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It blames him for drawing Dada nearer to Expressionism, for limiting the movement to a purely abstract artistic phenomenon, and for commercialising it in the Galerie Dada. Against Tzara, it promotes a maximalist conception of Dada, which equates Dada with a Weltanschauung, with a collage of life in all its grotesque glory, "a mirror which one quickly passes by" Importantly, Huelsenbeck thus announced that the history of Dada would equal that of life.

The chronicle does not fail to accentuate Huelsenbeck's personal role in all this. A look at Huelsenbeck's correspondence with Tzara of the same period brings out just how ambiguous he was in his self-promotion. Before the publication of En avant dada, they addressed and saluted each other as friends, and even after the publication of En avant dada and its partial French translation, Huelsenbeck sought contact with Tzara, as the following letter exemplifies:.

You should not make more of them than a playfull pleasure to create a brawl. After all, I would be the last to contradict your significant role in Dadaism. You were undoubtedly the first person outside of Germany to make the world understand what "Dada" actually means and what "Dada" wants. Hence, I greet you wholeheartedly. Tzara's reply has not yet surfaced, but in a subsequent letter to Tzara, Huelsenbeck writes in crooked, near untranslatable French: 'Je te remercie beaucoup de ta lettre.

9. From Absurdity to Authenticity

Eli m'a fait de plaisir. Et ce n'est pas possible, que nous faisions quelquechose ensemble - quelquechose de grand ca va sans dire. Hein 17? Conspicuously, Huelsenbeck also inscribed his rigid differentiation between public and private life in his practice as a Dada chronicler. En avant dada, again, proves highly informative on this matter.


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In the volume, Huelsenbeck argues that Dada had little meaning in private life, and that it was not this part of existence Dada wished to reflect. Private concerns, after all, had been the subject of art all too long. Instead, what Dada aspired to mirror was public life, which is always in the making, fluid, indeterminate. Public life, according to Huelsenbeck, is also intrinsically amoral, in that it entails all moral and ethical angles simultaneously. A mirror of life, Dada was therefore to be equally amoral. It is constantly in the making. Even after Dada's eclipse in Berlin, Huelsenbeck contended, for instance, that Dada mirrored events it did not even witness.

In , he claimed that Dada still lived, "intimately connected with the events that are shaking the world today As long as there is life, there is Dada. Dada cannot be terminated nor fixed. Yet precisely the representation, the permanent registration of Dada's history was one of Huelsenbeck's favourite subjects. That this choice of subject was anything but innocent must be clear by now. What has perhaps not been highlighted enough so far, however, is that Huelsenbeck was extremely consistent with his assertion that Dada history is in essence always in the making, and, consequently, that, in historiography as well, Dada could change face overnight.

Huelsenbeck, it seems, occasionally suffered from not so mild forms of memory loss. He was not afflicted with dementia, though. His apparent forgetfulness was always articulated with an institutional enjeu. Already in , with the publication of his novella Azteken oder die Knallbude, Huelsenbeck warned scholars that he was not to be trusted when it came to remembering dates, places and faces.

It is unknown when precisely he wrote Azteken, but the back of its original title page explicitly mentions that "This novella was written in the Summer of Given the. Antedating typescripts was, of course, not entirely uncommon at the time. Many Expressionists did so as well. Armin Arnold: "By doing so the author apologised for the fact that his book fitted so badly in the new Zeitgeist In all likelihood, it was provoked by Huelsenbeck 's fear of being labelled an Expressionist.

The trouble with this label, from his perspective, was that his Dada fiercely rallied against Expressionism, in particular against the latter's voluntarist and ameliorist aspirations since they testified to a moralist stance. Yet Huelsenbeck, it seems, experienced difficulty in deciding which aesthetic features made his novella Dada, and what set it apart from Expressionism, other than its more deterministic worldview. Naturally, it is by no means my intention here to question the novella's historical value, nor do I claim that it is impossible to distinguish Dada writings from those of Expressionism.

