchic protests. As Jean Brun has argued, Dada borrowed from the technical and visual vocabulary of advertising, and their interest in posters
evinces a real desire to occupy the forefront of the scene, while at the same time mocking the commercial codes and mechanisms – which it uses to excess, to the point of absurdity. It was the same process used in a tract such as Dada soulève tout, dated 12 January 1921, where advertising's soliciting and use of slogans are diverted ("The ministry is overturned. By who? By Dada. The Blessed Virgin was already a Dadaist"). The Dadaists went as far as to propose premiums: "50 francs reward to who ever finds the means of explaining DADA to us."
Raoul Hausmann, Grün, 1918.

Shortly after, Dada's radical approach to typography was repudiated by the Constructivists, who by forming the Ring neuer Werbegestalter, Circle of New Advertising Graphic Designers, that advocated a return to a more sharpness, exhorting for lucidity, exactitude, crispness and efficiency. After the radicalism of Dada, a new conservative discipline  dominated the typographic world of the 1930s.



Dada photocollage and montage techniques


Hannah Höch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919

Dada artists, like Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann, Kurt Schwitters, Georg Grösz,and Max Ernst developed a unique method of reinterpreting and recontextualizing photographs to powerful socio-political effect. Photomontage allowed Dadaists to create uncompromising criticism of the socio-political issues. To create such images, they chose familiar press photographs, and reorganized them such that to radically alter their meanings.
 
These works were made up of clipped cuts of press, posters, catalogs, tickets, letters, and other printed materials. The technical advances and development of halftone photogravure and offset printing technology had created a tidal wave in the application of photographic images and by 1919 photomontage was widespread and commonly used in both advertising and commercial photography. Dada artists deliberately decided to use this technique to disrupt the cultural influence of mass-media on socio-political structure of reality. By mirroring on their photomontages the structural breakdown of society  and displacement and alienation of individuals Dadaists aimed at disturbing the viewers' sentience and causing a feeling of consternation emanating from facing the harsh reality of modern life. Of course, soon afterwards these Dadaist photocollage-montage were criticized as bourgeois avant-gardism.

Raoul Hausmann, Elasticum, 1920
Photomontage and collage with gouache on the cover of Erste Internationale Dada-Messe

The mischievous and perplexing facets of Dada photomontages, were created from a mixture of absurdity and conviction, uneasiness and defiance, and were intrinsically inconclusive. They were not textual and hence not subject to analytical hermeneutics. Thus, any interpretation would have been subjective and subject to the exigencies of modern life under various socio-political parameters. Nevertheless, Dada's photomontage always encourages its viewers to react, and to interpret. A Hausmann wrote in 1931;
...the idea of photomontage was as revolutionary as its content, its form as subversive as the application of the photograph and printed texts which, together, are transformed into a static film. Having invented the static...poem, the Dadaists applied the same principles to pictorial representation. They were the first to use photography as material to create, with the aid of structures that were very different, often anomalous and with antagonistic significance, a new entity which tore from the chaos of war and revolution an entirely new image; and they were aware that their method possessed a propaganda power which their contemporaries had not the courage to exploit ....


Kurt Schwitters, Merzgurnfleck, 1920



The bold, imaginative, and at times unsettling experiments of Dadaists graphic design , such as the photomontage and collage with watercolor by Hannah Höch, entitled;  Schnitt mit dem Küchenmesser durch die letzte Weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche Deutschlands -- Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919-20, or  Heartfield's cover for Der Dada No 3 (1920), Hausmann's design for Dada Cino (1920), as well as many other photomontages opened new vistas in the graphic design far beyond the narrow concerns of the movement. Dada's experimental typography together with photomontage as visual forms of written language were as much theoretical statements as were their manifestos, critical tracts and technical treaties.

