This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Courtesy Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp e.V., Rolandseck.
scarlet inside and gold outside. Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary (1927). blue-and-white-striped witch doctor’s hat. which came up to my hips so that I looked like an obelisk. .1 In the performance Ball is part shaman. . that style of liturgical singing that wails in all the Catholic churches of East and West. . On June 23.Dada Mime HAL FOSTER Magical Bishop It is a celebrated performance but extraordinary still. OCTOBER 105. . . 1974). pp. I also wore a high. . I was carried onto the stage in the dark and began slowly and solemnly: “gadji beri bimba / glandridi lauli lonni cadori / gadjama bim beri glassala / glandridi glassala tuffm i zimbrabim / blassa galassasa tuffm i zimbrabim. 166–176. that half-frightened. .” he tells us in Flight Out of Time. trembling and hanging avidly on the priest’s words in the requiems and high masses in his home parish. but he is also a child once again entranced by ritual magic: less pope and blasphemer in one. . Hugo Ball. . part priest. trans. Bathed in sweat. 1916. half-curious face of a ten-year-old boy. Ann Raimes (New York: Viking Press. . I was carried down off the stage like a magical bishop. . than exorcist and possessed. . For a moment it seemed as if there were a pale. bewildered face in my Cubist mask. Summer 2003. Such pandemonium (literally: “abode of all demons. . . . . then. Hugo Ball premieres his sound poems or poemswithout-words: “My legs were in a cylinder of shiny blue cardboard. © 2003 Hal Foster. 1. his great diary of 1914–21: Over it I wore a huge coat collar cut out of cardboard. at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. place of lawless violence or uproar. utter confusion”) is one aim of the Dadaists. ” Then I noticed that my voice had no choice but to take on the ancient cadence of priestly lamentation.
Ball meets Walter Benjamin. an account in which the tottering and the new are one: The new man stretches wide the wings of his soul. nearly a year after the Ball performance. betrothed to the glockenspiel [chimes] of hell. Several years later. Benjamin is very impressed by Bloch. eventually to return to the Church. Ecce Homo Novus If not the opposite of Bolshevism. the pandemonium naturae ignotae. if I am not mistaken. he orients his inner ear toward things to come. . Perhaps this suppression is one reason why the Dadaist miming of “the bliss of the epileptic. at this point his scales of history still tilt in favor of hope. a textual montage that works to relay. (Cambridge. through imagistic vignettes and abrupt cuts. newly author of The Spirit of Utopia (1918). 1917. 1996).” Here Tzara seems to gloss another Dadaist account of “Der neue Mensch” by Richard Huelsenbeck published in Neue Jugend on May 23. Dada does propose a “new man” very different from that of avant-garde artists in revolutionary Russia. ed. his knees ﬁnd an altar before which to bend. “On the one hand a tottering world in ﬂight.”2 But “mankind” doesn’t get well: the proletariat is soon contained in Germany and disciplined in the Soviet Union. “Strange incidents: when we had the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich at Spiegelgasse 1.” Tristan Tzara writes in “Dada Manifesto 1918”. “on the other hand: new men. Benjamin writes: “In the nights of annihilation of the last war. whom he introduces to Ernst Bloch. 487. p. He carries pandemonium within himself. Walter Benjamin.” A year and a half later in Bern. compulsively—for decades to come. 1913–1926.: Harvard University Press. Mass.168 OCTOBER Yet in this instance it proves too much for Ball: soon after his blackout he withdraws from Dada. variously. Michael Jennings et al.” The Bliss of the Epileptic “Is Dadaism as sign and gesture the opposite of Bolshevism?” Ball asks in his diary on June 7. And the revolts that followed it were the ﬁrst attempt of mankind to bring the new boy under its control. as its “shaking” is brought under different— dictatorial—control. The power of the proletariat is the measure of its convalescence. the frame of mankind was shaken by a feeling that resembled the bliss of the epileptic.” ﬁrst enacted by Ball in his performance. the shock experiences of industrial war and mediated metropolis. “I could never bid chaos welcome. will recur—intermittently. Mr. 2. 1917. Selected Writings: Volume I. Ulyanov-Lenin. opposite us. The Dadaist “bachelor machine” ﬁgures a reiﬁcation that proceeds from capitalist industry to the individual. at the end of “One-Way Street” (1923–26). the Constructivist “engineer” personiﬁes a rationalization that runs from the individual to communist society at large. there lived at Spiegelgasse 6.
