Dada was an artistic and literary movement launched in Zurich in 1916. The Dadaists channelled their revulsion at World War I into an indictment of the nationalist and materialist values that had brought it about. They were united not by a common style but by a rejection of conventions in art and thought.

As a designer, I am passionate about the history of art and their influence on ‘visual design.’  In art history, Dada is the artistic movement that preceded Surrealism, it began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916 by a group of mostly painters and painters.  Dada artworks challenged the preconceived notions of what art meant.  Many Dadaists felt that the way to salvation was through political anarchy, the natural emotions, the intuitive and the irrational.

Closely linked to the war experience of World War One.  Dadaism peaked between 1916 and 1920 and introduced an anti-war narrative. Dada was a movement that assailed art conventions through the use of absurdity. Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain of 1917 is simply a standard urinal signed and displayed as a sculpture. Kurt Schwitters produced Merzbild, which were collages made up of various paper fragments.

The origin of the term “DaDa” as it was coined in 1916 is still doubtful.  The popular version is that a French-German dictionary opened at random produced the word “DaDa,” meaning a child’s rocking horse.   The term perhaps satisfied the desire for something irrational and nonsensical. Others suggest that Romanian “Da da da da da” (“yes, yes”).  Irrespective of its origin, the name DaDa is the central mocking symbol of this attack on established movements that characterised twentieth-century art.

Dada – Anti-Art

Hannah Hoch perfected the photomontage technique, her works depicting the absurd illogic of Dada with “chaotic, contradictory, and satirical compositions.”

Opening of the 1st International Dada fair
Opening of the 1st International Dada fair in the bookshop of the Dr. Burchard in Berlin (Germany). On June 5, 1920. (Photo by adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Equilibre” was typical of Dada and was created in 1925.  The following piece has a collage-like quality.  The theme of balance was addressed in many of Hoch’s works.

Dada art is described in many ways: it is humorous, complex or ironic, and mischievous. Materials that are used are everything from found or disposable objects and assemblages to watercolour oil and wood.

Equillibre Hannah Hoch
Hannah Hoch’s 1925 “Equillibre,” or Balance,” was originally titled “America Balancing Europe.”
Hannah Höch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife
Hannah Höch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919, collage of pasted papers, 90×144 cm
Marcel Janco's poster,
Marcel Janco’s poster, “Mouvement Dada, Tristan Tzara Reading”

Sources

Pile, J. (1994). Dictionary of 20th-Century Design. Da Capo Press, Incorporated. https://doi.org/10.1604/9780306805691

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