“Flucht aus der Zeit,” Hugo Ball 
says that art should be no more than 
“a motive, a method” towards such 
an end: it should be torn down, the 
Dadaists thought, from its high 
marble pedestal, and made to flow 
anonymously and freely from the 
vastness of pre-conscious life. Un 
fortunately, few persons today are 
willing, or dare, to penetrate the 
mockery and the voluntary shabbi 
ness of Dadaism, to acknowledge 
the immense constructive forces that 
lay behind. To Hugo Ball Dada was 
a “fool’s play founded on nothing at 
all, yet involving all higher prob 
This was the Dada of the Cabaret 
Voltaire, situated in one of the nar 
row Gothic streets of ancient Zurich. 
This was the young Arp in his hey 
day. During this period, his creative 
activity was marked by a definite 
urge towards the absolute, the di 
rect; towards simplicity and, finally, 
towards anonymity: “les oeuvres 
d’art devraient rester anonymes dans 
le grand atelier de la nature, comme 
les nuages, les montagnes, les mers, 
les animaux, les hommes. Oui! les 
hommes devraient rentrer dans la 
nature, les artistes devraient travail 
ler en communauté comme les ar 
tistes du moyen-âge.” In his wooden 
and cardboard reliefs of this period, 
the simple objects of everyday life 
are given back their original magic 
by means of witty transformation. 
In a truly romantic sense, the tragic 
discordance between corporeal in 
significance and the vastness of the 
universe becomes apparent in Arp’s 
extreme proportional contrasts, and 
throughout his poetry. The sublime 
act of creation is reduced to a ludi 
crous bagatelle. Absolute relaxation 
of the mind is opposed to ‘the 
cramped, hyperbolic pathos of the 
then contemporary German Expres 
sionism, and the subsequent paro 
dies of the politically active Dada 
ists in the same country. The essen 
tial difference of attitude between 
the Dadaism of the Cabaret Voltaire 
and that which flourished in Ger 
many should be kept in mind: while 
the latter never became more than 
the hallmark of an economic infla 
tion and was almost completely con 
cerned with left-wing politics, the 
former, led by artists of great sensi 
bility, directed the far more subtle 
attack on the parallel inflation of 
the mind. 4 
Apart from what in him was revo 
lutionary and satirical, the young 
Arp possessed much that was quiet 
and contemplative. It was during 
this period that he became absorbed 
in the mystical writings of Lao-tse 
and Jacob Boehme. We find Arp 
making collages of grey, silver and 
black bits of paper.® The extreme 
architectural severity and almost 
religious asceticism of these com- 
Zurich protesting against German militarism 
in 1916 and soon became one of the leaders of 
the Zurich Dada movement, together with 
Arp, Hiilsenbeck and Tzara. 
4. Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst should be 
mentioned here as the only German Dada 
ists of the same mettle as those in Zurich. 
Schwitters, who called his art Merz (1919), 
was even strongly attacked in his own country 
for his creative and non-political attitude. 
5. It should be remembered that Picasso and 
Braque were making collages as early as 1911- 
12, though with quite a different stress.

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