Winner Take Nada: A Review of Understanding Dada by H. Michael Sanders. Cincinnati, Ohio: Elena Press, 2016. $13

The following book review of Understanding Dada is a MetaDada exclusive by first-time contributor Shyanna Bodenstein. We look forward to more critical reviews from her razor sharp pen (or actually flat, slightly concave black keys) – Editor

By Shyanna Bodenstein

A long-standing, semi-serious scholar of dada proposed to explain this subject in a book, and then had the audacity to do so. One would think that one who has lived by, created by, taught by, and agitated language and image by dada would know better. Fortunately for us, he did not.

Understanding Dada by H. Michael Sanders offers the 21st century reader, who is daily inundated by data about one’s supposed humanity that must be consumed, processed, and acted upon, an alternative: pure dada that one is obliged to forget. In fact, half a hardy laugh and you’ve already spent more interpretive effort than the subject demands.

Professor Sanders has struck all the epistemological chords of the dubious nature of dada (sometimes referred to as Dada): theory, philosophy, principles, system, strategy, tactics, mechanics, method, history, politics, economics, law, rhetoric, culture, aesthetics, fashion, theology, scripture, morality, and belief. One would think that such an extensive list implies a massive tome on the level of War and Peace x 10. But no! This is not your daddy’s dada! This is not your go-tell-it-on-the-mountain dada! This is not a mountain of dada! It is more like the spaces between the moments of our thoughts, words, lives, and difficult accessories.

Furtherless, Professor Sanders has offered a full page to each topic. Furtherless, the book is amply illustrated by illustrations that take up 8/10 of each page. This meant, for Professor Sanders, that the writing went very quickly. This means, for the reader, that we get to peruse a series of black-and-white pictures and – yuk-yuk-yuk – the joke’s on us! Because dada is anything but black-and-white, and entirely both as well as all.

The book is also timely amid the current rage of adult coloring books, though this one is less tedious than those of the picassorama therapy genre. Many of the illustrations have no blank space for coloring, and ones that do offer generous space between the lines; see, for example, the Theory section. You don’t have to color at all if you prefer the film noir aesthetic applied to deep think.

There are, of course, some words to read – an introduction and a closing poem – but in a stroke of near genius Professor Sanders discovered: why use words, those poor, blind, hairless creatures dependent upon humans for meaning and humanity, when you can use an image legally stolen from the annals of . . . . of . . . . well, let’s not get too personal. Professor Sanders assures us that all of his images reside in the digital free zone of copyrightlessness, as opposed to copyrighteousness, so that we may retain our intellectual virginity as we take in this fascinating filibuster of the meeting of the minds.

One thing this reader noticed, however, is that most of the illustrations involving humans were those of the male persuasion. Where are all the dada chicks? They are out there, and I encourage all of them to leave the circus, enter the portal nearest their last threshold, and set up shop. Advertise your mama’s dada. After reading Professor Sander’s book, we’ll understand. Absenceness is next to godliness.



MetaDada Broadside No. 7: Dada Culture

DBS-07-DadaCulture-Final copy

“People who joins us keep their freedom. We don’t accept any theories.”- Tristan Tzara, “The Second Dada Manifesto” (1918)

The modern use of the word “culture” is purportedly derived from the writings of the famous Roman orator, Cicero, who in about 45 BC wrote Tusculanae Disputationes [Tusculan Disputations]. In this dimly illuminating manuscript [see illustration] he uses an agricultural metaphor, cultura animi, to refer to the cultivation of a “soul” or what we might term a philosophical outlook. That’s what MetaDada is all about, a world-view that places all things into soulful perspective under the throbbing, sore thumb of Dada. Dada Culture is ready to flex its smooth, bulging muscles to root out idiocy and lay it lovingly in the sun to dry, right after it gets all hot and sweaty at the gym.


