Critics’ Picks

View of “Obsession Dada: 165 Feiertage,” 2016.

View of “Obsession Dada: 165 Feiertage,” 2016.


“Obsession Dada: 165 Feiertage”

Cabaret Voltaire
Spiegelgasse 1
February 2–May 15, 2016

Open toward the outside but xenophobic toward the inside, Zwingli’s city took a long time to discover that it was the cradle of one of the most important artistic avant-gardes of the twentieth century, Dadaism. Just a few years ago, Cabaret Voltaire was saved from permanent closure, and again today it is facing pressures to close.

But even after its centennial (February 5), the embrace of Dada—as a vested heritage—has not been made easy for Zurichers. How do the city leaders hope to make palatable to the people—who within six months will once again vote on the “deportation of criminal foreigners” and thereby, indirectly, on Switzerland remaining in the EU—those very suspect foreigners who, in 1916, raised Dadaism out of the baptismal font? Most of them were German: the deserters Hugo Ball and Richard Huelsenbeck; the morphine addict Emmy Hennings; the artist of haute-bourgeois connections with a Swiss residence permit, Jean Arp. And then there were the young bohemians from Romania Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco. In this club, only Sophie Taeuber-Arp, although a citizen of the German Reich, could show a Swiss passport.

Given this history, the director of Cabaret Voltaire, Adrian Notz, and co-curator Una Szeemann could not have done better than to invite an international roundelay of artists—including Thomas Hirschhorn, Shana Lutker, and Nedko Solakov—for the coming weeks, who, with their films, lectures, and performances, will render an entertaining work of memory in the spirit of Dada. In addition to this, a small accompanying exhibition, well worth seeing, affords glimpses into the archive of the Swiss curator Harald Szeemann and his legendary project “Museum of Obsessions,” which rendered outstanding service to the continuation of Dadaism. With all this, Dada will be well received in Zurich.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.