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“To make a dadaist poem

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.”

This excerpt from the Manifesto on feeble love and bitter love by Tristant Tzara, written in 1920 explains the dada artists approach that prones contempt for established values and absolute freedom in art.

Dadaism appeared in Switzerland, during First World War. It is one of the most powerful avant-garde movements. The first Dada events took place at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. These venues were animated by poetry, music, exhibitions of paintings. Artists found refuge in Switzerland because it was neutral during the war.

The word Dada was found randomly in the dictionary and doesn’t have any meaning. It is an international artistic movement that developed simultaneously in the United States and Switzerland.

Following the avant-garde artists of the beginning of the 20th century (fauvism, cubism and futurism), the Dadaist artists explored new plastic solutions and rejected the ideology of war. They wanted to destroy order while letting the absurd triumph.

With Dada, art is desacralized, all mediums are equal and forms of expression are diverse: painting, sculpture, cinema, photography…

The notion of destruction of order and provocation are present in works of Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp. They liberated art. Picabia is a French writer and painter, he is one of the pioneers of Dada with Duchamp. He liberated art from all its rules and conventions.


The dance of Saint-Guy is only but a frame with strings and labels. Send in 1922 to the “Salon des artistes indépendants”, this absurd art piece represents a turning point in the dada philosophy. Picabia wishes to exterminate painting.


Francis Picabia, The Dance of Saint-Guy (1919-1920)

In 1914, Marcel Duchamp develops the concept of ready made with the Porte bouteilles. André Breton defines it as   “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” In 1938.  Duchamp asks himself about the role of the artist and the esthetic dimension. In 1917, he sends a turned back urinal signed “R.Mutt” (name of the merchant that sold it to him) . The artpiece is refused even though it answers all the criteria selections, Duchamp resigns. A scandal breaks that will provoke the success of ready made. The originals have all disappeared, there are still replicas that communicate the original message.

 Marcel Duchamp-Porte bouteilles

Marcel Duchamp, Bottle rack, 1914

Marcel Duchamp-urinoir

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917

Man Ray, painter and american photographer, friend of Duchamp and picabia animates american dada, he experiments new techniques and creates photographies from objects. He calls his artpieces rayograms : play of words and his name. Chance is in the heart of Dada like you can see in Jean Arp. Artist and poet, he creates artworks arbitrarily, choosing elements randomly. His work Rectangles selon les lois du hazard made in 1916 is representative of his work. He cuts out shapes in wallpaper, selects them randomly and sticks them on the canvas. This work promotes impulse and spontaneity  and absence of artistic codification.


Jean Arp Rectangles selon les lois du hasard

Jean Arp, Rectangles arranged according to the laws of chance, 1916


Dada also finds a home in Cologne with german artist Max Ernst and his collages. It’s only in 1919 that they create the first Dadaist artpieces : ironic, free and disturbing.

Kurts Schwitters is also an important figure of the Dada art scene. He is interested in society rejects to make art out of them. Indeed, he uses waste in his assemblages. He will create his own movement : Merz from the word commerce, and Merzbau, an artwork combining painting, sculpture and architecture and that will be destroyed by Nazis.

If the existence of Dada is limited to a few years, it is a movement that has deeply impregnated the 20th century. Its posterity will lead to Pop art and Fluxus movement  and New realism.

 More Dada

Raoul Haussmann-L'esprit de notre temps

Raoul Haussman, Spirit of our time, 1919

Hannah Hoch Da dandy

Hannah Hoch, Da Dandy, 1919

marcel-duchamp-le grand verre

Marcel Duchamp, the Bride Stripped Bare By her Bachelors, Even, 1915 – 1923


Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition, 1916








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