Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini @tonightatdawn
“HOW DOES ONE ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS?
BY SAYING DADA.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME FAMOUS?
BY SAYING DADA.
WITH NOBLE GESTURE AND DELICATE DECENCY. TILL ONE GOES CRAZY. TILL ONE LOSES CONSCIOUSNESS.”
-Hugo Ball, founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in the original Dada manifesto
Right now, insanity is more likely than CONCIOUSNESS with 7 hours to go til Newark in this pressurized tube. (See the reverse: “No Sleep Til Zurich“).
Alas, customs will be easier if I just shut up and write rather than shout DADA over the Atlantic.
I’ll admit, I never had much appreciation for this nonsensical self-declared non-art. I suppose I never appreciated that Duchamp’s upside down urinal precluded me from having to do a handstand in a men’s room to garner that perspective.
So, even though we were staying a few blocks over from it in Zürich’s medieval section, I almost didn’t even care to throw down 5 francs at its birthplace, the Cabaret Voltaire.
5 francs. 4 blocks (maybe). 3 X 10 minutes of film. 2 of us. 1st trip to Dada’s heartland…perhaps it made too much sense to go.
But I relented. And it was well worth every damn CH franc.
If there is no performance on the schedule, the main attraction at Voltaire is the self-start film on Dada’s history. If you’ve studied art history, you already know the basics; Dada was a reaction to the horrors of World War I and the “scientification of life”. In this vein, it was a rejection of the organized principles of art making and was reconciled in different Western art centers such as New York where the “ready-made” was popularized (re-appropriation of every day objects as works of art(?) like the inverse urinal).
Yet, the film superseded my expectations in both form and content.
I entered the ‘crypt’ as they call it (a wine cellar in its previous life); it’s cave-like ceiling is covered with a constellation representing the evolution of Dada. (Hey, a constellation may not be typical but it’s still a form of organization-is it not? Just sayin’.) I hit the ‘English’ button and the film began projecting on a camera shaped screen and everywhere but; more successfully emphasizing the lack of structure valued in Dadaism. I was craning my head to watch the associated words and images being projected across a wall, a corner and above my head.
The film is filled with images and quotes that showcase DADA’s history from its homeland in the neutral zone as the Zürich based artists reacted to the world crumbling beyond Swiss borders, to its geographical spread and it’s influence on the development of new art movements such as surrealism.
After that, I meandered upstairs to look at the performance space with its random art (damn, I still don’t know what to call it if the idea is nonart), and the extensive bar menu.
Their advertised tasting of 15 absenthi should, I would think, effectively highlight the effects of repeating Dada, eh?
Adding to the randomness was the guy who came off the street trying to read the young employee’s fortune while I was browsing the small gift area. She was hesitant, saying she doesn’t subscribe to fortune-telling. He was insistent and told her, when she inquired, that she would only pay if her fortune came true. Asking her about her favorite flowers and to pick a number he reiterated a vague report on a love life to be blossomed and such.
Vague and random and not worth a damn CH franc.
Contemporary Art in Zürich
We happened upon a number of other contemporary galleries-although we had to window shop a few of them as many are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays (like many things in Zürich). We spent the most amount of time in Lumas which hosts a list of global artists; beyond the bright array of 2D works, it’s draw is making current art affordable by selling reproductions in a variety of commercial sizes.
There were also a Cindy Sherman exhibition at KUNSTHAUS ZÜRICH that we were not able to fit in, advertisements for gallery openings and experimental theater throughout the city.
On the river in the old district, we visited a free contemporary art space in an old school building. There were a few pieces that I took a second look at – like the video diptych commentary on the Iraq War that featured one man slowly eating roses and another hitting his solder’s helmet. Perhaps it’s dada alive. But perhaps because I am more a fan of realistic rather than conceptual work, to me the story here unwinds into yada (dada) yada, and then we listened to a street band improvise in the museum’s courtyard for a bit.
And then there’s the pineapple rocket. dada.