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 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.