“We are looking for a straightforward pure sober unique force we are looking for NOTHING we affirm the VITALITY of every instant the the anti-philosophy of spontaneous acrobatics…”  – Tristan Tzara, “Unpretentious Proclamation” (1919)

Responding to Dada Poetry

A Poetry Feature for MetaDada

The following collection of student poetry emerged from the course, Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry, taught by Professor Rhonda Pettit at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College. The students were introduced to the origins of dadaism, and were provided with an inspirational prompt in the form of Hugo Ball’s sound poem, “Karawane” as recited by Marie Osmond on the mid-eighties TV program, Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The poetic responses are spontaneous and unedited. – Editor


Real or Not Real
By Alyssa Ferreri

I don’t how it started,
I’m not sure when it happened.

My consciousness is muddled.

My dreams feel like life,
My life feels like a dream.

Hazy and clouded.
My thoughts are broken and incontinuous.

My body is not my own,
I do not recognize my reflection.

My voice belongs to someone else,
It doesn’t sound like me.

I don’t remember when this started,
And I’m not sure how to go back.



The Story of the Tiger Master
By Bryant Pil

Tigris ri se na ca to bert
Ug se uma tu bai see nai ruu
Flisk chung chong chang bur suie
Tigris, ug flisk quan zine ze cha nob
Ug fig sig nich gon kull
Tigris se sag on kull uugh neh shu.

Tigris ni sen puri nours se cha nook
Flisk igris runt ti nag commn ca ser.
Temperla nei no umbra or ursa chame
Tigris gon kull umbra nove ursa
Ursa pleau ruf ser Tigris no nore kull.

Tigris par que ti ni chu se sa ming.
Tigris kone ser chai leon nor essarers
Leon rolay par tear Tigris

Essarers nest que sa seur que non blem
Tigris kone ure ser say aster et vati nu.
Leon sa cer aster pone tui kola ser ni ca
Bour ran essarers aster que new von tans que sont.


superstitious world hangs over me
By Emily Mannira

Black cat black cat
love me, feel me, be free
Black cat black cat
6 + 6 = 12 + 1 = 13
13 x 2 = 26
That number follows me
ever since the day I was born
Black cat black cat
love me, feel me, be free


By Marie Hopkins

the stomach falls pitless
it couldn’t comprehend
what happens to goblins that don’t make sense
they fall off their trolls
and tickle their toes
and the words that you stumble creeps around
round the hose
shit bumble bee
I don’t know what you be
what you see
around the whole garden
flying after me
pits in my stomach
spits after you
everything I’ve said I mean to consume
brackish bees down my neck
hornets sting tone and flesh
and empties and parties and terrible turns
round the garden
with zits on my stumpen
ground on so fluven
crumpled and fallen, little bees jack the oven
honey in me, honey you see, honey it tastes so naturally
sugar is lumpy ee ee e he
confound all the variables
split open a tree
that falls in the woods
when no one’s around
she jumps in the leaves
she makes all the sound
terrible twos turn into fours into doors you walk through
spun in the stifle that huckers down my knees
crumbles and turns
I never liked stew
I always ate breakfast
for dinner it sooms it crues it dues it knows
what to assume and what to leave lingering
to burn in the simmer
and all the eyes knowing, at least I think they know me,
but all they assume is all that they see
my handwriting lingers and busies its neck
and folds into corners that fall over deck
we were leaning too far
too long in the winter
spring rain came burning to knock over retreat
run little falter, run next to me
I’ve always felt empty, but now I feel free
quick as a rabbit darts underground,
quick as the coffin I pick out of sound
it’s mine, it’s yours, this was all meant to be
and now I can’t understand what I’m trying to be


By Andrew Wood

Elope antifreeze
Set out with the true ones
Those punks and hippies
Who take care of their own and you
If you let them
Bring sides to fancy not together
But of each other
Semblance of entrance or entrancement
I found play dough on the wall and dreamed along winding root of discretion
I’m not sure who was at the pizza window
I was rude but not rude for a minute
My clock need be 10 minutes too fast
So I feel late and worry
I must worry
I must worry to move to forwardly seeking, anxious, impending
And I said no to it
The thought must do it
I must make noise louder and louder and louder and louder and louder
I will wear leather
Then sweater
Then long flowing tie die
I will wear pleather
And a long dress
And comic book sideways
Sidelong and headed, pushing them further
I will get louder sun scream smelling like ball point pen ink

