Ilustrated History of AVANT DADA

Translation from the Spanish: Yolanda Pérez Herreras


[◄] DADA


AvantDADA - Berlin, Munich (1905-1916)

Cafe des Westens, Berlin, 1905. "The moderns" at their usual table. Emmy Hennings in the centre, at the table on the right Else Lasker-Schüler and Herwarth Walden. Image of the Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung. No. 41 of 21st May 1905.
Article by Julio Álvarez del Vayo, La Alemania Emigrada (The Emigrated Germany), published in the magazine España, 21st March 1918 (no. 154, page 12)
She is not German; in the biography of the extraordinary and funny number edited by "Cabaret Voltaire", after giving the nationality of the litterateurs who contributed to it, upon arriving at Emmy Hennings he said "without a fatherland". However, it is known where she comes from: she is Danish in origin. But it would be more fair to say that she was born in the Café des Westens.
It was the "Cafe des Westens" in Berlin, and although less so today, a meeting place for bohemian and artistic German youth. It will be remembered that a few years ago the furore for the exotic and disorderly entered Germany. The race, tired of forging on the hard anvil of the anonymous collaboration the machinery of the Empire, and satisfied with its work, wanted to enjoy the earthly pleasures and gave themselves to luxury and frivolity. The most restless went to Paris and upon their return to Germany they implanted there, albeit with some delay, decadence. And thus became the "Cafe des Westens", the temple of girls who aspired to have their perversities sung by a second Teutonic Baudelaire, and of young poets, who sought in homosexuality and morphine a patent for refining that deprived them of their barbarian plumage.
Emmy Hennings entered that cafe one day. She was stronger than that environment because in her simple soul there was no affectation. She had her blonde hair cut as a royal page; her eyes were already shining then like today. She came from another different field. An artist in small provincial cabarets, a cheerful girl whose primitive and almost tender infantilism had scarcely suffered in light raids through industrial cities, she brought to that café an unusual life force. Soon she assimilated the literary restlessness. She composed verses, and her "Letzte Frende" "The Last Joy" - contains poems of successful lyrical emotion.
At first it was hard to take her out from the café. She listened for hours and hours at times impressed, at times mocking those pseudo genies. There were nights she resisted the closing time, spending the night curled up, petite, on any pool table. She wanted to live all lives. She served as a "medium" in spiritualist centres, she sang in cabarets or take part in films; she wrote, was a model, drew, designed grotesque dolls - celebrated today by some art critics-, sold violets at the doors of the theatres, she gave herself to everything and everyone in selfless exemplary camaraderie and ended up in jail. Today, she walks around Switzerland her adolescent figure disregarding age. She sings in revolutionary "liedern" cabarets. She is one of the most human types of emigrated Germany; and among all those who speak of the need to turn way from Germany violence, perhaps the only one capable of everything. She is now publishing his "Prison Book", whose anticipations in "Die Aktion" and other literary magazines await an exceptionally sharp work. Dada, sometimes because of its good humour to extravagance, has been the main propeller of a movement of disjointed literature and abstract painting, symbolized in the Dada Gallery. She also contributed to the foundation of Cabaret Voltaire. A German writer, Guttmann, after telling us that Emmy is "four years old and mischievous and crazy", assures us "that one day she will assault Parliament"...

Munich 1910, Emmy Hennings and Erich Mühsam
Emmy Hennings, although considered in the Cabaret Voltaire as a star by the press, for her Dadaist mates, except of course Hugo Ball, was a naive woman, simple and a little childish. Her poetry was ignored by the studious experts on avant-garde. But Emmy, who was already 31 years old when Cabaret Voltaire opened, had a long life experience; she was a very young mother, wife, a woman of bad reputation, prostitute, morphine addict, vagabond and swindler, who pioneered free love, anarchy and social revolution... She had published books of poetry, worked in theatre companies and was an active member of the intelligentsia of the bohemian Munich; friend and possibly lover of the famous anarchist Erich Kurt Mühsam who lived in Munich in 1909, and there founded the socialist group "Tat" and "Anarchist" with the purpose of shaking the lumpenproletariat for anarchism. Erich was arrested on numerous occasions, but when the Nazis came to power in 1933 he was arrested by the SA, sent to a concentration camp, incited to commit suicide and executed with a lethal injection in 1934 simulating a suicide by hanging.

