Culture Film

The ABC’s of Dada

Art is a reflection of the society that produces it. In the second decade of the twentieth century, Europe had turned itself into a vast slaughterhouse. In Zurich a group of artists gathered in the Cabaret Voltaire and set about a total rejection of the values that had produced the First World War. The irrationality and absurdity of capitalist society was mocked and satirized in an iconoclastic and nihilistic style that was as irrational and meaningless as the times that had produced it.

In Zurich, not involved in the slaughterhouses of the world war, we dedicated ourselves to the fine arts. While in the distance gunfire rumbled, we glued paper, read our works, wrote poetry, and sang at the top of our voices – Hans Arp

This documentary by Hans Richer, who also appears in the film, is concerned with the contributions of German artists to the Dadaist movement. Coming out a year after the turbulent events of protest, stike and conflict that marked 1968, the film also compares the struggles of its time to those of the Dada era.

(For a more modern, but more sanitized, film about Dadaism there is a recent BBC documentary featuring Vic Reeves)

Part two of the documentary is below: