Dada was there before Derrida was there : the sound poetry of Hugo Ball

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jonathan W. Foster (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
John Clifford

Abstract: In 1916, a group of artists met in Zurich, Switzerland to escape the horrors of war and to create art. The leader of this group was Hugo Ball who renamed a small café the Cabaret Voltaire. The members of the cabaret presented art in many forms. The group that met, and regularly performed at the cabaret, were known under the name dada. Ball became the unofficial poet of the group. At the cabaret, Ball presented what he called “sound poems” or “verse ohn vorte” poems. These poems lacked traditional language where words were replaced with a new language of Ball’s creation. Ball did not rely on his native German to create his sound poems. Instead, he took small snippets of many languages and his own “sounds” to create a performance based language. To aid in the creation of meaning, Ball would perform in fantastical costumes while he was reading his poems. His body would move in violent convulsions and his voice would rise to ear splitting volumes. The power of Ball’s performance reinforced the scope of his project. Meaning would come from both his “new” sounds and small parts of other languages. In doing this he would touch on many tenants of deconstruction created by Jacques Derrida. Through Derrida’s work concerning, “aural metaphors,” “difference,” and “signsponge” it is possible to see Hugo Ball, and some of the other members of dada, as early deconstructionists.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Authors German--20th century, Ball Hugo 1886-1927, Ball Hugo 1886-1927--Criticism and interpretation, Dadaism--Switzerland--Zurich
Ball, Hugo, 1886-1927
Ball, Hugo, 1886-1927 -- Criticism and interpretation
Dadaism -- Switzerland -- Zurich
Authors, German -- 20th century

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