So sophist sadists
Those that must conquer
Must win forever
must undo others
So she who wheoo
Setoo the sell off of out take camp
My companion get static startled
Lazy with reverb and honest occasion
Rip up your ledger
Spill oil out out out


Purple Platypus
By Matt Zupancic

Purple, a king’s color, royalty, Crown Royal, Canada, maple, sweet,

sugar cane, tropical, paradise, no worries, lazy day, Sunday, Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2,

concerts, summer time, sunshine, camping, outdoors, forests, mountains, west, California

dreaming, The Mamas and the Papas, 1960’s, revolution, youth, innocence, dreams, reality,

perception, Doors of Perception, philosophy, Plato, Pluto, planets, solar system, sun, light,

dark, night, city life, no sleep, energy, coffee, morning, fresh start, new, amateur, experience,

mastered, teachings, knowledge, knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss, happiness, euphoria,

dopamine and serotonin, chemicals, chemistry, biology, life, animals, mammals, platypus.


My Brother and I
By Katie Brooker

We look at each other
Snagler wayshamled tofaba
Fortuga beyshlamanate iletudo
Mgmletufe cosada fe lefa
Hehe coos outward from our lips

Tosha sumartotos lexituda
Mgmletufe cosada fe lefa
Another giggle escapes

No one will know
Shasamasa waytora bala conaskay
Snagler wayshamled toga faba
Mubu falata dula
Whispered to one another

Amatada foralara fefocale
Nalo belata cocoam
Just the two of us in the world

Keeping each other safe under the covers
Latusa shalatuda fasleta ahsha
Cuslatu shafu malate krla
Krlashe latusa amatada
We hear the thud thud of footsteps

Ahhh! Sheaforta!
Nhama Nhama shh
Fear riddled whispers between us

Just the two of us against the world
Hack tou faltusha awlashatu
Amentutada shashata huhufaha
With our secret language

Hash sh ha shshha Matula
Sheaforta Matula Hahash shshhash
Mom and dad will never know

Profile 5: MARCEL JANCO (1895-1984), Founding Member of the Zurich Dada Group

Portrait-JancoMarcel-1918 copy

Among us were neither blasé people nor cynics, actor nor anarchists who took the Dada scandal seriously. – Marcel Janco, 1957

Hand-Engraved-RJanco, looking out at Zurich from his vantage point on Central Square 65 years after the birth of the movement, called out: ‘Dada is not just alive, Dada is thriving!’

Marcel Janco was born in Bucharest in 1895, and is regarded as one of Romania’s key avant-garde artists. In 1915, he studied architecture in Switzerland, and eventually joined Hugo Ball and Jean Arp to co-found Zurich’s Dada movement between 1916 and 1919. He directed stage and costume design at the Café Voltaire, creating and painting masks in the African style, which evoked unique choreography at Dada events.

Indeed, Janco’s masks were basic to Dada, creating what he termed was ‘our faith in a direct art, a magical, organic, and creative art, like that of primitives and of children.’  Hugo Ball wrote in his diaries, “What fascinates us about these masks is that they represent, not humanity, but characters and emotions that are larger than life.  The paralysing horror which is the backcloth of our age is visible.”

Janco’s art style broached the figurative and the abstract; expressionism and cubism. His paintings conjured the dynamics of dance – breaking the surface and overlapping – as in physical movement. As such, his forms were simultaneously visible as 2- and 3-dimensional, emulating dancers on a stage.

The artist also was associated with the Paris Dada branch, where he participated in an international exhibition of abstract art. Janco was a co-founder of the avant-garde Romanian journal Contimporanul, with which he remained associated in the 1920’s, while contributing to a variety of other progressive art publications.

Upon returning from Paris to his native Bucharest in 1921, Janco generated the development of the avant-garde, and, from 1926, worked as an architect of modern buildings there. When Fascism invaded 1940 Romania, Janco emigrated with his family to Israel, where he founded and developed a thriving artist’s colony at En Hod.

