Dada 1916-1923

Example image from the collection.

Founded in the middle of the First World War, the Dada movement represents a radical critique of the war culture and of the return to "normalcy" immediately after the war. In order to intervene in the war propaganda, Tristan Tzara proposed the following recipe for writing poems:

To make a Dadaist poem.
Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you...

In literally cutting up the verbal and visual representations of their culture, the Dadaists transformed them to a least harmless nonsense, which in their eyes was infinitely more sane than the insanity of the war propaganda. Most of the 174 works exhibited at the First International Dada Fair in Berlin were collages that critically intervened in the mass media of their time. Hannah Hoech's title of her major collage in that exhibit epitomizes the function of the Dada collage: Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany. The collages on the covers of the Berlin Dada journal Der Dada indicate the Dadaists' attempt to overturn all established, fixed cultural representations.