The antedating of Azteken thereby also prefigures his re-definition of Dada against Tzara as an essentially anti-aesthetic movement. Huelsenbeck's problem with differentiating Dada literature from that of other avant-garde movements' writings would prevail well into the s. In , for instance, he still asserted that "Dada as an artistic direction in Ironically, this is best illustrated by two of the most marked cases of revisionism in the history of twentieth century literature.

This can be brought to light by a comparison of his "Erste Dadarede in Deutschland, gehalten von R. Huelsenbeck im Februar Saal der Neuen Sezession. Neumann ", which was published in his Dada- Almanach, to the same though remarkably shorter lecture, given a slightly altered title "Dadarede, gehalten in der Galerie Neumann, Berlin, Kurfursten- dam, am Februar " in his anthology Dada. The second version is followed by the curious acknowledgement "Typewriter manuscript. With the author's consent Astonishingly, the edition fails to mention any of the positive and constructive aspects of Dada's zeal that are adamantly underlined in the version of the text.

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Whereas in the version it holds that "Dada wants to be the forefront of the great international art movements," 27 fourty years later Huelsenbeck suddenly has it that "Dada was nothing, it wanted nothing Dada, for Huelsenbeck, was thus by no means anti-aesthetic from the start. Before , and thus before his definition of Dada as an anti-art, it appears he discerned in the movement a distinct though ill-defined artistic project. This highlights "Dada" is not a fixed concept in his writings, but a fluid signifier constantly adjusting itself to redefinition.

It is also noteworthy that after World War II he substituted Dada's constructive albeit now anti- aesthetic endeavour of mirroring public life in all its grotesque grandeur by a Dada that wanted nothing and propagated absolute nihilism. One explanation for this revision is that Huelsenbeck, after World War II, became a fervent existentialist. Personal and private concerns thereby came to the fore again in. Hence, Dada, as a mirror of life, readjusted itself to become the equivalent of private life as well. Despite the very unstable nature of Dada in Huelsenbeck's historical accounts, Huelsenbeck regularly makes his readers complicit in rewriting Dada history.

Many scholars still treat his Dada miscellany of 1 as authoritative, for example, since quite a few recent anthologies reproduce its two revised speeches It is not so difficult to see, then, where the popular conviction that Dada amounted to absolute negation in part stems from. Nor is it difficult to see why some scholars have it that "technically, Dada used any 'artistic' method to get its message across En avant dada deals with this in extenso by describing how all performers at the Cabaret Voltaire had fled the monstrosity of war in various countries.

In all likeliness, Huelsenbeck was silent about Dada's antimilita- rism, because otherwise he could have elicited a counterattack by Tzara from Paris. Huelsenbeck, in fact, did not flee the war; he frequently returned to Germany to further his study as a physician and in the course of even worked as a field doctor in the German army. Instead, he contributed to the popular conviction that Dada in Zurich was one of the most dramatic cultural outcomes of the Great War's devastation.

In sum, Huelsenbeck's chronicles were not concerned with what actually happened. Rather, they were meant to function like bullets, as texts affecting history and its readers. Literary history, for Huelsenbeck, was part of a public, carnivalesque boxing match. If a writer wished to partake in history, he was to re-enact in his work the ongoing battle in the streets, with a total disregard for moral or ethical concerns.

For Huelsenbeck, then, not the description of events, of Dada exploits, but the triggering of events, the production of Dada history, was the very objective of his chronicling practice. Ultimately, he thereby puts into question the nature of his "historiographie" texts, since we can only wonder how they proved this successful in shaping history. Auto-historiography : A Question of Genre?