Inspired by his international success, resident artists sought Janco’s counsel in their quest for universal recognition of Israeli art. They were rewarded in 1983 by his participation in the establishment of the Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod, the city in which Janco died one year later. The Museum remains an an active center for both documenting Jano’s legacy and exhibition opportunities for contemporary Israeli artists. – MEKHand-Engraved-L


Portrait-JancoMarcel copy

The Fist of Fibonacci

An Interactive Poem Project for MetaDada

by Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders

Image01-Fist of Fibonacci


“Golden Numbers with Line by Jack Spicer” is a poem based on the well-known Fibonacci sequence of numbers, in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. This pattern of numbers occurs repeatedly in nature, with the stabilization of the ratio between numbers reaching .618 to 1. Many have believed that this ratio, known as the Golden Section, represents a way of arranging parts to each other and to the whole of a piece in an aesthetically pleasing way. Modern artists, musicians, architects, and poets have applied this ratio to their work.

Image02-Fibonacci Diagram

In our poem, we applied the sequence to the number of lines in each stanza. Rhonda Pettit started with a borrowed line by poet Jack Spicer (“Imaginary Elegies I”; the remaining lines to be original). H. Michael Sanders followed with another single line (1 + 0 = 1) stanza; Rhonda responded with a 2-line stanza (1 + 1 = 2), etc. The writing is largely improvisational, drawing on the spontaneous aesthetic they used in their collaborative work for the Gaps & Overlaps exhibition at the UC Blue Ash College Art Gallery (

Image03-Fibonacci Numbers on Paper

How long will they be able to keep it up before the poem metastasizes into stanzas consisting of hundreds and thousands of lines? How long before the Fist of Fibonacci pounds these hapless poets into mute, slowly settling layers of dust?


Golden Numbers with Line by Jack Spicer
by Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders
srednaS leahciM .H & titteP adnohR

First published in the MetaDada Blog []
as a serialized feature titled The Fist of Fibonacci

Fist of Fibonacci – Installment 1 Published on February 25, 2016

Stanza 1 (1 line)
Poetry almost blind like a camera

Stanza 2 (1 line)
An image resolves in the gap between impulses

Stanza 3 (2 lines)
Rises to tone untangled from chord and rends
all dissonance, consonance, chemistries of stance

Stanza 4 (3 lines)
Buzzing like hot insect breath in the ear canal,
calcifying jellied membranes into photo emulsion
through which visions arise and faintly flicker

Stanza 5 (5 lines)
to sweep and to swap such mechanical indignities
as numbers always dictate, lodging here and there
like tics between follicles, for the space
filled with meaning i-chinging possibilities
with exposed surfaces and supposed persons (O, Emily!)

Stanza 6 (8 lines)
I can hear the phone ringing but can’t find it…
where is that damn thing and who keeps calling me?
then the phone stops ringing and it’s so very quiet,
so quiet that I begin to hear my heart beating and
the rhythm of my blood surging through my arteries…
where is that damn phone and why is it so quiet,
why doesn’t it ring, why isn’t anyone calling me?
why do I keep asking these questions of myself?


Fist of Fibonacci – Installment 2 Published on March 04, 2016

Stanza 7 (13 lines)
Because poetry almost deaf like a phone keeps calling
all the unlucky numbers, keeps dialing with its thumbs
the image transmissions of words and music we need
in these our times trying hard to be and knot. Be. Cause
poetry almost hard and shiny as a plastic case (or a case
of plausibilities) reflects what it sees through its thorn-
colored glasses and ouch! what we wouldn’t give for
vision so sharp, for a series of sharp visions, for serious,
Sirius-less visions. Because poetry almost free as the ag-
gregate that used to be your driveway and far more
sharp and colorful when it’s lodged inside your shoe
is on the ball and better than a cell phone a bell tower a bell
curve. A blister not a diamond is a supposed poem reaching

Stanza 8 (21 lines)
Peering intently into the thick and blistering darkness,
thumbs resolutely thrust into raw, bulging eyes while
familiar voices ring hollow – as empty and wooden as a
napping ventriloquist’s dummy face down on the stage –
teeth chattering in odd rhythms that can only be followed
with fugitive and transitory attention without any thought
or meaningful intervention into the thinning, ephemeral
mist condensing into rivulets of sweat stinging the eyes…
fuzzy edges embedded in glib, transient interpretations
trapped in the slow, inevitable process of disappearing
into languorous foetuses emerging directly from the hot
entrails of the poet, issued singing the diabolical songs of
charlatans with tongues of flame flapping like loose sails…
thoughts, ideas and words transformed into cheap tourist
souvenirs and dropping like fat sausages into a cosmic
conflagration swirling into the fine royal jelly of bees…
transfixed by breathing and formulating urgent plans for
childhood while wearing the deep, red scars left as tracks
by the ticking clocks of history… still ticking… ticking…
with minutes before the alarm goes off to betray the faith
in silence [                                                                        ]