Berlin 1913. After the war, for the Dadaists of Berlin, Spartacist section,
Herwarth Walden was more or less a traitor for his neutrality to the events of the Weimar Republic and therefore his friends, among who was Kurt Schwitters. Also Walden, poet, composer, publisher and promoter of German avant-garde art of the early twentieth century: expressionism, futurism, Dada..., who founded in 1903 the Society of Arts and in 1910 the magazine Der Sturm (The Storm), which he published until 1932, in which there were collaborators as Paul Seerbart, Hausmann, August Stramm, whose poetry influenced the Dadaists in a substantial way; Rudolf Blümner published the long phonetic poem Ango Laina and Kurt Schwitters the poem to Anna Blume. In 1912 he opened the Der Sturm gallery, exhibiting the artists of Der Blaue Reiter, the fauves, Munch, Braque, Picasso, Arp, Schwitters... and in 1913, a few months after the Armory Show in New York, Walden organized the First German Autumn Salon in Berlin in a space close to the Gallery of 1,200 square meters, in which all the avant-garde of the time participated.
Within the exhibition there was a special outstanding in memory of Henri Rousseau - deceased in 1910- , with 21 works and a pen drawing.
Anticipating Dada he compiled a litany of devastating criticisms and insults in the press; "The untalented are aligned." "hottentots in shirts, a lot of colors that dot the howler monkeys". Herwarth Walden had to tolerate being described as an "incompetent academic, an arrogant theorist, a dumb guy and a bastard talent".
Some futuristic paintings were described as: "excrement of a mad cow" that must be found through excremental psychology.... and to end in an ominous augury of what was to come, the German Parliament unanimously declared that Sturm was a bastion of "degenerate art".

Berlin, 12th may 1915
Hugo Ball and Richard Huelsenbeck organize Expressionist evenings in the first months of 1915. The Great War had begun six months earlier. On 12th February they distributed Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto and on 12th May they organized an evening in solidarity with the founder of Italian Futurism. Marinetti already affirmed in 1909 that the war was "the only hygiene of the world" (book that Ball carries under his arm). Finally, the real war came; Marinetti was one of the first to enrol, insisting on declaring war on Germany. The critic of the newspaper Vossische Zeitung described the evening as a "protest against Germany and in favour of Marinetti." On 23rd May 1915, Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany. At the end of May Ball was already in Switzerland with Emmy Hennings with false passports

Berlin 1916, Ludwig Meidner's studio
Brothers John Heartfield and Wieland Herzfelde changed their surnames and John also changed his name in 1916 as a protest against Germany's bellicose environment. John was called up to a Berlin barrack at the beginning of the war and that same autumn he met George Grosz (who also modified his name and surname). Grosz was a couple of years younger and had volunteered for military service hoping to free himself from the front line. In 1915 both were hospitalized and temporarily discharged for the army, sinusitis and nerve problems. They devoted all their efforts to fighting the regime. They began to frequent the studio of Ludwig Meidner, an expressionist painter who had founded the Die Pathetiker group and was a contributor to the extreme left publication Die Aktion. Wieland; meanwhile, he had bought the head of a warmongering student publication, Neue Jugend, which he turned into a leftist publication, and along with his brother John founded the Malik publishing house, in which collaborated from George Grosz to Walter Benjamin. Meidner made between 1916 and 1918 his military service as interpreter in a prison camp (he had lived in Paris in 1906 and 1907) and from his stay in the army became a catastrophic and apocalyptic painter. In 1917 Richard Huelsenbeck returned to Berlin from Zurich and all signed up to Dada, in 1918 Huelsenbeck wrote the Dadaist Manifesto that all signed and at the same time joined the newly created German Communist Party. In the image seated: Ludwig Meidner, on top of him a wood engraving by Hans Richter for a cover of Die Aktion, standing Wieland Herzfelde, George Grosz and John Heartfield holding the painting The House on the Corner by Meidner.

