Found in an exhibition catalogue from the Hanover Gallery, London 1968 of Francis Picabia watercolours this unpublished essay on Dada by Picabia's widow Gabrièle Buffet Picabia (1884 - 1988). It is mostly quotations from important Dadaist manifestoes but the first part is by her (followed by Andre Breton.)
The intellectual world of Europe has been upset for several years by a strange sect which calls itself "Dada", and its followers Dadaists.
It is difficult to define Dada because Dada pretends to escape from everything that is common or ordinary or sensible. Dada does not recognise any traditions, any influences, or indeed and limits. Dada is a spontaneous product of life; a sort of cerebral mushroom which can appear and grow in every soil.
Dada cannot be defined; it reveals itself; and during the five years in which Dada manifestations have taken place all over the world, the public which comes en masse, in turn furious, amused, deceived, and nevertheless subjugated, has not succeeded in solving this problem:
Are the Dadas serious?
Are the Dadas curers?
Are the Dadas artist?
Are the Dadas dangerous?
Are the Dadas harmless idiots?
And nevertheless they do not make any mystery of their thoughts. They talk of art, religion, morals, politics. They say the most dangerous things that can be said without any detour. They cherish the crudest words. They adore scandal. They flood the world with their ironical manifestations. Each new adept produces a new manifesto, and explains under what form Dada appeared to him. Dada thus takes on the most contradictory appearances. But this very contradiction is characteristic of it, for according to a Dadaist formula "the true Dada is against Dada."
I quote here several manifestations of Dadaists which have been collected and published in France:
Manifesto of the Dada Movement
No more artists, no more literary men, no more musicians, royalists, no more imperialists, no more anarchists, no more socialists, no more Bolsheviks, no more politics, no more proletariats, no more democrats, no more bourgeois, no more aristocrats, no more army, no more police, no more nations! Away with all these follies! Of them we want nothing more, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing!!! In this way we hope that novelty which will be the same thing as that which we no longer want, will appear less rotten, less egoistic, less mercantile, less obtuse, less immensely "Grotesque". Long live the concubines and the concubists. All members of the Dada movement are presidents.
Everything which is not me is incomprehensible.
Whether I seek it on the shores of the Pacific or pick it up in the lands where I live, the shell which I put to my ear will echo with the same voice which I will take for that of the sea and which will only be the noise or my own self.
All words, if I suddenly am no longer contented with keeping them in my hand like beautiful mother-of-pearl objects, all words will allow me to listen to the ocean, and in their auditory mirror I will only find my own image.
Whatever language appears to be, it is reduced to I alone, and if I repeat some word, it is stripped of everything which is not me to become only an organic noise through which my life manifests itself. I am the only person in the world, and if from time to time I have been weak enough to believe in the existence of a woman, I only have to lean on her breast to hear the beating of "my" heart and recognise myself. Feelings are only words to facilitate the exercise of certain functions.
In my left pocket I carry a very good portrait of myself; it is watch of tarnished steel. It speaks, it marks the time, and it does not understand anything about it.