Fist of Fibonacci – Installment 3 Published on March 11, 2016

 Stanza 9 (34 lines)
. But by now we all know what it all adds up to: the Fugitive Poem bursting out
of and blurting out from the white space, the silence, the old cold
blanks shot by the corporate snow that carpets our membrains.
Less than a birth and more than a muse, a genie, a goddess,
the gods or the godless, and ranging from mountain-sucking
electric clouds of digital digitless ink pots to hand-held inklings
on their slow-to-go scratching on the backs of pages, with secret
sages leaning over their shoulders, shushing the pouters,
the doubters, the internal editors, and stomping the little rats running
their wheels of spin screaming faster faster more more faster faster
better better this sucks that way that sucks this way faster more, and Splat!
goes the rat for a moment or two, those secret sages like Big Foot
or somebody’s Lassie saving the day. And out scats the loco fermenti,
the voco con jello, the verso contrivo, the here it is, Gumby, and the rest
of us can read it, ride it, jump from it, or swim in it, all it takes
is our two eyes and a few minutes of our lives. The time it takes
to imagine singing an aria with a blistered tongue. Let’s leave it there.
Whoever follows can play it like pick-up sticks. Less than a birth
because whatever it says and is by saying, it suckled on sweat and worry
and suffering and joy and confusion and foolishness and vast red balloons
of egomaniacal dry dreams before the teat of the pencil or keypad
stroked it into wordstock, and more than a birth for the same shenanigans.
And more than divinities of whatever shape and size and sex since
those same shenanigans invented same! Give credit where credit is due –
Splat! – because when all is said and done – Splat! – all we can do
is follow the integrity of the Fugitive Poem, whether dressed as a plain-
clothes cop, or dolled-up ducky like contestants at a Michael Jackson look-
alike contest, whether empty as a girdle on the line or lined up like girders
on a beach-sucking high-rise condominium in beautiful downtown
Florida. In either case the Fugitive Poem knows what it’s like to be
behind bars (& in a few) and wants to tell us how to not be what it was
before it came down to words, knowing it’s impossible, knowing
the laugh’s on us, knowing if we knew we wouldn’t write it in the first
place – Splat! – and hearing the distant smack of a closing book or laptop.

