Art &Technology
- Dada

On Saturday February 3, 1916 was the inauguration of the Cabaret (Café) Voltaire, an 'artist-tavern'located at Spiegelgasse 1 in Zurich.
Hugo Ball made an agreement with the owner of the tavern 'Meierei' to use the backroom for a literary cabaret and to increase the sale of beer, sausages and sandwiches. They announced an evening with music, dance, manifestos, theory, poems, pictures, masks and costumes presented by Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Tristan Tzara, Georges Janco and Hans Arp.

Dada (French: "hobby-horse") soon became a nihilistic movement in the arts that flourished primarily in Zürich, New York City, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, and Hannover. Several explanations have been given by various members of the movement as to how it received its name. According to the most widely accepted account, the name was adopted at Hugo Ball's Cabaret Voltaire, in Zürich, during one of the meetings held in 1916 by a group of young artists and war resisters that included Jean Arp, Richard Hülsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Emmy Hennings; when a paper knife inserted into a French-German dictionary pointed to the word dada, this word was seized upon by the group as appropriate for their anti-aesthetic creations and protest activities, which were engendered by disgust for bourgeois values and despair over World War I. A precursor of what was to be called the Dada movement, and ultimately its leading member, was Marcel Duchamp, who in 1913 created his first ready-made (now lost), the "Bicycle Wheel," consisting of a wheel mounted on the seat of a stool.

In 1915 - at the beginning of World War I - Hugo Ball (writer and theatre director) came with his female partner Emmy Hennings (dancer and chanteuse) from Munich to Zurich. Hugo Ball wrote: “I didn't love the death-hussars,
And not the howitzers with girls' names,
And at the end when the great days came,
I went discreetly away.”

Despite of World War I, the atmosphere in Zurich was very liberal. In the same narrow alley, Spiegelgasse 14, where the Cabarat Voltaire played, lived Uljanow aka Lenin. But the authorities were much more suspicious about the chaotic dadaists than of these quiet, studios Russian Revolutionaries.

Hugo Ball, Jean Arp, Richard Hülsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and Emmy Hennings: Cabaret Voltaire 1916

Fig.: Cabaret Voltaire at Spiegelgasse 1

Fig.: Poster for "Künstlerkneipe Voltaire" by the ukrainian painter Marcel Slodki.


The only edition of the magazine Cabaret Voltaire was published on June 15, 1916.
It was initiated by Hugo Ball and contained, amongst contributions from Kandinsky, Arp, Modigliani and others, the first print of the word Dada!

In addition to the literary character of Cabaret Voltaire the Zurich Dadaism attented in a second phase to the pictorial art.
Hugo Ball, '18.3.1917: Together with Tzara I took over the rooms of gallery Corray and yesterday we opened the gallery DADA ...'
At the Bahnhofstrasse 19, they exhibited works from Kandinsky, Klee, Arp, de Chirico, Feininger, Ernst, Janco, Modigliani, Macke, Kokoschka and others.

Hugo Ball, '18.4.1917: Tzara insisted on the magazine. My suggestion to name it 'Dada' was accepted.'
From July 1917 to May 1919 four magazines were published. The third number contained, in addition to contributions by members of the Berlin 'Club Dada', articles by Francis Picabia.
On 'DADA 4-5' worked further members of the Paris group.

The 8th 'Dada-Soirée' was at the 'Kaufleuten Saal' on April 9, 1919. During a reading of Walter Serner the audience began with interjections and finally some of them attacked the stage. The whole auditorium was in commotion and Dada-Zurich ended in tumult and chaos as it began.