Baader's father worked as a metalworker at the royal buildings in Stuttgart. Johannes' education began at the Stuttgart trade school from 1892 to 1895 and continued at the technical college. His first job was as a stonemason in Dresden cutting gravestones. In 1905 after moving to Berlin, he met Raoul Hausmann. Together they would become influential figures at the heart of Berlin Dada. In 1906 he designed a World Temple, a utopian vision of interdenominational harmony. It took numerous forms as inspiration, including Greek and Indian archetypes. In common with many utopian architectural projects of the time, the building—which was to be 1500m high—remained unbuilt and exists only in the form of sketches and writings. 1911–12 saw him produce designs for an unbuilt zoo for Carl Hagenbeck.
In 1914, Baader's written output began to increase. He published a treatise, Vierzehn Briefe Christi (Fourteen Letters of Christ) concerning Monism and over the course of the next few years wrote articles for the journals Die freie Straße (The Free Street) and Der Dada. In 1917 in the midst of the First World War, he was certified legally insane as a result of manic depression. Now equipped with considerable 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 in Saarbrücken and founded a company called Christus GmbH (Christ Ltd). Membership was offered to pacifists and deserters, and attempts were made to equate conscientious objection with Christian martyrdom. He became the centre of a scandal on November 17, 1918, after giving a performance in Berlin Cathedral entitled "Christus ist euch Wurst" (You don't give a damn about Christ), which widely mocked the clergy, laity and politicians and resulted in his brief arrest. In 1918, he declared he had been resurrected as the Oberdada—the president of the universe, really a Dadaist parody of a high-ranking military figure. He wrote Die acht Weltsätze (Eight World Theses), a quasi-religious tract in the same year.
Further explanations of his 'cosmic identity' were expounded in collages such as Dada Milchstrasse (Dada Milky Way, 1919) and written pieces. Attempts to initiate a Dada architecture resulted in his Das grosse Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama (The great Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama), originally shown in 1920 at the Berlin Erste internationale Dada-Messe (First International Dada Fair). Baader also produced sketches of visionary architecture, which, in common with those of Hausmann and Yefim Golïshev, sometimes invoked proto-Constructivist girderlike structures. In 1919 exactly a year after the abdication of the Kaiser, Baader printed calling cards proclaiming he was President of the Earth and Universe. He applied to teach at Gropius's Bauhaus with these qualifications. An unimpressed Gropius declined.
- Timothy O. Benson et al., Expressionist Utopias, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001; pp. 189.
- NGA Artists
- Johannes Baader artist and art...the-artists.org
- Johannes Baader (DADA Companion)