Hannah Höch, Da Dandy, 1919

A Brief History of Dadaism


Dadaism was a rebellious movement against the carnage of the the WWI (1914-18) and aimed at challenging the socio-economic principles of capitalist interests that were behind the war efforts. It quickly developed into an anarchist, cynic and nihilist movement that resorted to a barrage of scandalous exhibitions, outrageous demonstrations and absurd manifestos, that were deliberately designed to provoke and irritate both the rampant militaristic Europe and her conservative bourgeoisies. Dada founders were typically angry and unsophisticated young artists, who most had "opted out", avoiding conscription, and claimed that they can discover the true reality by abolishing traditional culture and accepted aesthetic forms. As Tristan Tzara wrote in his Lecture on Dada in 1922;

The beginnings of Dada were not the beginnings of an art, but of a disgust. Disgust with the magnificence of philosophers who for 3ooo years have been explaining everything to us (what for? ), disgust with the pretensions of these artists-God's-representatives-on-earth, disgust with passion and with real pathological wickedness where it was not worth the bother; disgust with a false form of domination and restriction *en masse*, that accentuates rather than appeases man's instinct of domination, disgust with all the catalogued categories, with the false prophets who are nothing but a front for the interests of money, pride, disease, disgust with the lieutenants of a mercantile art made to order according to a few infantile laws, disgust with the divorce of good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly (for why is it more estimable to be red rather than green, to the left rather than the right, to be large or small?). Disgust finally with the Jesuitical dialectic which can explain everything and fill people's minds with oblique and obtuse ideas without any physiological basis or ethnic roots, all this by means of blinding artifice and ignoble charlatans promises.

They resorted to militant tactics attacking the established traditions of art. Their public statements focused on form and not substance, but their political leitmotif consisted of anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-convention issues. As Tzara wrote;

“Dada is the abolition of those incapable of creation. Dada is the belief in the god of spontaneity. Dada is the roar of controlled pain. Dada is life, Dada is freedom, Dada is the meeting point of all contradictions. It’s the focal point of all things contrary. It’s the epicenter of divine prophecies...Dada is a supreme religion of truth and true feelings…The world has gone insane; the artist makes fun of insanity—a gesture very sane, indeed. Throw away the old rules. Manipulate your chance. Dada is a virgin microbe that will get into your brain only in the places where the conventional is not present!”

Dadaists were also self-deprecating in their work, who mocked their own views on the absurdity of modern life. Hans Arp, Richard Hulsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard, Emmy Hennings,
Johannes Baader, Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Pseudonym for Alfred Grünwald)
were the most prominent among them. Other Dadaists included the Romanian Sculptor Marcel Janco, and the German painter and film-maker Hans Richter. Perhaps Robert Motherwell's description in his The Dada Painters and Poets; is the most apt when he wrot; Dadaism was
“an organized insulting of European civilization by its middle-class young.
Perhaps ironically, Dadaists contributions to the field of visual communication design were positive and significant. They introduced , a new and bold aesthetic, a creative liberation, and an artistic vision that enriched the field of graphic design.


Cabaret Voltaire


In the early 1916, Hugo Ball, a German poet and playwright, and his wife Emmy Hennings, a poet and vocalist, decided to open their own cabaret and chose for it a rather intriguing name; Cabaret Voltaire. In founding this venue, at the back room of the Holländische Meierei, a popular tavern located in a seedy section of Zürich, they were influenced by the emergence of political theater/ cabaret in Germany. Ball had known the work of Austrian Frank Wedekind, whose play Frühlings Erwachen, Springs Awakening, was banned in Viennaostmodernism and Deconstructionism in Graphic Design, because of its critical look at the children lack of sexual education.  Wedekind, who no German  theater would hire him anymore, went to Munich to work at Simplicissimus cabaret, and Hugo Ball made sure to see all his performances, and in fact,  met his wife Emmy at one of those performances. Balls and their Zürich friends; Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara were also great admirers of the Italian Futurist poet Filippo Marinetti.

'We want to glorify war - the world's only hygiene,'' proclaimed the Futurist manifesto, written by Marinetti, which was published on the front page of the Freostmodernism and Deconstructionism in Graphic Designnch newspaper Le Figaro in 1909. Marinetti exalted the dynamism of the modern world, especially its science and technology. His aim was to detach completely from the past and look to the future, thus he asked for the destruction of all museums and libraries. Futurists also staged raucous performance evenings (serrata) and art exhibitions around Europe. Many German artists and writers, including Ball, were fascinated by the nationalistic militarism of Futurists. Ball attempted to enlist in the early days of the War and, when refused on medical grounds, went to the Front for two months as a civilian volunteer. This was after his involvement with the socialist anarchist publications Die Aktion and Die Revolution . Those who weren’t killed in the WWI received searing lessons on the madness and depravity that European civilization was capable of. Ball’s shocking experiences fueled Nietzschean ideals dating from his 1912 – ’13 work for Die Revolution . His Dada activities may be read as an acting-out of Nietsche’s invocation that “he who wants to be a creator must first be an annihilator and destroy values.”

