At MoMA

Mary Ann Caws

In 1920, Samuel Rosenstock, better known as the Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the Dada movement, which wanted to remake the world as an experientially liberating place where meanings could be freely rewritten, asked fifty artists from ten countries to contribute work that could be published in an anthology to be entitled Dadaglobe. Dada had begun in 1916 in the performances and readings put on by its members at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, which were intended to express disgust with the First World War and the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist policies that led to it. Tzara desperately wanted to escape too the narrow nationalism and individualism (Dada opposed any idea of leadership) characteristic of the postwar period. The political world was demanding the use of passports and identity papers while Dada protested in the name of the collective: by 1920, the movement had spread to Berlin, Hanover, Cologne, Paris and New York, and there were ‘présidents et présidentes de Dada’ from eight countries and three continents.

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