Stanza 10 (55 lines)
A pinched, grimacing face covered in sublime inscriptions,
shouting aloud a quite brittle series of mysterious cries in a
strained and high-pitched voice shaped like an hourglass…
Fine white sand flowing through a purposeful constriction
to become its own measure of time and space and volume…
White space and silence cover the inherent noise of living
with a thin veneer of hot divinity and itching, liquid dreams
that spew into consciousness on the backs of burning words…
Burning words that curl into the ash of the Fugitive Poem as
it transforms from impulse to object of spiritual imagination…
An object impregnated with animal intensity staring into the
void while wearing the thin cloak of art, which is the only
concealment possible from the icy emptiness of uncertainty…
Only the thinnest of vestments may be procured to shield us
from the brutal and relentless emptiness of utter certainty…
A twitching voice emerges amid the brittle cries brandishing
much less imagination than that of a worm wriggling on a
rain-soaked sidewalk of fitful sleep winding through theory…
The worm begins to speak in a polyglot of symbols through
a transparent grin adhering to its toothless protuberance…
After a fine speech the worm tires of its efforts and changes
its mind, committing henceforth to only utter the most clear
and definitive statements about the ideas of mushrooms…
A young boy on a bicycle swerves down the sidewalk in the
rain, leaving the worm with a noble attitude of rotting meat…
The language of light spills through clouds of unknowing to
illuminate inconceivable immensity seen only by a wall of
spider eyes confounded by the vague, shimmering vision…
Exhaling a blue-grey vapor the spiders read the book of
clouds in a chorus of voices that ascend the Tower of Babel…
Babbling cacophony and tumultuous clamor reverberate in
throbbing patterns of simple awareness throughout a dimly
lit collective dream that collects in shallow pools of hope…
Only spirit, dream and sex can result in an authentic sense
of collectivity amid the hurdy-gurdy dialectic of pure reason…
Spontaneous collisions and arbitrary associations are blurred
by distinctions, a consumptive form of labor, that convey the
burdens and pleasures of choosing one thing over another…
Neither nature nor its witness is static, but are only known in
their constant state of perpetual flux and wide circular forms…
Palpitations emanate from the darkness of promising speech
glimmering like daemonic magic lanterns that twist and turn
into beautiful neckties from which we hang ourselves to dry…
Pushing hard pencils through the surface of the paper as the
palpitating text is inscribed to become poetry and philosophy…
A naked hand smears the lines into dry undulating rituals of
sound as they are spoken by a dancing tongue and drumming
lips sculpting the body’s hot breath in hard, chiseled verses…
In this way we sanction lunacy in small bright fragments that
we revere as content to memorize and soberly meditate upon…
Transfigured by experience and gracious recollections of it
through the fragrant splendor of memory we hurtle without
weight through space and time with a multiplying voice…
A voice that fractures and multiplies like an echo; that bears
contradiction, repetition and multiplicity in radiant patterns…


Fist of Fibonacci – Installment 4: Published on April 15, 2016

Stanza 11 (89 lines)
. . . and then: Text marks the spot. The Fugitive Poem becomes
the very thing it tries to break away from, the enlightened
worm of the sidewalks cut in two, a copy of itself.
And the Fugitive Poet becomes outraged at the outrage
committed against the worm, whose time-honored job
was to bring us all down to earth. Can you imagine?
Be. Cause. Breath is a verse. A universe. A multi-verse.
And reverse. Cola-coca! is the Fugitive Poet’s curse.
But isn’t the Fugitive Poet only as ornery
as the beekeepers of time allow her to be?
For they know almost as well as the bees themselves
the manifest Honor in ornery (remember the Fugitive
Poet named Honoré?), that it takes more than color
and buzz to get the honey, that at some level
far and away below the midnight of hives it sometimes
takes a little sting to get the honey, though the bees
will never admit this, and the beekeepers try
to forget this, though netting and gloves have something
to say about that! Meanwhile the Fugitive Poet
has stings from within that make her
buzz the silences into submission for just
long enough to set the rhythm free,
and bingo-bango! there goes the little poem
dancing its crusty feet to a sonorous
orneriness while the Scholars of the Glorious
Assumption drool with – aw, shucks! They’ve stopped
reading by now anyway! And thank goodness for that
because the Fugitive Poet long ago rattled
that rusted red caboose in her brain
and made it her semi-concrete mission in life
to stay out of little boxes on the hillside,
even the fib of a box she has made for herself
and Dr. Daretaker that is adding up to this:
In contemplation of the intimidation of the inundation
it would take to write 8ty-9ine lines – that’s practically
a barn of a stanza, livestock, hay bales, field mice,
tics, and pitch forks included – the Fugitive Poet breaks
least she’s not writing one syllable per line
and including the pauses and spaces between words
and letters, at least she breaks the making the broken
rule just made and gets back to the business – Splat!
of fugitating (meanwhile the Scholars of the Glorious
Assumption are shaking their beards and tightening
their bra straps and leaning in to confer, and there
hasn’t been this much conferring since Walt Whitman
conferred with the creatures along Elkhorn Creek)
which brings us back to bees and stings and honey
and the state of the Fugitive Poem. Because by now
we are noticing the missing planks, the space between
ribs, a skeletal barn with a holy roof that leans a little
to the left, and wants to be loved for its use and beauty,
and loves better the white horse grazing beside it
like a floater in the eye of the Fugitive Poet. Blink
and follow it and forget where you are and now
you know what it is to be a Fugitive Poet.
Which brings us back to ornery. And the possibility
that if the Fugitive Poet were to pony up and pontificate,
to issue a rebus of regeneration amid vultures on the barn,
economies of steam, and stationary fronts of progress,
she might say                                                  eventually
something like this: Practice random acts of pruning!
Sprawl your scratchings hither and yon!
Be a wall poet! A boxcar poet – minus the box of course!
Carve your love epistles into the bark of the page!
Stop and stomp with the interstate daffodils! Because really.
If all of us hadn’t come along and transformed
the wilderness into an I-Hop, there would be plenty
of stings and honey and bears to be the poets. Or poems.
But sshhhh! It’s mid-March and the redbuds are whispering.


