Saturday, July 17, 2010

Johannes Baader - Oberdada

Raoul Hausmann (left) and Dada Chief Johannes Baader, c. 1920

Johannes Baader (1875-1955) was born in Stuttgart. Between 1892 and 1895, he was apprenticed in masonry while he studied architecture at Stuttgart's Staatliche Baugewerbeschule. In 1903 he became an architect in the Vereinigung bildender Künstler für monumentalen Grabmalsbau in Dresden (Artists Association for Construction of Monumental Graves). In 1905 Baader moved to Berlin, where he met Raoul Hausmann. Declared unfit for military service in World War I, he dedicated his energies to what he called "spiritual architecture", utopian designs of monumental, metaphysical, and messianic dimensions, and contributed to the journals Das Blaubuch, Die freie Straße, and Der Dada in 1917.

Johannes Baader, Dadaists against Weimar, 1919

As self-proclaimed Oberdada (Dada Chief) Baader's Dada tactics were mainly in the form of spectacular manifestos and public performances, often in collaboration with Raoul Hausmann. In 1917 in the midst of the First World War, he was certified legally insane as a result of manic depression. Now equipped with considerably license, he gave outrageous public performances parodying public and mythic identities and producing utopian designs of monumental, metaphysical, and messianic dimensions. In the same year he ran for office in the Reichstag (National Assembly) in Saarbrücken and  - together with Raoul Hausmann - founded a company called Christus GmbH (Jesus Christ Ltd.) to protect war deserters, thus associating conscientious objection with Christian Martyrdom. Similarly, on 17 November 1918, Baader staged a performance in the Berlin cathedral called Christus ist euch Wurst (You don't give a hang for Christ). This action provoked a public scandal, and Baader was arrested for blasphemy. Hausmann, in turn, wrote a letter to Berlin's Minister of Culture arguing for Baader's right to free speech. 
 Kurt Lohse, Portrait of "Oberdada" Johannes Baader, 1929 

In March 1919 Baader and Hausmann announced the Dadaist Republik Nikolassee to start on 1 April 1919 under the auspices of the Central Committee of the Dada Movement. On 12 March 1919 Baader and Hausmann staged a "Propaganda Evening" in Café Austria, where they founded the Antinationaler Rat der unbezahlten Arbeiter (ARUDA - Anti-National Council of Unpaid Workers) and Club der Blauen Milchstraße. Baader announced the death and the resurrection of the Oberdada on April 1 (starting year 1 in a new era), and as such, participated in the Erste Berliner Dada-Ausstellung.

Johannes Baader, Germany's Greatness and Decadence, First Dada-Exhibition, Berlin 1920

Baader was a participant in the discourse of postwar Weimar Germany in a dadaist fashion, putting out his Buch des Weltfriedens (Book of World Peace), a reaction to the Treaty of Versailles, on 28 June 1919, which became known as Handbuch des Oberdada (HADO). Similarly, on 16 July, Baader threw flyers into the meeting of the Weimar National Assembly printed with the slogan "Dadaists against Weimar" and three days later proclaimed the socialist politician Philip Scheidemann as "Ehrendada" (Dada of Honour) in a streetcar. On 11 November, exactly a year after the Kaiser abdicated, Baader printed a calling card that announced him to be president of the Earth and Universe.

 Johannes Baader (Editor), Die freie Straße (November 1918 issue) - Against Property!

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