AvantDADA - Zurich (1915)

Zurich 1915 Hans Arp was born in Alsace, a territory in dispute between France and Germany. He studied in Strasbourg, Weimar and Paris, and was in Switzerland between 1909 and 1911. He was in Munich in 1912, where he met Kandinsky, and in 1913 he was in Paris and was friend with Picasso, Modigliani and the Delaunay. When the war began he took refuge in Zurich and there he met Sophie Taeuber. He says that in Zurich he was notified that he had to call on the German embassy to join the army, and when he was handed the papers, he filled in the first space with the date and wrote the date in the other empty spaces, drew a line below and made the sum, he took off his clothes and handed over the papers. They told him he could go home.
From left to right: Sophie Taeuber-Arp , Berte Trümphy, someone who has come down from Monte Verità and walks around, a guard and Hans Arp.

Zurich 1915
At the end of May, Ball and Emmy Hennings crossed the Swiss border and were arrested for carrying false documents. According to the police record, Hugo Ball (alias Ha Hu Baley) was a writer and Emmy Hennings (alias Editha von Münchhausen) was an occasional dancer, but it was suspected that she was engaged in prostitution and together they propagated revolutionary ideas.
Here we see the moment of the arrest in Spiegelgasse Street in Zurich where within a few months the Voltaire Artist Tavern would open in the back room of the “Holländische Meierei”.

Zurich 1915. Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings (first from the left)
Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings met at the Simplizisimus Café-concert in Munich in 1913. When they fled to Zurich in 1915 they had false passports and they had no money. Emmy was dealing with drugs and practicing prostitution, which Ball reluctantly accepted; desperate Ball was about to commit suicide twice. Finally, out of compassion, they were hired by the theatre impresario Marcelli, acted in disreputable venues to end up in the Flamingo with the Maxim Ensemble, among contortionists, tightrope walkers, magicians, clowns and others.
This piece is titled The Devils of Marcelli.

Zurich 1915
Ball writes in his diary on 2nd April 1916 that Laban (a very influential choreographer in the first decades of the 20th century, who created a method of mathematical notation about the poses of the human body) and his ladies (the dancers of his dance school) visited the Cabaret Voltaire. Although Laban, Wigman and Perrottet were not part of Dada, they were in contact long before the inauguration of the Cabaret and the influence was mutual. Several of the dancers performed on Dadaist evenings. The young Dadaists queued up to see the girls of that sanctuary of emancipation that was the "school" of Laban.
Arp was paired with Sophie Taeuber, Richter had a brief marriage with one of the girl dancers, who was also a lover of Janco's brother and Tzara had an affair with Maja Kruscek. Rudolf Laban had organized a summer dance program at Monte Verità in Ascona in 1912 (a vegan, nudist, pacifist commune, where all Dadaists passed by since 1917) and settled in Zurich in 1915 with his second wife, children and his lover Suzanne.
This scene is a rehearsal; in the background, on top of a piece of furniture Sophie Taeuber waiting for her turn to dance, standing Hans Arp, beside him Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball. In the foreground on the left Suzanne Perrottet, in the centre Mary Wigman and on the right Rudolf Laban

AvantDADA - Bucharest (1912)

Bucharest, autumn 1912br> Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and Ion Vinea founded the literature and art magazine Simbolul (The Symbol), four issues were published between October and December; the three of them were 17 years old and studied secondary school. Tristan Tzara (Samuel Rosenstock) signed his poems under the pseudonym of S. Samyro and in 1915 when he went to Zurich he changed it: Tristan for the poet Tristan Corbière (who was also a pseudonym) and Tzara who sounds like Tara (in Romanian, country, country), "sad in my country." Janco also went to Zurich with his brother Jules in 1915 to study architecture.
Vinea remained in Romania and founded with several writers from Simbolul the leftist magazine Chemarea.