To be continued with next MetaDada update…


Profile 4: HANS RICHTER (1888-1976), Founding Member of the Zurich Dada Group


The realization that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness, belong together as necessary parts of a whole – this was the central message of Dada. – Hans Richter

Hand-Engraved-RJohannes Siegfried Richter was born in 1888 in Berlin. While he wished to be a painter, his father convinced him to pursue architecture instead of painting, and he entered a one-year carpentry apprenticeship. From 1908 to 1911, Richter did follow his own calling and studied at the Art Academies in Berlin, Weimar and Paris. Two years later, he joined groups of expressionists from Berlin’s Sturm Gallery, Dresden’s Brücke, and Munich’s Blaue Reiter and, in 1914, joined Die Aktion, led by a group of expressionist artists and writers sharing socialist and antiwar sentiments. Mainly using its literary and political membership as subjects, Richter produced black and white drawn, woodcut, and linocut portraits for the Die Aktion Journal. Such visual abstractions borne of political thought informed much of his life’s work.

In 1916, Richter was wounded shortly after entering the war, and was discharged from active duty. Seeking medical treatment in Zurich with his new wife, Richter visited friends at the Café de la terrasse on a date proposed two years previously. New friends were made: Dadaists Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, and his brother, Georges.

Richter participated in Dada events from 1917 to 1919 and first showed his paintings at the Galerie Corray. His “visionary portraits” – abstractions of his Dada friends, including woodcut “Dada heads” – were done in “trancelike states” beyond the visible world toward “a universal image.”

In 1918, Tristan Tzara introduced Richter to Viking Eggeling, a Swedish painter whose “systematic theory of abstract art” led the two collaborators to co-author “Universelle Sprache” (Universal Language), which posited “abstract art to language based on polar relationships of elementary forms derived from the laws of human perception.” This novel communication would be devoid of associations realted to the horrors of World War I.

Eggleling and Richter later produced abstract films, which were also novel in form and content. Universal Language also served as the basis of other films such as, Rhythmus 21 and Rhythmus 23, which introduced temporal elements into their abstractions. These inflections are also evident in Richter’s 1927 film, Vormittagsspuk (“Ghosts before Breakfast”), with its potent Dadaesque parodies of life.

Richter collaborated with Werner Graeff and Elizar (‘EL’) Lissitsky on the abstract film-focused magazine G (“Gestaltung” – “Structure”), funded by architect Mies van der Rohe, and to which Dadaists Tzara, Haussmann, Ray, Gross, Schwitters and Arp, among others, contributed. However, Richter’s membership with the Association of Revolutionary Artists forced him to flee from Germany, whereupon he landed in the US in 1941, and taught in New York’s Film Institute of City College. Richter retired in 1962 and returned to Locarno, Switzerland, where he died in 1976.

Other important Dada-inflected films by Richter include Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947), 8×8: A Chess Sonata (1957) and Dadascope (1961). He is notable as the author of an important book on Dada by one of the movement’s core founders, Dada: Art and Anti-Art (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965. Reprint edition, London: Thames and Hudson, 1997). – MEKHand-Engraved-L



MetaDada Broadsides by David Hartz

Hand-Engraved-RWe are pleased to present two new MetaDada broadsides by contributor David Hartz: “Dada-Pain” and “Dada For Money.” Our thanks to David for these tickets to Dada-dom. We will take this opportunity to invite other friends of the journal and readers of the MetaDada blog to contribute material for possible inclusion in future weekly updates.Hand-Engraved-L

David Hartz, “Dada-Pain,” digitally-manipulated found advertisement (2016)

Click to download a PDF of David Hartz’ broadside, “Dada For Money.”


