While Dadaism was born in Zurich, Switzerland as an archaic response to the carnage of World War I, it soon branched out to other cities, including Berlin. In 1920, the Weimar Capital hosted the First International Dada Fair, featuring as its centerpiece this satirical effigy of a Prussian officer with a pig’s head. Created by John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter, the piece was suspended from the ceiling with its waist wrapped by a poster, reading, “I come from Heaven, from Heaven on high”—a refrain from an old German Christmas carol. Also festooning the figure was a placard hung form its belt that proclaimed, “In order to understand this work of art completely, one should drill daily for 12 hours with a heavily packed knapsack in full marching order in the Tempelhof Field [Berlin’s airport at the time].” The piece, destroyed long ago, was reconstructed in 2004. But even in recreated form, it still powerfully evokes the artists’ sardonic bitterness at the role German militarism played in leading the country to disaster.
John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter, Prussian Archangel, 1920, reconstruced 2004. Reconstruction by Angelika Mende, Werkstatte für Unbeschaffbares, Berlin 2004. Papier-mâché (pig’s head); wire mesh (body); palm grass, hemp, and horse hair (filling); uniform cut from field gray material, following original pattern; World War I field cap, boots and shoulder lapels; woodcut signs.
Photograph: Neue Galerie New York