April 26, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
Before Dada was an international art movement boasting such talents as Marcel Duchamp, Hannah Höch, and Man Ray, it was a collective of WWI-dodging misfits who rubbed shoulders in the back room of a tavern in a seedy Zürich neighborhood. In 1916, German emigrés Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings dubbed this unlikely clubhouse space the Cabaret Voltaire; it attracted Voltaire-esque freethinkers like Hans Arp (from Alsace), Richard Huelsenbeck (Germany), Tristan Tzara (Romania), and Sophie Taeuber (Switzerland). During the day, they’d talk art and anti-art; in the evenings, they’d stage scandalous performances defying the logic, reason, and aesthetics of modern capitalist society.
As one Dada scholar points out, the Cabaret Voltaire “served to foster community… [it was] a self-consciously low-tech corrective to the increasingly attenuated bonds of modern society.” OK, that’s a good point… but what form of community, exactly?
L.A. Kauffman’s terrific new activism-history book, Direct Action, inspires me to reconsider 1916-era Dada as an “affinity group” — a small assemblage of five to fifteen people, that is, who: know each other well, plan their actions collectively, and act autonomously of other groups. Kauffman quotes Murray Bookchin, whose description of Spanish Civil War-era anarchist grupos de afinidad as squads drawn together on the basis of “friendship, individual trust, background, history” helped inspire 1960s activists. The organization of these squads reflected both anarchist ideals of free association and military needs for security. Right! A decade before the Spanish Civil War, Ball and Hennings — who were reading Bakunin and Proudhon at the time — organized a pioneering affinity group, of sorts.
Dada weren’t political activists, though. Rather, they were waging a guerrilla struggle — “Dada world war without end,” as Hugo Ball declaimed at the first Dada night, “dada revolution without beginning” — in the cultural sphere, in the eternal war of wit against shit. La lucha continúa… so let’s not fetishize Dada. Instead, let’s form Cabaret Voltaire-esque affinity groups of our own.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACK LIPS PERFORMANCE CULT | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Mimi Lipson on TBD | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Anthony Miller on TBD | Jordan Ellenberg on BOUBAKI | Jenny Offill on TBD | Kio Stark on TBD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.