AvantDADA - Paris (1912-1917)

AvantDADA Paris
Étival (France) October 1912
Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia was in the house her mother had in Étival, a small Jura village in the border region with Switzerland known as "The Zone". She had spent part of the summer in Germany. Duchamp was in Munich in July and they had a secret meeting.
Picabia went to look for her the month of October in the company of his friends, the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire and Marcel Duchamp. The journey between Neully, west of Paris and Étival in eastern France is known through Duchamp notes as "Route Jura-Paris", which inspired Duchamp to write four "marginal notes" in La Boîte of 1914, and later created a prelude to his work La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même. Apollinaire later published a book with essays on cubism, Les peintres cubistes, financed by Picabia. The trip in autumn with shorter days forced them to travel at night, with rain and cold, in a convertible car having more than one punctured meanwhile Apollinaire recited a selection of poems from Alcools, which he published the following year, precisely the first poem is entitled "The Zone", while Duchamp was still under the influence of his platonic love for Gabrielle.
In the image: Duchamp, Apollinaire, Picabia and, behind the window, Gabrielle.

Paris, March 1915
Five numbers of Maintenant were published between 1912 and 1915, and Arthur Cravan (Fabian Lloyd, the boxing poet, Oscar Wilde's nephew) sold them himself in the street in a greengrocer's cart, mainly at the exit of the Gaumont racecourse, in Clichy square. Soon Cravan got "bad reputation" for his sniper attacks directed with maximum force against all targets of modern spirit. Nor André Gide escape from them in the famous interview that was published in No. 2 Maintenant in July 1913, nor Apollinaire, who, offended, sent him one of his bereavement witnesses, nor Marie Laurencin; in his comments, as detailed as scathing, about the painters who exhibited in the Hall of the Independents: « [...] art is not a childish pose before the mirror [...] Painting is walking, running, drinking, eating, sleeping and doing one needs» 

Nantes 1916
André Breton, Dada's scourge and Pope of Surrealism, began reluctantly to study medicine in 1913 when he was a budding poet, but was mobilized in February 1915, first in artillery, which he described as "a cesspools of blood, madness and mud ", immediately went to the health service in Nantes as a hospital mail nurse. In February 1916 he met a convalescent soldier, Jacques Vaché, a sarcastic and nihilistic young man, devoted to Alfred Jarry, one of the figures he most admired for his corrosive humour, who attacked every hierarchy and for his mystical vision of art. Vaché most probably died because of an opium overdose in 1919 with 23 years old. Breton gathered his letters, wrote four essays as an introduction and published them with the title of War Letters (1919). Ten of these letters and some drawings were dedicated to Breton himself, four to Theodore Fraenkel and one to Louis Aragon. Breton always considered Vaché as the inspirer of Surrealism. Breton and Vaché sometime in 1916.

Paris 1916
Guillaume Apollinaire was born in Rome in 1880, but he lived in Paris from the beginning of the century. In 1911 he was accused of robbing the Gioconda, previously he had supported Marinetti's proposals to burn the museums and also his occasional secretary and friend of Picasso, Honoré - Joseph Géry, who had stolen Iberian and Phoenician statuettes in the Louvre that sold to Picasso, denounced them anonymously in the press. He had the pretension that Picasso attested his innocence but he found that Picasso, who was also a foreigner and feared for his expulsion, did not even admit to knowing him. In the end, both were exculpated. In 1913 he published the poems Alcools. In 1914 when the war began, Picasso discreetly left for the Midi, but Apollinaire, chastened by the Mona Lisa matter, wanted at all costs the French nationality and volunteered in the army; he was already 34 years old and was not admitted. He insisted so much that they accepted him in March 1915; at this time, he already had correspondence with Breton. Just a year later, he was granted French nationality and the following week, on17th March 1916, he was wounded in the head by shrapnel from a howitzer, "there is Obus Roi here," he said, referring to "Ubu Roi", the work of his old friend Alfred Jarry. On 9th May he was practiced a trepanation to relieve the pressure and the following day he received the visit of Breton who was on leave in Paris; Apollinaire dedicated him a copy of Alcools -which is on top of the chair.

