Ilustrated History of DADA

Translation from the Spanish: Yolanda Pérez Herreras


[◄] DADA


ZURICH, February 1916
Zurich, February 1916
Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball in front of "La Lechería", the Dutch Tavern in Spiegelgasse number 1, a couple of days before the inauguration of the Voltaire Artists Tavern. On the wall, the poster of Marcel Slodki announcing the Cabaret, on the right Lenin of incognito, without beard knob, on the way to his apartment in Spiegelgasse,

In the Cabaret Voltaire, the public would sign up on a list to recite a poem, sing; in this case, we see a wine merchant from Bern who plays a song on the piano. Hans Arp painted the walls blue and the ceiling black, some pictures of Marcel Janco hung on the wall and on the tables there were plates with boiled eggs. The German poet Klabund (Alfred Henschke), who had previously composed patriotic poems, now spending time in Swiss sanatoriums due to the aftermath of tuberculosis, wrote a poem about the Cabaret which in his last stanza reads as follows:
A German poet sings French,
The Romanian sounds Siamese.
Flowers art Hallelujah!
A Swiss was perhaps in the fuss The Swiss J.C. Heer (Jacob Christoph Heer). Emmy tells "he was our faithful guest, almost every afternoon, looking around he would sweep with his MacFarlane coat a number of glasses from the table, which he was always willing to pay". In the image: at the piano, merchant of Bern, below two unknown women, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Klabund, J.C. Heer and Hugo Ball.

Photograph of the photographer who photographs Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball.

Magadino-Vira, 1916
Cabaret Voltaire closed in early July 1916. In August, Emmy Hennings, his daughter Ammelie and Hugo Ball left for Magadino-Vira near Locarno Lake. Tzara wrote Ball several times asking him to return. Ball and Hennings had no money and Tzara had stopped receiving money from his family in Romania.
Ball returned to Zurich in October, all were poor and were desperate, but Dada resurfaced from the ashes in the Galerie Dada.

Cafe de la Terrasse, Zurich, 15th September 1916
Hans Richter tells that in September 1914, "having my mobilization card in my pocket to join the army, my friends organized a farewell meeting. Among them were the two poets, Ferdinand Hardekopf and Albert Ehrenstein ... and to give me encouragement Ehrenstein made me a proposal, - if by then the three of us are alive, let us have an appointment on 15th September 1916, that is to say within two years, at three o'clock in the afternoon, at the Café de la Terrasse in Zurich". At three o'clock in the afternoon of 15th September he went to the Café de la Terrasse and there were his friends, a few tables away were Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, after the presentations Richter joined the Cabaret Voltaire.
Tzara behind the beer drinker, Janco behind the woman, looking at them Richter, and beside her with Hardekopf hat, and standing right, Ehrenstein.

Zurich, 1916
In Hans Richter's History of Dadaism, in the chapter Private Life at Café Odeon, we read the following: "Of course, complications sometimes arose; for example, Emmy Hennings could not decide if at the end of the day she should prefer the beautiful and fiery Spaniard Vajo (Julio Álvarez del Vayo), to Ball. He pursued them with a revolver in his pocket (according to Emmy) and the two lovers came to hide in my apartment, where they narrowly escaped to Ball. As Emmy was unable to make a decision by herself, Tzara and I met in order to deliberate about this discord and finally managed to convince Emmy to return to her sad knight Hugo. They soon after got married.
Emmy Hennings, in the background Hans Richter and Hugo Ball.

Galerie Dada (former Galerie Coray), Zurich, March 1917.
Hans Arp met Sophie Taeuber one year before Cabaret Voltaire at the opening of an exhibition of "Tapestries, embroidery, modern paintings and drawings" in Zurich; she was a professor at the School of Applied Arts and a dancer at the Rudolf Laban Academy. When Sophie danced "the ineffable tenderness of her steps made us forget that her feet touched the ground; all that remained was a body that rose and slid”
Here we see her at the opening of the Galerie Dada with a mask by Marcel Janco (it is said that painted with ox blood) and a costume designed by Hans Arp, dancing the verses that Hugo Ball releases; "Seepferdchen und Flugfische" (Seahorses and flying fish).

Picabia in Zurich, January 1919
After a long correspondence with Tzara, Picabia finally travels to Zurich in January 1919. Arp and Tzara visited Picabia at his hotel, and Arp tells: "When we arrived, he was busy dissecting an alarm clock mercilessly, he was disassembling it to find the dock, and plucked it off with a triumphant gesture. Interrupting this work for a moment, he greeted us and immediately printed on pieces of paper (in the photograph on the bedspread) the cogwheels, the dock, the needles and other secret pieces of the watch. Then he joined them with lines and accompanied the drawing with comments that attested to a rare wit far removed from the world of mechanical stupidity”
In the image from left to right: Arp, Picabia and Tzara, who carries in his hand a copy of the magazine Dada 4-5 May 1919 with the drawing of Picabia.

