Going Gaga Over Dada


L.H.O.O.Q. by Marcel Duchamp (1919)

It was April 18, 1916, and a volatile group of artists who'd found refuge from World War I in Switzerland were gathered around a table at Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire, arguing about a label for themselves and their work. They settled this dispute, according to art lore, by thrusting a letter opener randomly into a French-German dictionary. The word it pointed to — dada — has many meanings: "hobbyhorse" in French, "cube" in certain Italian dialects and "yes, yes" in Slavic languages. That night, they agreed on a name but continued to dispute what the word — and the movement — signified....

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