A new exhibition at the Kunsthause Zurich is celebrating the Dada movement. The curator, Adrian Sudhalter spent five years tracking down original works on paper from public and private collections, each one marked by seminal Dadaist Tristian Tzara with a page reference. They are ordered by the country of origins and put into three groups: Entente-Powers, Neutral Countries and Central Powers. To the most interesting exhibits belong works by Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Erwin Blumenfeld, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Andre Breton, and Marcel Duchamps.

It all started when Hugo Ball and his lover Emmy Hennings young, penniless German writers, fled to Zurich during the First World Word. On February 5th 1916 they opened an arts club at the former dairy located in Zurich’s Spiegelgasse 1, with the plans to provide a space for independent artists and thinkers. The club happened to be on the same street were Vladimir Lenin was living. Ball named it Cabaret Voltaire and invited young artists and writers to come and give performances and readings at the daily meetings.

The performances at Cabaret Voltaire were mostly random acts, but often transformed into ecstatic and mystical experiences. Artists appeared in strange costumes to a background of loud, tuneless music, confronting and provoking audience at the same time.

Among those who performed at The Cabaret Voltaire was a charismatic Romanian poet Tristian Tzara, who quickly became a driving force behind the Dada movement. As the legend says, name Dada was picked randomly from the dictionary. It was supposed to be incomprehensible and the movement indefinable.

On the 14th July 1916 a group of artists key among them, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco, Sophie Taeuber and Tristian Tzara announced the new art movement with a manifesto, read at the Waag Hall in Zurich. The original Dadaists were consumed with a rage that had been provoked by the horrors of the First World Word. They were disappointed with establishment and its overreliance on reason, logic, rules and regulations. Dada was supposed to offer an alternative based on being unreasonable, illogical and lawless. They promoted themselves as anti-establishment, anti-social, anti-religion and anti-art and wanted to reinvent the world order as if seen through the eyes of a child. In 1916 Dadaists and their views were considered as dangerous and revolutionary, and they were continuously watched by the Swiss police.

The Dadaists proposed the new system in the creative process, based entirely on chance. Dada poems were generated by cutting out words from newspapers, and put in order they emerged from a bag in which they were mixed together. This process was supposed to mirror the randomness and unpredictability of life. Hans Arp one of the best known co-founders of Dada defined the new technique for artworks. His Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance (1916-1917) was created by dropping pieces of paper cut outs from on high letting the composition be defined by chance.

By the time Dadaglobe was planned, the war was over and some of the Dada artists including Tzara relocated to Paris, the city of the artistic avangarde. Over time Dada created also other outposts, seducing followers among others in New York, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Dada has been undoubtedly the most decisive influence on the development of art – from modern art to the contemporary art of today. It is believed that Dada was the missing link between Expressionism and Surrealism, which later influenced Pop Art, inspired Punk and provided bases for the conceptual art. The echoes of Dada can be seen everywhere in art and popular culture today, from artworks of Paul McCarthy to performance art of Marina Abramovic and music performances of David Bowie or Lady Gaga.

The birthplace of Dada, Zurich is celebrating this year 100 years of the movement with a string of exhibitions and performances. Kunsthause Zurich in their exhibition, Dadaglobe (until May 1st), for the first time in Europe presents a reconstruction of the legendary but never realized Dadaglobe book project. If the anthology had come to being in 1921, it would be one of the most ambitious publications of the Dada movement. It was planned to document Dada’s apotheosis as an artistic and literary movement of international scope. The publication was supposed to reunite artists, whose fate was bound by the political stand of their nations, when travel was severely restricted for many.

In November 1920 Tristian Tzara and his close friend, French born artist Francis Picabia sent around 50 invitations to various avangarde artists and writers across politically divided World asking to contribute their work to a Dada book, which was planed to be published by the French publisher La Sirène in 10,000 copies. The invitation was met enthusiastically and approx. 40 of them sent back photographs, drawings, photomontages and texts. Soon after that organisational and financial problems emerged, which forced the authors to abandon the project.

Thanks to Michel Sanouillet, the art historian, the reconstruction of the Dadaglobe was initiated in 1963, shortly after death of Tristian Tzara. The collection left behind by Tzara was first auctioned in 1968 in Bern. The next step in bringing the collection together was the big Dada exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art New York in 2006. The result was a 160 pages book with artworks.

Dadaglobe at the Kunsthause, which this summer will travel to MOMA in New York, is only one point in the grand celebrations of one century of Dada in Zurich. Since February Cabaret Voltaire has been hosting special performances and rituals at dawn for 165 days, each in honour of a different Dada artist. Landesmuseum Zurich hosts exhibition “Universal Dada”, which includes original Dadaists artworks as well as contemporary art inspired by Dada. In March, Zurich’s Museum Rietberg will stage “Dada Africa”, which unveils Dadaists fascination with art from outside Europe. In June the Kunsthaus will also present a major exhibition on Francis Picabia, which kicks off the festival Festspiele Zürich (3-26 June) with over 150 events, exhibitions, theatre plays, talks and concerts.

Dada was the first transdisciplinary art movement and its influence has been long lasting. Through inventing new art techniques like collage, cut out technique, photomontage, assemblages, ready-mades, through its anarchy and mischief it has changed the art world forever.