Phantastische Gebete (Fantastic prayers) is a collection of sound poems by Richard Huelsenbeck. Performing these abstract compositions of phonemes at the Cabaret Voltaire, the center of Dada activity in Zurich, Huelsenbeck spoke in solemn, rhythmic declamations, a device intended to connect with ancient rituals—incantations, chants, liturgies—that the city’s Dadaists endowed with a potential for renewal. To accompany these poems in a book, Arp, another habitué of the Cabaret, made woodcuts of hieratic symmetrical forms. By cutting the wooden blocks he would print from along their grain rather than against it, he highlighted the wood’s organic internal patterns in his printed forms.
Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013