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Richard Huelsenbeck (1920)
En Avant Dada: A History of Dadaism
From En Avant Dada: Eine Geschichte des Dadaismus, 1920
(reprinted in Art and Social Change, Will Bradley and Charles Esche, eds., London: Tate, 2007, pp. 61-68)

From the First German Dadaist Manifesto, written by Huelsenbeck:

“Art in its execution and direction is dependent on the time in which it lives, and artists are creatures of their epoch. The highest art will be that which in its conscious content presents the thousandfold problems of the day, the art which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its limbs after yesterday’s crash. The best and most extraordinary artists will be those who every hour snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the frenzied cataract of life, who, with bleeding hands and hearts, hold fast to the intelligence of their time.” [62]

[That is: art – and artists – as an expression of their times, in and of and bearing witness to the moment. This is opposed, specifically to the ethereal idealism of the German Expressionists, but also to the absurdity of the Zurich Dadaists]

“Hatred of the press, hatred of advertising, hatred of sensations, are typical of people who prefer their armchair to the noise of the street, and who even make it a point of pride to be swindled by every small-time profiteer. That sentimental resistance to the times, which are neither better or worse, neither more reactionary nor more revolutionary than other times, that weak-kneed resistance, flirting with prayers and incense when it does not prefer to load its cardboard cannon with Attic iambics, is the quality of youth who never knew how to be young.” [62-63]

[Again, an argument against purity and isolation: an Avant Garde which is very much of the present]

And later, not part of the manifesto:

“The Dadaist, as the psychological man, has brought back his gaze from the distance and considers it important to have shoes that fit and a suit without holes in it.” [64]

“While Tzara was still writing: ‘Dada ne signifie rien’ (Dada means nothing), in Germany Dada lost its art-for-art’s-sake character with its very first move.” [63]

Comments 2 comments

  1. January 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm Roger Barriere

    DADA should be as strong today as yesterday if only for the fact that nothing has changed in the world around us.
    If only for the fact that all things that DADA has railed aganist in the past are a stronger force now than they were in the past.
    As we come to the edge once again DADA needs to step back into the light and once again say to the world that you have become lost once again but the few of us will show you the way back.

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