Hugo Ball

German author, poet and one of the leading Dada artists

Hugo Ball (22 February 1886 – 14 September 1927) was a German author, poet and one of the leading Dada artists; he founded in Zürich the 'Cabaret Voltaire'. He wrote also the 1916 Dada Manifesto. Circa 1917-18 he left Dada; in the Summer of 1920 he returned to the Catholic religion.

Undated photo of Hugo Ball by anonymous photographer - original source: De Stijl, Vol. 8, nr. 85/86 (1928), p. 98; publisher Theo van Doesburg

Quotes of Hugo Ball edit

chronologically arranged, after the date of Hugo Ball's quotes
Hugo Ball, 1916: acting in the Dada show in 'Cabaret Voltaire', in Zurich
Hugo Ball, May 1916: frontcover of his first publication of the Dada 'Cabaret Voltaire', in Zürich
Hugo Ball, 1916
Hugo Ball, c, 1919: text of his Dada-poem 'Karawane', in the Dada Almanac, Berlin: Erich Reiss Verlag, 1920, p. 53
Hugo Ball, 1919: front-cover of his publication 'Zur Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz. Bern
Hugo Ball and Hans Arp in Pompeii, photo 1927
Tomb of Hugo Ball and Emmy Ball-Hennings, graveyard San Abbondio (Gentilino, municipality Collina d'Oro, Lugano, Kanton Tessin, Switzerland, photo by Ansgar Walk, 2007

before 1916 edit

  • The war [World War 1.] is founded on a glaring mistake, men have been confused with machines.
  • It is a mistake to believe in my presence.. .If I take a seat at a party, I can see, even from afar, that only a ghost is sitting there.
    • Quote from his text 'Flucht aus der Zeit', September 1915, p. 44; as quoted by Debbie Lewer in 'Papers of Surrealism Issue 6 Autumn 2007', p. 10
    • It was in 1915, shortly before Hugo Ball left Berlin for Zurich

1916 edit

  • Our cabaret 'Cabaret Voltaire' is a gesture.. .Every word that is spoken and sung here says at least this one thing: that this humiliating age has not succeeded in winning our respect.
    • Ball's diary entry, 1916; as quoted in Looking at Dada, eds. Sarah Ganz Blythe & Edward D. Powers - The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN: 087070-705-1; p. 3
  • We were all there when Janco arrived with his masks, and everyone immediately put one on. Then something strange happened. Not only did the mask immediately call for a costume; it also demanded a quite definite, passionate gesture, bordering on madness. Although we could not have imagined it five minutes earlier we were walking around with most bizarre movements, festooned and draped with impossible objects, each one of us trying to outdo the other in inventiveness.. .What fascinated us all about the masks is that they represent not human characters and passions, but.. ..passions that are larger than life. The horror of our time [World War 1., a. o.], the paralyzing background of events, is made visible.
    • Ball's diary entry, 24 May 1916; as quoted in Looking at Dada, eds. Sarah Ganz Blythe & Edward D. Powers - The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN: 087070-705-1; p. 4
  • I have invented [c. 1915-1916] a new series of verses, verses without words, or sound poems, in which the balancing of the vowels is gauged and distributed according to the value of the initial line.. .With these sound poems we should renounce language, devastated and made impossible by journalism. We should withdraw into the innermost alchemy of the word, and even surrender the word, thus conserving for poetry its most sacred domain. We should refuse to make poems second-hand; we should stop taking over words (not to mention sentences) which we did not invent entirely anew for our own use. We should no longer be content to achieve poetic effects which, in the final analysis, are but echoes of inspiration..
  • In these phonetic poems we the Dadaist artists totally renounce the language that journalism has abused and corrupted. We must return to the innermost alchemy of the word, we must even give up the word too, to keep for poetry its last and holiest refuge.
    • as cited by Steve McCaffery, in The Darkness of the Present: Poetics, Anachronism, and the Anomaly; publ. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012, p. 16
  • We have now driven the plasticity of the word to the point where it can barely be surpassed.. .We have loaded the word with strengths and energies that have allowed us rediscover the evangelical concept of the 'word' (logos) as a magical complex image.
    • Quote of Hugo Ball, in Flucht aus der Zeit / Flight out of Time, 18 June 1916; as quoted by Debbie Lewer in 'Papers of Surrealism Issue 6 Autumn 2007', p. 6 2008[1]
  • I have examined myself carefully. I could never bid chaos welcome, blow up bridges, and do away with ideas. I am not an anarchist.
    • Ball's dairy on Dada, in Flucht aus der Zeit / Flight out of Time, 'Introduction'; University of California Press (1996)

