A cofounder of Dada and its enfant terrible, Walter Serner was a brilliant observer of society — his activities in the 1920s have been called "a dance on the rim of a volcano." His Last Loosening: Dada Manifesto was written in 1918 and published in 1920. Slightly revised later as Serner became disgusted with Dada, it forms the first part of this volume, its philosophical foundation. Serner's publisher, Paul Steegemann, in a fit of promotional zeal, sensationally claimed that it had been "compiled across the entire continent by the notorious international con man Dr. Walter Serner."

The volume's second part, "The Handbook of Practices," was written in Geneva in 1927 and offers in gnomic prose a practical guide and playful "moral codex" for the modern amoralist, the con man, subverting the illusions and stereotypes underpinning social mores by attacking the contradictions between appearance and reality. Its ultimate conclusion: "The world wants to be deceived. And it becomes truly malevolent if you don't oblige." A cynical vision to be sure, Serner has set out a list of precepts to arm us in a world where boredom prevails and nothing but self-interest is a motivator, a shameless, bigoted world wallowing in an orgy of narcissism, where it is either fool or be fooled. His smugness and indifference, his "Jesuit snobbery" as one critic called it, gave his work an explosive force that was unsurpassed by his contemporaries.


"Dada invited outrage – its primary aim was to shock people out of aesthetic complacency – and to this day many art lovers dismiss Duchamp and company as so much blague. But Walter Serner ups the ante greatly: in Last Loosening fraudulence haunts modern society as a whole, not just the arts, and everyone must play the game or lose. From his perspective Dada didn’t end; rather, it exposed a cynicism that had spread (yes, like a virus) everywhere." -- Hal Foster, London Review of Books


"No one brings the intellectual perspective of Serner's ... he is at once nihilistic and utterly tranquil and serene, encountering nothingness with cold, dispassionate, playful lines. Not to be forgotten: 'Whoever speaks a word of comfort is a traitor.'" -- Jörg Drews, Süddeutsche Zeitung


"[Serner] loved people that made their way through life on unstable paths, smiling dandies, modern misfits. He loved trapezes, mirages, echoes, synthetic mushrooms, and manicured and pedicured Sterne, or, stars. [...] He had the gait of an artiste, who is proudly hopping across the safety net to the thunderous applause of the audience, dancing off lightly." -- Hans Arp

Last Loosening: A Handbook for the Con Artist & Those Aspiring to Become One

  • Twisted Spoon Press 2020

    New hardcover

    189 pp.
    13.5 x 19 cm
    ribbon bookmark
    2-color frontispiece