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Dada

movement tzara breton paris

an anarchic internationalist movement in art and literature which originated in Zurich in 1916, where the Cabaret Voltaire, a café opened by Hugo Ball, a German theatrical producer, provided a focus for exhibitions, readings, and other more experimental forms of creative activity. Dada, a French word for ‘hobby-horse’ chosen on impulse from a dictionary by Ball, formed a conscious reaction by various expatriate artists to the apparent futility of the First World War and the cultural failure it implied. The Zurich group included the Romanian poets Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara, the movement's eventual leader, and the painters Hans Richter, Max Ernst, and Jean Arp. Initially sympathetic to Futurism and Cubism, as their belief in nihilism and disorder evolved, the Dadaists repudiated these movements as excessively programmatic; Tzara spoke of Dada's ‘great task of destruction and negation’ and Richter defined its sole principle as ‘to outrage public opinion’. Although not named as such, characteristically Dadaist work was also produced in New York around 1916 by the photographer Man Ray, the sculptor Marcel Duchamp, and the painter Francis Picabia; with Dadaists from Berlin, Hanover, Barcelona, and other parts of Europe to which the movement had spread, they arrived in Paris in 191920. German Dada's early expiry resulted from the increasingly political motivation of its exponents, among whom were the writer Richard Huelsenbeck, the painter George Grosz, and the celebrated photo-montagist John Heartfield. Tzara quickly assumed a dominant position in the Paris group, who also included the French writers André Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Eluard. The movement climaxed in a series of energetically chaotic ‘manifestations’ in Paris in 1920 and 1921, after which rivalry developed between Breton, who advocated political purpose, and the resolutely nihilistic Tzara. From 1922 onward, Breton and his associates gradually transmuted Dada into Surrealism.

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