Ball asked Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara, to collaborate with his cabaret project. At the time he was a pianist for a company of actors who performed cheap entertainment in popular music halls of Zürich. Cabaret Voltaire was a dark place, that was incorporating the functions of an artists club, an exhibition room, a pub, and a theater. It offered the most bizarre of performances incorporating rampageous-poetry and boisterous-music, as in which amidst of scurri
lous music a half dozen people simultaneously recited their poems in different la
nguages or nonsense syllables from different corners of the room at the same time, often accompanied by deranged dances in outlandish Dada masks and inane costumes. They performed silly and absurd plays, accompanied by solemn incantations of texts by the mystic Jacob Böhme and of Lao-Tse. On the walls had been hung pictures by artists whose names had been unknown until then: Arp, Paolo Buzzi, Cangiullo, Janco, Kisling, Macke, Marinetti, Modigliani, Mopp, Picasso, van Rees, Slodki, Segal, Wabel, and others. The cabaret was abandoned after World War II but in 2002 a group of artists claiming to be ‘neo-Dadaists’ led by Mark Divo began to occupy it. Artists like Ingo Giezendammer, Mikry Drei, Lennie Lee, Leumund Cult, Aiana Calugar and Dan Jones exhibited and performed there for over three months, but eventually the occupants were evicted from the building which later reopened as a proper  cabaret with regular programs.


Covers, Layouts, and Illustrations in Dada Publications

In spite of the fact that according to Dadaists, Dada was not art, but "anti-art", the designs of book jackets, Layouts, and illustrations in Dada publications had a strong artistic flavour. Dada sought to fight the stale and geriatric design with bold and energetic design. Dada ignored the conventional aesthetics, and instead offered a new perspective on it, it strove to question the meaning of the meaning and presented it as a completely idiosyncratic concept. Unfortunately, Dada was and is misrepresented by the art establishment-- institutions such as Tate Modern, that misrepresent the movement by emphasizing on the silly aspects of the works by "Duchamp, Man Ray, and Picabia". For instance, Tate's curator Jennifer Mundy has told AFP: "There wasn't an element of rivalry, there was a genuine, open warmth which allowed them to have a lot of fun together but also to engage in these visual dialogues." However, Dada was not about warmth and fun, as Dadaists themselves explained it was "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."

Cabaret Voltaire Pamphlet


Hugo Ball, Cabaret Voltaire, Catalog
Pablo Picasso, Dessin,  published in page10 of Cabaret Voltaire, 1916
L. Modegliani, Portrait of Hans Arp, Page 13 of Cabaret Voltaire, 1916


In the pamphlet, Cabaret Voltaire, published by Hugo Ball on May 15th, 1916, an impressive collection  of visual works by artists such as;  Apollinaire, Arp, Ball, Cangiullo, Cendrars, Hennings, van Hoddis, Huelsenbeck, Janco, Kandinsky, Marinetti, Modigliani, Oppenheimer, Picasso, van Rees, Slodki, and Tzara, were included. Ball wrote in his introductory remarks:
When I founded the Cabaret Voltaire, I was of the opinion that there ought to be a few young people in Switzerland who not only laid stress, as I did, on enjoying their independence, but also wished to proclaim it. I went to Mr. Ephraim, the owner of the "Meierei" restaurant and said, 'Please, Mr. Ephraim, let me have your hall. I want to make a cabaret.' Mr. Ephraim agreed. So I went to some friends of mine and asked them, 'Please, let me have a picture, a drawing, an engraving. I want to have an exhibition to go with my cabaret.' And I went to the friendly press of Zürich and said, 'Write a few notes. It shall be an international cabaret. We want to do some beautiful things.' And they gave me pictures, and they wrote the notes.

