What would our lives would be like if Dada’s radically anarchic aesthetic had taken over? Would people be proclaiming abstract sound poetry on street corners? Would they wander about, like the notoriously free-spirited Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, bizarrely arrayed in pilfered goods and castoffs—a bra made of two tin cans tied with string, rows of curtain-ring bracelets pinched from Woolworth’s, a bustle of electric lights? Perhaps they’d hole up, like Kurt Schwitters building his Merzbau, an installation cobbled together from bits of urban and natural detritus. Perhaps every public gathering would become a provocation.
Dada Triumphs!, a 1920 photocollage by Raoul Hausmann, includes a map with the word “DADA” emblazoned across the northern hemisphere, announcing this movement’s vast territorial ambitions.