In Critique of Cynical Reason , Peter Sloterdijk contends that "we must first gain experience with ironical-polemical ways of speaking in order to comprehend Richard Huelsenbeck [ Irony is of the essence in Huelsenbeck, according to Sloterdijk. En avant dada, indeed, foregrounds the importance of irony when it states: "Where have these gentlemen who are so eager to appear in the history of literature left their irony? Where is the eye that weeps and laughs at the gigantic rump and carnival of this world 33? His differentiation between the public and the private, his astute ability to regard people simultaneously as public fiends and private friends, for some scholars, suggests he was a shrewd opportunist whose actual contributions to Dada have been blatantly overestimated For others, his awareness of the fact that events can have different repercussions in the public and the private sphere makes him the prototype of counter-hegemonic figures ranging from Guy Debord to Johnny Rotten Whatever the significance of such value-laden debates might be, they prove that scholars are at least becoming aware of the irony in Huelsenbeck, and of the untrustworthy if not shady character of his accounts.

Nevertheless, it is surprising to observe that little effort has gone into a closer reading of his accounts, a reading geared at laying bare what characteristics in them made scholars in the past relatively blind to their irony Once we embark on a close reading of his "historiographies", the question of genre comes in. Ultimately, then, it may prove useful to look at his "historiography" as a genre, which could be labelled auto-historiography.

In what remains I would like to isolate of number of factors producing the genre's authoritative effect as well as some aspects which, on closer inspection, put this authority into question. Evidently, given the limited scope of this paper, I can only highlight some characteristics of his "historiographies".

First, and most obviously, most accounts of Dada by Huelensbeck's hand are first person narratives. There are mountains and lakes, houses, plumbing and tramways This way, his chronicles are articulated with disputes on poetics elsewhere. Fourth, Huelsenbeck nearly always reproduces other texts predating his accounts.

This anthologising technique is, naturally, most obvious in his Dada miscellanea. The manifesto thus forms a sub-genre in his auto-historiography. Dada siegt! One of them is signed by a certain Alexander Sesqui, even though, in the paragraph preced-. Hence, in many cases we find Huelsenbeck reproducing texts of his own hand, often signed by an alias.

In some cases, pseudonyms are not made explicit. His Dada Almanack , for instance, contains a short piece "Eine dadaistische Privatangelegenheit" by one Hans Baumann, which announces the death of Dada after, again, attacking Tzara. Although the text is accompanied by a note stating that the editor of the Dada Almanack does not share Baumann 's con- viction, 44 the text is written by Huelsenbeck. This highlights that the author, fifthly, also leaves room for self-created contradictions in his accounts. In contrast to the five foregoing characteristics, which provide his chronicles with a sense of veracity, Huelsenbeck also frequently includes more prosaic patches, however, closely resembling his literary works.

An illustration from En avant Dada should suffice:. But before you have it ready, the mailman brings you the first telegram, announcing that all your pigs have died of rabies, your dinner jacket has been thrown of the Eiffel Tower, your housekeeper has come down with the epizootic.

You give a startled look at the moon, which seems to you like a good investment, and the same postman brings you a telegram announcing that all your chickens have died of hoof and mouth disease, your father has fallen on a pitchfork and frozen to death, your mother has burst with sorrow on the occasion of her silver wedding maybe the frying pan stuck to her ears, how do I know?

That's life, my dear fellow. The days progress in the rhythm of your bowels and you, who have so often been in peril of choking on a fishbone, are still alive. You pull the covers up over your head and whistle the "Hohenfriedberger. Who knows? That is pure Dadaism, ladies and.

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The instrumental value of prosaic patches like this one is obvious. They give evidence of the frequent shifts in perspective in Huelsenbeck's accounts, which bring in the mostly male reader as a witness to Dada. The quoted passage's final sentence, moreover, accentuates the frequent direct address in his narratives. Free delivery. Arrives by Tuesday, Oct 8. Pickup not available.

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This book contributes new perspectives on Dada as movement, historical legacy, and field of study. Analysing Dada works through Existentialist literature across the themes of choice, alienation, responsibility, freedom and truth, the text posits that Dada and Existentialism both advocate the creation of a self that aims for authenticity through ambiguity. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer.

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