So, on February 5th, we had our cabaret. Mrs. Hennings and Mrs. Leconte sang French and Danish songs. Mr. Tristan Tzara recited Roumanian verses. A balalaika band played some charming Russian folk-songs and dances. Much support and sympathy came to me from Mr. Slodki, who designed the poster for the Cabaret; and from Mr. Hans Arp, who placed at my disposal a few works by Picasso, in addition to his own works, and who also got me some pictures from his friends: O. van Rees and Arthur Segal. There was also much assistance from Messrs. Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Max Oppenheimer, who willingly experssed their readiness to appear at the cabaret.

We organized a Russian soirée, and soon after a French one as well (with works by Apollinaire, Max Jacob, André Salmon, A. Jarry, Laforgue, and Rimbaud). On February 26th, Richard Huelsenbeck came from Berlin, and on March 30th we performed fabulous Negro music (always with the big drum, boom, boom, boom-drabatja mo gere drabatja mo boonooo...). Mr. Laban was present at the performance and was quite enthusiastic. Thanks to the initiative of Mr. Tristan Tzara, who along with Huelsenbeck and Janco, performed for the firsAndy Warhol; A "Reassuring Sort of Narrative"t time in Zürich and, indeed, in the whole world, simultaneous verses by Messrs. Henri Barzun and Fernand Divoire, as well as a simultaneous poem of their own composition.

For the little pamphlet we are publishing today, we have to thank our own initiative and the assistance of our friends in France, Italy, and Russia. It is to exemplify the activities and the interests of the cabaret, whose whole endeavour is directed at reminding the world, across the war and various fatherlands, of those few independent spirits that live for other ideals. The next aim of the artists united here is to publish an international periodical. This will appear at Zürich and will be called 'DADA Dada Dada Dada Dada.'

- Hugo Ball, Zürich, 15 May 1916



Dada Design : Miscellany of Art and Literature






Tzara launched Dada, a review of art and literature in Zürich. The first issue appeared on July 1917, with subtitle; Miscellany of Art and Literature. It containe contributions from avant-garde groups throughout Europe, including Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Delaunay, and Wassily Kandinsky. Tzara wrote in the Zurich Chronicle, "Mysterious creation! Magic Revolver! The Dada Movement is Launched." Dada 1, was purchased widely throughout Europe. Dada 2 appeared in December 1917. The first two issues, that adopted the structured layout of Cabaret Voltaire, had no official editor. Marcel Janco put together the issue 1 and François Arp, Hans's brother, did the Dada 2. This was by design, as it was planned that Dada members would take turns in editing under direction of an editorial board, that would be created sometimes in future. However, according to Richter, in the end no one but Tzara had the talent for the job, and, "everyone was happy to watch such a brilliant editor at work." Thus, after the first two issues Tzara assumed the role of editoDada 3, was published in December 1918. The radical change of format and bold typographical Dada 3, was published in December 1918. The radical change of format and bold typographical san serif, and a nihilistic and ironic tone may have related to the influence  of Picabia, who returned Europe and in February of that year  contacted Tzara. Picabia published the eightth issue of his periodical, 391 in Zürich, incorporating works by Julius Heuberger, a Dada  graphic designer in  in February 1919. Tzara whose Dada Manifesto of 1918 was published in this issue decided jointly with Picabia  to collaborate on the next issues of their respective reviews - Dada Numbers 4-5 and 391 Number 8.san serif, and a nihilistic and ironic tone may have related to the influence  of Picabia, who returned Europe and in February of that year  contacted Tzara. Picabia published the eightth issue of his periodical, 391 in Zürich, incorporating works by Julius Heuberger, a Dada  graphic designer in  in February 1919. Tzara whose Dada Manifesto of 1918 was published in this issue decided jointly with Picabia  to collaborate on the next issues of their respective reviews - Dada Numbers 4-5 and 391 Number 8.r for Dada3.





Dada 3, was published in December 1918. The radical change of format and bold typographical san serif, and a nihilistic and ironic tone may have related to the influence  of Picabia, who returned Europe and in February of that year  contacted Tzara. Picabia published the eightth issue of his periodical, 391 in Zürich, incorporating works by Julius Heuberger, a Dada  graphic designer in  in February 1919. Tzara whose Dada Manifesto of 1918 was published in this issue decided jointly with Picabia  to collaborate on the next issues of their respective reviews - Dada Numbers 4-5 and 391 Number 8.

Dada 3, printed in newspaper format in both French and German editions, was the issue that violated all the conventional rules of typography and layout, with typeset in randomly ordered lettering. True to Dada's manifesto, it was a celebration of absurdity and pure silliness reflected in its poetry, and declarations. Dada 3 included contributions from Francis Picabia and the Paris-based writers Philippe Soupault and André Breton.



Francis Picabia, Réveil matin I --Alarm Clock I, illustration on the title page of the journal Dada, no. 4-5: Anthologie Dada --Dada Anthology, 1919


Picabia and Tzara, developed a kindred relationship, as the two men's artistic sensitivities were complementary, they inspired each other and appreciated one another's ideas. In February 1919, on Tzara's request Picabia moved for three month to Zürich. A great deal of artistic creativity resulted from their daily discussions and brainstorms. Picabia's ideas was integrated in the Dada's thinking. Tzara and Picabia decided to collaborate on the next issues of their respective reviews - Dada 4-5 and 391 Number 8, were the result of this collaboration. Durinbg the preparation of Dada 4-5, its printer Julius Heuberger, was sent to prison for his anarchist activities during the preparation of the magazine. Dada 4-5 was published in two versions: an international edition that included some contributions in German, and a French edition that replaced the German material with French matrials to avoid French government censorship. The cover shows a Dada alarm clock by Picabia, that its boisterous sound was supposed to waken up the modern art from its long slumber. Picabia showed the internal working of the clock in the "Anthologie Dada" issue on May 1919.




Francis Picabia, Réveil matin I --Alarm Clock I, illustration inside cover of the journal Dada, no. 4-5.

As John Elderfield, has explaines:
To the left we see a battery in cross section, with the electrical 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.


 Dada Art, Assorted Pages of Dada 4-5,


391; Picabia's Avant-garde Journal


Picabia's art and literature review, 391, first appeared in Barcelona in 1917. It was modeled after the New York avant-garde journal 291, published by the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, and survived until 1924, the longest life among the Dada publications. He announced its inception in a letter to Stieglitz from Barcelona; "It's better than nothing, because really, here, there's nothing." Picabia published the first four issues in Barcelona, and the next three in New York, where it turned to a lonely endeavor, as the issues 6 and 7 in New York contained almost exclusively his own texts and drawings. In these issues he exhibited his panache for controversy, absurdity, and nihilistic pizzazz. According to his wife Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia, a young avant‑garde musician, everything started as a joke, but "quickly degenerated in subsequent issues into a highly aggressive system of assault, defining the militant attitude which became characteristic of 391."

Covers of "391" a Dada periodical, (top-left and clockwise) issues 3, 7, 8 and 15, Editor Francis Picabia, 1917-20


Picabia has stated that I "invented nothing, I copy... If someone else's work translates my dream, his work is mine. The above work, M'AMENEZ-Y, is based on the design of a new type of rudder, which was published in the French periodical La Science de la vie in the fall of 1919. Picabia liked it, and reproduced it as a Dada work.


Picabia's 1922 stylized Fuel pump, depicts Dada's unflattering attitude towards machine.

Left; Marcel Duchamp, L.H. O.O.Q, 1917. Right; Francis Picabia, L.H.O.O.Q, reproduction for 391, 1920

Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q in 391 -12


In 1917, Marcel Duchamp, who five years earlier had created a lot of publicity because of his controversial the Nu descendant l'escalier n° 2, continued to create scandal with his L.H.O.O.Q. His became indeed a Midas touch, turning every piece of garbage into gold, first by exploiting the appetite of nouveau riche in the roaring 1920's, who wanted to look cultured and sophisticated, and later on in the bureaucratic eyes of dunces in the artworld of the mid last century, which were trying to explain them philosophically, and at the same time make a living out of it. Among Duchamp's shenanigans, of course, was his "ready-mades" like the ordinary urinal that he titled "Fountain", signed "R. Mutt", and submitted to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, and then having succeeded in generating more publicity, he carried on with purchasing a bunch of cheap reproductions of da Vinci's Mona Lisa onto which he drew a moustache and goatee in pencil and added the title L.H.O.O.Q., which was a rather cheesy play on French words, since the letters when pronounced in French sound out the French boys toilet wall graffiti: "Elle a chaud au cul", which can be translated as "She has a hot ass." Of course, still in 2001 there were critics like Jonathan Jones of Guardian who wrote;

This is not simply an attack on the mass-produced tourist icon the Mona Lisa had become, but rather an inter-pretation of it. Sigmund Freud had psychoanalysed Leonardo's art and related the artist's inability to finish his works to the sublimation of his sexual life to art. He also argued that Leonardo was homosexual.

Duchamp's Mona Lisa is a Freudian joke. Duchamp reveals, in a simple gesture, that which the painting conceals. But this is not merely an allusion to Freud. Duchamp uncovers an ambiguity of gender at the heart of Leonardo's aesthetic - that Leonardo sees the male form in the female.


Duchamp made many different versions of the L.H.O.O.Q. of differing sizes and in different media throughout his career. In December 1919, Picabia decided to include a version of L.H.O.O.Q, in issue 12 of the 391, an issue devoted to Manifestos of Dada. He contacted Duchamp at New York and asked for permission to reproduce it. Duchamp, obliged and sent one of his "original" by mail, and as he explained later; "My original did not arrive in time and in order not to delay further the printing of 391, Picabia himself drew the moustache on the Mona Lisa but forgot the beard." After forging the L.H.O.O.Q., Picabia wrote at the bottom of it in capital letters: 'TABLEAU DADA PAR MARCEL DUCHAMP', and circled the portion of the image that he wanted to be printed in 391. He penciled the print instructions at the right margin.

Apparently, Duchamp was always amused by the fact that Picabia had forgotten the beard. Interestingly enough, in the early 1940s, Hans Arp found the "original" forgery of Picabia "while browsing in a bookstore." He brought it to the attention of Duchamp,who decided to "rectify" it by adding in black ink the missing goatee. He inscribed in the lower corner in blue ink: moustache par Picabia / barbiche par Marcel Duchamp , -- mustache by Picabia, beard by Marcel Duchamp.


Der Dada, and Club Dada in Berlin


The Berlin Dada published two main periodicals; Der Dada, and Club Dada, both of which incorporated a coarse style of explosive typography and photocollage. Berlin Dada that was founded by Huelsenbeck, and whose members included a number of prominent graphic designers like Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, Helmut Herzfelde, and Hanna Hoch, was noted for their stunning photomontages, that became very influential.

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Der Dada, Issues 1 to 3, Covers and assorted pages.-


The first issue of Broom, Subtitled An International Magazine of the Arts, appeared in Italy, in November 1921. It was published by The Broom Publishing Company, Rome and New York.


Various Dada Periodicals


Max Ernst, Von minimax dadamax selbst konstruiertes maschinchen - Little Machine Constructed by Minimax Dadamax in Person , 1919-1920.

Max Ernst and Hans Arp were the major figures in the Cologne Dada, which was aesthetically motivated towards Dada's style, and less political. Ernst, along with John Heartfield, exploited satirical collage techniques using popular printed material, depicting the grotesque and the weirdly erotic, in a style which heralded Parisian Surrealism. Cologne witnessed one of the first Dada exhibitions in May 1920: an event held in the glass-roofed courtyard of a public house entered through a men's lavatory. The irreverent show was closed down by the authorities within days due to a suspected pornographic exhibit.

The Dada manifesto


The name ‘Dada’, according to the poet Richard Huelsenbeck, had been selected at random by himself and Hugo Ball during one of the Dada meetings held in 1916 when a paper knife inserted into a French-German dictionary pointed to the word Dada. This word which in French means a hobbyhorse was seized upon by the group as an appropriate meaningless expression for their movement's vision. In contrast to Futurists who were rabidly hawkish, Dadaists were anti-war, except for some later Parisian Dadaists who nationalistically supported France’s militarism, and spurned any contact with the Germans. The Dada activities generally took place in small and intimate venues; Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, the Club Dada in Berlin, and Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession Gallery, the Arensberg's apartment and Marius de Zaya's Modern Gallery, in New York.


