September 1916

Madnesses of war

"So we die, so we die,
so we die every day,
because it is so pleasant to die out,
just yesterday in his sleep and dreams,
already deceased at noon,
already at the bottom of the grave at the evening.

[...]

Thank you, thank you
noble Emperor for the honor,
you have chosen us to die
sleep well, sleep peaceful,
until you wake up
our poor body covered by the grass. "

Hugo Ball wrote the words of this Dance of Death, played by his wife Emmy Hennings in one of the Dadaist evenings in March of 1917. The Dada movement was born in February 1916, when Ball and Hennings opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, at n. 1 of Spiegelgasse. The dual charge, destructive on the one hand and on the other proposals, characterized from the outset the artistic movement, born in the middle of the conflict. In response to the events that were upsetting the world, the Dadaists made use of the instruments of madness, humor, rejection of reason, the creative freedom taken to the extreme, and managed to spread its attitude throughout Europe.
Some of the Dadaists lived firsthand the folly of war: in November 1914, the German Georg Ehrenfried Groß joined the army, that leaves six months later for health reasons, and in 1916 changed its name to George Grosz; another German Dadaist, Helmut Franz Josef Herzfeld, changes its name to John Heartfield. This response, the adoption of Anglo-Slavic names, represents both a protest against German nationalism: both would joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1918. Their repulsion towards the catastrophe of war, to the madness of war, is represented in the arts through other madness: it is the road that the Dadaists choose to contest the system. Jean Arp wrote:

"We were looking for elementary art that cured the men from the madness of the time, a new order that overturn the equilibrium between heaven and hell."

The Dadaists adopted the madness as an ethical attitude toward the brutal reality, to redeem mankind from the abyss of the war in which it had fallen. Zeroing of the ideologies and values ​​came through an art crowds, elementary, reactionary, out of any bourgeois fee and capable of challenging the many isms that crossed the last century.