Dada's birthplace to be recreated for Manifesta 11

Cabaret Voltaire will be recreated with a 21st century twist for the Christian Jankowski-curated event this summer
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Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich 2016 - photo by Martin Stollenwerk
Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich 2016 - photo by Martin Stollenwerk

Very few of us will have met someone fortunate enough to be present at the original Zurich café Cabaret Voltaire the night the Dada movement was spawned, back in the spring of 1916. However, now we can get at least a small taste of what it may have been like, as, for a few short few months this year, as part of Manifesta 11, and the movement's 100th birthday celebrations, Cabaret Voltaire is being reimagined in the city.  

The 11th edition of the touring European biennial for contemporary art will be curated by Christian Jankowski - you may remember his yacht piece from Frieze 2011 - under the title What People Do For Money: Some Joint Ventures.

One of the architectural highlights will be Cabaret Voltaire’s reinvention. The birthplace of Dada will be taken over by the biennial, radically altering the architecture and programming of the current Cabaret Voltaire premises. Jankowski will declare Cabaret Voltaire as the 27th guild house in Zurich – a special guild house for artists and the Cabaret Voltaire spaces will be filled with performance and mystery. If it's half as performative and mysterious as the original place sounded, we're definitely booking our tickets. 

 

Do you want to go to war or hang out in Switzerland with this guy? Hugo Ball reciting the poem Karawane at the Cabaret Voltaire, 1916
Do you want to go to war or hang out in Switzerland with this guy? Hugo Ball reciting the poem Karawane at the Cabaret Voltaire, 1916

In one of our previous stories we looked back on the beginnings of Dada in Cabaret Voltaire 100 years ago this year. Here's how it was described. 

“Total pandemonium. The people around us were shouting, laughing and gesticulating. Our replies are sighs of love, volleys of hiccups, poems, moos, and meowing of medieval Bruitists. Tzara is wiggling his behind like the belly of an Oriental dancer. Janco is playing an invisible violin and bowing and scraping. Madame Hennings, with a Madonna face, is doing the splits. Huelsenbeck is backing away nonstop on the great drum, with (Hugo) Ball accompanying him on the piano, pale as a chalky ghost.”

 

The First International Dada Fair, Otto Burchard Gallery, Berlin, 1920
The First International Dada Fair, Otto Burchard Gallery, Berlin, 1920
 

That’s how the sculptor and co-founder of Dadaism, Hans Arp, recalled the art movement’s first, fleeting incarnation at the Cabaret Voltaire. The artsy nightclub – which took its name from the French eighteenth century philosopher and champion of free expression - was opened by a group of European artists for a few months during the spring of 1916 in Zurich. Click here to read the rest of the description of that night and the movement it spawned. And to understand the movement in greater depth order a copy of our new Dada book here. 


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