On 9th April 1919, the last Dada event was held in Zurich in the spacious Kaufleuten concert hall. A poem by Tzara was read simultaneously with twenty actors. Walter Serner gave a lecture that pissed off the audience, and the dancing student girls of the Laban Dance School danced abstract choreographies. Afterwards, the initial group was dissolving, and Tzara so that Dada did not disappear from the Swiss scene, invented fake news; he sent to all the newspapers in Switzerland a press release, first an informative preview, "A sensational duel... Yesterday there was a gun duel in the Rehalp, near Zurich, between Tristan Tzara known founder of Dada and Dadaist painter Hans Arp, four bullets were fired, and the fourth one lightly touched Arp in the left thigh.... Picabia had come from Paris to act as Arp's godfather and for Tzara the Swiss writer JC Heer" The mention of Heer (Jakob Christoph Heer 1859-1925) gave plausibility to the news, as he was a very respectable character and became very famous after this event.


Invited by Picabia, the desired and awaited Tristan Tzara finally arrives in Paris from Zurich on 17th January 1920. The management team of the Littérature magazine, Louis Aragon, André Breton and Philippe Soupault are about to arrive in Picabia’s car. They immediately organized the first Dada evening, the Premier Vendredi de Littérature, which took place on 23rd January. Following this show they were added to the group; Paul Éluard, Théodore Fraenkel, Paul Dermée, Céline Arnauld and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes who will be the protagonists of Dada in Paris.

DADA Festival at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre on 27TH March 1920.
Left: Canvas by Picabia with a stuffed monkey hooked; Portrait of Cézanne, Portrait of Rembrant, Portrait of Renoir. Centre: André Breton as a sandwich man reading the Canibal Manifesto of Picabia. Right: Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes plays notes at random on a piano.

Paris, 26th May 1920. From left to right: Tristan Tzara, André Breton, Céline Arnauld, Paul Dermée, Philippe Soupault, Paul Eluard, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes and Benjamin Péret.
DADA evening, at the Gaveau Room, with a script by Tzara. Previous announcements had promised that the Dadaists were going to cut their hair on stage, the Tzara Vaseline Symphony performed by twenty people, pieces by Ribemont-Dessaignes and Picabia's The American Nurse, which consisted of "three repeated notes until infinity ", also a boxing match without pain and in the end the sex of Dada would be shown. The audience was horrified and threw tomatoes and eggs on stage, the Gaveau family, accustomed to listening to Bach in his impressive organ went blank. The whole Paris was in the Room, the Dada evening seemed like a work of amateurs with "some scatological obscenities that seemed recited by schoolchildren, pale little boys" (according to the critic of L 'Echo in Paris).

Exhibition of Picabia in the Galerie Povolozky on 17th December 1920. In the image we see in the background on the left Darius Milhaud and Jean Cocteau, behind them Tzara. In the group photo, first on the left; André Germain, and from left to right in the last row: Pablo Picasso, Marie Laurencin, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Stephen Vincent Benét and Raymond Duncan. Middle row: Francis Picabia, André Breton, Max Morise and Louis Aragon, and in the bottom row, Breton's girlfriend; Simone Kahn and Roland and Colette Tual.
Picabia invited the "whole Paris", both friends and enemies turned up. In the program: music with the Jazz-Band Parisien of Jean Cocteau, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes will give a lecture on art and Tristan Tzara will read (we see him on a table) the Manifesto about the weak love and the bitter love, in which it is included the text "How to make a Dadaist poem". There will be Whiskey, tea and water.

The process to Maurice Barrès, the beginning of the end of Dada in Paris. Louis Aragon, Pierre Deval, André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Philippe Soupault, Theodore Fraenkel, "Maurice Barrès," Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes Benjamin Péret, Jacques Rigaut. One night some Dadaists gathered in a café at Montparnasse Boulevard talk and discuss about accidents, robberies and crimes of the week and suddenly a lively discussion about Barrès (Barrès is a very influential character of the nationalist, traditionalist and militarist right wing, maximum exponent of egotism and anti-Semitism in interwar France). As they did not agree in the discussion, it was decided to broaden the debate and appoint a court to try Barrès; a president (André Breton), two advisors (Theodore Fraenkel and Pierre Deval), a public prosecutor (Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes ) were appointed, Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault declared themselves willing to defend Barrès. On 13th May 1921 the Revolutionary Tribunal Dada was constituted, the president, the public prosecutor and the lawyers wore a white overall and red caps for the President and the public prosecutor and black for the lawyers. The trial was held in the dining room of the Scientific Society of number 8 on Rue Danton in Paris. As Barrès did not want to go to trial, he was represented with a mannequin. Acted as witnesses Tzara, Péret, Drieu la Rochelle, Jacques Rigaut. Peret disguised as a soldier and speaking with a strong German accent was the main witness of the accusation. Twelve members of the public acted as jury. Accusations and interrogations were published in number 20 - August 1921 - of the journal Littérature edited by Luis Aragon.
After two weeks Barrès was convicted of "Crimes against the security of the spirit" to 20 years of forced labor. It is said that Barrès was absent from Paris during this period, since the press periodically reported the sessions of this fictitious trial. But this whole event marked a significant discrepancy between, on the one hand, the leaders of the journal Littérature (Aragon, Breton and Péret) and on the other Tazara and his friends who rejected any form of justice, including the one organized by Dada.