looked like in 1917. xxxi. ecstatic. whereby the Dadaist assumes the dire conditions of his time—the armoring of the military body. Such buffoonery is a form of parody that Dada made its own. however. anointed and sainted.4 Such is the risk of an excessive identiﬁcation with 3. feces smeared with devilish ingredients. October 31 (Winter 1984). “a gladiator’s gesture. Memoirs of a Dada Drummer. trans. The Nervous System (New York: Routledge. and yet human. A Gladiator’s Gesture A key persona of Dada. of the totality of all things. when the high spirits prompted by political upheaval were not yet exhausted. and “self-disintegration” has its own paradoxical attractions. 1969). especially in Zurich and Cologne.” The Dadaist does not give up on totality. 4. 30. pictured by Benjamin in 1940 as hurled by the winds of history. one day to be consumed in the burning heart. a wretched martyr of all centuries.” Critical Inquiry 24. Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Viking Press. 1916. Ahoy. p.” Ball writes on June 12. With humans. and fantastic worlds. it can be pushed to a dangerous extreme. 1992). the commodifying of the capitalist subject—and inﬂates them through hyperbole or “hypertrophy” (another Dadaist term). “The Trauma of Dada Collage. exalted. whips. Also see Michael Taussig. p. he begs to be crushed. here is the new man. 1 (Fall 1997). ahoy. hosanna. but amid “the dissonances” it is very difﬁcult to maintain. cured of all toxins. the fragmenting of the industrial worker. “What we call Dada is a farce of nothingness in which all the higher questions are involved. racked and consumed—the new man. no. wars of the eons. all kinds. Roger Caillois. the Africans. see Brigid Doherty. when epileptic bliss had not yet hardened into political catatonia: a portrait of the Angelus Novus as Magical Bishop. less than two weeks before the Magical Bishop performance. the Polynesians.Dada Mime 169 for or against which no one can do anything. staggering toward redemption like some fakir or stylite. that he suffers from the dissonances to the point of selfdisintegration. “Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia” (1937). 149–59.3 Perhaps this is what the Angelus Novus. a schizophrenic “devouring” by space (as Roger Caillois puts it twenty years later in 1937). the new man rises from all ashes. huzza. on the contrary. His neck is twisted and stiff.” This is a crucial dialectic. indeed to the point of a pathological “detumescence” of the subject. he gazes upward. stuffed full to the point of disgust with the experience of all outcasts. the sated of all genders: Ecce homo novus. . a play with shabby leftovers. “he is still so convinced of the unity of all beings. For another account of traumatic mimesis in Dada. born of ecstasy. erring. For other creatures mimetic adaptation is a biological technique of survival through camouﬂage in a hostile environment. is the traumatic mime. saturated. pp. Richard Huelsenbeck. the dehumanized beings of Europe. and a key strategy of this traumatist is mimetic adaptation.
