Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde (Avant-Garde Critical Studies, Volume 18)
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How Dada is to break its cultural accommodation and containment today necessitates thinking the historical instances through revised application of critical and theoretical models. The volume Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde moves precisely by this motive, bringing together writings which insist upon the continuity of the early twentieth century moment now at the start of the twenty-first. Engaging the complex and contradictory nature of Dada strategies, instanced in the linguistic gaming and performativity of the movement’s initial formation, and subsequently isolating the specific from the general with essays focusing on Ball, Tzara, Serner, Hausmann, Dix, Heartfield, Schwitters, Baader, Cravan and the exemplary Duchamp, the political philosophy of the avant-garde is brought to bear upon our own contemporary struggle through critical theory to comprehend the cultural usefulness, relevance, validity and effective (or otherwise) oppositionality of Dada’s infamous anti-stance.
The volume is presented in sections that progressively point towards the expanding complexity of the contemporary engagement with Dada, as what is often exhaustive historical data is forced to rethink, realign and reconfigure itself in response to the analytical rigour and exercise of later twentieth-century animal anarchic thought, the testing and cultural placement of thoughts upon the virtual, and the eventual implications for the once blissfully unproblematic idea of expression. From the opening, provocative proposition that historically Dada may have been the falsest of all false paths, the volume rounds to dispute such condemnation as demarcation continues not only of Dada’s embeddedness in western culture, but more precisely of the location of Dada culture.
Ten critical essays – by Cornelius Partsch, John Wall, T. J. Demos, Anna Schaffner, Martin I. Gaughan, Curt Germundson, Stephen C. Foster, Dafydd Jones, Joel Freeman and David Cunningham – are supplemented by the critical bibliography prepared by Timothy Shipe, which documents the past decade of Dada scholarship, and in so doing provides a valuable resource for all those engaged in Dada studies today.
on youth and innovation implies a desired audience and hints at the kind of “artistic entertainment” one might expect to find at the Holländische Meierei. The cast at the cabaret consisted of a number of boisterous youngsters: in February 1916, Ball was 30, Huelsenbeck 23, Janco 20, and Tzara 19. In the beginning, the cabaret, which held about fifty, was usually sold out. Its audience was mostly male and comprised artists, drunken students, spies, deserters, transients, and a few errant burghers.
modules of the same process and motivation: here too language is dissected and the order of signs is taken apart. On June 23, 1916, Ball recited “Karawane” and five other poems of the cycle “gadji beri bimba”, the “Verse ohne Worte” (“verses without words”), in the Cabaret Voltaire, claiming in his diary: “I have invented a new genre of poems, ‘Verse ohne Worte’ [poems without words] or Lautgedichte [sound poems]” (1974: 70).4 17. “Karawane” (1916), Dada Almanach, Berlin, 1920 On paper,
hard to get a hold of: “[t]he fact that they cannot put us against the wall makes us solemn” (1970: 79). The audience of the Dada soirées, as Hausmann recalls, seems to have grasped this radical assault upon their values intuitively: the most important manifestations were of course those during which thousands of people, raging with fury against us, were ready to kill us – because they had understood that DADA threatened their highest possessions and holiest ideals. (Riha and Schaefer 1977: 9)
human/machine nexus had been eroticised, from Jarry’s Surmâle and its insatiable machine to the less destructive human/machine entanglements in Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.9 Given such aestheticisation, it is not surprising that Marinetti suggested the Italian Fascist party “would solve the social problem artistically” (Foster 1997: 18).10 Reading Marinetti in a more direct manner in the 1930s, Benjamin saw his programme differently: “fascism […] as Marinetti admits,
community and the search for the total work of art, leading to the idealising of a supposed “German” style. The early twentieth century and the reaction to increasing industrialisation brought with it a renewed emphasis on Gothic-derived imagery. German Expressionist artists used concepts associated with the Gothic cathedral for their explorations of anti-materialism and spirituality. It is this essay’s contention that the many drawings of cathedrals are Schwitters’s response to the Zeitgeist. He