Ebd., S. 33.


Hans Ostwald, Sittengeschichte der Inflation. Ein Kulturdokument aus den Jahren des Marktsturzes, Berlin 1931.


Ebd., S. 205.


Ebd., S. 207.


Although Dada can be recognized as an influential artistic movement, when one looks at the texts and proclamations of the Dada artists, Dada appears to be without substance, as an empty promise, or as Richard Huelsenbeck proclaims: «Wir wollen die Welt mit Nichts ändern, und wir wollen die Dichtung und die Malerei mit nichts ändern und wir wollen den Krieg mit Nichts ändern.» [4] This is a central strategy of Dada aesthetics: the currency that Dada offers to its audience is literary «nothing», and the embarrassment and irritation of the spectators in the «Cabaret Voltaire» who participated in the first Dada soirees may have corresponded to the shock of the citizens of Weimar Germany who in the years 1922-23 received their salary as a mere empty promise to be able to buy products for the daily life.

In the years of hyperinflation, money approached the value of Dada, namely nothing. The rapid devaluation of the German currency made money almost worthless and the attempt to buy goods became a bizarre and almost senseless enterprise. Ostwald recognizes in his Sittengeschichte [5] explicitly that the hyperinflation in Weimar Germany mirrored in economic terms what the Dadaists tried to establish in the cultural discourse, namely a devaluation of the established semantic and cultural order. «Die Sinnlosigkeit der Inflationsjahre offenbarte sich am deutlichsten in einigen Erscheinungen auf dem Gebiet der Kunst. Am grellsten machten sich die Dadaisten bemerkbar.» [6] And Ostwald states further: «Er [der Dadaismus] konnte aber nur darum eine Rolle spielen, weil er dem Strudel der Zeit entsprang, gewissermaßen ihr Plakat war.» [7]

Ostwald points out in his book, which constitutes an almost contemporaneous documentation and mostly moral evaluation of the time of the hyperinflation that Dada greatly coincided with the zeitgeist. Ostwald sees a close connection between the social climate of that time and the aesthetic strategies of Dada. Very critical of the Dada movement, he maintains that the economic devaluation provided a fruitful ground for the growth of such an openly nonsensical form of art.

Of course, from a sheer historical perspective Ostwald is wrong with his assessment. Dada did not grow out of the inflation — it rather preceded this historical situation. The fact that Ostwald merges Dada and inflation, however, is telling, because it shows that he recognized structural identities. The production of meaningless signification in Dada poetry coincided for him in the fact that the signifying power of a paper bill also was not stable anymore. The promise of a 100 Mark-note to buy at least a basic staple was an illusion like the Dadaist promises to save the world. Ostwald, however, was not the first to recognize in the subversive handling of language by the Dadaist an economic structure.

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