Johannes Baader and the demise of Wilhelmine culture: Architecture, Dada, and social critique, 1875–1920
This dissertation examines the life and work of Johannes Baader (1875–1920), focusing on the years leading up to and including his involvement with the Berlin Dada group. A practicing architect in Germany before the First World War, Baader abandoned architecture to become a writer and, in 1918, became a founding member of Berlin Dada. Although known for his public provocations and his now-lost three-dimensional assemblage, the Great Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama , exhibited at the First International Dada-Fair in 1920, Baader remains the most understudied member of the group. The reasons for Baader's neglect are manifold. The small number of surviving works from the Dada period is one reason, his reputation for being insane, another. Perhaps the most serious obstacle to Baader's recognition, however, was Richard Huelsenbeck's claim in the movement's first chronicle, the Dada Almanach (1920), that Baader “had nothing to do with Dada, neither in establishing it nor in representing the Dadaist idea.” Baader's collages and assemblages of the Dada period do differ from those of his colleagues. While the works of all of the Berlin Dadaists may be seen to register the aftershocks of the war in the fragmentation of their form, iconographically they tend to concentrate upon the present. Baader's works stand out by way of their retrospective orientation. Comprising materials often drawn from his own past, Baader's Dada works are all essentially self-portraits. Baader recognized that his lifetime chronologically paralleled the “rise” and “fall” of the Prussian-led German state between its founding in 1871 and its military defeat in 1918, and proposed that his biography be considered a mirror of this period. Just as the era had been brought to a violent end, in his Dada self-portraits Baader represents a life exploded by the First World War. Adopting the biographical model, chronological parameters, and retrospective orientation found in these works, this thesis reconstructs Baader's biography until 1920, and recontextualizes the fragments found in his collages and assemblages. This effects a reconsideration of Berlin Dada in general: a movement commonly understood to have reacted to its tumultuous times but rarely considered in terms of its historical consciousness.
0311: Germanic literature