Destruction Was Our Beatrice: Dada and the Unmasking of the 20th Century

Sat Nov 5
San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)
Arts, Literary
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SFAI Lecture Sessions with Marius Hentea, Maria Makela, Adrian Notz, Jed Rasula, Juri Steiner, Adrian Sudhalter.

Opening Statement by Peter Maravelis, City Lights Booksellers

Preface by Andrei Codrescu

Introductions by Adrian Notz

Session One - 2:15 p.m. - Jed Rasula -Title: Poisonous Gifts: Episodes and Legends of Dada - Focusing on several famous episodes from the different environments in which Dada prospered (Zurich, Berlin, New York, Hannover, Paris), Jed Rasula will discuss the role played by faulty information, innuendo, and outright invention in the propagation of Dada's reputation. The title is meant to evoke the famous clothes iron on which Man Ray mounted a series of sharp tacks, which he named Cadeaux or Gift; and, following another linguistic trajectory, the German word Gift means "poison" in English.

Session Two - 2:45 p.m. - Marius Hentea - Title: The Three Vices of Tristan Tzara - Exploring the factors that drove Tzara's creative fire: Poetry, Money, and Sex !

Session Three - 3:20 p.m. - Maria Makela - Title: Dada's Women: Zurich, Berlin, Paris and New York - This talk will explore the role of women in the international Dada movement, both as makers and objects of representation by the male artists with whom they were frequently allied. Was their work essentially different in some way than that of their male counterparts? How did the dynamics of gender play out in the visual culture of this era of women's emancipation and often fraught and complicated male/female relationships?

Session Four - 4:00 p.m. - Jerome Rothenberg - Title: dada & the roots of ethnopoetics - In the emergence of an ethnopoetics, championed by Jerome Rothenberg & others in the 1960s & beyond, Dada loomed large as a predecessor movement & inspiration. With an emphasis on Dada poets like Ball & Tzara, as well as Surrealist successors like Breton & Artaud, Rothenberg will explore & perform what can only be described as a Dada ethnopoetics.

Session Five - 4:45 p.m. - Adrian Sudhalter - Title: Lighting the Censor’s Stove: Censorship, Border Controls, and Dada Encryption - Dada correspondence during and after the war years abounds with mention of the censors as well as with spurious claims to personal illness, which often functioned as coded reference to potential trouble with the authorities. Highlighting episodes such as the border seizure of Francis Picabia’s machine paintings by the French ministry of national defense and the issuing of a police file on Tristan Tzara as a possible spy based on the incomprehensible “coded” language of his journal Dada, this talk considers the degree to which the infrastructure for controlling European civilian populations around the First World War rendered defiant international communication among members of the avant-garde urgent, while necessitating circumventions and double-talk in their letters, which may also have also permeated the linguistic and visual form of their work.

Session Six - 5:30 p.m. - Title: Dada & the Unmasking of the 20th Century: A Roundtable Discussion - Jed Rasula, Marius Hentea, Adrian Notz, Adrian Sudhalter. Moderator Frederick Young. An exploration of the politics of Dada.

This event is part of the Dada World Fair. For more information, please visit


  1. San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)
    800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA