Indeed, the normally very staid city of banking and chocolates has gone a little gaga over their claim to artistic fame with special exhibitions in two museums, performances in the original Cabaret Voltaire and a pervasive Dada-intoxication in the air! It was my great good fortune to be in Zurich for the kick-off to their Dada celebrations and I can tell you, it showed a different side to the conservative Swiss as we think we know them.
"Portrait of Tristan Tzara", c. 1920
First a little background. The Dada Movement was an anarchistic one, born as a reaction to capitalism, bourgeois ideas of art, and the horrors of World War I. On February 5, 1916, a group of artists and writers including Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck, initiated a series of performances at the Cabaret Voltaire that were unlike anything ever before seen on stage. Avant garde to the extreme, these concerts caused a sensation in the art world and Dada was born. It soon spread from Zurich to Berlin, then Cologne, Hannover, Paris and New York where artists and writers such as Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters, Max Ernst, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Theo van Doesburg and many others were completely engaged in spreading this new gospel. Though reincarnated in various forms by later generations, the Dada flame was short lived. It burned brightly until about 1920 and was completely extinguished in 1924 when it was superseded by the publication of Breton's "Surrealist Manifesto".
But let's get back to the beginning, one hundred years later.
Dadaglobe was for all intents and purposes forgotten although some of these submissions became recognized as Dada masterpieces in their own right. Through painstaking research, Dr. Sudhalter has re-assembled all of the 160 small format works on paper that had been sent to Tzara for inclusion in the publication, and she presents them here, and in the accompanying exhibition catalogue, as she believes Tzara had intended. This is a tour de force of academic rigor, an important contribution to twentieth century art history and an homage to the genius of Tristan Tzara. "Dadaglobe Reconstructed" will be coming to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in June.
Nowhere in Zurich was February 5 celebrated more enthusiastically than at the "Ground Zero" of Dada - the Cabaret Voltaire. Located at No. 1 Spiegelgasse in the old town, this historic site was nearly lost to the wrecking ball but thanks to a public outcry and the civic mindedness of the Swatch Corporation, the building was saved and now functions as a cultural center with an emphasis on performance art.
Hugo Ball in an early Dada performance at the Cabaret Voltaire, 1916
A fan chaneling Hugo Ball at the Cabaret Voltaire, 2016
The Mayor of Zurich speaks through an
improvised megaphone at the Cabaret Voltaire
The city of Zurich is embracing its Dada heritage with great enthusiasm, and why not? While Dada may not exactly be a household name, it has truly had a universal influence on art and popular culture. The band of insurgents who performed in Zurich a hundred years ago could never have imagined how their vision has endured. Dada Siegt!