Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reading: Ball & Tzara

The Dada Manifesto by Hugo Ball is a declaration of Dadaism. Written in 1916, Ball describes the simplicity of Dada and that the movement in art was essentially the answer to all possible questions through various mediums—including collage, public works, writing, etc. Bell’s manifesto is purposefully nonsensical and rambling; two strong characteristics of the Dada texts. The literal meaning of the word 'Dada' is debated, but is not necessarily relevant to its related works or publications.

Much like Ball, Tristan Tzara penned his own proclamation of Dada called Dada Manifesto 1918. Tzara’s work is significantly longer than his predecessor’s and hammers out a few more details surrounding Dada. Tzara states that “Dada means nothing” and establishes (in a very roundabout and non-committal manner) that the movement or meaning was born out of boredom and strife against the constricting political atmosphere.

Both authors take pride in the illogical and occasionally obscene format of Dada, which would have shocked and angered the public in that time period. By establishing the fact that there is no true meaning behind Dada, these artists were able to sneak a lot of social commentary into work without drawing negative attention from the masses. Both writers are obviously very educated and intellectual, which is apparent through their writing styles and prose (or lack thereof; some instances in Tzara's work tend to be poetic and even rhyme). It takes a lot of skill to appear unhinged, but actually be cognizant of their emotions and intentions behind the pieces.

Overall, both Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara fully embrace Dadaism and establish a sort of written precedent for other artists to follow in the early 1900s. Other mediums (such as the detailed collages by German artist, Hannah Höch) are more effective at visually conveying the message of Dada, while sneaking in major political commentary.

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