Paris, June 1917
Pierre Albert-Birot, editor since January 1916 of the avant-garde journal SIC (Sounds, Ideas and Colors) meets the Italian futurist painter Gino Severini, who would collaborate in the second issue dedicated to futurism. Severini organizes him a meeting with Apollinaire in July 1916, who is convalescing in the hospital. Birot asks him for a non-realistic play and Apollinaire offers the subtitle "Supernatural Drama" that is left as sur-realistic drama. When he leaves the hospital they joined their respective literary gatherings: the Apollinaire’s on Tuesdays and on Saturdays in SIC. Finally, on 24th June 1917, The tits of Tiserias is staged; directed by Birot, with music by Germain Albert-Birot, scenery by the cubist painter Serge Férat, costumes by Iréne Lagut, and set in Zánzibar in a moment of war, in which children are not born. The female character changes sex to have the power of men, and change customs, rejecting the past to establish gender equality. Her beard grows and she forces her husband to procreate thousands of children in a single day, then she promises to give birth to twice as many children as her husband. In the middle of war these feminist and anti-militarist proclamations infuriate the audience that kicks and shouts; Apollinaire goes up the stage with his uniform to set peace, Philippe Soupault can hardly prompt the actors and, in that moment, Theódore Fraenkel enters the theatre with Jacques Vaché who wears the uniform of a British soldier (he acted as interpreter for the allies), takes out his revolver and fires in the air to defend Apollinaire.
On the stage, at the end on the left, two characters of the play, Albert-Birot dances with one of them and at the bottom on the right another character of the play. Second row; Jacques Vaché with the revolver in hand, Theódore Fraenkel, André Breton and Guillaume Apollinaire. Close-up: Max Jacob, Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon and Gino Severini.

AvantDADA - Barcelona (1912-1922)

Barcelona, 19th April 1912
Josep Dalmau gallery owner and art collector study the day before the opening of the second exhibition of cubist art in the Dalmau Hall of Antiques and Modern Art in Barcelona, thinking how to hang the painting Nu descendant a staircase n ° 2 by Marcel Duchamp.

Barcelona, spring 1916, Maison Dorée (Plaza Catalunya, 7)
Arthur Cravan, sitting (Fabien Avenarius Lloyd) and Jack Johnson, standing by his side (Arthur John Johnson). Jack Johnson, nicknamed "The Galveston Giant", is honored to have been the first African-American World Heavyweight Champion (1908-1915). He conquered the world title on 26th December 1908, when he fought against world champion Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, after having followed him around the world, incessantly requesting a fight for the title. The fight was stopped by the police in a venue that was completely packed. The title went to Jack Johnson after the judges gave him the victory for technical K.O. During the fight, Johnson made fun of Burns and the people who accompanied him in the corner of the ring. Every time that Tommy Burns was going to fall to the canvas, Jack Johnson held him, preventing him from falling, and then continued to hit him.
After Johnson's victory over Burns, the signs of racism against Johnson increased so much that even writer Jack London requested the arrival of "The Great White Hope" to rescue the title from a black man like Johnson. And so, in 1913, he was arrested, accused of crossing the state border with a woman "for immoral purposes." Johnson was sentenced to the maximum penalty, one year in jail. He escaped the country before entering prison and continued boxing abroad for 5 years. In 1915 he lost the world championship in Havana, in Europe he fought in Barcelona with boxing poet Arthur Cravan, who won by K.O. in the seventh round, although he could have won it in the first seconds of the first round.
When he returned to the USA he served his sentence and was recently the object of a campaign to get Barak Obama, before leaving the White House, to annul the sentence of a racist court that moved him to escape from the United States in 1913, but Obama did not forgive him. Cravan published, between 1912 and 1915, the publication Maintenant that tore everything and everyone to shreds it was edited, written and distributed by him himself. When the world war began, he came to Spain with his brother Otho Lloyd and Olga Sacharoff, Lloyd's wife (between December 1915 and December 1916). In Barcelona, he gave boxing classes in the Maritime Club and challenged Johnson to a fight, which was held in the Monumental bullring on Sant Jordi day, 23rd April 1916; it should be borne in mind that there was not much love for boxing in Barcelona, with few spectators and great anger from the public who, embarrassed, saw how despite his size and weight he lacked training and he was defeated from minute one.
He met Picabia and the illustrious exiles from half Europe that lived in Barcelona.