Dada Manifesto (1916) edit

Quotes from: Dada Manifesto 1916, Hugo Balls - which he read at the first public by Dada soirée, Zurich, July 14, 1916 in Cabaret Voltaire
  • Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means 'hobby horse'. In German it means 'good-bye', 'Get off my back', 'Be seeing you sometime'. In Romanian: 'Yes, indeed, you are right, that's it. But of course, yes, definitely, right'. And so forth.
  • An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement. Very easy to understand. Quite terribly simple. To make of it an artistic tendency must mean that one is anticipating complications. Dada psychology, dada Germany cum indigestion and fog paroxysm, dada literature, dada bourgeoisie, and yourselves, honoured poets.. .Dada world war without end, dada revolution without beginning, dada, you friends and also—poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists. Dada Tzara, dada Huelsenbeck, dada m'dada, dada m'dada dada mhm, dada dera dada, dada Hue, dada Tza.
  • How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanised, enervated? By saying dada..
  • I shall be reading poems that are meant to dispense with conventional language, no less, and to have done with it. Dada Johann Fuchsgang Goethe. Dada Stendhal. Dada Dalai Lama, Buddha, Bible, and Nietzsche. Dada m'dada. Dada mhm dada da. It's a question of connections, and of loosening them up a bit to start with. I don't want words that other people have invented..
  • It will serve to show how articulated language comes into being. I let the vowels fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat meows . . . Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh. One shouldn't let too many words out. A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language.. .Dada is the heart of words.
  • Each thing has its word, but the word has become a thing by itself. Why shouldn't I find it? Why can't a tree be called Pluplusch, and Pluplubasch when it has been raining? The word, the word, the word outside your domain, your stuffiness, this laughable impotence, your stupendous smugness.. .The word, gentlemen, is a public concern of the first importance.

Gadji beri bimba (c. 1916) edit

Quotes from: Gadji beri bimba (c. 1916), Hugo Ball; as quoted from 'Gadji Beri Bimba', in Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, ed. John Elderfield, trans. Ann Raimes; Viking Press, New York 1974, p. 70
  • gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
    gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
    gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
    gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
    o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
    gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
    bluku terullala blaulala loooo
  • zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
    elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
    velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
    gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
    viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo
  • tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim
    gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
    gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
    gaga di bling blong
    gaga blung
    • In 1916 at the 'Cabaret Voltaire', Ball presented six poems, which he described as 'Verse ohne Worte' (Poems without words) or 'Lautgedichte'(Sound poems); 'Gadji beri bimba' was one of them.

after 1916 edit

  • I am beginning to understand why renunciation has become sovereign in Germany, why an agony paralyses the spirits; why the few heads still living fall prey, partly to a fruitless aestheticism, partly to a fatal belief in evolution. Whether we will or not, we succumb to an overpowering system of profanation that is difficult to escape because there is barely any possibility of spiritual and material existence outside of it.
    • Quote of Ball, 28 April 1918, in Flucht aus der Zeit, p. 219, note 42; as quoted by Debbie Lewer in 'Papers of Surrealism Issue 6 Autumn 2007', p. 12
  • All these poets are ascetics, monks and priests. They despise the flesh and all ballast. This world holds no enchantment for them.. .Poetry for them is the ultimate expression of the essence of things and thus is hymn and worship. Their poetry is one of divine names, of mysterious seals, and of spiritual extracts.
    • Quote of Ball, 21 July 1920, in Flucht aus der Zeit, p. 266; as quoted by Debbie Lewer in 'Papers of Surrealism Issue 6 Autumn 2007', p. 15, note 15
    • while reading a book of mystic writers, Ball noted this remark
  • That is the meaning of the coming of Christ.. ..that the word becomes flesh and man is saved from abstraction.
    • Quote of Ball in his Byzantinisches Christentum (Byzantine Christianity), 1923, p. 107; as quoted by Debbie Lewer in 'Papers of Surrealism Issue 6 Autumn 2007', p. 6, note 16
  • It is true that for us art is not an end in itself, we have lost too many of our illusions for that. Art is for us an occasion for social criticism, and for real understanding of the age we live in.. .Dada was not a school of artists, but an alarm signal against declining values, routine and speculations, a desperate appeal, on behalf of all forms of art, for a creative basis on which to build a new and universal consciousness of art.

Quotes about Hugo Ball edit

  • For Ball, Dada represented the culmination of his revolt against external authority, and at the same time a means of breaking through the surface appearance to the realms of the spirit beyond. But Dada turned against him and threatened to destroy him.

External links edit

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, Ball recites his poem 'Karawane', 1916 (at 2:32)