August 1921, Max Ernst and Louise Straus Ernst call a meeting in the Tirol (Tarrenz, Austria). Tristan Tzara and Hans Arp turn up and André Breton appears later. The initial trio publishes the one that they consider will be the last publication Dada, which is titled "Dada in Tirol in the open air of the war of the singers", that Louise holds in the image. On the cover below the title, which is written in reverse, you can see Ernst's collage: "Preparation of glue from bones".
From left to right: Tristan Tzara, André Breton, Hans Arp and Max Ernst, up on the ladder Louise Straus Ernst.

Autumn 1921
Tristan Tzara recited in Cabaret Voltaire "The soldier", a poem by Max Jacob (sitting next to Tzara) from the book La Côte, which says "Adieu ma mère, adieu mon père...", everyone fell in love with that little Romanian reciting in French. He studied philosophy at the institute and subsequently enrolled in philosophy and mathematics. Both Hugo Ball and Tzara had read Nietzsche, Dada had a philosophical dimension. At some stage, when Tzara was in Paris, Jacob wrote: "Naisance de un poète romain Tristan Tsara qui écrit dans ce style Tsara! Tsara! Tsara! Tsara! .. Thoustra" in allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche's book "Also sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen” (Thus spoke Zarathustra, a book for everyone and for anyone)

Philippe Soupault in the Paris metro, autumn 1921
Guillermo de Torre, poet and literary critic, promoter of Ultraism, published in 1925 "European Avant-garde Literature" (Madrid, Rafael Caro Raggio, Publisher). In the chapter dedicated to Dada, he tells us an unknown and unlikely anecdote that took place in the fall-winter of 1921 in Paris (between the Barrès process and the Paris Congress, which marked the end of Dada in France), on page 197 says Soupault, in a confidential report, reveals the following: "... the Dadaists worked more silently and even decided to inaugurate a secret action ... impose on all the memories of a city the word Dada; more than ten million bank notes were covered by a Dada inscription. Several men were hired to fix the word Dada on all the walls during the night. For more than two months all the billboards saw this same word flourish among the jungle of the posters ...”

Man Ray had not been in Paris not even for six months, when the Parisian Dadaists organized an exhibition for him (December 1921) in the Librairie Six, which Soupault had recently opened. While Man Ray hung his works on the walls, a man came in who spoke excellent English (Man Ray barely spoke French), this man turned out to be the composer Erik Satie. The two went out for a drink and on the way passed in front of a hardware store, and with Satie's help, Man Ray bought an iron, nails and glue to glue the nails. Once stuck in the centre of the iron he photographed this new object and gave it to Soupault, he called this piece Cadeau (Gift).
While Man Ray was shopping, Tzara and the other Dadaists filled the room with balloons so that the works were hidden and at a signal agreed at the inauguration, they discovered the works by bursting the balloons with lit cigarettes.

Breton attacks DADA, 6th July 1923
At the Michel theatre in Paris, Great DADA performance, with music by Satie, costumes by Sonia Delaunay, scenery by van Doesburg and Granovsky, films by Hans Richter and Man Ray, phonetic poems by Illiazde and at the centre of the evening a piece by Tzara, The Gas Heart. But when The Heart begins, Breton and Péret go up on stage (moment that picks up the image) and suddenly they start to bang the actors, who locked in their Delaunay suits, made of rigid cardboard, cannot escape, Breton breaks the arm to Pierre de Massot (with disguise and hat), Péret intimidates the public, Aragon joins them, but the public finally reacts, hits them and drags them towards the street.

Everyone wants a portrait
The waiting room of Man Ray’s photography studio. From left to right: Le Corbusier, behind Fresh Widow by Duchamp, Antonin Artaud. Inside standing Man Ray and sitting André Breton, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picassso, Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau and Tristan Tzara

Man Ray prepares the camera timer to take a group photo with the Persil boxes of a few American expatriates at the Jockey Club exit in Paris in November 1923. Top row, among others: Bill Bird on the left, Smith, Les Copeland, Hilaire Hiler, and Curtiss Moffit. Middle row: Kiki de Montparnasse, Martha Dennison, Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson and Ezra Pound. Bottom row: Mina Loy, Tristan Tzara and Jean Cocteau.

Picabia and Rene Clair devise a kind of farce, a pastiche of a bourgeois drama. At the Christmas of 1924, Picabia invited the sisters Tilia and Bronia to the representation of the Dadaist ballet "Relâche", which included the screening of Clair's film "Entreacte", and there she presented the sisters to Clair, who fell madly in love with Bronia (he married her later) and made a kind of Sketch Cinema from the painting of Cranach Adam and Eva. Here we see Picabia, Duchamp who plays Adam and Bronia Pelmutter as Eva.