Can you translate nonsense?

‘Karawane’ is a poem written and performed by Hugo Ball in June 1916, consisting of meaningless words and sounds. Ball was one of the founders of Dada, and the poem was first read in the newly opened Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.

Today, near the centenary of Hugo Ball’s first sound poetry performance, the poems are easily available throughout the internet. To get there, however, they underwent a few changes. They became translated somehow: encoded. The ‘original’ Dadaist poems became a surface with something behind, something added that they didn’t have before, yet something that is still language and can be read – by software.

This film shows what becomes of a poem – even one that is nonsensical, anarchic – when we put it through the technologies that we now take for granted, and how these technologies may affect the way we perceive the historical avant-gardes.


Digital video

Duration 06:30