A German author, poet and one of the leading DADA artists. Born in Pirmasens in 1886, Ball attended university in Munich and Heidelberg. In 1910, he moved to Berlin, where he worked for several theatre companies. After World War I began, he moved to Zürich, in neutral Switzerland, where he founded the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. It was at the Cabaret Voltaire that he began performing nonsense sound poems like Karawane, which Ball performed in the costume seen above. These sound poems were intended as attacks on “the rationalized language of modernity that for him represented all that had led to the agony and death throes of this age”. [NGA-DADA] Ball created the DADA Manifesto, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies in the past claiming to possess the ultimate Truth. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem Karawane, which is a poem consisting of nonsensical words. The meaning however resides in its meaninglessness, reflecting the chief principle behind Dadaism. Some of his other best known works include the poem collection seven schizophrene Sonette, the drama Die Nase des Michelangelo, a memoir of the Zürich period Flight Out of Time: A DADA Diary, and a biography of Hermann Hesse, entitled Hermann Hesse. In 1917, Ball helped Tristan Tzara organize Galerie DADA, an exhibition space dedicated to the DADA art. After a dispute with Tzara about the direction of the movement, Ball left Zürich and the DADA movement behind in 1917. He died in 1927. As co-founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, he led the DADA movement in Zürich, and is one of the people credited with naming the movement DADA, by allegedly choosing the word at random from a dictionary.

DADA and 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-by”, “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, honored poets, who are always writing with words but never writing the word itself, who are always writing around the actual point. 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 dere 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 smack of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanized, enervated? By saying DADA. DADA is the world soul, DADA is the pawnshop. DADA is the world’s best lily-milk soap. DADA Mr. Rubiner, DADA Mr. Korrodi. DADA Mr. Anastasius Lilienstein.

In plain language: the hospitality of the Swiss is something to be profoundly appreciated. And in questions of aesthetics the key is quality.

I shall be reading poems that are meant to dispense with conventional language, no less, and to have done with it. DADA Johann Fuschgang 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. All the words are other people’s inventions. I want my own stuff, my own rhythm, and vowels and consonants too, matching the rhythm and all my own. If this pulsation in seven yards long, I want words for it that are seven yards long. Mr. Schulz’s words are only two and a half centimeters long.

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 miaows … 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, as if put there by stockbrokers’ hands, hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins. 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, outside all the parrotry of your self-evident limitedness. The word, gentlement, is a public concern of the first importance.

[DADA Manifesto by Hugo Ball 14th July 1916]

Wolken 1916

elomen elomen lefitalominal


baumbala bunga

acycam glastula feirofim flinsi

elominuscula pluplubasch


endremin saxassa flumen flobollala

feilobasch falljada follidi



gragluda gligloda glodasch

gluglamen gloglada gleroda glandridi

elomen elomen lefitalominai


baumbala bunga

acycam glastala feirofim blisti

elominuscula pluplusch


Totenklage 1916





tabla tokta tokta takabla

taka tak

Babula m’balam

tak tru - ü

wo - um

biba bimbel

o kla o auw

kla o auwa

la - auma

o kla o ü

la o auma

klinga - o - e- auwa

ome o-auwa

klinga inga M ao - Auwa

omba dij omuff pomo - auwa

tru - ü

tro-u-ü o-a-o-ü


gomum guma zangaga gago blagaga

szagaglugi m ba-o-auma

szaga szago

szaga la m’blama

bschigi bschigo

bschigi bschigi

bschiggo bschiggo

goggo goggo


a- o - auma

Karawane 1917

jolifanto bambla ô falli bambla

grossiga m’pfa habla horem

égiga goramen

higo bloiko russula huju

hollaka hollala

anlogo bung

blago bung

blago bung

bosso fataka

ü üü ü

schampa wulla wussa ólobo

hej tatta gôrem

eschige zunbada

wulubu ssubudu uluw ssubudu

tumba ba- umf


ba - umf