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Raoul Hausmann, "The German PHILISTINE Is Annoyed" (1919)

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Oh my Herr Philistine, you say art is in danger? Don’t you know that art is a beautiful female form, without clothes; it counts on being taken to bed, or at least arousing someone. No, my Herr, art is not in danger—because art does not exist any more. It is dead.... Give up the sexromantic, my dear poets—we don’t feel like that any more; rather show your nice tattooed bellies, spit out words, splash geometry with colors and call it abstract art—we care as much for that as we care for your tightrope act around Expressionism. The absolute inability to say something, to grasp a thing, to play with it–this is Expressionism, a spiritual truss for herniated guts, leftovers bad from the start, which caused great ceremonial bellyaches. The bourgeois writer or painter could feel himself properly sanctified, finally he somehow grew beyond himself into an indeterminate, common world-fuddle—oh, Expressionism. You, the world apogee of romantic deception! But the farce only became unbearable at the hands of the activists who wanted to bring the spirit and the art they saw in Expressionism to the people. These imbeciles, who somehow read Tolstoy once and of course never understood him, now drip with an ethic one can only approach with a pitchfork. These dolts, unfit to pursue politics, have invented Activist/Eternist28 sauce in order to approach the proletarian too. But the proletarian is not so dense, excuse my expression, that he would fail to notice the absolute vacuity surrounding such raving. Art to him is something that comes from the bourgeoisie. And we are Antidadaists enough that if anyone of us wants to set up something beautiful, aesthetical, a safely fenced in little feeling of well-being such as abstract art for example—that we will knock his well-spread sandwich into the muck. To us the world makes no deep sense except that of a most unfathomable nonsense; we don’t want to hear about spirit or art. Science is silly—probably the sun still revolves around the earth today. We do not promote any ethic—which always remains ideal (swindle)—but we don’t consequently want to tolerate the bourgeois who hangs his moneybags over life’s possibilities.... We wish to sort out economy and sexuality in a reasonable manner, and we don’t give a hoot for culture which was not tangible. We wish it to come to an end, and thus an end to the philistine poet, the manufacture of the ideals which were nothing but his excrement. We want the world in motion and emotional, unrest instead of rest,—away with all chairs, away with the sentiments and noble gestures! And we are Antidadaist because for us the Dadaist is still too concerned with feelings and aesthetics. We have the right to any amusement, be it in words, forms, colors, noises; but all this is wonderful nonsense, which we consciously make and cherish,—an immense irony just like life itself: we finally recognize perfect mastery of nonsense as the only sense in the world!!


Source of English translation: Rose-Carol Washton Long, ed., German Expressionism, Documents from the End of the Wilhelmine Empire to the Rise of National Socialism. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1993, pp. 270-72.

Source of original German text: Raoul Hausmann, "Der deutsche SPIESSER ärgert sich," Der Dada, No. 1, December 1919, p. 1; reprinted in Bilanz der Feierlichkeit, Texte bis 1933, Volume 1, edited by Michael Erlhoff. Munich: Edition Text und Kritik, 1982, pp. 82-84.

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