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After The War, Reconstructing Reality, Critical Revaluation, Bibliography

Presided over by the poet and essayist Tristan Tzara (1896–1963), who served as its principal spokesman, dada was the first truly international avant-garde movement. Although the term dada was invented in Zurich, the movement's origins were by no means limited to Switzerland. The dada spirit existed previously in several other countries, where it expressed itself in outrageous avant-garde activity. Dada's chief concern was the achievement of total liberty: social, moral, and intellectual. Its members questioned, through their art, poetry, and performance, the basic postulates of rationalism and humanism as few had done before.

The period 1912–1914 witnessed the emergence of two of the movement's influential figures in Paris: Francis Picabia (1879–1953) and Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968). After World War I erupted, the two men moved to New York, where they proved to be important catalysts. The first dada journal had already appeared in print a few months earlier. Entitled 291, it was edited by a group centered around Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) and his review Camera Work. Another contingent met at Walter Conrad Arensberg's apartment at 33 West 67th Street. The two groups welcomed the French artists, who were soon joined by friends and family, and emulated their latest experiments.

Emerging independently in 1916, the Zurich dadaists published an eclectic journal entitled Cabaret Voltaire. Named after the artistic cabaret founded by Hugo Ball, which was notorious for its outrageous productions, the journal was replaced by Dada in 1917. Ball himself was soon eclipsed by the flamboyant Tzara, who became the movement's chief theorist and publicist. Consisting of Romanian expatriates and former German Expressionists, the Zurich group included several accomplished poets and artists but specialized in theatrical performances. A third dada faction was situated in Barcelona during the war. Revolving about the Dalmau Gallery, it included several French expatriates in addition to Catalan artists and writers such as Joan Miró and Josep Maria Junoy. The Barcelona movement gained momentum in 1917 with the arrival of Francis Picabia, who founded the iconoclastic journal 391.

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