MetaDada Broadside No. 6: Why Are We Dada?

How can one expect to put order into the chaos that constitutes that infinite and shapeless variation: man?
– Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto 1918” (1918)

DBS-Why Are We Dada-Final2

Hand-Engraved-RWhy are we Dada? The very question itself is an oxymoron. Hence we are compelled to ask. The answer to this tenuous question is physically embedded in the web of neurons firing perceptions and impressions at the active screen of our mind; a screen that can’t help but intertwine sensory input with memory and fantasy and dream. We force these wiggling shapes into a flexible mold of reason; a matrix of liquid intent. Imposing our rational mental structures on the world is our illness with some undiscovered bacterial origin or viral mutation. We randomly swivel our heads and ask, “Why?” Rarely, if ever, do we fully recognize what we are doing. We dance the dance of reason, we shovel the muck of progress, we roll rocks endlessly up steep hills of rhetoric. We ask, “why?”Hand-Engraved-L

Thought is made in the mouth.
– Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto on Feeble and Bitter Love” (1920)

H. Michael Sanders and William Boyle. Why?, single-channel video, 4:30 (2009)

I know you’re expecting some explanations about Dada. I’m not going to give you any. Explain to me why you exist. You’ve no idea… You’ll never know why you exist, but you’ll always allow yourselves to be easily persuaded to take life seriously.
– Tristan Tzara, “Lecture on Dada” (1922)

MetaDada Broadside No. 5: Dada Menace

As the weather begins to fluctuate from blustery winter to uncertain spring, the Dada virus can erupt unexpectedly. Beware and be cautious. Report all suspected Dada activity to protect yourself and your loved ones from certain infection.


Profile 3: SOPHIE TAEUBER-ARP (1889-1943), Founding Member of the Zurich Dada Group


It is not possible for us to take ourselves back to the exact circumstances of those in a past era, attempting to create art in the style of the past is always inauthentic. – Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Hand-Engraved-RE  Sophie Taeuber was born in Davos, Switzerland, and became one of the few Swiss members of Zurich Dada. In 1906, she studied drawing, design and decorative painting, and left for Munich in 1910. While there, she studied under Wilhelm von Debschitz in his textile workshop, and after spending a year in Hamburg’s School of Applied Arts, she returned to von Debschitz, until relocating to Zurich. She met Hans Arp in 1915, married him in 1922, and together they collaborated on “duo-collages,” based on her past abstract textile works. With Arp, she introduced “applied arts” to abstract arts in weaving his designs into her work.

In addition to her weaving, Taeuber was truly a multi-media artist, including modern dance, painting, tapestry, embroidery, drawing, interior design, furniture, architecture, and marionettes. Her sculptures were “parodies” of the human head, and merged art and utility as decorative hat-stands. Through her Dada years, she was a professor at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich, teaching textile design and techniques.

Because her school rejected Dada events, at the Café Voltaire, she used a pseudonym to pursue her dancing, and became quite proficient. Hugo Ball claimed that his recitations of his sound poems evoked “the strangest effect and movements” (by Sophie). Her dancing, in fact, informed the movements of the marionettes she created.

Taeuber designed the set and marionettes for Carlo Gozzi’s Il re cervo (König Hursch/King Stag), which provided a novel production for the 1913 Freud – Jung libido controversy.

Taeuber endeavored to free her art via pictorial approaches “at the service of pure feeling.”  She and Arp discontinued working in “pretentious” oil paints, and used simple cloth, paper and other materials to capture the purity of their art.

After leaving the School of Applied Arts, she and Arp moved near Paris into a house of her design. The building now houses the “Foundation Jean Arp.”

Taeuber-Arp died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in 1943. She has been honored by being the only woman represented on a Swiss bank note. – MEKHand-Engraved-L


The intrinsic decorative urge should not be eradicated. It is one of humankind’s deep-rooted, primordial urges. Primitive people decorated their implements and cult objects with a desire to beautify and enhance…it is a sense emanating from the urge for perfection and creative accomplishment. – Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 1927