Trotsky and Cravan on the deck of Montserrat on their way to New York for the Christmas of 1916.
According to Hans Richter in the History of Dadaism, "In Barcelona, ​​as in Zurich, difficulties arose due to residence permits; in short, there were problems with the police. Marie Laurencin was married to the German baron Otto von Waetgen, whom she followed to Spain because her lover Guillaume Apollinaire had gone to war. Because her husband was German, she was considered German, which in this time of war was particularly unfair for a Frenchwoman by birth. She and her husband became suspicious of espionage because the Spanish police considered it disturbing that a French woman, lovely in addition, frequented the suspicious circles of Barcelona (391), in times of war and in the company of a German. The amateur boxer Arthur Cravan, troublemaker, scandalous and imbibed in alcohol, was certainly not the most appropriate to dispel the doubts, and, by the way, the aggressiveness of the pacifist Mrs. Gleizes did not quite fix things”.
Cravan, a few months after his famous boxing match against another exile, this one of America only for whites, Jack Johnson, decides to go to New York where Duchamp and friends of Picabia wait for him and who would be his love Mina Loy.
The Transatlantic Montserrat sails on 25th December 1916, and there Cravan coincides with another illustrious traveller: Leon Trotsky, expelled from France for being germanophile and who had previously passed through Cádiz and later reunited with his family in Barcelona. On 31st December, in front of Gibraltar, Trotsky wrote in his diary: "El Monserrat, our ship, is a terrible calamity, old and poorly conditioned for transatlantic navigation, but the Spanish pavilion is a neutral pavilion, that is, it diminishes the percentage of possibilities of a collapse, which is why the Spanish company charges dearly, lodges badly and gives worse food ".
What Trotsky does not tell us is that the president of the Transatlantic Company, the Marquis of Comillas paid the trip for him in a cabin for him and his family to leave Spain.

Barcelona, 1922
At the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona an exhibition of Picabia was held from 18th November 18 to 8th December 1922, André Breton writes the text of the catalog of the exhibition and comes to Barcelona for the opening. The day before, 17th November, he gave a lecture at the Ateneo with the title "Characters of modern evolution and what makes it up". Hans Richter in his History of Dadaism tells that "... Breton found a Dada "cell "still active, composed of Jacques Edwards, William de Torre, Lasso de la Vega and Cansinos Assens, who refused to accept that the Dada of Paris had finished. "Most of them were ultraists and it's hard to believe that they came to Barcelona, from Madrid or Seville.

AvantDADA - New York (1913)

New York 1913
International Exhibition of Modern Art, known as the Armory Show, held in the Armory of the 69th Regiment, located on Lexington Avenue in New York (17th February to 15th March, 1913): the contrast of North American provincialism with the European avant-garde, a true cultural shock. They exhibited 1,250 paintings, sculptures and decorative works of more than 300 artists, of which a third came from Europe. The press articles were filled with accusations of charlatanism, insanity, immorality and Works from the cubist corner, from left to right: Marcel Duchamp Nude Descending to Staircase No. 2 and Nude (Study), and Albert Gleizes l'Homme au Balcon.