Tristan Tzara's Dada Manifesto, 1918.


In 1918, Tzara wrote the Dada manifesto;

There is a literature that does not reach the voracious mass. It is the work of creators, issued from a real necessity in the author, produced for himself. It expresses the knowledge of a supreme egoism, in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell, on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups. Behind them a crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement.

I say unto you: there is no beginning and we do not tremble, we are not sentimental. We are a furious Wind, tearing the dirty linen of clouds and prayers, preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire, decomposition. We will put an end to mourning and replace tears by sirens screeching from one continent to another. Pavilions of intense joy and widowers with the sadness of poison. Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry.

I destroy the drawers of the brain and of social organization: spread demoralization wherever I go and cast my hand from heaven to hell, my eyes from hell to heaven, restore the fecund wheel of a universal circus to objective forces and the imagination of every individual.

Philosophy is the question: from which side shall we look at life, God, the idea or other phenomena. Everything one looks at is false. I do not consider the relative result more important than the choice between cake and cherries after dinner. The system of quickly looking at the other side of a thing in order to impose your opinion indirectly is called dialectics, in other words, haggling over the spirit of fried potatoes while dancing method around it. If I cry out:

Ideal, Ideal, Ideal,

Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge,

Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom,

I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so many books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom: the satisfaction of pathological curiosity; a private bell for inexplicable needs; a bath; pecuniary difficulties; a stomach with repercussions in life; the authority of the mystic wand formulated as the bouquet of a phantom orchestra made up of silent fiddle bows greased with philtres made of chicken manure.

With the blue eye-glasses of an angel they have excavated the inner life for a dime's worth of unanimous gratitude. If all of them are right and if all pills are Pink Pills, let us try for once not to be right. Some people think they can explain rationally, by thought, what they think. But that is extremely relative. Psychoanalysis is a dangerous disease, it puts to sleep the anti-objective impulses of men and systematizes the bourgeoisie. There is no ultimate Truth.

The dialectic is an amusing mechanism which guides us / in a banal kind of way / to the opinions we had in the first place. Does anyone think that, by a minute refinement of logic, he has demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease. To this element philosophers always like to add: the power of observation. But actually this magnificent quality of the mind is the proof of its impotence. We observe, we regard from one or more points of view, we choose them among the millions that exist. Experience is also a product of chance and individual faculties.

Science disgusts me as soon as it becomes a speculative system, loses its character of utility-that is so useless but is at least individual. I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order. Carry on, my children, humanity . . .

Science says we are the servants of nature: everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in. Carry on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins . . .

I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none. To complete oneself, to perfect oneself in one's own littleness, to fill the vessel with one's individuality, to have the courage to fight for and against thought, the mystery of bread, the sudden burst of an infernal propeller into economic lilies....

Every product of disgust capable of becoming a negation of the family is Dada; a protest with the fists Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: Dada; abolition of prophets: Dada; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity:

Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic; to divest one's church of every useless cumbersome accessory; to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall, or coddle them -with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn't matter in the least-with the same intensity in the thicket of one's soul-pure of insects for blood well-born, and gilded with bodies of archangels. Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE
Guity Novin, Was ist Dada, Eine Kunst? Poster, 2011



A Dadaist Happening; The Greatest-Ever-DADA-Show

After Futurists, Dada was the pioneer in creation of Happening, the term that was coined by the American artist Allan Kaprow in the middle of the last century, and was referring to an event that combined elements of painting, poetry, music, dance, and theater and staged them as a live action. The 8th 'Dada-Soirée', the so-called Greatest-Ever-DADA-Show, which was held at the Saal zur Kaufleuten on April 9, 1919, was really a Happening, during which the audience participated with their interjections and finally some of them attacked the stage. By the end of that Happening  the whole auditorium was in commotion and Dada-Zurich ended in tumult and chaos as it began. Hans Arp and Hans Richter designed the most ridiculous, primitive set design. Marcel Janco, an architect and painter, created the facetious masks, Hans Heusser composed the bizarre music, and Laban dancer Suzanne Perottet and Sophie Taeuber, Arp's wife, performed the grotesque dance. Walter Serner directed the program that was consisted of three segments:

