The Jubilee

In the year 2016, Dada celebrated its 100th anniversary.


One February evening in 1916, Cabaret Votaire was born in Spiegelgasse 1, Zurich. A primal scream that still resonates accompanied the event: “Dada, Dada, Dada”.  Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Sophie Taeuber and Richard Huelsenbeck roared, cooed and chirruped “Dada”. They danced, sang and stomped “Dada”.

From there, Cabaret Voltaire evolved into a melting pot of nationalities, art genres and styles. Dada was hypermodern, provocative, inventive and dissolved the boundaries that separated life from art. By the beginning of the 1920s, Dada had already become a worldwide network.


By way of their “movement international” and “world congresses”, the protagonists occupied and roamed through the world’s big cities with the aim of turning the globe into a branch of Dadaism. Dada became avant-garde’s primal expression without which surrealism, pop art, fluxus, mail art or punk would not have seen the light of day and which continues to galvanize artists, writers and designers to this very day.


Dada has become a code that stands for the radical experiment to reduce to absurdity tried concepts and values – a strategy that’s valid still.


The real Dadaist “Chronique Zurichoise” (Zurich episode) came to a close in June 1919. Thanks to one of the world’s largest Dadaist collections at Zurich’s Museum of Art and the Cabaret Voltaire, which was reopened in 2004, Zurich has remained the center of the Dada universe.

association of dada100

The dada100zuerich2016 association contributed the conception, networking, support and communication for the anniversary. Since its foundation in 2012, the association defined content, searched for partnerships and cooperations, and delegated Dada projects to institutions and promoted activities. Dada100 coordinated and supported the partners of the anniversary and served as an umbrella brand for the milestone birthday in Zurich and beyond.


Since 2014, the dada100 association initiated the international traveling exhibition Dada On Tour in cooperation with Cabaret Voltaire (with stations including New York, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, Aarau, India, on Monte Verità, in Zurich, Pirmasens, and Singapore), the Salon Suisse event series in 2015 titled S.O.S. DADA – THE WORLD IS A MESS, which was initiated and organized by Pro Helvetia as part of the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia as well as the final Dada100 Symposium at Kaufleuten, Zurich.


Also supported by dada100 since 2014 were contemporary Dada projects both directly and via the crowdfunding platform, the anniversary events of Cabaret Voltaire as well as publications on Dada.


dada100 connected the partners of the anniversary to form an ad-hoc network consisting of more than 50 local, national and international, public and private partners, museums, theaters, institutions, festivals, associations, organizations, and individual initiatives. More than 200 events took place: exhibitions, guided tours and performances, readings, conferences, debates, seminars, publications, courses, observations, workshops, a School of Dada, a sermon and 165 daily Offizium recitals, two commemorative stamps as well as several radio and television special features.

Association members: Markus Notter (president), Peter Haerle, Jürgen Häusler, Franziska Burkhardt


Managing director and curator: Juri Steiner

Design: Marie Lusa, Studio Marie Lusa


The association dada100 received communication and media support from Zurich Tourismus and the Zurich-based agency eggliwintsch.


John Armleder/ Nicolas Bideau/ Dirk Boll/ Jacqueline Burckhardt/ Heinz Bütler/ Bice Curiger/ Beat Curti/ Gerd Folkers/ Patrick Frey/ Mike Guyer/ Peter Haerle/ Jürgen Häusler/ Martin Heller/ Hans Mikael Herzog/ Thomas Hirschhorn/ Pius Knüsel/ Oliver Kornhoff/ Johanna Lohse/ Dieter Meier/ Thomas Meier/ Marcel Meili/ Raimund Meyer/ Markus Notter/ Werner Oechslin/ Iris Radisch/ Karen Roth-Krauthammer/ Martin Ruesch/ Christoph Schifferli/ Georg Schmid/ Werner Sieg/ Christoph Sigrist/ Brida von Castelberg/ Peter von Matt/ Thomas Wagner/ Peter K. Wehrli/ Iwan Wirth/ Beat Wyss/ Martin Zimper.

The Partner

The association dada100 received significant support from the Cultural Affairs Offices of the City and Canton of Zurich as well as from the Federal Office of Culture.

