September 30, 2023


How Art Works

Hugo Ball Prize Halted as It Reckons With Dadaist’s Antisemitism

2 min read
Hito Steyerl requested that the prize get replaced by a dialogue of antisemitism and racism. (picture courtesy Andrew Kreps Gallery)

Each three years since 1990, the small German metropolis of Pirmasens has awarded artists and writers the Hugo Ball Prize, named for town native who was a number one determine of the early Twentieth-century German Dada motion. In December, Pirmasens introduced artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl and author Olivia Wenzel because the 2023 recipients of the €10,000 (~$10,800) and €5,000 (~$5,400) awards, however as a substitute of delivering the prize, town will look at Ball’s antisemitic legacy.

Upon Steyerl’s request — and with the settlement of Wenzel, town, and the prize nomination committee — the 2023 award will likely be changed by an open dialogue about historic and present antisemitism and racism. The panel is scheduled for January 23, and speakers embody Ball students, antisemitism researchers, historians, and philosophers.

“I feel it may very well be a productive event to collectively query Germany’s antisemitic and racist cultural heritage extra intently,” Steyerl advised Hyperallergic. “And sadly, each nonetheless persist at present within the German cultural scene and past.” In July, Steyerl withdrew her work from the embroiled Documenta modern artwork quinquennial, citing the organizers’ dealing with of antisemitism allegations.

Dada co-founder Hugo Ball (courtesy Metropolis of Pirmasens)

Ball was a poet, theorist, and thinker who penned blatantly antisemitic passages in his writings. A notable instance exists in his 1919 essay “On the Critique of German Intelligentsia,” wherein Ball discusses a “German-Jewish plot to destroy morality.” For many years, the extent of the poet’s antisemitic views remained largely under-recognized.

The January 23 dialogue will even interrogate the racist legacy of Ball and Dadaism. All through its course, Dadaism repeatedly appropriated and sometimes belittled non-Western traditions, reinforcing European notions of non-White cultures as “primitive.”

In a January 6 assertion, Pirmasens Mayor Markus Zwick mentioned he was “very grateful” to Steyerl for utilizing her prize nomination to provoke a dialogue round antisemitism.

“Pirmasens and the Hugo Ball Prize take a transparent place in opposition to antisemitism, racism and different types of discrimination,” Zwick mentioned. Whereas the 2023 version of the prize has been canceled, town plans to award the grant in future years.

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