Dada came into existence in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916. (With a nod to the earlier anti-art movement in New York.) A small number of like-minded young people with artistic temperaments found each other in the safe haven of Zurich and it became the Cabaret Voltaire. They came from numerous countries and they were running away from, and reacting to, the horrors of World War I. You can look around for the details; it’s all very interesting.
They were anti-war and anti-bourgeois. They reacted to the insanity of the world with art that was wild, simple, often nonsensical and generally non-reflective. They were, among many others: Hugo Ball; Emmy Hemmings; Hans Arp; Francis Picabia; and Max Ernst. They were writers, poets and artists.
Here’s an example of a “Dada sentence,” by Max Ernst:
“Thanks to an ancient, closely guarded monastic secret, even the aged can learn to play the piano with no trouble at all.”
Because everything sounds better in German, here is the sentence in the original:
“Nach uraltem, aengstlich behuetetem Klostergeheimnis lernen selbst Greise Muehelos Klavier spielen.” (I can’t get the umlauts together, sorry.)
How perfect is it that in this jubilee year we have elected Donald Trump president! That was a piece of elegant nonsense right there.