“from fear.” he writes on April 20. 1916. . As “the organ of the outlandish. however. [They] simply demanded that their wearers start to 5. after Huelsenbeck drums out his primitivistic poems. and agony is retained. © 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS). 1917. the very apprehension that “there are no laws anymore” might also produce schizophrenic effects. 1916). Yet. 1919. if maintained as a dialectical strategy. or because there are no laws anymore—who knows?”5 In principle this tactic is not nihilistic so much as immunological: the Dadaist “suffers from the dissonances to the point of self-disintegration” in order to “ﬁght against the agony and the death throes of this age” ( June 12. from terror. Paris. Right: Sophie Taeuber dancing in mask by Marcel Janco.” the Dadaist also “threatens and soothes at the same time. .170 OCTOBER the corrupt conditions of a symbolic order. or at least as insecure.” Here his immunological language is almost apotropaic. terror. “The threat produces a defense. Ball alludes to a t act ic of “exaggerat ion” often in Flight Out of Time : “Everyone has become mediumistic. and Flight Out of Time is peppered with Medusan metaphors (nine days later. and his model is not the absolute anarchist so much as “the perfect psychologist [who] has the power to shock or soothe with one and the same topic” (October 26. . this miming can also expose this order as failed. Ball writes: “the Gorgon’s head of a boundless terror smiles out of the fantastic destruction”). Mask. Zurich.” Ball writes on March 2. New York/ADAGP. 1915). from agony. . 1916. As Ball suggests here. For Ball this heady mix is best captured in the unruly masks made by Marcel Janco for the Cabaret soirees: “The motive power of these masks was irresistibly conveyed to us. Cabaret Voltaire. is not to say that it is sublimatory: Medusa’s head is not transformed into Athena’s shield. To call mimetic adaptation apotropaic. Far right: Janco. a strong measure of fear.
” in Masochism. anointed and sainted. . the paralyzing background of events. who practices his own imitation of Christ. Rocks rain down. Jean McNeil (New York: Zone Books. To accompany his notorious “Dada—Early Spring” show in April 1920. The male masochist is politically ambiguous. 51. he epitomizes the subject in complete control for whom all relationships are strictly contractual. he begs to be crushed. hears both Schamane (shaman) and Scharade 6. See Gilles Deleuze. and Ball does commit his dreams of “humiliations and mortifications” to his diary. His analysis reads like a case study of Ball. “Coldness and Cruelty. 1915). Ernst publishes a little journal titled Die Schammade. “I can imagine a time. “For him there was no course other than to be a penitent. . Kaja Silverman. 1989). But such is his doubleness that she also compares Ball to the Grand Inquisitor. must one not also side with those who suffer so much that they are no longer recognizable? If one now assumes that Satan’s suffering is inﬁnite. 1916). Max Ernst ﬁgures the Dadaist as Scham-man in Cologne in 1919–20. reads: “At night I am Stephen being stoned. ” Certainly Huelsenbeck has Ball in mind here.” Scham-man If Ball presents the Dadaist as Shaman in Zurich in 1916–17. .” This is beyond “mediumistic”. is made visible” (May 24. lvi). then this is a dangerous sympathy” (November 20.”7 For Gilles Deleuze. . Hans Richter. The horror of our time.” Camera Obscura 17 (May 1988). refusing to be sutured or recompensed. Her argument is elaborated in Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York: Routledge. the veteran of Zurich Dada. p.6 In fact Ball considers an identiﬁcation that is even more masochistic: “If one sides with those who suffer. For Kaja Silverman this ﬁgure “magniﬁes the losses and divisions upon which cultural identity is based. 1915.” Ball writes as early as September 20. On masochism in Francis Picabia see George Baker. Lost Objects (New York: Columbia University dissertation. trans. and I feel the ecstasy of one who is being mercilessly beaten and crushed by stones for the sake of a little rough pyramid covered with blood. “Masochism and Male Subjectivity. . 1992). . The title is one of the slipperiest of his many neologisms. “when I will seek obedience as much as I have disobedience: to the full. it is masochistic—a radical passivity not only as a mode of defense (as Freud might say) but as a form of jouissance (this is one allure of “selfdisintegration”).Dada Mime 171 move in a tragic-absurd dance. 7.8 But these two faces might belong to the same persona. 1915. 8. In Masochism in Modern Man (1941) Theodor Reik analyzes the Christ of the New Testament as a masochist who performs both linguistic inversions and ethical subversions in his parables and paradoxes. his entry for November 28. .” writes his wife Emmy Hennings in her 1946 Preface to Flight Out of Time (p. to be sure. on the other hand. 2000). Sympathy for the Devil “A wretched martyr of all centuries.
172 OCTOBER (charade) in the term. Certainly he pushes mimetic adaptation to a parodic extreme: here man has indeed become a mad hatter. Exhibited in the “Dada—Early Spring” show. which means “pubic hair. Ursula Dustmann suggests “maggoty shame” in Max Ernst in Köln. Max Ernst Collages: The Invention of the Surrealist Universe.” with Made. perhaps with a hint of “maggoty shame” as well. Phallustrade (now lost) was made up mostly of doll parts. he is now a mere appendage to his own creations. but a further combination is possible as well—of Scham. “Phallustrade” is another provocative neologism: a contraction of “phallus” and “balustrade. constructed out of standard parts and commodity images. Beyond Painting (New York: Wittenborn and Schultz. 1948). a Medusa’s head with limp snakes. a mass ornament of one. apparently along the lines of the four unsteady stacks of semianimate hats in the famous collage The Hat Makes the Man (1920). and that “the phrase Schammade schlagen . of wormy penises and rotten vaginas. 1991). trans. 11.” it is later used by Ernst to model his conception of collage as “the unexpected meeting of two or more heterogeneous elements. 16. . of phallic imposters? Consider The Hat Makes the Man: the “men” here are both mechanical (they resemble four pistons) and commodiﬁed (they are nothing but hats). the only true readymade. which means both “shame” and “genitals” (a telltale association that must have interested Freud). which means “maggot. . Max Ernst. The Hat Makes the Man Ernst stages phallic crises in many of his Dadaist collages and assemblages. 10. Werner Spies.”11 Might this be how he remembers his Dadaist works—as a parade of penile stick ﬁgures. Abrams. with a new sort of nervous system. most of which are made of discarded things (old printer plates and catalog pages in the collages. 79. With titles like Hypertrophic Trophy and Phallustrade. or Schamhaar.” 9 This melancholic surrender suits the pose of masochistic passivity. Werner Spies tell us that Schammade is a bucolic melody. wooden odds and ends in the assemblages). Wulf Herzogenrath (Cologne: Rheinland Verlag. p. means to sound the drum or trumpet signal for retreat. A quasischizophrenic inscription on the collage reads: “seed-covered stacked-up man seedless water-former well-ﬁtting nervous system also tightly-ﬁtted nerves” (in German) and “the hat makes the man. ed. these rickety ﬁgures mock any pretense of phallic autonomy. Such a phallic “scam” or “sham” is a common ploy in Dada. p. John William Gabriel (New York: Harry N. Perhaps Ernst pictures the crazy evolution of a new kind of man. a reading perhaps closer to Ball than to Ernst—though here they are close enough. let alone any fantasy of modernist autogenesis.” 10 This reading of the neologism renders a nasty image of maggoty pubes. 1980). p. 118. . 9. style is the tailor” (in French). and Die Schammade names it for Ernst. a mere effect of the automatisms of production and consumption.
The Hat Makes the Man.Top. The Punching Ball or The Immortality of Buonarroti. . 1920. New York/ADAGP. 1920. © 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS). Paris. Max Ernst. Left: Ernst.
