“Fumms bö wö tää zää Uu, pögiff, kwii Ee”
With this sentence, Kurt Schwitters marked the beginning of his sound poem: ‘Ursonate’. Putting it mildly, it was not exactly what the literary salons expected in 1922.
In 2016, DADAism turned 100. A good moment to let my little sister hear the Ursonate, so I thought. ‘This is art’ I said. She looked at me and started laughing, and to be honest; I could not refrain myself from giggling either. Can you?
Dadaism is against. Away with art historians, away with art history, away with art theory! Dadaism is just what it is. The movement is not attempting to be beautiful; it is trying to provoke. DADA is DADA. It is non-art, it is poetry, it is nothing. And if you like to read more, I would suggest this article on Arthistory About.
Seeing with our ears
But why does Kurt Schwitters poem sound so strange to our ears? The anthropologist Tim Ingold writes that we see with our ears. With the advent of literacy, people increasingly started to see words, instead of hearing them. Words are no longer important for their sounds, but for the concepts behind them.
As Kurt Schwitters’ poem relies on nothing but sounds, we can simply not see what is meant by its language. Our ears are not trained to trace the meaning of pure sound. That’s what makes the poem sound so strange. The Dadaists wanted to be unexplainable, they wanted to be nonsense. And I think we should stop trying to understand them.
What do you think: Should we try to understand DADA? Let me know in your comments!
If you would like to read more on Tim Ingold, I recommend his books ‘lines: a brief history’ and ‘the life of lines’.