Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde

By Dafydd Jones | Go to book overview

Assaulting the Order of Signs

Anna Katharina Schaffner

Abstract: “Even signs must burn”, Jean Baudrillard programmatically proclaimed in
1972. More than fifty years earlier, the Dadaists in Zürich and Berlin both poetically
effectuated and theoretically anticipated Baudrillard's call for the assault upon the
order of signs as a strategy of cultural intervention. The Dadaists shattered the order
of discourse, dissected language on different levels of linguistic organisation and
waged a cultural war at the level of signs by means of giving priority to the signifiers
at the cost of the signifieds. They withdrew the most fundamental prerequisite of
cultural consensus: the adherence to given linguistic laws. The points of convergence
of Baudrillard's notion of the radical implications of attacking the order of the
dominant code and the Dadaists' poetic practice, theoretical incentives and revo-
lutionary intentions, are striking indeed and entangled in a complex web of antici-
pation, practical realisation and theoretical radicalisation. But is the assault on the
order of signs doomed to remain a merely symbolic gesture of protest, or is there
more to it?


1. Dada and Baudrillard: points of convergence

“Even signs must burn”, Jean Baudrillard programmatically proclaimed in 1972 (1981: 163). More than fifty years earlier, the Dadaists in Zürich and Berlin both poetically effectuated and theoretically anticipated Baudrillard's call for the assault upon the order of signs as a strategy of cultural intervention. The Dadaists shattered the order of discourse, dissected language on different levels of linguistic organisation and waged a cultural war at the level of signs by means of giving priority to the signifiers at the cost of the signifieds. They withdrew the most fundamental prerequisite of cultural consensus: the adherence to given linguistic laws. The points of convergence of Baudrillard's notion of the radical implications of attacking the order of the dominant code and the Dadaists' poetic practice, theoretical in-

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