In the first segment Viking Eggeling delivered a rather serious discourse about elementary "Gestalung" and abstract art. Hans Richter read a piece called 'Gegen, Ohne, Für Dada'. The audience was disappointed somewhat, as they expected perhaps a more outlandish program. Then Susanne Perrottet wearing an African mask by Janco, danced to compositions by Schonberg, Satie and others, followed by Kathe Wulff, reciting, couple of dreadful poems by Huelsenbeck and Kandisky, which were received with giggles as the audience began to hoot the performers. The first segment ended with a chaotic simulcast recital of "PoŽme simultanŽ" by Tristan Tzara, performed by twenty people, which triggered a near riot that the young audience had been waiting for. The audience went carzy with yelling, screaming, whistling, and raucousness.

According to Tzara's preplanned brochure there was an intermission between the first and the second segment, which allowed for reestablishing of some resemblance of order. In the second half, Richter recited his 'Manifest radikaler Künstler', which called for an all-encompassing program for radical art reform and a reevaluation of all the values of art in society, during which he mocked and irritated the audience. Then followed the noise-music by Hans Heusser, more dances from Perrottet and a piece by Arp called "Cloud Pump." The audience responded with cries of "crap!" In the third segment
Walter Serner dressed as a groom accompanying a headless tailors mannequin to be wedded with. He offered a scent of artificial flowers to the bride, then lay the bouquet at her feet. He then brought a chair onto stage and with his back to the audience began to read from his anarchist manifesto, "Final Dissolution". The howling began again, derisive at first, then frantic and abusive; "Cheat!" "Rat!", "Bastards!" "you've got nerve!". When Serner uttered the statement "Napoleon was a big, strong oaf, after all," the audience went wild, their clamor almost drowned Serner's voice they climbed onto the stage, swinging parts of a banister over their heads, and chasing Serner into the corridor, then out of the building, demolishing the tailors mannequin and the chair, and stamping on the bouquet. The whole place was in a pandemonium. Tzara was delighted.

Through Happenings like this, travels, exiles and their numerous publications, the Dadaist movement influenced other European cities, as well as New York . In 1918, Huelsenbeck left Zurich for Berlin, and by reading the "First German Dada Manifesto" at J. B. Neumann’s gallery on 21 January of that year started the Berlin Dada. Berlin's First International Dada Fair, was another Happening, with the theme "Art is dead! Long live Tatlin!". All of the major Berlin Dadaists, including John Heartfield and George Grosz exhibited works at a show, which its central piece was a German officer with a pig’s head, hanging from the ceiling. In Cologne, the Dada group was founded by Max Ernst who settled there after the war together with Hans Arp and Johannes Baargeld . Their 1920 exhibition at the Winter Brewery was closed by the police on the charge of obscenity. In Paris, Dadaists from around the world gradually gathered after 1920. Arp and Tzara came from Zurich, Man Ray and Picabia from New York, and Max Ernst arrived from Cologne. Of course, the Parisian intelligentsia, like Louis Aragon, André Breton, and Ribemont-Dessaignes and others; were in contact with Tristan Tzara's journal, Dada, and various Dada groups. Endorsed by Tzara, this newly formed Paris group soon began issuing Dada manifestos, organizing demonstrations, staging performances, and producing a number of journals.

In New York, which after the outbreak of the War, had become a refuge for European exiles seeking to escape the war, Francis Picabia encouraged Marcel Duchamp, then a Futurist, to join him in New York, and soon after arriving there in 1915, Duchamp and Picabia met the American artist Man Ray. By 1916, the three of them started their anti-art activities. They were joined by Alfred Stieglitz and Marius de Zayas. Stieglitz’s Photo Secession Gallery and journal Camera Work became influential venues for their radical politics and a window to the avant-garde European art. As Richter recalled, the origins of Dadaist activities in New York "were different, but its participants were playing essentially the same anti-art tune as we were. The notes may have sounded strange, at first, but the music was the same."



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