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- In 1913 Emmy Hennings (b. 1885 Flensburg) settled in Munich, where she became an intimate of the expressionist poets, playwrights, and novelists who populared Munich's seedy Bohemian quarter and frequented the Café Simplizissimus singing popular cabaret songs and reciting her own poems as well as those written by friends. One of Hennings, lovers in Munich was Hugo Ball, whom she had met while singing at the Café Simpl, and whom she would later marry.
- In November 1914 Hennings joined Ball in Berlin, where she sang in a variety of restaurants and worked as an artist's model. To escape the increasing nationalism Ball and Hennings left Berlin for Zurich in May 1915. They arrived completely destitute and lived on the assistance of Hennings' literary friends until they found work with a vaudeville troupe. In 1916 the decided to start their own cabaret and on February 5, 1916 they opened the Cabarer Voltaire.
- At the Cabaret, Hennings was one of the star attractions. Her wide repertoire included popular songs from Denmark, Paris, and Berlin, Chinese ballads, folk songs and her own poems and poetry written by other dadaists. Hennings' charisma as a performer and her previous cabaret experience contributed to the success of the venture.
- Hennings poems dealt with her life outside the safety provided by bourgeois propriety. Addressing such expressionist themes as loneliness, ecstasy, captivity, illness, and death. Hennings was able to reflect on her experiences: certain places - prisons, hospitals, cabarets, and the streets - and afflictions - prostitution and drug addiction - recur again and again. Several of her poems, though not strictly dadaist in form or content, were published in Dada magazines.
- Hennings rarely discussed her early life subsequent to her intense conversion to Catholicism in 1920, preferring instead to emphasize her piety and her devotion to Ball. After he died in 1927, she provided his life with a similar trajectory consistently portraying his intellectualism as a search for the absolute, which found its rightful home in Catholicism, and slighting his time with Dada as a youthful misadventure. Emmy Hennings died in Tessin in 1948.
- TEXT CREDITS
Shortened version of Amanda L. Hockensmith, 'Emmy Hennings', published in Leah Dickerman (ed.), Dada. Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris (National Gallery of Art : Washington DC 2005) 473-474. The article is translated in French and published in Dada / Catalogue publié sous la direction de Laurent Le Bon (Éditions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 482-483.
- IMAGE CREDITS
Emmy Hennings, Zurich 1917 [Collection Kunsthaus Zürich]
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