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Between battlefield and fairground
Author: Elza Adamowicz

Dada bodies focuses critical attention on Dada’s limit-forms of the human image from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, in its different centres (Zurich, Berlin, Cologne, Hanover, Paris and New York) and diverse media (art, literature, performance, photography and film). Iconoclastic or grotesque, a montage of disparate elements or reduced to a fragment, machine-part or blob, Dada’s bodily images are confronted here as fictional constructs rather than mimetic integrated unities. They act as both a reflection of, and a reflection on, the disjunctive, dehumanised society of wartime and post-war Europe, whilst also proposing a blueprint of a future, possible body. Through detailed analysis of works by Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Hannah Höch, Marcel Duchamp and others, informed by recent theoretical and critical perspectives, the work offers a reassessment of the movement, arguing that Dada occupies an ambivalent space, between the battlefield (in the satirical exposure of the lies of an ideology that sought to clothe the corpse of wartime Europe) and the fairground (in the playful manipulation of the body and its joyful renewal through laughter, dream and dance).

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Spare parts
Elza Adamowicz

1 Introduction: spare parts Un pied un oeil le tout mélangé aux objets. Fernand Léger 1 Limit-bodies: an elusive corpus An assemblage of prosthetic limbs (figure 1.1); a spark plug with the words ‘FOREVER’ stamped on it (figure 1.2); a hybrid of African statue and European woman; a readymade object, tube or piston, eggbeater or hat; a blot, blob or blur. The Dadaists rejected mimetic representations of the human form: the body in Dada is displaced, deformed or dissolved, a mutating organic limb or an elusive limit-form of the human anatomy. In their paintings

in Dada bodies
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Elza Adamowicz

The radical critique of corporeal representations is embodied in limit-forms of the human figure in Dada. The chapter examines the displacements, objectification or disembodiment of the human figure. This is exemplified in Man Ray’s film Le Retour à la raison (1923), where the human figure is montaged with moving objects and abstract forms. The body as indexical trace is explored in the recurrent image of the handprint. This is followed by a discussion of the performative function of Duchamp’s readymades, which call for the viewer’s bodily response in a tactile engagement. In Max Ernst’s lithographs Fiat modes pereat ars (1919) the theatrical spaces are occupied by surrogate human figures (a tailor’s dummy, featureless automatons, geometrical forms) which seem to merge with the geometrical spaces in which they are placed. Finally, on the path to a final vanishing point, the body as abstraction is considered, as found in a number of Dada portraits by Picabia and others.

in Dada bodies
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Exquisite corpses
Elza Adamowicz

11 Conclusion: exquisite corpses Ecce homo novus, here is the new man. Richard Huelsenbeck (1969: 31) Exquisite corpse The crude limit-form of the body that is the corpse has appeared in this study as the violated body of the young girl in Schwitters’s Merzbau (see chapter 5), or in Otto Dix’s series Der Krieg (1924), in particular in images such as Gas Tote (Gas Victims) or Tote bei der Stellung bein Tahure (Dead Men near Position at Tahure; see figure 5.8). The corpse is also central in Grosz’s satirical drawing Die Gesundbeter (The Faith Healers, 1918

in Dada bodies
Elza Adamowicz

his concept of ‘schöpferische Indifferenz’ or creative indifference (1918). This is understood in the sense of in-difference or non-differentiation, the creative encounter between polarities such as art and life, self and other, whereby the notion of a distinct(ive) or fixed self is replaced by the idea of a contradictory or conflictual self. It is within this conceptual framework that the Dadaists, in their self-portraits, attacked conventional thinking and played with limit-forms of physical and psychological identity. For Tzara, for example, writing in the sole

in Dada bodies
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Corpse or chrysalis
Elza Adamowicz

–18 war had spawned not only a malaise regarding the integrity of the body, as enacted in Ernst’s photomontages, but also growing doubts regarding the role of language itself as the expression of so-called rational man. Alienation from the body is paralleled by an estrangement from rational language and an exploration of limit-forms of expression, as found in the language of the insane, the child or the poet. Just as traditional pictorial syntax is disturbed by the juxtaposition of disparate elements, or anatomical figuration disrupted by fragmentation, so too the

in Dada bodies
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The impossible machine
Elza Adamowicz

site of contradiction. In this they incorporate both the trauma of the alienated body and the attempted displacement of that trauma through the ludic or erotic. Contrary to the now-defunct image of the homogeneous and standardised body, or to the body actively enhanced by the tool or weapon of Futurist figurations, the Dada body remains a bricolage, repeatedly bringing to the fore the visibility of the process of assemblage that produced it. As such, it stands as the limit-form of bodily depictions, where the disfigurements of the human figure, like the eroticisation

in Dada bodies