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Byford: ‘Staging the Carnivalesque: subversive strategies in print and performance from Simplicissimus to Dada’

Lucy Byford’s doctoral thesis seeks to further establish connections between Dadaism in Berlin and Germany’s earlier satirical avant-garde, which flourished in fin-de-siècle Munich. Her research asks: to what extent did the Dadaists adapt artistic-satiric strategies partially inherited from the older generation’s pioneering efforts in the areas of performance, graphic art and their accompanying publications? The thesis therefore examines the Berlin Dadaists alongside fin-de-siècle artists, writers and performers, such as the Elf Scharfrichter cabaret troupe and early contributors to Simplicissimus and Jugend, to tease out interactions between humour, class and culture, highlighting nuances between the wider period’s satire, art and propaganda.

The interdisciplinary study cross-references these creative locales, focusing on overlooked connections between the Berlin Dadaists and their agitational predecessors, such as Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) and Thomas Theodor Heine (1867-1948). It argues that an investigation of the avant-garde’s ridicule of systemic hegemonies must examine performance in conjunction to print culture and its graphic art. The study’s emphasis on contemporary performance reviews moves away from the Dadaists’ constructions of themselves in their writing, drawing instead on reception theory to probe how the Dada movement manifested in real terms. Key objectives of the research period in Germany, hosted by the ZI, are as follows:

-  to investigate biographical and pedagogical links between Berlin Dada members and

cultural figures who rose to prominence in Munich;

-  to search relevant Nachlässe analysing remaining designs, ephemera and correspondence pertaining to themes of performance, carnival and civil disobedience;

-  to access articles on Dadaist activities in Berlin in undigitized contemporary newspapers.