Daytrip to the Dada-Decade in Weimar: A Celebration of the Absurd

On  7th May a group of students from the Virginia Woolf and the Banned Books seminars went on a daytrip to Weimar to witness and participate in the Dada-Decade to get a feeling for surrealist art under the tutelage of Susan Brähler.

       Dada is all well on paper, but if you get the chance, you should experience it. With the recent Dada-Decade event in Weimar, "Konzertierte Aktion", such an experience was possible. As we arrived, Weimar seemed innocently unaware of what was about to happen on its market square. One pub, the Galerie Markt 21, was the stronghold of the Dadaists, so to speak. A room was turned into an exhibition space which was only to be entered by one person at a time. The several layers of its meaning, however, only revealed themselves when an outside spectator was present: from a window to the staircase, one could watch the visitor to the exhibition room who thus became part of the exhibition him- or herself.

       We had a snack surrounded by some of the dada performers. At eight pm, the event started with a surreal choir conducted by Michael von Hintzenstern, one of the organizers, who mounted a podium in the middle of the square. Soon other groups of Dadaists arrived, carrying all sorts of instruments: we saw brass and woodwind instruments, a drumming quartet and many homemade “noise-fabricating bric-a-brac” acoustic instruments (including a wire mesh strainer with forks and spoons lolling about). Folks on bicycles ringing their bells and dragging empty cans on strings and a group of old middle-class ladies meandered around the square: they stuck out because of their Stepford-wife-zombie-like gait and manners, representing the very philistinism against which the music was directed. The musicians made an at parts very surreal, at other times rather melodic noise, playing more at than with each other. All the sounds were recorded by a sound engineer and refed to the crowd in increasingly complex loops. Von Hintzenstern, the conductor on the podium, successfully encouraged the growing crowd of spectators who finally filled the whole square to participate in a very rhythmic polyphonic chant. The performance was interrupted by a speech of said conductor and the reading of the Dada Manifesto by Richard Huelsenbeck, which was repeatedly and purposefully interrupted by the performers.

       The event ended at a rather undadaesque nine sharp, and soon the town was its own quiet self again – maybe the most surreal aspect of the whole thing. In how far the event was proper Dadaism or just a modern staging of a past cultural and historical movement is debatable, but it was undoubtedly a successful celebration of the absurd.

Ricarda Edelthalhammer & Jason Cooke