The weather is overcast with the shadow of World War 1 hovering ominously over the horizon of the known. From a café in Zurich in 1916, Dada, 7 born of Cubism and Futurism 6 in the Cabaret Voltaire and midwifed by artist and writerly refugees from the devastation of war-ravaged Europe, becomes a beacon of anti-art, reflecting the chaos and disintegration of European reality in a cacophony of distorting mirrors and simultaneous onomatopoetica. ‘The beginnings of Dada, Tzara has stated, “were not the beginnings of art but of disgust.”’ 14
Dada Tzara Dada Hausman
Dada 3, ed. Tristan Tzara (Zurich, December 1918). 25 Der Dada 3, ed. Raoul Hausmann (Berlin, April 1920), cover. 24

Dada’s initially exhilarating nihilist energy, however, takes its toll on it’s own practitioners, and in 1922, Tzara delivers its funeral oration at a formal interment at the ‘Bauhausfest’ in Weimar. 15 Its anarchic reverence for the irrational, its desire for freedom from logic, order, the familiar and accepted 16 metamorphose into a new, equally anarchic but more optimistic revolutionary movement.

From the exquisite corpse of Dada, surrealism, phoenix-like, rises.

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