|Born||22 February 1886|
|Died||14 September 1927 (aged 41)|
Hugo Ball (German: [bal]; 22 February 1886 - 14 September 1927) was a German author, poet, and essentially the founder of the Dada movement in European art in Zürich in 1916. Among other accomplishments, he was a pioneer in the development of sound poetry.
Hugo Ball was born in Pirmasens, Germany, and was raised in a middle-class Catholic family. He studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg (1906-1907). In 1910, he moved to Berlin in order to become an actor and collaborated with Max Reinhardt. At the beginning of World War I, he tried joining the army as a volunteer, but was denied enlistment for medical reasons. After witnessing the invasion of Belgium, he was disillusioned, saying: "The war is founded on a glaring mistake -- men have been confused with machines." Considered a traitor in his country, he crossed the frontier with the cabaret performer and poet Emmy Hennings, whom he would marry in 1920, and settled in Zürich, Switzerland. There, Ball continued his interest in anarchism and in Mikhail Bakunin in particular; he also worked on a book of translations of works by Bakunin, which never got published. Although interested in anarchist philosophy, he nonetheless rejected it for its militant aspects, and viewed it as only a means to his personal goal of socio-political enlightenment.
In 1916, Hugo Ball created the Dada Manifesto, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies of the past that claimed to possess the ultimate truth. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem "Karawane," 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 7 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. Sein Leben und sein Werk (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. His companion and future wife, Emmy Hennings, was also a member of Dada.
His involvement with the Dada movement lasted approximately two years. He then worked for a short period as a journalist for Die Freie Zeitung in Bern. After returning to Catholicism in July 1920, Ball retired to the canton of Ticino, where he lived a religious and relatively poor life with Emmy Hennings. He contributed to the journal Hochland during this time. He also began the process of revising his diaries from 1910 to 1921, which were later published under the title Die Flucht aus der Zeit (Flight Out of Time). These diaries provide a wealth of information concerning the people and events of the Zürich Dada movement. He died in Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland, of stomach cancer on 14 September 1927.
His poem "Gadji beri bimba" was later adapted to the song "I Zimbra" on the 1979 Talking Heads album Fear of Music; he received a writing credit for the song on the track listing. A voice-cut-up collage of his poem "Karawane" by German artist Kommissar Hjuler, member of Boris Lurie's NO!art movement, was released on an LP on the Greek Shamanic Trance label in 2010. "Karawane" was also set to music in 2012 by Australian composer Stephen Whittington, as an "anti-song cycle" of seventeen songs -- one for each line of the poem, lasting approximately two minutes each. The same poem and its historical context was used by Esa-Pekka Salonen for his 28-minute composition for mixed choir and orchestra, Karawane.
Bibliography in English