Partner institutions involved in the Dada Anniversary in 2016 included:

Federal Office of Culture (FOC) / Cabaret Voltaire / Dock 18 / Zurich Festival / Fluxum Foundation and Flux Laboratory, Geneva and Zurich / Fondazione Monte Verità, Ascona / Grossmünster Zurich / Junges Literaturlabor JULL / Canton of Zurich Office of Cultural Affairs / Kaufleuten / KMD – Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp, Cully / Kunsthaus Zurich / National Museum Zurich / Manifesta 11 / Miller’s / Monte Dada / Mood’s / Museum of Modern Art, Ascona / Museum Haus Konstruktiv / Hermann Hesse Museum, Montagnola / Rietberg Museum / Pong / Post CH AG / Pro Helvetia / Sanatorium Kilchberg / Swiss Radio and Television SRF / Schweizerisches Jugendschriftenwerk (Swiss Youth Writing Group) / Swiss Literary Archives of the Swiss National Library, Bern / sogar theater / City of Zurich Cultural Affairs Office / City of Zurich Department of Urban Development / Strauhof Zurich / swissnex San Francisco / Tanzhaus Zurich / HORA Theater – Stiftung Züriwerk / Stadelhofen Theater / Stok Theater / Tuchlaube Theater, Aarau / University of Zurich / Wemakeit / ZÜRICH TANZT / Zürich Tourismus / Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck / Berlinische Galerie, Berlin / and many more partners.

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Dada is local, Dada is global, Dada is universal

Dada remains elusive: “Only Dadaists know what Dada is. And they don’t tell anyone”, that’s how the Dadaists themselves put it. For a better understanding of the effects, it is useful to define three basic levels of meaning or areas of influence, which make it possible to determine three mutually complementary conceptual levels for the anniversary: Dada is local, Dada is global, Dada is universal.


Local Dada

“The hospitality of the Swiss is something to be profoundly appreciated. And in questions of aesthetics the key is quality.” Hugo Ball, Opening Manifesto on the first Dada evening, 14.7.1916.


Cabaret Voltaire is the center of the Dada universe. It is the mythic place of Dada’s birth. There is a local Zurich Dadaism, defined by the particular political and cultural set-up of the year 1916. Dada Zurich with its Cabaret culture differs from the other Dadaisms in Paris, New York or Berlin, artistically more independent and politically more radical, which surfaced just before or immediately after World War I under or without the Dada label.


Zurich time and again witnesses neo-Dadaist resurgences, reinterpretations, re-editions, rebirths and tributes. For instance, the students’ movement in 1968 took its clues from Dada just as much as the “Bewegig” (protest movement) in the 1980ies or the artist-led occupation of Spiegelgasse 1 at the beginning of the new century.


Global Dada

“An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement.” Hugo Ball, Opening Manifesto on the first Dada evening, 14.7.1916.


Dada cannot be reduced to the Cabaret Voltaire. The original Dadaists at Spiegelgasse very consciously chose to be international. As the real locomotive of the avant-garde, at the start of the 1920ies, Dada was a world-spanning movement that brought together almost a hundred different artists, amongst which a few women, from the south, north, west and east of Europe, from anywhere in between America and Japan. This “movement on the run”, this motley crew of fathers, mothers, sisters, paramours, instigators and defectors, made sure that Dada would reach global dimensions by now jotting down a bon mot on a snippet, now scribbling on a napkin a message from the netherworld, now with an autographed urinal, with a spook before lunch filmed on celluloid, an eighth-mouthed synchronous poem or some other artistic trigger moment brought about. Dada deployed foolishness to counter the madness of the time, Dada accompanied the ascent of the modern, simultaneous information age, the world of illustrated media, the radio and cinema.

Universal Dada

“Dada is the world soul”: Hugo Ball, Opening Manifesto on the first Dada evening, 14.7.1916.


To reduce Dada to an ism of art history is not acceptable: “Dada was there before Dada was there!” as one of the Dadaist catch phrases has it. “Dada is the chaos from which a thousand orders rise, that intertwine and devour one another to become Dada again. Dada is the course and the content of the entire world process at the same time” (Erklärung des Club Dada, in: Richard Huelsenbeck, Der Dada Almanach, Berlin 1920). The term “Dada” has broken free from its historic context.


“Universal Dada” provides the real and new gateway to Dada, which distinguishes the concept for the jubilee from earlier historical exhibitions and revivals. For Dada is not a theory. “Dada is the true basis of and hope for knowledge and understanding”, as the Swiss art historian Werner Oechslin sees it. The fundamental stance of absolute individual and creative freedom simply found its name in Dada.


The universality that can be found in Dadaism provides the foundation to build upon. “Dada was there before Dada was there”. Universal Dada aims at highlighting the comprehensive nature of Dada and brings to light its independence in terms of place and time.  After all, it was the all-encompassing, the absolute, it was cultural beliefs, universal autonomy and freedom these mavericks went for with their game of vabanque and its big NO.