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Ist das Kunst?: Learning about Dada Art

Published: January 5, 2020

At Waldsee, we believe in teaching through a “Grand Simulation,” which is designed to immerse villagers and staff in the cultures of the German-speaking world. We have held full-day simulations on a variety of historical and cultural topics, including life in a dividedWaldsee and the Mauerfall (Fall of the Wall). One of our favorite -- and most unusual -- days is Dada-Tag (Dada Day), based on the unconventional art movement of the Zwischenkriegzeit (time between the world wars) that began in Zurich.


The Dada movement rebelled against all convention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dada artists were frustrated with the trajectory of world history, and translated this into art on their own terms. The movement was spawned from the anger following the Great War, Dada sought to create a new order of art and a new order of thinking. Dada artists used a variety of unconventional forms, from sculpture to photomontage. They sought to answer the question, “What is art?” 

The Dadaists were known to use a variety of materials of unconventional materials to challenge the standards of art at the time. Beginning as a new form of performance art, the Dadaists used the Café Voltaire in Zurich as their meeting place during and after the First World War. Café Voltaire became a haven for the Dada performances, especially sound poetry and musical compositions. With time, the Dada experience broadened into painting, sculpture, and photomontage. 


There are a number of ways we incorporate aspects of the Dada movement into life at Waldsee on Dada-Tag, while also introducing villagers to important figures of the Dada movement. Several counselors spend the day dressed up as icons of the Dada movement, including artists like Hannah Höch. At the beginning of the day during Morgenkreis (morning circle), instead of singing our regular songs, we will have one of our Dada artists recite Dada-style poems and songs, which are often nonsense words and strings of syllables with no substantive meaning. During Veranstaltungsstunde (activity hour), villagers have opportunities to write their own Dada poetry and create their own Dada collages and photomontages. Throughout the day, we challenge the day-to-day norms at Waldsee, changing up the regular routines to create an unconventional day.

Challenge artistic norms and learn more German in Summer 2020! We can’t wait to see you, whether it’s your first time at Waldsee or coming back after decades for our Alumni Weekend, July 17-19!


Have you spent nearly a decade or more at Waldsee over the last 60 years? We would love to hear from you for a future blog post! Please fill out this form here if you are interested.

Additionally, we are collecting and digitizing photos from alumni in honor of our 60th anniversary this summer. If you have any photos you would like to share (particularly from the 80s and 90s), please send them to betreuerschaft@gmail.com.