Karawane by Hugo Ball

This may be the least poetic poetry video I’ve ever posted here, but I found it oddly compelling and hypnotic. It’s a translation of a Dadaist poem into binary code by Lucas Battich, who writes:

‘Karawane’ is a poem written and performed by Hugo Ball in 1916, and it consists 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.
The sound on this version consists of a voiceover-software reading of the poem in its binary code form. 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.
Can you translate nonsense? For the poem to get online, it went through a few changes. It did become translated somehow. The actual poem became a surface with something behind, some thing added that it didn’t have before, and something that is still language and can be read. By software.

For Ball’s original text, see Poets.org, which includes a vigorous reading by Christian Bök.


  1. Reply

    […] Poems. (2016). Karawane by Hugo Ball. [online] Available at: https://www.movingpoems.com/2014/02/karawane-by-hugo-ball/ [Accessed 20 Sep. […]

  2. Reply
    Me 29 May, 2019

    This computer translation of this work was not want he meant by the word. The idea of using zeros and ones to represent letters comes after this work was made

    • Reply
      Dave Bonta 5 June, 2019

      You don’t say.

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