displacement. 322). Theodor W.” Ball sees Nietzsche. and the Avant-Garde (London: Verso. which Benjamin extends to Charlie Chaplin and Mickey Mouse. “The great isolated minds of the last epoch have a tendency to persecution. trans. In Philosophy of Modern Music (1948) Adorno writes of Stravinsky: “Musical infantilism belongs to a movement which designed schizophrenic models everywhere as a mimetic defense against the insanity of war. 55. trans. .174 OCTOBER Negative Expressionism The Dadaist Shaman or Scham-man is not without forerunners. Benjamin. who had the “physiognomy of a mime” and an “empathy with inorganic things.: Harvard University Press.” Benjamin writes of the Russian Eccentrics. For a rich account of this genealogy. 1917). and maniacal.” he writes on November 3. . they give it the material for assessing their condition. p. Stravinsky was attacked as a Dadaist. . Consequent discovery of deep expressive capacity: the man remains seated as the chair on which he sits is pulled out from under him. . mankind makes . p. he protested against it in the experience of its archetypes. 1980). Harry Zohn (London: New Left Books. Connection to Picabia. 1915. dandyistic. For Ball Dada is “a synthesis of the romantic. in the double sense of acknowledging this being and fortifying it with armor against the reiﬁed world” (The Arcades Project. for Benjamin it is Baudelaire. trans. . 168. 132. p. a troupe of avant-garde actors who liked to mimic circus performers: “Clown and natural peoples—sublation of inner impulses and of the body center. 2002). trans. Anne G. Philosophy of Modern Music. Theodor W. Adorno. epilepsy. Blomster (New York: Seabury Press. Critical Theory. Gesammelte Schriften 6. around 1918. rejected. Adorno.” to remain seated after the chair is pulled out. Expression of true feeling: of despair. 15.16 Such is the ultimate 12. 13.”13 Both Benjamin and Adorno read this “dandyistic and demonic” genealogy through the optic of Dada. all for the sake of their work. 1973). Hollywood Flatlands: Animation.”15 Mussel-man For Benjamin the ultimate purpose of mimetic adaptation is “to survive civilization. see Esther Leslie. thanks to Michael Jennings for the translation of this fragment. 14. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1999]. .”14 And in a scattered note on “Negative Expressionism. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin [Cambridge. “Baudelaire neither railed against nor portrayed reiﬁcation. 1972–91). p. Mass. the subject of his dissertation. 21. Benjamin: “The unique importance of Baudelaire resides in his being the ﬁrst and the most unﬂinching to have taken the measure of the self-estranged human being. They turn to the public as if it should interest itself in their sickness. 16. Aesthetic Theory. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag. as the great precedent of this mimetic performance. In a 1931 fragment on Mickey Mouse.” he writes in Aesthetic Theory (1970).”12 Theodor Adorno turns this particular intuition into a general thesis: “Art is modern art through mimesis of the hardened and alienated. Benjamin writes: “In these films. Mitchell and Wesley V. 1997). Dislocation of shame. “They are obsessed. and paralysis. p. and demonic theories of the nineteenth century” (May 23. Walter Benjamin. ed.
” the Dadaist is a man without a man. p. . 1917). They could not have foreseen that such dehumanization would be realized in the concentration camps. pp. 94. After Ball designates the Dadaist “as the organ of the outlandish. In If This Is a Man (1958) Primo Levi reports that “the old ones” at Auschwitz used the term Muselmann “to describe the weak.” in Early Writings. of nonmen who march and labor in silence. 20. the opposite of the Super-Man. on whose face and in whose eyes not a trace of a thought is to be seen. Bottomore [New York: McGraw-Hill. see Leslie. . I associate the strategy of mimetic adaptation (or better: mimetic exacerbation) with this challenge of Marx: “petriﬁed social conditions must be made to dance by singing them their own song” (Karl Marx. Hollywood Flatlands. it is this very hopelessness that gives the bashed ego its critical edge. In The Truce (1963) Levi does not leave this ﬁgure anonymous. has reached a degree of infantilism and godlessness that cannot be expressed in words” (February 10. given present circumstances.: Yale University Press. ” Levi continues: “They crowd my memory with their faceless presences. T. he is an Un-Man. 1999]. 81). with atrophied legs. continually renewed and always identical. and ﬁnally it is why Ball and Ernst practice the buffoonery of “the bashed ego. pp. Sadly. 