DADA & Modernist Magazines


cover Ma Founded, edited and published by Lajos Kassák, Ma [Today] became one of the longest surviving avant-garde periodicals in Europe (1916-1925). It succeeded A tett [The deed], which had been banned for including works from countries at war with Austria-Hungary. The Ma circle was a loose network with Kassák in the hub and a varying line-up of writers and artists, like Béla Uitz, Iván Hevesy, Sándor Bortnyik, Ernö Kállai, János Máttis Teutsch, László Moholy-Nagy and others.

The word 'activist' appeared first in Ma's subtitle in February 1919. Kassák's circle named their movement Activism, placing a strong emphasis on the social role of art. Exhibitions, lectures and the pages of Ma sampled creations of Futurism, Expressionism, Cubism and Dadaism from all over Europe, promoted Bartók and modern music alongside new literature and a pioneering theatre of János Mácza. As a quirk of fate, the 1919 Commune that initially boosted avant-garde activity proscribed Ma within a few months for 'oozing bourgeois decadence'. Conversely, the Commune's overthrow exiled many modernists for their communist involvement. Ma moved to Vienna.

In the mid-1920s many avant-gardists returned to Hungary hoping to nurture their inspirations on home soil at last. This new journal of Kassák, while it presented a well-established constructivist ideology, was unique in giving voice to emerging Hungarian surrealists in literature, like Andor Németh, Tibor Déry or Gyula Illyés, as well as West-European Surrealism. It stimulated another upsurge in Budapest's avant-garde life with new modernist periodicals sprouting. The optimism was, however, soon flattened by the lack of audiences and insufficient funds. Hungarian readers now preferred stability and harmony; the time of upheavals was effectively over. Dokumentum ceased after only five issues.

Labels 161-162, 165 of Breaking the Rules, exhbition by the British Library. Courtesy British Library, Stephen Bury (2008)

s.a. [International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam - IISG ZDK 45401]


  • MA
    Subtitle Internacionális aktivista müvészeti folyóirat
    1 (November 1916) - 10 (December 1925)
    Edited by Lajos Kassák; published by Elbenmühl, Wien.
  • Continues A Tett; continued by Dokumentum.
  • main contributors
    Texts (in Hungarian translation throughout) by Fernand Léger, Hans Richter, Jean Cocteau, Lajos Kassák, Ernö Kállai, Claire Goll, Ljubomir Micic, Róbert Reiter, Alexic Dragan, Vincente Huidobro, Hans Arp, Gorham B. Munson, Blaise Cendrars, Sándor Barta, Andor Sugár, Albert Gleizes, Richard Huelsenbeck, N. Punin and others.
  • Illustrations by and after Moholy-Nagy, Raoul Hausmann, Oskar Schlemmer, Lajos Kassák, Lipchitz, Francis Picabia, P.J. Oud, Baumeister, Theo van Doesburg, Man Ray, El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian, Albert Gleizes, Vilmos Huszár, Tatlin, and others.


  • [printed] Ma. Aktivista folyóirat. 1-10 (Akadémiai Kiadó : Budapest 1968[?]) 10 vols. in 4.
  • [printed] Ma. Aktivista folyóirat (Muhely Serigrafia : Pest 1980).

secondary literature

  • Eva Forgacs and Tyrus Miller
    'The Avant-Garde in Budapest and in Exile in Vienna: A Tett (1915-6), Ma (Budapest 1916-9; Vienna 1920-6), Egység (1922-4), Akasztott Ember (1922), 2 x 2 (1922), Ék (1923-4), Is (1924), 365 (1925), Dokumentum (1926-7), RIMunka (1928-39)', in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 / edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker, and Christian Weikop (Oxford University Press : Oxford etc. 2013) 1099-1127.
  • Zoltán Péter
    'Die Hände der Kunstproduzenten. Zu den Austauschbeziehungen zwischen den in Wien sesshaften ungarischen Avantgardisten und den Wiener Berufskollegen von 1920 bis 1926', in Newsletter Moderne 6, Heft 2 (September 2003) [online]; available at <> [accessed 13 August 2012].
  • Edit Toth
    From Activism to Kinetism. Modernist Spaces in Hungarian Art. Budapest-Vienna-Berlin, 1918-1930. Dissertation The Pennsylvania State University, 2009) [online (2011)]
    [abstract] The dissertation From Activism to Kinetism. Modernist Spaces in Hungarian Art, 1918-1930. Budapest-Vienna-Berlin considers selected works by Hungarian artists associated with the MA ('Today', 1916-1925) artistic and literary circle and their response to the shock effects of modernity during this period. Works by Lajos Kassak - writer, poet, artists, editor, the main mover and guidig star of MA, - the painter Sandor Bortnyik, the polymath Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and the designer Marcel Breuer are investigated based on a particular agenda. First, the study considers how the failure of a revolutionary reorganization of society during the Hungarian Soviet Republic (April 23-Aug 1, 1919) prompted the Hungarian Activists to reassess their lofty political ideas in exile and make compromises if they wanted to remain in the vanguard of modernity. Second, it explores how their mission of "revolutionary activation" became transformed by Moholy-Nagy into an educative preoccupation to train and activate the senses and perception in coping with the multifarous phenomena and increasingly accelerating pace of modernity. By the end of the Weimar era Moholy-Nagy's educative-activist aganda nonetheless would prove problematic, as his modernist works become absorbed into the urban consumerist spectacle in a conflicted and ambiguous manner, as both its leading agent and an alternative means of liberation from it.