DADA Manifesto Berlin April 1918 (Huelsenbeck)
What did Expressionism want?
It " wanted" something, that much remains characteristic of it. Dada wants nothing, Dada grows. Expressionism wanted inwardness, it conceived of itself as a reaction against the times, while Dadaism is nothing but an expression of the times. Dada is one with the times, it is a child of the present epoch which one may curse, but cannot deny. Dada has taken the mechanisation, the sterility, the rigidity and the tempo of these times into its broad lap, and in the last analysis it is nothing else and in no way different from them. Expressionism is not spontaneous action. It is the gesture of tired people who wish to escape themselves and forget the present, the war and the misery. To this end they invented "humanity," and walked versifying and psalmodysing along streets on which the escalators rise and descend and the telephones ring shrilly. The Expressionists are tired people who have turned their backs on nature and do not dare look the cruelty of the epoch in the face. They have forgotten how to be daring. Dada is daring per se, Dada exposes itself to the risk of its own death. Dada puts itself at the heart of things. Expressionism wanted to forget itself, Dada wants to affirm itself. Expressionism was harmonious, mystic, angelic, Baaderish-Superdadaist — Dada is the scream of brakes and the bellowing of the brokers at the Chicago Stock Exchange. Vive Dada!
The execution and direction of art depends on the times in which it lives, and artists are creatures of their epoch. The highest art will be that whose mental content represents the thousandfold problems of the day, which has manifestly allowed itself to be torn apart by the explosions of last week, and which is forever trying to gather up its limbs after the impact of yesterday. The best and most unprecedented artists will be those who continuously snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the chaos of life's cataracts, clutching the intellectual zeitgeist and bleeding from hands and hearts.
Has Expressionism fulfilled our expectations of such an art, one which represents our most vital concerns?
No! No! No!
Have the Expressionists fulfilled our expectations of an art that brands the essence of life into our flesh?
No! No! No!
Under the pretext of inwardness the Expressionist writers and painters have closed ranks to form a generation which is already expectantly looking forward to an honourable appraisal in the histories of art and literature and is aspiring to honours and accolades. On the pretext of propagating the soul, their struggle with Naturalism has led them back to those abstract, pathetic gestures which are dependent on a cosy, motionless life void of all content. Their stages are cluttered with every manner of kings, poets and Faustian characters, and a theoretical, melioristic understanding of life — whose childish and psychologically naïve style will have to wait for Expressionism's critical afterword — lurking at the backs of their idle minds. Hatred of the press, hatred of advertising, hatred of sensationalism, these indicate people who find their armchairs more important than the din of the streets, and who make it a point of pride to be conned by every petty racketeer. Their sentimental opposition to the times, no better nor worse, no more reactionary nor revolutionary than any other, that feeble resistance with half an eye on prayer and incense when not making papier maché cannon balls from Attic iambics — these are the characteristics of a younger generation which has never known how to be young. Expressionism, which was discovered abroad and has quite typically become a portly idyll in Germany with the expectation of a good pension, has nothing more to do with the aspirations of active people. The signatories of this manifesto have banded together under the battle cry of
to put forward a new art which they hope will realize new ideals. But what is DADAISM?
The word Dada symbolises the most primitive relation to surrounding reality, a relation with which Dadaism in turn establishes a new reality. Life appears as a simultaneous confusion of noises, colours and spiritual rhythms, and is thus incorporated — with all the sensational screams and feverish excitements of its audacious everyday psyche and the entirety of its brutal reality — unwaveringly into Dadaist art. This is the clearly marked dividing line which separates Dada from all previous artistic directions, most particularly from FUTURISM, which recently some imbeciles took to be a new version of impressionist realization. For the first time Dadaism has made a break with the aesthetic approach to life by rending all the slogans of ethics, culture and inwardness, which are mere cloaks for weak muscles, into their component parts. The
depicts a tram as it is, the essence of the tram complete with pensioner Jones's yawns and the squeal of brakes.
demonstrates the sense of throwing everything into a jumble; Mr Jones sits reading while the Balkan Express crosses the bridge at Nish and a pig whimpers in the cellar of Bloggs the butcher.
transforms words into individuals; from the three letter words appear the woods with treetops, foresters' liveries and wild sows, perhaps even a guest house, perhaps Bellevue or Bella Vista. Dada leads to incredible new possibilities and forms of expression in all of the arts. It turned Cubism into a dance on the stage, it has disseminated the BRUITIST music of the Futurists (whose purely Italian concerns it has no desire to generalize) across all of Europe. The word Dada itself points to the internationalism of the movement, which is not tied to borders, religions or professions. Dada is the international expression of our times, the great malcontent among artistic movements, the artistic reflection of all these offensives, peace conferences, tussles in the vegetable markets, dîners at the Esplanade etc. etc. Dada demands the use of
new materials in painting.
Dada is a CLUB, founded here in Berlin, which one may join without any obligation. Here everyone is chairman and anyone can have his say on artistic matters. Dada is not a pretext for the ambitions of a handful of literati (as our enemies would have you believe). Dada is a state of mind which can reveal itself in each and every conversation, so that one is compelled to say: this man is a DADAIST, but that man is not. For this reason the Club Dada has members the world over, in Honolulu as well as in New Orleans and Meseritz. In some situations being a Dadaist might demand that one is more businessman or party politician than artist — just incidentally an artist — for being a Dadaist means allowing oneself to be hurled by things, means being opposed to all stagnation, and that sitting for a moment in a chair is to put one's life at risk (Mr. Wengs had already pulled the revolver from his trouser pocket). A piece of cloth rips between one's fingers, one says yes to a life wishing to elevate itself by negation. Affirmation — negation: the gigantic hocus-pocus of being fires the nerves of the true Dadaist — that's how he lies around, goes to the shoot, cycles — half Pantagruel, half St. Francis, laughing and laughing. In defiance of the aesthetic-ethical outlook! Against the anaemic abstraction of Expressionism! Against the world-reforming theories of literary blockheads! And for Dadaism in word and image, for the spreading of a Dadaist course of events throughout the world. If you are against this manifesto you are a Dadaist!
Tristan Tzara. Franz Jung.
Marcel Janco. Richard Huelsenbeck. Gerhard Preiß.
Raoul Hausmann. Walter Mehring.
0. Lüthy. Fréderic Glauser.
Pierre Albert Birot. Maria d'Arezzo. Gino Cantarelli.
Prampolini. R. van Rees. Madame van Rees.
Hans Arp. G. Thauber. Andrée Morosini. François