96. the spectator begins to laugh at himself about his fear” (March 2. but that is little relief: “Hurbinek was a nobody. no one knew anything of him. p. 18. He was paralyzed from the waist down. p. Not even “a man without qualities. perhaps by one of the women who had interpreted with those syllables one of the inarticulate sounds that the baby let out now and again. nationalist madness. Conn. Hurbinek. paradoxically. reﬂected in our nerves. 19. ﬂashed terribly alive.21 In many preparations to survive civilization” (Selected Writings: Volume II. had been given to him by us.” See If This is a Man and The Truce. 1987). Muselmann means Muslim. Stuart Wool (London: Abacus. trans. Michael Eldred [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. and it only compounds the hopelessness. he could not speak and he had no name. 1964]. 1916). [Cambridge.: Harvard University Press. ed. . repressive government. It is also akin to “the kynical irony” that Peter Sloterdijk ascribes to Dada in Critique of Cynical Reason (trans. T. it is sickening. trans. 407. 441. lost in his triangular and wasted face. J. 545). emblem for poetic mania. 21. Yet this catharsis is not purging.”18 For many critics this is the political limitation of Dada: it advances a critique that ﬂaunts its own futility. I would choose this image which is familiar to me: an emaciated man. a child of death. Michael Jennings et al. This catharsis is less Aristotelian than Barthesian: “What liberates metaphor. symbol. Richard Howard [New York: Hill and Wang.20 The Dadaists virtualized this ﬁgure of dehumanization as a form of defense—against world war. the bashed ego resist s in the “form of unresist ing accommodation.” he adds: “But since it turns out to be harmless.Dada Mime 175 goal of the Dada mime as well. but his eyes.” Levi calls them “the drowned”: “an anonymous mass. and if I could enclose all the evil of our time in one image. Critique of Cynical Reason. with head dropped and shoulders curved. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. He uses similar lines in “Karl Kraus” (1931) and “Experience and Poverty” (1933). 1999). that curious name. 1987]). He looked about three years old. the divine spark dead within them. Sloterdijk. translation modiﬁed). p. 17. 1977]. the inept.”17 More desperate than the cynical reason of Duchamp and Picabia.19 “The farce of these times. brutal industrialization. Mass. ed. Introduction. 1927–1934. B. however. Clark comments on this passage vis-à-vis modernism in Farewell to an Idea (New Haven. what manifests its power of subversion. a child of Auschwitz. as thin as sticks. 391–409). p. a defense that knows the damage is already done. is the preposterous” (Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. . those doomed to selection. 47. 80–90. its unaccommodated negativity. I borrow the term “bashed ego” from him (see pp. Benjamin was also fascinated by this ﬁgure.
p. / Other look-alikes share with her the anti-sea. wave. the need of speech charged his stare with explosive urgency: it was a stare both savage and human. In Pense-Bête “La Moule” is paired with “La Méduse” (the Jellyﬁsh): “She’s perfect / No mold / Nothing but body / Pomegranate [grenade] set in sand.”22 full of demand. of the will to break loose. / Kiss of lips unspoiled. a version reﬁtted to consumer society. assertion.. 22. Perhaps an artist like Andy Warhol suggests what a postwar version of this ﬁgure might be. even mature. Always a bride. In the early 1960s. Broodthaers worked to make reiﬁcation at once literal and allegorical. about the same time that Warhol produced his “Death in America” images. The speech he lacked. See October 42 (Fall 1987). 26–29. and to mime a preemptive embrace that might also be a reflexive defense. / She’s cast herself in her very own. so heavy was it with force and anguish” (Ibid. pp. in dazzling terms. / Crystal of scorn. Broodthaers was a student of reiﬁcation also in the sense that he was a student of Lucien Goldmann. / Bride. but perhaps not entirely so. wavering. a judgment. which none of us could support.176 OCTOBER ways the camps render the ﬁgure of the Dadaist mime null and void. gob of spit. which no one had bothered to teach him. Marcel Broodthaers wrote his Pense-Bête poems. 197). who was in turn a student of Georg Lukàcs. the title of which alone points to an afﬁnity with the Dadaist mime. His “La Moule” (the Mussel) reads: “This clever thing has avoided society’s mold. / She’s perfect. to shatter the tomb of his dumbness. of great price at last.” .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.